In your readings for module 1, we covered the “Four Noble Truths.” These have since been reinterpreted in ways that help us to be sociologically mindful, and are important to remember as we discuss empathy (cited below for convenience) and social change in this forum.
Most of what we have focused on related to social change and social justice revolves around inequalities in some sense. Sociologist Karl Marx first explained these inequalities in the 1800’s using the Social Conflict theory, which states that tensions and conflicts arise when power and resources are unevenly distributed within a society. While Marx focused on social classes, we know now that these inequalities are not just based on class but on race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc.
Knowing all of this, imagine the suffering (a noble truth) created by the social justice issue and related inequalities you are most interested in. Consider all the sources on empathy you have read this week, and imagine the possibility that the social injustices and inequalities (in the area of your own interest) were no longer present thanks to empathetic social movements and agents of social change. What would our world look like if that was the case? If there were no more racial inequalities, gender inequalities, environmental issues, etc. Would this be a utopia?
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In 2010, author Jeremy Rifkin wrote a book entitled, “The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis.” In the book, he presents the idea for consideration that *empathy is the opposite of utopia.* Because empathy is based on our imperfections, our injustices, and our inequalities, if we were to rid our society of these things, we would no longer be empathetic beings or even have a need for them.
For this discussion, review Rifkin’s ideas on this (either in video form or written – whichever you prefer – both are linked below). Share your thoughts on his ideas, as well as your thoughts on the use of empathy in social change. And then reflect on what the world would like if your particular social justice issue was in fact no longer a social justice issue – if it had been solved through empathetic efforts. What would be different about our schools, healthcare system, political system, economy, etc? Would solving this issue make us less empathetic, as Rifkin loosely suggests? Cite any sources used (Please also reference the “Noble Truths” – link below).
*This discussion forum is intentionally left a bit more ‘loose’ to allow you as much critical thinking as desired.*
Agnos, C. (2019, August 30). The Opposite Of Utopia. Retrieved from https://earthmaven.io/sustainablehuman/new-stories/the-opposite-of-utopia-pcWOOkuBm0GGmVzWYdh0JQ (Links to an external site.) (Rifkin’s words)
Crossman, Ashley. (2020, February 11). Understanding Conflict Theory. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/conflict-theory-3026622
McLeod, M., McLeod, M., & Lion’s Roar. (2019, December 6). The Four Noble Truths. Retrieved from https://www.lionsroar.com/what-are-the-four-noble-truths/