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PROULX: Rising above trolling

The father of Aylan Kurdi carries the body of the little boy who drowned while trying to escape war-torn Syria. Shaun Proulx says we could all do with more empathy.

The father of Aylan Kurdi carries the body of the little boy who drowned while trying to escape war-torn Syria. Shaun Proulx says we could all do with more empathy.

SHAUN PROULX/ 24 HOURS

After activist group Black Lives Matter stalled the Toronto Pride Parade last Sunday (an intrepid stunt I heartily applaud), haters and trolls unleashed shocking racist vitriol and hate mail of the “savage monkey” variety, according to BLM co-founder Janaya Khan.

Writing 18th-century-style hate to a group of humans because a never-on-time, always-too-lengthy parade — one rooted in politics and acting out — was held up for a paltry thirty minutes by them indicates the rock-bottom level we’ve hit when it comes to empathy, which is the ability to imaginatively step into the shoes of others to understand their feelings and points of view.

Other indicators of compassion’s current freefall: 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced online harassment and trolling. Studies also show that the wealthier you are the less empathetic you are likely to be, that senior executives are four times more likely to resemble psychopaths (devoid of empathy), and that there has been a long-term decline in empathy in college students of 50% over the last thirty years. Donald Trump helping to reveal the ugly underbelly of hate towards Americans by other Americans, the Orlando shootings, terrorism, civil wars, and conflict within so much of our daily personal interactions make it difficult to not hear the universe’s cry for more empathy from all of us.

We think we are so different when we are so not. When we don’t allow race to disconnect us, religion to separate us, politics to divide us, wealth to classify us, we are all one. ‘One’ meaning: one consciousness, one whole. We rise by uplifting others. Conversely, if you hate on someone, you hate on yourself; how we treat others is how we treat ourselves. We connect to the power that is greater than ourselves when we love and are compassionate, and we disconnect from it when we hate, when we lack empathy.

We are not passive observers travelling through a brief moment in time, we are participators in creation. Here is how you can actively create a world with more empathy that benefits the whole that we all form:

 1. Listen below the surface and pay attention to someone's feelings and what they need. Especially when in an argument or debate, give someone a chance to express their feelings, then reflect back to them what you’ve heard so they recognize you and understand them.

2. Talk to strangers. A conversation with a stranger once a week (that goes beyond the superficial) frequently shows how wrong we are about each other in the snap judgments we make based on accent or appearance. Do you really know the heavily inked, pierced woman who tuned up your bike, or the bearded, turbaned man who sits in the cubicle by the elevator?

3. Look deeply into the eyes of the person you are with. Highly empathetic people are skilled at being able to emotionally read people’s feelings from eye contact. In a world of disengagement - put the smartphone down when you are speaking to people - looking into the eyes of others is a powerful connector.

4. Join The Empathy Library: What might it be like to be a child growing up in Tehran, to be born without sight, or be a soldier fighting someone else’s war? EmpathyLibrary.com is the world’s first online empathy collection that lets you armchair travel via books and movies, all with a common thread of the power to deepen our empathy by helping us step into the shoes of other people.

5. Get involved. Ashoka’s Empathy is an organization that wants to create a world where every child masters empathy, by making the skill as fundamental as math and reading in early education, and have many ways you can help (empathy.ashoka.org).

 Our world is now one where everyone can be a changemaker. Empathy isn’t just the key to understanding those around you, it is utterly necessary so that you can participate in ways that make a positive difference. Let’s begin by being grateful to all of today’s changemakers - hello Black Lives Matter - whether we agree with how they go about things, or not. These are good days to be alive and part of the universe, and to make a difference that future generations will benefit mightily from. But first, we must empathize.

 Shaun Proulx hosts The Shaun Proulx Show on SiriusXM Canada Talks channel 167. He is the publisher of TheGayGuideNetwork.com and leads a #ThoughtRevolution on ShaunProulx.com.