Blog

By Helena Batey

Social Media Content Strategist

Working with Global Lives this semester, my time is largely devoted to reviewing videos and looking for important or captivating moments from the lives of our On-Screen Participants. I have observed their personas, living conditions, attitudes and beliefs. 

While I continue to recognize several similarities I share with these participants, I also understand the very stark differences I have the privilege of; a hardwood floor instead of concrete, fresh water out of a faucet in my home contrasting to a faucet far outside of my house in a forest requiring to carry and  fill a bucket and carrying it back.  In particular, the difference of having the ability to walk on two feet each day. I can quickly switch tabs, attend a zoom class, and complete my assignments all from the comfort of an overpriced Berkeley apartment.

 Even though others daily activities of  brushing their teeth, travelling to work or school, and interacting with others can easily bear semblance to my own, taking the next step to considering how I would be in these individuals environments have given me a deeper insight. It has become apparent to me that those of us living in our own privilege rarely take the time to get a glimpse into the lives of others.

This has made me wonder, what is empathy and how is it fostered?

The following pictures are of living spaces of On-Screen Participants across the world. Take some time to reflect, how are these spaces similar to yours? How are they different? 

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Trois-Rivières, Québec,Canada: Pierre Valle Sari Mukti Village, Jakarta, Indonesia: Dadah

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São Paulo, Brazil: Rael Feliciano Mỹ Khánh Village, Vietnam: Huyền Lê

There are multiple types of empathy:

Cognitive empathy: When you imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes. This is the most fundamental step toward understanding others and closest to my example above where I compared and related my life to others. 

Affective empathy: When you can feel what someone else is feeling. This is a deeper level of empathy as it creates an emotional connection between two people. 

Compassionate empathy : When rather than being a spectator, we pursue active engagement to help others in need. This can be implemented in a variety of ways whether it is helping someone, addressing injustices, or fighting for change.

Why do we need more compassionate empathy? 

It is true that many may not have the resources to be able to act. Yet, a Google search will tell you there are 46.8 million millionaires worldwide – a collective 158.3 trillion dollars which is 44% of the worlds global wealth. Compare this to the number of people in the world who are struggling with basic needs and the disparity is staggering: 690 million are hungry and 785 million do not have access to clean drinking water  Clearly, there are people who could make a difference. In a world with such a disproportionate distribution of resources, the need to cultivate empathy is a deep struggle for humanity. It is the difference between life or death for so many communities around the world. The stakes are high and those of us who live with more wealth and privilege need to take action. The real issue is detachment vs. the will to do something to help others. The real issue is the lack of empathy and accountability to relieve the world of suffering.

Global issues are widely known and well categorized. Solutions to these issues take patience, cross-cultural understanding, and sensitivity from a world population that is committed to make a difference starting in our own backyards. 

The Global Lives Project cultivates global empathy through sharing the daily lives of individuals around the world of varying race, age, gender, and economic status. To learn more about how you can spread empathy, you can sign up for our newsletters or download our free “Unheard Stories” educator guide to bring empathy to your classroom.

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