Empathy means “being concerned of somebody else”. Concerned out of respect, a liking due to some shared experience or some shared understanding. We may go out of our place to experience someone else’s feelings of joy, anger, or maybe sadness. That is being compassionate.
Compassionate people are heroes in our society– social activists, human rights defenders, freedom fighters and aid relief workers. Compassion is seen as a sign of potential to be able to empathise with somebody else. It makes us think in someone else’s shoes for a moment.
In our daily lives, we may see many people lying alone on the streets and beg for money. But we often confront our own selves, asking whether we can afford to donate a huge chunk of our pay to someone who will keep needing it for the rest of their lives – since their job prospects are still too small for them to be ever uplifted from the society.
The point that I am trying to make is not that empathy is an inconvenient form of helping people
Help can sometimes be detrimental too. This came into play when donations were made to “developing nations” as in Africa, where it actually causes a problem by forcing small scale cloth manufacturers out of business. Since Africa is not known particularly for having a booming technological infrastructure, they are in a fix if we help them out of plain ignorance.
The point that I am trying to make is not that empathy is an inconvenient form of helping people. Because the world has only progressed in the last few decades because of empathetic people – economists, entrepreneurs and other job providing companies etc. Bill Gates and his wife Melinda Gates have donated billions of dollars (more than 36 billion USD) in solving price issues for treating polio, resources to contain the Ebola outbreak, poverty, education… These people are amongst the richest people on earth – second in fact, after Jeff Bezos, who saw further expansion of his Amazon business by creating more jobs in India with his e-rickshaw fleet and promised as a result 1 billion USD for India.
But you may ask if the lower and middle class people are able to help others too. Or else, should people become rich in the first place to actually help out? No, it is not about money. If a country has a superior amount of wealth concentrated in their hands, it is economic inequality since there is a large number of people or countries who are barely able to meet their own basic necessities.
Indian government is rich enough to invest in military defence, but to shoulder the economy is proving too difficult in this day and age when it is India’s best opportunity to boom back into an upper middle class society (we have an average age of 25), without having to rely on foreign imports too much
However, our elected leaders view business people as money-making assets for their own families and betray the trust for the rural people whose support they buy in the first place, at the expense of creating a disadvantageous society.
In the social sense, India’s caste system is an example. People follow their family lines to get married and form opinions on their economical wealth. It is a rather irrational system that encourages more inequality in economic terms and societal terms. We have dowry that is constitutionally prohibited, but its violation is an open secret. Patriarchy is a bane to our society, but openly flourishes. All this does impact our degree of equality and secularity.
And to make a small step in being part of a “modernised” world, we have to dare to be a rebel. We may fail multiple times, but there is only one time you can actually win and it is not guaranteed, but actually won by our own selves. The rise of climate change movements in the past decade has been triggered by the fact that young people have been educated that pollution is caused due to human activities such as burning of fields, burning of coal and oil and also because we litter our holy rivers due to a totally old fashioned doctrine that still dictates our lives – in spite of what we know how wrong they can be.
Empathy can take many forms, as simple as helping abolishment of use of plastics and such materials in our daily lives to more humane activities
Going back to the question of how upper and lower middle class people can make a change, I believe that it is in the best interests of a society to have an active role of these educated people to use their education to bypass stigmas and create a new world order that everyone can live in peace and harmony.
Empathy can take many forms, as simple as helping abolishment of use of plastics and such materials in our daily lives to more humane activities.
Advocating the importance of mental health and how it can affect anybody from any age group – children to adolescents to adults. Loneliness is an issue in today’s society and has a certain stigma of being weak – although quite many famous personalities in history – such as scientists, warlords, politicians, sports players have been known to have had a depressing and failure ridden life. Everybody has three faces – one that they show outside, one that they think they are, and the one that nobody knows about. Showing empathy here is to assist in making the right choices and decisions and not have display malice or even ignorance (most importantly and is always the case) to those in need of them.
We can also volunteer in expeditions to use our experience and skills to address sufferings in rural and urban slums. A notable example is in Kerala. The ravaging floods in 2018 were the worst in the state since the early 1900s. Despite the government’s ineptitude in dealing with the crisis, a sizeable group of volunteers, from all castes, economical stratifications drenched themselves in sweat finding and funding aid relief. Everyone was upto the task, knocking doors of every neighbour in their area and organising their resources. None were those who necessarily had the experience to help. But they all had a human instinct to help, although it would not have necessarily gained them recognition, although, the presence of the media does help bring that recognition to them.
Today’s world has progressed in terms of how messages can be transmitted. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, or any content sharing website can be used to voice opinions, or popularise one’s ideas. Many of us are not using them to bring positive impact in society. For instance, terrorist organisations, or politically aligned groups and parties can use it to drive their own narrative.
Sometimes, artificial intelligence (such as “deepfake” can be used to mislead people). It is not a hugely difficult task to spread positive message if channel our energies empathetically.
Heroes in our society act because they think there is no time to wait for a hero to arrive. It is now or never. And in this society, getting the message past is the easiest thing to do, and we must make sure that we have the right intent in our minds to assist and care for each other. As they say, nobody can achieve anything alone.