It has been surprising for many that the Tory Government ascended to power, once again. It has caused despair and impotence for us who depend on their willingness to help out citizens . Then again, just as Owen Jones pointed out in his Comment is Free video on the 13th of May: if it is bad, we must not stay there. We need to start thinking of a different society, of a different approach to politics and a different relationship between us (citizens) and them (politicians). We need to stop competing and to start building. The bridges between power, decision making possibilities and social awareness need to be redeveloped.

An argument in favour of the construction of new paradigms around how we behave with each other, was made by London Business School Professor, Umair Haque. The proposal he made in Betterness: Economics for humans was to get away from the idea of competing in order to gain market share, and instead develop organisations that build and construct new wealth in order to be successful.

Building upon that premise, and adding to it the idea of morality and immorality in modern society, over-competition and greed turn out as undesirable outcomes: a negative externality of our way of understanding competition and innovation. We need to think about how we teach children to act, we need to think about what reasons we give them for doing things, and we need to think about why we have done the things we have done in our own life. What are we doing with the time we have to make the world a better one?

The idea of a constructive way of living is more appealing to the human essence than one that is destructive and over-competitive. The damage we do to others should be a determinant factor when deciding a possible course of action that may affect them. A question pops to mind at this point, found in Mitch Albom’s book Tuesdays with Morrie when talking about the way of living and leading an inspiring and meaningful existence: ‘Have you found someone to share your heart with? Are you helping your community in any way? Are you in a peaceful state with yourself? Are you trying to be as human as possible?’ With an over-competitive life full of overcrowding tasks that we need to perform in order to win the race, we may have forgotten to get involved in building a better society, rather than making a more efficient one.

That’s why we need to get involved in innovative political processes; that’s why we need to get a greater sense of community and create a greater understanding of accountability for what we believe we should be striving for. This has to be taught, and a way to do it is to help the new generations value exercising  a greater amount of empathic interactions during their lifetime. This links with the notion of a brain that works in making us better at interacting with our peers via mirror neurons. Just as we have neurons that are specialised towards the movements of our body (motor neurons), so we have mirror neurons which are specialised in helping us understand what other surrounding human beings feel.

Under the right circumstances these mirror neurons have the ability to make you feel what other people feel, even if you don’t know them. That is why we feel pain and react accordingly when someone we are very fond of feels pain: we analyse their nonverbal signals of emotions and we replicate the feelings they experience. This may sound beautiful and useful but there is a big problem. In order for the empathic connection to happen, we need to be attentive and focus on the other person in order to synchronize with them.

We need to teach children that connection with their peers is important. We should also strive to teach them that we should never be too busy when someone is in need. Finally, I believe we should teach them and ourselves the consequence of having mirror neurons. When you act nicely and better the other person’s mood and situation (making them feel happy and/or relieved) you will feel the better as well. Mirror neurons will replicate their feelings in your brain.

Being an idealist may seem hard sometimes, but if we start aiming for a better world, we will see it is a worthy goal to live for.

 

Sources:

1. Mitch Alborn, Tuesdays with Morrie (Random House, 1997).
2. Owen Jones, Comment is Free; ‘Still on a post-election downer? Stop moping and organise’ (Guardian, 13th of May, 2015): http://gu.com/p/48pve/stw
3. Umair Haque, Betterness: Economics for Humans (HBR Press, 2011).
4. Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships (Penguin Random House, 2007).
5. Nicolás Rodriguez Chavez, BSc Psychology (Candidate): Independent Inquiries.