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Human Empathy

Nature or Nurture?

Credit to Luc De La Mare Photography

Humans are an incredibly strange species, from simple apes to rulers of the world, we have come along way from our humble beginnings.

Not that the path was easy, every civilization, every country, every people builds their success atop the corpses of those who came before them, yes human history is a history of blood, violence, and death.

But what about the other side of the coin, what about the great feats humanity has achieved in its comparatively short time upon the earth? Feats only achievable through cooperation and unity, through an empathic understanding of another human.

That dear reader, is what I intend to talk about today.

Is empathy naturally occurring or is it yet another creation of our own hands, enforced through peer pressure?

Humans are well-known for subverting nature to improve upon ourselves first, it began with stone tools, weapons crafted from flint to give us protection against predators and an edge over our would-be rivals.

Soon we discovered fire and the advantages of cooked meat, artificial warmth, and the ability to shoo away the darkness that had once terrified us so.

We essentially cheated our way to the top and had no plans on slowing down but as human populations grew we were forced together, to hunt and fight, to live and die together and that is where humans violent nature became less of a help and more of a hindrance.

At this point, humans had jumped ahead in the game, skipped a few levels but we didn't have the understanding or the knowledge that those levels would have brought, so we did what most animals do when they're forced to compete, we started taking out the competition.

And so the first wars began, small clans of primitive triable waged bloody battle after bloody battle for the rights of their children and their children's children, until somebody had the spark of genius "instead of going out for food why don't we bring it to us?" and suddenly there was no need to fight over land so much, there was plenty for everyone but now they faced a new problem.

A small family unit wouldn't be able to hunt and farm and have children so we grouped up, not it wasn't just your close family you knew it was your neighbors, yeah the guys you been fighting with for decades, now suddenly you all had to share the land and work together or you're all fucked.

This is where I believe empathy was born, where it was developed and cultivated because the rules were simple before then, the strongest ruled and everybody did as they were told or died but now everyone was in the same boat. You could be the strongest man in the world but if you didn't know how to farm then you were up shit creek without a club.

"Silk," I hear you shout, "You've bored us to death with this cliff notes version of an early human history lecture, now when are you getting to the hard evidence to back up your claim." Just hold on dear reader, I'm getting to that fourth width.

Now turning to modern day, where can we find evidence to support my claim the answer is...Children. Children are the most primal form of human to exist because their untainted by modern society for better or worse and as we all know children can be phenomenally cruel, they'll bully and fight each other, insult and demean one and other for no reason.

I believe this is because they have yet to learn empathy, children learn almost everything they know from their parents how to walk, talk, socialize, and on some occasions, ostracise.

As we learn how to be human, we learn how to empathize, I'm sure at least one of your parents has spoken to you after you did something to some other kid and said "How would you feel?" because children don't feel empathy from the moment they're born, they learn through experience, it's a learned behaviour.

Empathy was born when we ceased to be animals and started becoming human, it is as human as any city, creation or person, it is one of the few things that binds the human race together.

Empathy may not be in our genes but its sure as hell in our blood.

(Jesus that ending was so saccharine it almost made me gag, anyway. Thank you so much for reading all the way through my first piece on this site, I hope you enjoyed reading!)

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