February 6, 2010, 5:21 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , ,

How civilized!  The Brit in me likes to fling that phrase around, every once in a while:  a label for someone drinking tea from a dainty cup with his pinky up, playing tennis in whites, snacking on smoked meats and vodka, being versed in opera.  Or slaughtering the natives.  Civilization, a complex topic, and one that leaves a decidedly mixed taste in the mouth.

Jeremy Rifkin’s definition of civilization below is smart because it addresses the foible of both of our political extremes.  On the right:  blood ties aren’t enough, to civilize your associations must extend beyond mere blood; and on the left:  you must develop as an individual to engage properly in society.

Here is the excerpt —

A heightened empathic sentiment also allows an increasingly individualized population to affiliate with one another in more interdependent, expanded, and integrated social organisms. This is the process that characterizes what we call civilization. Civilization is the detribalization of blood ties and the resocialization of distinct individuals based on associational ties. Empathic extension is the psychological mechanism that makes the conversion and the transition possible. When we say to civilize, we mean to empathize.

We frequently hear political conservatives argue that empathy is a code word for collectivism. They fail to realize that empathic maturity requires a well devolved sense of selfhood and individuality to flourish. Political liberals in turn, are likely to associate “individualism” with uncaring narcissism, again, not realizing that a well formed self identity is required for empathic extension and compassionate behavior.

–Empathic Civilization, Jeremy Rifkin

author – Jeremy Rifkin
book –  Empathic Civilization:  The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, Tarcher 2009
organization – Foundation on Economic Trends

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