'Empathic Civilization' Author Interview: Jeremy Rifkin And HuffPost Blogger Robbie Vorhaus On February's Book Club Pick (VIDEO)

All throughout February, Arianna's been reading Jeremy Rifkin's "The Empathic Civilization"--the historical argument that empathy has helped us survive and thrive, and that we are evolving from Homo Sapiens to Homo Empathicus. Arianna, Jeremy Rifkin, and a host of other guest bloggers have been talking about the necessary shift to an "age of empathy" that Rifkin believes we are already moving towards. The blogs -- highlighted below -- have shown that we are wired for empathy from birth. We need to activate that wiring in order to save ourselves and the planet.

We wrapped up our discussion of "The Empathic Civilization" on March 4 with a live video interview with Jeremy Rifkin, conducted by HuffPost blogger Robbie Vorhaus. You can watch highlights from the interview below!

Read an excerpt from "The Empathic Civilization," and check out some highlights from the blogs:

Arianna Huffington, Only Empathy Can Save Us

The Empathic Civilization is a fascinating book that boldly challenges the conventional view of human nature embedded in our educational systems, business practices, and political culture -- a view that sees human nature as detached, rational, and objective, and sees individuals as autonomous agents in pursuit primarily of material self-interest. And it seeks to replace that view with a counter-narrative that allows humanity to see itself as an extended family living in a shared and interconnected world.

We can no longer afford to limit our notion of extended family to national boundaries, with Americans empathizing with fellow Americans, Chinese with Chinese, and the like. A truly global biosphere economy will require a global empathic embrace. We will need to think as a species − as homo empathicus − and prepare the groundwork for an empathic civilization embedded in a shared biosphere.

Reimagining freedom, equality, and democracy from an empathic perspective has far-ranging consequences for the kind of society that we choose to live in. We would need to rethink our parenting styles, educational systems, business practices and, even governance itself to reflect our empathic nature. This would constitute nothing less than a cultural revolution.

Today's emerging adults see themselves as international citizens to an extent rarely experienced before. Coming of age in the era of the Internet, cheap travel, and surging study abroad programs, they're drawn to global music, sports, fashion, and service.

Not that long ago, the goal of raising children was to socialize them -- to replace the natural narcissism of children with restraint and consideration for others. These days, we instead build further narcissism, an inflated sense of self characterized by overconfidence, entitlement, unbridled competitiveness, and lack of empathy.

The universe is a great wonder to me. I am so grateful to be here, walking this earth among such a diverse group of people with so many fascinating stories and points of views, that I choose not to be right, but simply curious. One of my favorite sayings is, "You might be right."

In our culture we're taught to think of ourselves as independent and self-actualizing. In reality, our brain is uniquely constructed for experiencing other people's thoughts, emotions and actions as if they were our own.

Jeremy Rifkin, Where the Jobs Are

The irony is that President Obama, who was elected, in large part, by a generation who is growing up on Facebook and the vast distributed power of the Internet, appears to not understand the job potential of a distributed Third Industrial Revolution. Today, the information and communications technologies that gave rise to the Internet are being used to reconfigure the world's business models and power grids, enabling millions of people to collect renewable energy and produce their own electricity in their homes, offices, retail stores, factories, and technology parks and share it peer-to-peer across smart grids, just as they now produce and share their own information in cyberspace. This is a Third Industrial Revolution and will create millions of new jobs.

Our ecosystems are withering on the vine without empathic input from a globalized, interconnected, citizenry. We may be on the verge of the Age of Empathy, but we still have a long journey ahead. In fact, I would argue that we are in still in our infancy, and that we live in an emotionally illiterate North America.

Although American history is peppered with lamentations about the souring of the dream, the criticism never extends to the assumptions that underlie the dream, but only to political, economic and social forces that thwart its realization. To suggest that the dream itself is misguided, outdated, and even damaging to the American psyche, would be considered almost treasonous. Yet, I would like to suggest just that.

Even the youngest babies imitate the facial expressions of other people and take on their emotions -- a kind of empathy. This ability is NOT just the result of the much-hyped "mirror neurons" since, for one thing, mirror neurons have been found in monkeys who rarely imitate others. But it does show that human babies, in particular, are tuned in to other people in an especially close way.

The empathic advocates argue that, for the most part, both earlier narratives about human nature fail to plumb the depths of what makes us human and therefore leave us with cosmologies that are incomplete stories--that is, they fail to touch the deepest realities of existence. That's not to dismiss the critical elements that make the stories of faith and reason so compelling. It's only that something essential is missing--and that something is "embodied experience."

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