Loss of empathy and barbary

“The death of human empathy is one of the earliest and most telling signs of a culture about to fall into barbarism ,” –Hannah Arendt .

What would she say nowadays ?

Arendt is one of those people I wish I knew more about. There is a story about Margaret Meade, a misquote, that she said, “the first time one human set the bone of another and tended to them is the beginning of civilization”. Kind of the other end of that.

But, how does empathy die? Some people never have it. Slavery has been with us in some form forever. Propaganda that kills empathy has been used to empower elites, but those cultures survive.

“A student once asked anthropologist Margaret Mead, “What is the earliest sign of civilization?” The student expected her to say a clay pot, a grinding stone, or maybe a weapon.

Margaret Mead thought for a moment, then she said, “A healed femur.”

A femur is the longest bone in the body, linking hip to knee. In societies without the benefits of modern medicine, it takes about six weeks of rest for a fractured femur to heal. A healed femur shows that someone cared for the injured person, did their hunting and gathering, stayed with them, and offered physical protection and human companionship until the injury could mend.

Mead explained that where the law of the jungle—the survival of the fittest—rules, no healed femurs are found. The first sign of civilization is compassion, seen in a healed femur.”

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Empathy rests on observation of shared (familiar) experiences and the resulting production of electrochemical action potentials (endorphins), shared emotions, and “shared memories”

This was very advantageous in early man and is still today in many instances.
However, shared experience requires close proximity, which is no longer an environmental advantage. We are physically disappearing inside the internet. The internet has many cultural consequences.

What I am worried about is that the existing “mirror neurons” are no longer responding due to change in proximity. And that would be tragic.

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I suppose it depends on how we use the term “civilization”, but empathy exists among uncivilized peoples – for example Pygmies – as well. It is a feature of humans in general.

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Your definition of civilisation is very limitative and very old fashioned. Pygmies have a civilisation. Our ancestors of prehistory had a civilisation.

n the current historical and sociological sense, civilization is the set of traits which characterize the state of a given society, from a technical, intellectual, political and moral point of view, without making a value judgment. We can then speak of civilizations in the plural and even of “primitive civilizations”, in the chronological sense, without pejorative connotation.

Yes, as I said it was essential for survival in early man, but with the advent of the internet, personal experiences become “removed” from personal interaction and we can watch a violent movie without cringing, but there are horror movies that still affect our survival responses because they are of “unknown” causalities.

However, a live football game is a perfect example of “mass empathic response”

The chalice of Riix is an old clay pot with mold growing inside.

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