The “Disaster Age” and Empathy

Appreciating all the encouraging efforts and initiatives to mitigate global crises, I argue that a fundamental and foundational concept in all humanitarian activities is often swept under the carpet. It is the building block, the structure and the goal of any and every humanitarian action.

It is called empathy. This concept or theory which has been missing in humanitarian policy, documents, programs, or discourses, is the natural disposition that a would-be humanitarian worker or agency should possess.

Frans deWaal defines empathy as the capacity to

  • (a) be affected by and share the emotional state of another,
  • (b) assess the reasons for the other’s state, and
  • (c) identify with the other, adopting his or her perspective

In “The Science of Evil,” Simon Baron-Cohen states, “empathy occurs when we suspend our single—minded focus of attention and instead adopt a double-minded focus of attention.”

A double-minded focus is not as simple as an intuitively judging or a generalising focus but is doable.

Tedla D. Tekle .