Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

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Join the International Conference on: How Might We Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion?

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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Peter Gabel

Peter Gabel Empathy Expert Big Page: Peter Gabel
Empathy and Restorative Justice  "A co-founder of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, Peter was instrumental in creating the Project for Integrating Spirituality, Law, and Politics, a nationwide group that seeks to bring together law teachers, lawyers, and law students who seek to connect the inner and the outer in a fundamental transformation of legal culture. "
An editor at Tikkun Magazine.

We social change activists need to move forward in a way that manifests, respect, concern and care.  That doesn't dominantly manifest anger, bitterness, resentment and rage....  We need to become militant empathy advocates.

  Peter Gabel on Building a Culture of Empathy in the Justice and Legal System
    (Incorporating approaches like Restorative Justice, etc.)

  • Peter Gabel Introduction: from offices of Tikkun Magazine

    • Associate Editor Tikkun Magazine

    • Law  Professor at

      • University Minnesota

      • UC Berkeley

      • New College

      • Public Interest Law School SF

    • Organizer for Project for Integrating Spirituality, Law and Politics

      • for lawyers, law professors and law students

      • for connecting the longing for empathy and understanding with law and social activism

      • fuse the inner and the outer

      • bring that perspective into the legal culture

  • Empathy is inherently present in law and legal culture because law has a relationship to justice

    • feeling for justice is a present need for all people

    • 2:00 - legal arena - empathic awareness is present

    • other hand - current legal culture was born 1600+ based on individualism and materialism

  • social connection, empathy, compassion, understanding

  • 3:00 The legal model in many ways sees people as distinct, they may lie, must be maximally distrustful

    • goal of an empathic world - legal world is what defines what is binding on us.

    • the socially binding part

    • need to find ways of bringing into the existing legal system the connection part (empathy)

  • 4:00 - the adversary system  - the process of law is people are at war with each other

    • the structure of trials assumes everyone may be lying

    • law school you learn to aggrandize yourself and discredit the other

    • fosters the  gladiator combat which is the opposite of empathy

  • 6:00 - there's so much mistrust build into the system

    • one side against the other with the judge serving as the umpire.

    • Constitution - protects the individual rights was a great accomplishment

      • but nothing about how we connect with each other, empathy

      • only focus on protecting the individual

  • 8:20: Other laws, contracts, torts, etc

    • sees individuals as socially separate actors

    • maximize profits

    • corporations - nothing about empathy

    • about self interest

    • law of contracts

    • no law about concerns for the other - empathy and compassion

    • the very structure of the law is geared toward competition and not toward empathy

  • 11:00 a crime is not a tearing of the communal fabric but the state versus the defendant

    • the defendant is surrounded by bundle of rights that protects them from abuse

    • system is not for taking responsibility and fostering healing and forgiveness

  • 13:30 Project for Integrating Spirituality, Law and Politics

    • Our group is interested in creating new forms of law and legal culture

    • that go beyond the liberal model

    • need a new step that connects people to each other

    • that fosters empathy, concern, understanding

    • creating new processes, new training

  • 14:30 the process is creating a new empathic foundation?

  • Four main goals our group has are;

    • 1. Support the Restorative Justice Movement

      • restorative circles

    • 2. Transformative Mediation

      • understanding based mediation

    • 3. New forms of Law Practice - Lawyers as 'Spiritual Guides'

    • 4. Education

  • 1. Support the Restorative Justice Movement

    • crime as a harm to the community as a whole

    • foster the taking of responsibility

    • apologies

    • forgiveness

    • reintegration into society

    • healing of society

    • may address larger problems

    • Examples:

      • 16:15 Ronny Earl in Austin TX example with small scale crime

        • group process

      • South Africa - truth and reconciliation example

  • 2. Transformative Mediation  (20:00)

  • 3. New forms of Law Practice - Lawyers as 'Spiritual Guides'

    • lawyers have a permanent relationship with the clients

    • heart based connection with clients

    • Georgia project as example

    • coming into contact with justice system is connecting with you as a human being

    • engaging the public space and law is a chance for personal growth

  •  4. Education - changing legal education (23:00)

    • changing legal education

    • law students lose touch with their values of caring

    • legal reasoning: fast talking and cleverness is valued

    • legal mind is cut off from the heart, empathy, compassion, care, love

    • lawyers have a glazed eye way of being

    • people don't like lawyers because they don't act like human beings

    • 26:00 - change education to introduce empathy, caring, cooperation

  • 28:00 - can't have a little empathy class on the side. it needs to be the core of the curriculum

    • need to understand existing law as it is and

    • and how to practice in a way that can bring about a new society

  • 29:00 Have empathy training, how does it work, how to connect people. Build the curriculum on that.

    • We all need empathy training because we live in an alienated world

    • Tikkun means to repair and heal the world

    • It's imagining how to connect your empathy with your work as a lawyer

    • there's always the cooperative aspect

    • peoples aspiration to cooperate versus just self interest

    • looking for the empathy in every case and bring that out.

    • need to learn the rule of separation  and how to foster greater empathy, compassion, connection

    • society is cooperative - it doesn't work unless everyone is working together.

    • the cooperative element

  • 32:00 How's that effort progressing? A Culture of Empathy?

    • it's a dawning transformation of consciousness that takes a long time

    • it took thousands of years to get to a Constitution, where we are  not bound to the king

      • a great achievement

    • now going to a new form of human connection that values longing for love,

    • that's going to take a long time

  • 34:20 Other ways to create a Culture of Empathy?

    • Stay with the law

    • imagine how powerful it would be if every city, in the law centers, if empathic efforts were taking place?

    • OJ Simpson trial, for example - if social healing would be there

    • it would change the culture

    • build new forms of legal culture in these centers and the media

    • that's how law could and will contribute to this.

  • 37:30 Other ways to create a Culture of Empathy?

    • overcome the alienation in every sphere of life that separates

    • Network of Spiritual Progressives, Tikkun fosters new ways of social activism

    • connect spirituality and politics, Empathy is a spiritual aspect of reality

    • Empathy is invisible, a way of experiencing the other

      • that is as important as any material change

      • material aspect is essential and not to be minimized

    • empathy and caring is also essential to politics

  • 39:30 I went to Democratic and GOP conventions to talk about empathy?

    • with the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor it shows what a challenge it is

    • when you introduce connection to each other, business, courts, parties

    • the fear of the isolated individual of being controlled and manipulated by others comes to the surface

    • Obama saying he wants a Supreme Court judge with empathy created a firestorm

      • it's argued that Empathy can mean anything

      • they will be imposing their view on the individual

      • there is no objective empathy

    • the key to overcome that fear is that we are unique but also the same

      • we have the same longing,

      • are the source of each other's completion

      • we can't do it without each other.

      • empathy and compassion are essential forr justice

    • Justice Scalia wants nothing to do with what he calls subjective factors in law

      • we're all detached individuals and only rules are objective

      • same with Senator Jeff Session who lead challenge to empathy

      • the paranoid and understandable view

      • they say it's empathy for one side and not the other?

      • the notion of scarce resources

      • at it's core is a paranoid and fearful model of human relations

  • 45:00 Empathy for one side or the other? a fear they will not receive empathy?

    • it assumes that if empathy is brought into this area the individual will be harmed in some way.

    • if empathy is excluded, then it's everyone for themselves and everything you can get for yourself you can keep

    • the fears are legitimate, some could be advantaged

      • but there's no morality in that

  • 47:00 If the conservative has a fear of not being empathized with, a way to deal with it is to actually speak to that fear, acknowledging it?

    • some people out of fear hold themselves back and build a wall around themselves, emotional wall, financial wall,  and out of fear of the other, exist in this isolated state.

    • social change activists need to move forward with care, respect, and not manifest bitterness, rage

    • We need to become militant empathy advocates,

  • 49:00 There's a real fear that you can be manipulated and abused

    • if you're open you are more in danger of being hurt

    • don't deny it.

    • but there's the need, the longing for even the most walled in person to get out and to be see by the other,

  • 50:00 How to deal with empathy in the current structure?

    • need a militant empathy

    • changing this system toward empathy

    • what's going for us is that we all want it.

    • we're taping into something that is within all of us.

    • the fearful person would come out if they felt safe

    • a new activism - all change has to have that spiritually sensitivity

    • not touchy feely, but firm, militant - compassionate

  • 53:20 What does militant mean?

    • It means you're not a wimp!

    • you stand up and insist this is the right direction to go.

    • When you talk about spiritual needs, people think this is just psychobabble

      • fantasies, it's not the real life

    • spiritual people are not seen as being willing to engage in moral struggle, encounter

    • strength confidence, determination has to be part of this.

    • we can move this way, we will move this way

    • let's take care of one another

    • let foster a cooperative economy

    • doesn't mean you're rage full, hateful, sanctimonious - that's go to go.

  • 55:20 How about focusing on the empathy and being open about what the policies and strategies are?

    • (working toward a culture of empathy and being open about how to get there)

    • a good idea about not being rigidly set on one fixed policy

    • whatever will foster the sense of connection is more important that the fixed outcome

    • up to a point - for example illness - we need healthcare - can't compromise on that

    • it's basic to what we mean by empathy that we care for one another and act from a place of caring.

    • no one is expendable, I assume your not saying to give up on that too?

  • 57:00 It's that we want a culture of empathy and how we get to that culture is left open.

    • if someone is suffering like that, we are obviously not empathizing with them

    • we have to keep working until their needs are incorporated into our world view or policies.

    • That's worth trying.

    • maybe Obama relies too much on the process and not enough on the underlying values?

    • perhaps a stronger stand is needed to have his supporters feel they are fighting for a particular vision of the world. It can't be mushy.

    • in terms of the exact details of any policy or proposal I agree with you.

  • 58:30 Oscar Grant Shooting - and the peace and justice communities

    • an example of where there should be a process where the police officer should be able to fully feel he can convey what he thought he was doing.

    • an incredible tragedy

    • shouldn't be this situation

    • need a process to create connection

    • how to heal suffering,

    • we haven't yet created this healing structure

    • how do we transcend this situation

    • processes that can foster empathy between 2 communities

  • 1:02:00 We have a lot to talk about.

    • Justice and Obama?

    • Why has Obama backed off of empathy

    • Why have progressives not supported him more strongly on empathy?

  • This is a new discourse that we are trying to bring forward.


Peter Gabel: Part 4



clip  mentions empathy a couple of times.