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We start our lives as the whole of the universe. Reality is completely comprised of our perceptions and any “outside” object that is blocked from our senses puffs out of existence. Eventually, we learn object permanence, and we recognized that things outside us actually do exist on their own, but we are still the centre of the universe. Then our universe grows a little bit and we can relate to those closest to us and we start to look out for our tiny group. And here, unfortunately, is were too many of us stop.
Empathy is hard. Damn hard. We may well have an innate ability for it, but it is only through a great deal of instruction, practice, and nurturing that empathy can develop and extend beyond our immediate circles. The ability to understand your fellow humans, to see how we’re connected, to look beyond one’s own limited perspective – these are skills that require much honing. They need to be taught.
Here is a short documentary on an empathy class in Japan. It is amazing. These 4th graders display moments of clarity, responsibility, and understanding that outshine many adults in the world. This is an immensely important project, one that needs to be adopted by schools around the world. Grab some tissues, this one is full of all kinds of strong emotions.
I spent my years learning French in Highschool(and now forgotten). Now with double the disappointment as I realize how word-awesome German is.
Consider this small list of bon mots:
Weltschmerz – world weariness.
Schadenfreude – a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people
Backpfeifengesicht – It describes someone who you feel needs a slap in the face.
Sitzfleisch — (seat meat) – it describes a character trait. Those who possess a lot of seat meat are able to sit through and weather something incredibly hard or boring.
Dreikäsehoch (Three cheeses high) – However, what it describes is a person who is vertically challenged, implying they’re only as tall as three wheels of cheese placed on top of each other.
Schattenparker (Shadow parker) – This word is part of a series of insults for men which accuse them of unmanly behavior. In this case, of parking their car in the shadow to avoid heating up the interior.
Forget French as Canada’s second language it ought to be German. :>
David Cromwell excels at identifying key points of friction between public and private interests. In this excerpt he examines how higher learning is being bent to fulfil its corporately mandated responsibilities to society.
“This [Academia] is a privileged sector where critical thought and enquiry into human society, the natural world and the cosmos ought to be the norm; not where overwhelming pressure to conform to state-corporate interests should be exerted on teaching and research agendas.
How can academic ‘collaboration’ with large corporations which are, after all, centralised systems of illegitimate power, not lead to compromise, distortion or worse? It is clearly not in the interests of such institutions to promote rational and honest study into the problems of a corporate-shaped society. It is in their interests to commandeer the publicly-funded research while co-opting supposedly neutral and objective academia as ‘partners’. And all the better if highly trained university researchers working in narrow, focused disciplines remain disconnected from the interests in other disciplines, or more importantly, from the concerns of the general populace.
‘To work on a real problem (like how to eliminate poverty in a nation producing eight hundred billion dollars’ worth of wealth each year) one would have to follow that problem across many disciplinary lines without qualm, dealing with historical materials, economic theories, political obstacles’, observed historian Howard Zinn, author of The People’s History of the United States, who died in 2010. ‘Specialisation ensures that one cannot follow a problem through from start to finish. It ensures the functioning in the academy of the system’s dictum: divide and rule.’ Zinn provided a potent example: ‘Note how little work is done in political science on the tactics of social change. Both students and teacher deal with theory and reality in separate courses; the compartmentalisation safely neutralises them.’
Any management vision of how the university sector, or any place of higher education, ought to develop that does not recognize the nature of the iniquitous capitalist society in which the university finds itself embedded, is short-sighted. And, moreover, any such ‘vision’ that is not committed to making radical changes in the way society is structured is tacitly, if not actively, supporting the status quo. The same argument applies to any major institution in society.”
-David Cromwell. Why Are We The Good Guys? pp. 216 – 217
So, great you have a degree, well done sport! Did they teach you to comply or to question the society that you inhabit?