I’ve traveled a lot lately, and I see the same looks of puzzlement on the faces of many quiet, thoughtful looking people, looking around at the teeming masses of humanity around us in airports and hotels: “How did we fall so far, so fast?”

I have my theories as to the cause, but sharing them would only get me in trouble, and I don’t think the problems are solvable, other than through the natural rise and fall of civilizations, so, to cut to the chase… what can we do about it right now?

We have to keep in mind that, despite outward appearances, thoughtful, empathetic people are still being born all the time, even in places like the United States, and the key difficulty is gathering them, and protecting them from everyone else.

While the real gems of people are probably increasingly hard to find, we should not overestimate the difficulty of finding subtle ways of filtering for people with at least basic intelligence and empathy.  Some examples:

  1. Can you follow a simple written instruction, such as “write this number down, and bring it to station A”?
  2. Can you show up at a given location roughly on time, given a few days notice?
  3. Are you capable of differentiating a customer service worker from the corporate entity they are working for?
  4. Do you take out your frustration on people who have nothing to do with the problems you are encountering?

It takes a certain amount of intelligence to empathize with those you can’t relate to, and, in the context of an interdependent society in general, that’s an extremely important aspect of empathy.

Humans devolve by default; it takes lots of suffering to make a civilization that shines.

Even then, even in that best case where you belong to a beautiful civilization… that shine does not belong to you, but to the pain that collectively made you.

To lay claim to it, is to forfeit it.

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