In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari explains how we’re the most dominant species on the planet because we’re the only ones able to cooperate flexibly in large numbers. The ‘funny’ part is that the things we cooperate on usually exist only in our collective imagination – religion, nation, money. Intersubjective realities.

But it gets funnier. When I look around now, I see these intersubjective realities actually causing more divisiveness between groups than unity. Offended because Spiegel allegedly called it a poor nation. Offended because Katy Perry used a Hindu goddess to describe her mood. New day, new reason to be offended. 

That leads me to whether our ability to find common ground is rapidly diminishing. All the more because I can sense it at an individual level too. Not just in the rabid arguments on say, Twitter, but even in real life interactions. It is almost as though everyone has a belief system so entwined with their sense of identity that any challenge to any view is immediately a critique on the whole personality. Is that a reflection of how we have immediately started judging people quickly based on one exhibited view? i.e. if I am stereotyping a person based on one point of view, I am inclined to think that others are judging me similarly, even when they are not!

The way I see it, we’re trending towards a group of one. We’re consistently choosing sides, and soon sides will be so splintered that we will have a billion plus sides. In all of this, it is difficult to find causation, but there is definitely a correlation with the loss of empathy. From an evolutionary perspective, if collective agreement is the glue that got us to the top of the chain, I wonder if the loss of empathy can ultimately drive us to extinction. The death of nuance and the rise of binary. You know the next line. :)

 

Related Reads

  1. “I don’t feel your pain” Why we need more morality and less empathy.
  2. The Age of Rudeness
  3. Empathy & Monoculture (a post I wrote earlier)