Sunday, October 06, 2013

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that to end your weekend.

- Daniel Goleman writes about the role of wealth in undermining empathy:
(I)n general, we focus the most on those we value most. While the wealthy can hire help, those with few material assets are more likely to value their social assets: like the neighbor who will keep an eye on your child from the time she gets home from school until the time you get home from work. The financial difference ends up creating a behavioral difference. Poor people are better attuned to interpersonal relations — with those of the same strata, and the more powerful — than the rich are, because they have to be.

While Mr. Keltner’s research finds that the poor, compared with the wealthy, have keenly attuned interpersonal attention in all directions, in general, those with the most power in society seem to pay particularly little attention to those with the least power. To be sure, high-status people do attend to those of equal rank — but not as well as those low of status do.

This has profound implications for societal behavior and government policy. Tuning in to the needs and feelings of another person is a prerequisite to empathy, which in turn can lead to understanding, concern and, if the circumstances are right, compassionate action.
Since the 1970s, the gap between the rich and everyone else has skyrocketed. Income inequality is at its highest level in a century. This widening gulf between the haves and have-less troubles me, but not for the obvious reasons. Apart from the financial inequities, I fear the expansion of an entirely different gap, caused by the inability to see oneself in a less advantaged person’s shoes. Reducing the economic gap may be impossible without also addressing the gap in empathy.
- Stephen Maher writes about the Cons' continuing problems with Stephen Harper's first set of patronage Senate appointments - which look to have arisen largely about of the perception that anybody sufficiently well-connected to be appointed would be above answering to the mere general public. And there's an echo of that theme in Kate Heartfield's discussion of the Cons' battles with Elections Canada as well.

- But when it comes to kicking the powerless while they're down, it's hard to top the Cons' thumb in the eye of war rape victims and child brides who need access to abortion as a means of remedying the human rights violations they've suffered - or the denial of health care to refugee claimants.

- Finally, the CP reports that Alberta isn't done trying to shut non-oil baron voices out of any environmental assessment of the tar sands.

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