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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Michael Kimball

 

Michael Kimball & Edwin Rutsch: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Anthropology

Michael Kimball is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the
University of Northern Colorado. In his video Recovering Empathy, he explored the relationship of empathy and the antithesis of antipathy and apathy. Antipathy is wanting to shut down a threat and fear which are often caused by unfamiliarity, differences, ignorance, inexperience and irrelevance. Apathy is shutting down when we feel powerless.

Metaphorically speaking, empathy empowers construction of a stone arch bridge of interpersonal communication; apathy is the gap between the sides; antipathy is tensional stress, i.e., underlying forces trying to pull the connection apart. The Stone arch bridge, like human survival strategies, has an ancient heritage. The metaphorical bridge is made of individual stones – moments of shared experience; outreach efforts; courage to allow oneself to be vulnerable, etc. Sub Conference: Science

 

 

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Michael Kimball & Edwin Rutsch: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Anthropology

 

 

Transcripts

  • 00:00 Introduction

  • (transcription pending)

  • (Video Transcriptions: If you would like to take empathic action and create a transcription of this video, check the volunteers page.  The transcriptions will make it easier for other viewers to quickly see the content of this video.)

 

 

 

 

Recovering Empathy
Video version of the Robert O. Schulze Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies Inaugural Lecture,
delivered by Dr. Michael J. Kimball on September 20, 2007,
at the University of Northern Colorado.

 

  • 00:00 Friend doing Documentary on community

    • guy says: if we don't take care of our communities, the vigilantes will take over.

  • Intersection empathy, community, education, civic agency

  • We live in a time of recovery from 9/11

  • 3:00 we are all first responders

    • currently an atmosphere of fear

    • dampens empathy

    • orange alert

  • differences of

    • antipathy

    • apathy

    • empathy

      • need to recover empathy

      • desire to help

  • Frans de Waal

  • 5:50 Summary of how empathy works, increases with

    • familiarity - more empathy for family

    • similarities with people

    • learning about others

    • experiences - you've had the experience

    • Salience - the lauder they are, closer

  • 8:00 cross species empathy

    • how did empathy evolve

    • more eyes phenomenon - neighborhood watch

      • emotional contagion

  • Empathy, Antipathy,  Apathy

    • 9:30 Empathy - motivates group action

      • builds alliances - shared experiences

      • 10:30 - 9/11  worked together - yellow ribbons

    • Antipathy

      • Empathy - feeling/action [be present with fear]

      • Antipathy - fear 'the other' and want to remove the threat.

        • increases with

          • unfamiliarity (v. familiarity)

          • differences   (v. similarity)

          • ignorance  (v. education)

          • inexperience - (v. experiences) ideas communing from the outside, not the way things are done - will be rejected

            • like immune system, kills invader

          • irrelevance -  (v. relevance) experience not relevant to your experience

        • does not encourage bonds with others -

    • Apathy

      • when we feel powerless we shut down

  • 15:30 Antipathy and apathy are anti community emotions

    • can't adapt to change

    • level of empathy is determined by ability to help

    • need to create familiarity and similarity with

    • learn about the persons context - can recover empathy

  • 17:20 universities can help nurture empathy and create civic agency

    • with civic engagement projects

    • recovering empathy and civic agency

      • Projects

        • youth ethnographers - gather stories

        • mentors for story telling

        • connect to other countries via internet.

        • community change model

        • 20:30 - visual voices project

  • 22:00 we can and must recover empathy

 

 


Lecture challenges recovery of empathy By Stephanie South
Michael Kimball, the 2007-2008 Robert O. Shulze Chair, began his lecture with a short documentary that challenged students to begin asking themselves what community means to them and finding out what it means to other people. He spoke about recovering empathy in our communities and solving problems as a result.  "Empathy grows community," Kimball said. "Empathy is recovered through service learning and civil engagement."
 

What is the "Axis of Empathy?"  Mark LeVine

  • (1) culture jamming

  • (2) "militant empathy,"

  • (3) empathy and discomfort, and

  • (4) empathy and hope.

 
 

How can we build a culture of empathy/compassion, i.e., raise the level of empathy in society?


1.  Homo sapiens is a eusocial species. Empathy is part of a rich and varied cultural and biological survival strategy, which also includes altruism, competition, deception, flexible alliances, and conflict. In a globalized world with high population densities, deception and conflict are increasingly perilous, anti-survival strategies.

“…meaning group members containing multiple generations and prone to perform altruistic acts as part of their division of labor” (E. O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of Earth, Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2012, p. 16).

2. Metaphorically speaking, empathy empowers construction of a stone arch bridge of interpersonal communication; apathy is the gap between the sides; antipathy is tensional stress, i.e., underlying forces trying to pull the connection apart.

The stone arch bridge, like human survival strategies, has an ancient heritage. The metaphorical bridge is made of individual stones – moments of shared experience; outreach efforts; courage to allow oneself to be vulnerable, etc.

3. Without this bridge, empathy has no outlet and can dissipate.

Empathy can grow from reading books, watching documentaries, hearing personal stories, etc., but without interpersonal communication it cannot empower action.

 

4. Construction must be reciprocal. The bridge must be built from both sides and meet somewhere in the middle. One-sided bridge building can only go so far.

 One-sided empathy is ultimately ineffectual and sometimes even dangerous.

5. Trust is the bridge’s keystone, the final stone in the center that keeps all the others in place and allows the bridge to bear loads.

The keystone is the difference between strong and weak social ties. Strong ties represent a conglomeration of empathy and trust. Weak ties foster networks, but aren’t sufficient to promote risk-taking.

6. Without the keystone, the bridge can collapse from too much compressional stress.

Compressional stress increases with the intensity of interaction – negotiation, compromise, vulnerability, curiosity, etc.

7. The purpose of a bridge is to foster commerce.

Commerce, broadly defined, includes exchange of information, realization of interdependency, adaptive survival strategies.

8. The bridge supports but cannot drive commerce. Once the bridge is built, the real work begins.

In a recent opinion piece (nytimes.com/2011/09/30/opinion/brooks-the-limits-of-empathy.html), New York Times columnist David Brooks mistakenly argues that empathy is merely a “sideshow”; nevertheless, he is correct that empathy is fragile and not sufficient to foster peace and justice. 

9. Commerce requires interpersonal communication, strong and weak social ties, and ethical codes. To varying degrees, each of these requires empathy to establish and maintain it.

Brooks talks about the preeminence of “sacred codes,” but he fails to acknowledge the relativity of these codes – that one side’s sacred code might be another’s nightmare; that empathy and compassion are not requisite components of a sacred code. He also does not consider the role of strong tie relations in motivating action, nor does he acknowledge empathy’s role in reinforcing these ties.

 

10.   In a globalized world, compassionate commerce is key to our survival as a species and the sustainability of our societies and habitats.

Compassionate commerce means social interactions and exchange rooted in shared empathetic experience. It does not preclude competition at the individual or group level