The world is broken—and human kindness is the only solution

“The world is broken—and human kindness is the only solution”
“From politics to health care to economics, a rising movement is calling for compassion as a remedy for systems on the brink”
“..some people turned to social media, not to express concern for a child in peril (Rajkumar was later found murdered), but to vent about having their sleep disturbed. Others called 911 to complain, jamming lines for people with real emergencies. The angry blowback to the blowback was swift.”
“The selfish reaction to the alert was upheld as more proof of dwindling societal empathy, of “me-first” narcissism, of the further tattering of the social contract that citizens share. The reaction to the reaction was telling, too—reflexive judgment, mockery and name-calling. The entire dust-up serves as a microcosm of a far bigger conflict now playing out: the urgent call for compassion as the last-gasp remedy for systems on the brink—politics, health care, civil society, the planet itself.”
“..followed by a bid to unify: “We feel grief, we feel injustice, we feel anger, and we share that with you.” ”
“Ardern, and her call for “kindness over fear,” as she put it in a United Nations address last fall, is viewed by many as a flower growing through concrete at a time of rising isolationism, tribalism, racism and authoritarianism. Cruelty is used to divide and win votes—Donald Trump mocking a disabled New York Times journalist, Boris Johnson, a front-runner for British PM, objectifying Muslim women.”
“The U.S. government has literally institutionalized cruelty…”
“The loudest cries for compassion, tellingly, are heard within systems literally created to care for people. Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence that Caring Makes a Difference, by American physician-scientists..”
“…published in April, is the latest book to sound the alarm about systemic inhumanity within “patient-based” medicine. The authors identify a “compassion crisis” in U.S. health care; treating patients more kindly, they argue, improves health outcomes, reduces doctor burnout and lowers costs.
Canada is in similar straits, Toronto physician Brian Goldman, author of the 2018 bestseller The Power of Kindness: Why Empathy is Essential in Everyday Life, tells Maclean’s. “We’ve designed a system that edits out empathy, that makes it almost impossible.” Something has to crack, Goldman says: “We’ve reached the limit of the myth of the superman-superwoman [doctor] who can juggle 10 things at once.””
“..links a societal lack of compassion to a slew of ills, personal and political—epidemic levels of stress, anxiety and depression, bullying, crime, growing wealth and health inequality,..”
“..which translates into decreased productivity, decreased creativity, increased health care costs and increased human resources costs,..”
“Promoting the return on investment of compassion is one way to get the attention of a selfish world.”
“AS DOTY DESCRIBES IT, the personal and political are deeply enmeshed: “The ills of the world are a manifestation of individuals’ responses to wounds of the heart that haven’t healed,” he says. “When people are hurt and damaged, that has a huge impact on how they interact. You can even take it into the justice system. I say the majority of people are in jail not because they are bad people; they’re in jail because they were not cared for and loved.””
“His own story illustrates how it only takes one person to change a life. Doty was raised amid instability, he says; his father was an alcoholic, his mother, paralyzed by a stroke, was suicidal; the family lived on social assistance and was often evicted from their home. “When you grow up in an environment like that, you quickly see the good and bad in people…”

“Ruthlessness allows for self-benefit, but it’s not a long-term survival strategy,” says Doty. Most people behave co-operatively, he says: “That’s how society survives. Otherwise you’d have anarchy.”

Goldman’s The Power of Kindness provides a tour of the thriving global compassion complex—he takes readers from a lab at Université Laval (“Mecca for brain research on empathy”) to Japan to engage with empathetic androids. Ironically, development of artificial empathy in companion robots able to detect and respond to human emotion has cast light on empathy’s presence (and absence) in humans.
“A QUICK READ of compassion research offers a host of selfish reasons to behave kindly: those who do are more self-empowered, happier, less lonely and less prone to anxiety and depression. “Helper’s high” has been linked to the release of the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin. Just 15 minutes of daily meditation reduces anxiety and decreases the risk of depression, and makes one a more thoughtful, happy person, Bloom says, before adding; “Don’t get me wrong. These practices can’t make up for horribly unjust systems. If you’re in solitary and being tortured, all the meditation in the world won’t result in a happy outcome.” Volunteering might even extend life, according to a 2019 University of Buffalo study of 800 people who experienced war and other forms of trauma that are typically predictors of a shorter lifespan; those who volunteered lived far longer. That said, acting kindly to get what you want doesn’t achieve the same effects: it’s the mark of a con man and psychopath.”
“The realities of modern life, including time pressure, can make us less compassionate. A landmark 1973 Good Samaritan study by Princeton psychologists John Darley and Daniel Batson involved theological seminary students and a control group to see which would help a man in distress; neither group helped when in a rush. Getting richer also reduces compassion, according to some studies, which suggests those most likely to be running systems are least likely to be kind. Berkeley psychologists Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner found luxury car drivers were more likely to cut off other motorists instead of waiting their turn at the intersection. Other research indicates that less affluent individuals are more likely to report feeling compassion toward others; that finding is backed by StatsCan charitable donation data showing people with lower incomes give more per capita to charity.”
“Even those in the field don’t always walk the walk. That was seen last year when acclaimed empathy researcher Tania Singer, director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, was accused by current and former staff of bullying, creating an “atmosphere of fear” and mistreating employees who became pregnant. Singer, known for her work demonstrating that meditation makes people more kind and caring and a 2004 study that showed watching a loved one in pain activates the same brain areas as feeling physical pain directly, resigned last December. The story was greeted gleefully in the media; some in empathy research were more compassionate, seeing it as an example of how bullying behaviour is rooted in fear—in this case Singer’s anxiety that her research was in peril.”

“Yet there’s a final paradox in politicians giving lip service to compassion at a time when so many see its systemic adoption as essential to human well-being. Doty puts it bluntly: “Compassion is what’s going to save our species.” The alternative to willful change, Doty suggests, could well be violent uprising: “We know that when wealth and equality get so far apart and people think they have nothing to lose, you have bloody revolutions,” he says. “But the reality is that for our species to survive, we have to recognize we are all one and everyone deserves the right to dignity, the right to food, the right to security, to shelter and to health care. And until we go on a path toward that world view, we are doomed.”

205210cookie-checkThe world is broken—and human kindness is the only solution
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