Empathy: Litmus Test for Success in Web 2.0

We dance around the idea of empathy as if it was an old lecherous politician with wine breath. Instead of embracing the idea of putting ourselves in the shoes of others – opponents, competitors and anyone with whom we disagree – we assume that doing so will weaken our stance, instead of building a better argument. In the social networking world #scrm empathy and its familiar chant for collaboration, are finally getting their due. Selling the idea, however, has not always been a slam dunk.

"Try Walking A Mile In A Pair Of These"

Recently, the possibility that empathy might be a desirable character for a member of our highest court was met crookedly by those who vetted, my fellow Puerto Rican, Justice Sonja Sottomayor.  God knows we Latinos can’t be trusted not to be going all squishy every time some poor sap tells his story.  Then again, there was that little thing called the Inquisition.

The jury remains out to lunch on the topic.

Empathy is the reason dog is man’s best friend. We’re convinced the beasts possess empathy and know exactly how we feel. Empathy is often used as a metric for intelligence in children and its absense often accompanies mental disorders. Children, and every school has always had at least one, who end up throwing cats off roof tops and burning the family pet are said to be without empathy and cannot understand the consequences because they cannot understand how other’s lives are effected by their actions. Those folks need help usually. Empathy is the essence of great acting and great performances on the stage. But empathy has become one of those really important words that has been confiscated for political meanderings to confuse the voting public, who need very little help with that.

Senator Orrin Hatch evidently believes empathy always favors the poor, whom he apparently likes to vote against. So Hatch was against empathy on the check list for the newest member of the highest court. Maybe it’s an allergy in the Republican hierarchy to the word. You know, like the word nuclear. Perhaps, "conservatives" mistake empathy, the word and act, for "conscious" which they feel means you are weak and vulnerable. Empathy should not to be mistaken for your "conscious," so if you find yourself feeling guilty for screwing the poor and helpless, that’s got nothing to do with empathy. That’s called your conscious because it means you may in fact be experiencing consciousness, which is different from empathy. Consciousness is about keeping yourself in your own shoes and seeing things the way you feel they should be seen, and that’s your conscious telling you to pay closer attention when you feel guilty.

Empathy is "the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another."

The faculty of empathy, or the condition of it, if you prefer, doesn’t specifiy which direction the feelings lead and one has to wonder why anyone would assume it always favored the little guy? Woman, I’m guessing, empathize with serial murderers and marry them. Surely the followers of the extreme right, the guys who listen to the Limbaugh’s and O’Reilly conservatives, experience empathy that leads them to favor the big guns, money and steel. No? Former Republican Party Chairman Gillespie on NBC’s “Meet the Press" confirmed the same misunderstanding, "I may have empathy for the little guy in a fight with a big corporation, but the law may not be on his side. So I think that’s a concern.” Is it like "nook-you-lar" or why is it Republicans can’t understand that empathy might also open windows of understanding on both sides of an argument, any argument? In fact, why not assume some people will empathize with the right? Unless of course they simply can’t put themselves in the shoes of their own constituents?

When someone is empathic, it means they are capable of listening to the opposition, understanding their point-of-view and working out compromises. Maybe this is why nothing gets done with our tax dollars. No where does it mean favoring the poorer or weaker. One has to wonder, if anyone in Congress today has a clue as to how make any deals. Instead of standing in our shoes for a while, they put themselves permanently in the shoes of the big corporations and even they’re getting tired of it.

But empathy isn’t just some five dollar word you can toss around cocktail parties and sound progressive. It’s the core of Web 2.0 and social networking.  Empathic programming builds networks and collaboration systems that are far more efficient and productive than the archaic competitive proprietary systems ever managed.

Arguing that "judges need to be fair to the rich and the strong" is counter to empathic thinking is flawed logic and scary. Misusing the word or misunderstanding the word will put all of us at a competitive disadvantage.

Jeremy Rifkin breaks it down in terms of how we got to this point, and what will happen if we try to abandon this change in consciousness: "What is required now is nothing less than a leap to global empathic consciousness and in less than a generation if we are to resurrect the global economy and revitalize the biosphere. The question becomes this: what is the mechanism that allows empathic sensitivity to mature and consciousness to expand through history?"

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Automating the Acquisition Process with Enterprise Level CRM
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In ‘Empathic Civilization’ Jeremy Rifkin claims an empathic life may be our only chance to avoid extinction, saying humans have extended empathy all along the path to "civilization" to the point we’re at today, where we have now the capacity to include everything in the biosphere. Instead of viewing the world as vermin, my words, try to extend life as far as possible to the whole biosphere. He says the EU is moving towards more of a bisosphere form of politics, instead of the old politics of top down autocratic industrial domination.

He says, "Social scientists, in turn, are beginning to reexamine human history from an empathic lens and, in the process, discovering previously hidden strands of the human narrative which suggests that human evolution is measured not only by the expansion of power over nature, but also by the intensification and extension of empathy to more diverse others across broader temporal and spatial domains."

Our leaders, including this present administration, are using archaic principles to address modern issues, like education and finance and health care. Belief systems, steeped in myths long ago found useless, are still dragged out to justify policy that is damaging all of our lives. Coercion is used systematically to control population education. Do we have the tools to extend empathy to the entire human race?

Whatever bright spot one may find in U.S. business today is coming from the corners of our nation and the friends we are making along the way. If you’re in technology today, you are working in the biosphere, like it or not. If you learn how to adapt and collaborate, you can be successful, but, if you construct arbitrary boundaries, such as those our nation is clinging to, the extension of empathy may not matter.

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