I have often preached on the indispensability of empathy in cooperative human relationships—e.g., here and here and here. But to “make the world a better place,” as so many of us want to do, empathy is not enough. It is also essential to sympathize with individuals and groups treated inhumanely, to feel compassion for the sufferings and misfortunes of others, and to accompany those who are struggling against violence and injustice.
If we ask people with which sex they are most likely to associate these characteristics, my guess is that most of them would say “women.”
Not coincidentally, all four of the indispensables are reflected in the mission statement of the Women’s March on Washington, which led the protest movement against the Trump agenda in January. For example:
“In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore… We practice empathy with the intent to learn about the intersecting identities of each other….[Nonviolence] is a positive force confronting the forces of injustice and utilizes the righteous indignation and spiritual, emotional, and intellectual capabilities of people as the vital force for change and reconciliation…. ”
Wednesday, March 8, is International Women’s Day. The theme this year is #BeBoldForChange. The organizers of the Women’s March on Washington are staging another series of events for Wednesday—a Day without a Woman action. Please read about the plans for that campaign, and think about how you can express empathy, sympathy, and compassion, and also accompany the protestors in words and spirit even if you will not be actively protesting, as they strive for social justice, human rights, and peace.
To read some suggestions for participation in Wednesday’s events, read this.