Social justice can only be achieved when a society empathises with its neglected social groups. From the 18th century campaigns to tackle child poverty through the anti-slavery movement, woman’s suffrage to gay rights, none of these revolutions would have been possible without the rise of empathy and the regard for human life.
Empathy is the reason we have the principles of freedom and fairness, which are necessary components of social justice.
Social justice cannot start and finish with the human race; it must encompass all living creatures. Not only are we needlessly slaughtering tens of billions of sentient beings each year under the false belief that we need to feed on them, but to facilitate this we are wiping many other species from the face of the planet.
Our oceans are literally being destroyed and fish species are being wiped out at a rate never seen before in human history. The coral reefs are crumbling; dead zones are appearing across our oceans and seas.
We all know in our hearts that this is wrong, unsustainable and is destroying our fragile environment, but we continue along this path because the educators, our leaders are short sighted, guided by the thought of losing their position at the table.
Empathy takes courage, risk, and self-sacrifice, and can often be so very difficult. It is challenging, at times perhaps even excruciating, to dare to put the good of another, be it human, animal or environment above ourselves.
The only chance we have is to work together but in our capitalist world where competition is king and greed is good, we are heading towards oblivion. Only by working together, by empathising with the world around us can we pass on the lessons we have learned to future generations.
Suffering must be a lesson to us all, something we learn from, not a consequence of our actions.
We all have the ability to empathise, to imagine how it feels to walk in someone else’s shoes. Be it the mother holding her dying baby in drought ridden Africa, the child who is told that his father, a soldier, won’t be coming home or the cow, chained upside down by one leg, having it’s throat cut while still conscious because of outdated religious practises.
The power of empathy has changed the world many times through co-operation and understanding of right and wrong. It is without judgement, criticism or confusion, rather the selfless action of doing what we know to be the right thing.
The greatest and most beautiful gift I have ever been given is the miracle of empathy. The foundations of our human world rest upon it; without it we will crumble and fall.