The Opposite Of Utopia (featuring Jeremy Rifkin)

The Opposite Of Utopia (featuring Jeremy Rifkin)


For 1500 years, the Church had the last say about human nature. And the church was very clear. The little baby is born in sin, depraved and
if we want salvation we have to wait for Christ and the next world to come – end of story. The Enlightenment philosophers took on that worldview and they came up with a different equation for what human nature is all about. John Locke, the great political philosopher of the Enlightenment said babies are born tabular rasa, blank slate, they are not born
in sin. He said however there is a predisposition
to acquire property. Somebody should have caught him on that. Adam Smith said that our key nature is we are born with a drive to be autonomous and pursue our material self-interest in the market. Later in the 19th century, Jeremy Bentham said little babies are actually born with a desire to have pleasure and to avoid pain and we are driven by utilitarian desires. Charles Darwin said every organism their drive is to secure their survival by reproducing themselves. And finally the capstone of that century,
Sigmund Freud said actually little babies are born with an insatiable sexual appetite and want to extinguish their libido. Is that what it is all about? Our little babies? When that little baby came out and mom and dad looked in their eyes, is that what we were seeing? Evil, depraved, rational, calculating, detached, autonomous, self-interested, driven by materialism, and seeking to extinguish their libido? If that truly is our human nature, I suspect
we’re doomed. I just don’t see anyway that human beings
are going to come together and create an interconnected, interdependent, sustainable and just global economy, and address the issue of healing the biosphere if that is our human nature,
do you? In the last 10 years, under the radar, there’s been some very interesting developments in evolutionary biology, neuro-cognitive science, child development, research, and many other fields which is beginning to challenge some of these long-held Shibboleths that we’ve had about human nature and the meaning of the human journey – that we are actually soft-wired for sociability, attachment, affection, companionship, and that the first drive is the drive to actually belong – it is an empathic drive. All humans are apparently soft wired with
mirror neurons so that if I am observing you – your anger, your frustration, your sense
of rejection, your joy – the same neurons will light up in me as if I am having that
experience myself. This isn’t all that unusual, we know that
if a spider goes up someone’s arm and I am observing it go up your arm, I am going to get a creepy feeling. What is empathy? It isn’t just I feel your pain. When little babies are in a nursery and one baby cries, the other babies will cry in response, they just don’t know why. That’s empathic distress. Its built into their biology. Around 8 years of age, a child learns about birth and death, that they have a one and only life, that life is fragile and vulnerable,
and one day they are going to die. So when a child learns that every moment is precious and that they have their own unique history, it allows the child to experience
another’s plight in the same way, that that other person or other being has a one and
only life, its tough to be alive, they are struggling to flourish and be, and the odds are not always good. We empathize because we felt their struggle and we show solidarity with our compassion. So here is the question: Is it possible that
human beings that are soft wired for empathic distress, is it possible we could extend our empathy to the entire human race as an extended family, and to our fellow creatures as part
of our evolutionary family and to the biosphere as our common community? If it’s possible to imagine that, then we
may be possible to save our species and our planet. We know that consciousness changes in history. The way our brain is wired today is not the
way a medieval surf’s brain would be wired and their brain wouldn’t be the same as
the wiring of a forager-hunter 30,000 years ago. With forager-hunter societies, communication only extended to the local tribe and shouting distance. Everyone over in the next mountain was the alien other so empathy only extended to blood ties. When we went to the great hydraulic agricultural civilizations, script allowed us to bring more people together and the differentiation of skills and increasing selfhood not only led to theological consciousness but empathy now extended to a new fiction: religious ties. So a new fiction: Jews start to see all other Jews as extended family and empathize with Jews. Christians start to see all other Christians
as extended family and empathize with Christians. Muslims, the same. When we get to the 19th century and the industrial revolution and we extend markets to larger areas and create a fiction called the nation-state. All of a sudden, the Brits start to see other
in Britain as extended family. The Germans start to see Germans as extended family. There was no such thing as Germany. There was no such thing as France. These are fictions. But they allow us to extend our family so
that we can have loyalties and identities based on the new complex energy communication revolutions we have that annihilate time and space. But if we have gone from empathy in blood ties to empathy in religious association ties to empathy based on national identification, is it really a big stretch to imagine that new technology is allowing us to connect our empathy to the human race at large and the biosphere? We have to begin thinking as an extended family. We have to broaden our sense of identity. We don’t lose the old identities of nationhood and our religious identities and even our blood ties. But we extend our identities so we can think of the human race as our fellow sojourners and our other creatures here as part of our evolutionary family and the biosphere as our community. We have to rethink the human narrative. If we are truly homo-empathicus, then we need to bring out that core nature. Because if it doesn’t come out and it is
repressed by our parenting, our educational system, our business practices, our government,
the secondary drives come – narcissism, materialism, violence, aggression. Empathy is the opposite of utopia – exact
opposite. There is no empathy in heaven because there is no mortality. There is no empathy in utopia because there is no suffering. Empathy is grounded in the acknowledgement of death and the celebration of life and rooting for each other to flourish and be. It is based on our frailties and our imperfections. So when we talk about building an empathic civilization, we are not talking about utopia; we are talking about the ability of human
beings to show solidarity not only with each other but with our fellow creatures that have a one and only life on this little planet. In the last 50 years, imagine how empathy
has extended. When my mother was a little kid, women didn’t have the vote in the United States of America. And then we extended empathy to the disabled. And to those of different sexual preferences. And to the people of color. And now to our fellow creatures we are beginning to recognize as having rights and recognition in law. This has all happened very quickly in terms of the long history of empathy. We almost can grasp the possibility of global empathy but I think we also can grasp that we may be at the moment of extinction. It is a bittersweet irony. We may be right at the point where we get
this thing together and think empathically as a species, and we may be right at that
point where we can sense our own potential extinction. When we look back at our life, it is the moments that had that empathic connection, we feel super alive. It’s one of those moments where we actually feel transcendence. You don’t have to be religious. And we felt we were connected to this mystery called life and it makes us feel alive to be in solidarity with someone else’s struggle to be. That would make a darn good civilization if all of us felt that way.

18 Comments on "The Opposite Of Utopia (featuring Jeremy Rifkin)"


  1. i agree 100%. we need to stop viewing people from other lands as foreigners or strangers, stop viewing animals as dumb beasts, stop viewing trees and forests as barriers to development. for us to survive we must live in harmony with all living species on earth, allow diversity to spread. Currently we have our hands around mother natures throat, and our grip is getting tighter by the minute

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  2. We're all the same race, there's different cultures, religions and skin color. But we're all the same race. There are no racists, only hateful idiots.

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  3. We just gotta live like in the old days,in our own little close knit communities,globalisation is not practical.

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  4. FYI
    Fiction does not mean a lie. A lie is calling a green cloth as blue. Fiction is basically an imagined reality which may very well exist but does not have a physical existence. For example, the country France does not have a physical existence, there are mountains, rivers and fields and other things in the place we call France, but the existence of France is in the collective imagination of the humans

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  5. Imo, nonsense, as literally taken, Empathy is DEFINITE NOT the opposite of utopia – and even FAR LESS the "exact opposite", as "empathy" and "utopia" are on very different planes / come from completely different realms … but let's see if there's some uhm ~"metaphorical" sense being made out of that blurb …

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  6. Yep, our brains are "wired differently" than those of "earlier humans," and while our brains are still much the same, our minds are very different. (Namaste Lewis Mumford)

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  7. Projecting the nature of the psychopathic mind is something that has been happening for 100,000+ years (SEE -> NEANDERTHAL / DENISOVAN ANTI-SOCIAL EVOLUTIONARY TRACK). The psychopathic mind isn't the same kind of neuro-geometry as regular / healthy minds. This mind's specialty is projecting itself. The psychopathic brain only cares about two things, the acquisition of wealth, and the spreading of DNA and having sex, aka labido (They function as parasites to regular human populations). This is the underlying theme of capitalism, the projection of the psychopathic brain, that all life is only about getting money and having sex, that's it. Pretty much all of Freud's work was based on that projection, money and sex, nothing else. Freud was also a rampant coke addict if people didn't know, as many psychopaths are.

    Psychopaths represent ~1% of society but because they are inter-species predators, they usually amass a far greater % of power and wealth. You can literally see this day by day in the USA. ~7 guys have as much wealth as half the world, that's psychopathy 101. Their brains are NOT the same…they KNOW this, that's why they PROJECT so hard.

    The opposite of utopia is when a psychopath is running your society. In the land of the blind, the one eye'd man is king! <—–Your society is legit run by a psychopath, the "one eye" is a reference to their neuro-geometry, not their eyeballs…the "blind" are individuals who don't have enough critical thinking ability to see the truth, (not "woke", which really means not enough gray / white matter in certain sectors of their brain). A psychopath society will always seek to maximize citizens with 0 critical thinking abilities, similar to Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia, take orders, obey, don't think.

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  8. I don't believe that everyone can make the empathic leap from caring for ourselves to caring for the whole planet and everything on it. But I do believe that we can make enough people feel this empathy to make a difference; to change what we're doing to something better. I have to believe this: I am a Socialist Libertarian, or Anarchist by another name. I believe deeply that we can make a planet which is good for everyone, not just the .1%. And empathy is the way.

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