(As posted to AlterNet, in response to an excerpt from Jeremy Rifkin's book on Empathic Civilization)
Rifkin over-hypes the possibilities of Hydrogen, but otherwise presents a great analysis of the evolution of consciousness relative to industrial and communication "ages." I prefer to see this evolution in terms of the human aptitude for flexible thinking. The racist teabag right well illustrates the narrow thinking that the mainstream must transcend if we are to survive, let alone move on. Empathic thinking - the willingness, ability or desire to imagine the world through the experience of others - is very much related, cognitively, to the ability to understand and use irony in particular, and to having a sense of humor in general. It's also related to the ability to question one's own thinking, self-image or world view. It's easy and self-serving for progressives to imagine their position represents a higher level of intelligence, but modesty should not bar this interpretation. There are several "windows" through which to observe and understand the global revolution we face. Rifkin defines more than one. A battle between human fear and ignorance on one hand, and higher consciousness on the other, is equally valid and perhaps more relevant. Higher consciousness is an aptitude for flexible thinking, creativity, irony and humor, though it gets ever harder to take the ironic or sarcastic position on this epochal moment.