Philosopher Georg Wilhelm Fredrich

Philosopher Georg Wilhelm Fredrich

I find these words so heartening: German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Fredrich Hegel once remarked that happiness is “the blank pages of history” because they are “periods of harmony.” Happy people generally live out their existence in the “microworld” of close familial relations and extended social affiliations.

History, on the other hand, is more often than not made by the disgruntled and discontented, the angry and rebellious—those interested in exercising authority and exploiting others and their victims, interested in righting wrongs and restoring justice. By this reckoning, much of written history is about the pathology of power.

Perhaps that is why, when we come to think about human nature, we have such a bleak analysis — our collective memory is measured in terms of crises and calamities, harrowing injustices, and terrifying episodes of brutality inflicted on each other and our fellow creatures. But if these were the defining elements of human experience, we would have perished as a species long ago.

— Jeremy Rifkin: “The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis.”

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