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Are Some Cultures Better Than Others at Cultivating Empathy?


Are Some Cultures Better Than Others at Cultivating Empathy?

Gary Olson

Today's pop quiz: Which of the following countries has the most medical professionals working in the world's poorest countries; has doctors who have performed 3 million free eye operations in 33 countries; created the world's largest medical school with 22,000 students; has a ratio of one physician for every 167 people (No. 1 in the world); has lower infant mortality and higher life expectancy than the United States; and has free, high quality, universal primary health care?

A. Sweden

B. France

C. Canada

D. Norway

E. None of the above


Mr. Olson is writing this article as if has just discovered a new concept.

It is not “culture” that cultivated empathy, or lack thereof, it is the economic system. Specifically, a whole range of things people regard as “human nature” are really dictated by the relations of production in an economic system. In capitalism, they created an oh-so-convenient model of human nature as “Homo economicus” - that idea that humans innately wish to accumulate personal wealth and power without limit. “All humans aspire to be a master of a world of slaves” as Milton Friedman supposedly said.


I agree that an economic system plays a powerful role, as it reinforces a philosophy, however toxic. Starting in the early 1980s, the very concept of “empathy” was soundly ridiculed in the US, said to be a sure sign of a “namby-pamby liberal.” Of course, we have rooted this concept out of our politics and policies, and certainly our culture, as we see with our current treatment of our very poor, and many of the unemployable.


Having seen Michael Moore’s documentary movie, “Sicko”, I remember that Cuba was mentioned as being the most empathetic regarding medical care, etc.


I doubt very much that Cuban trained doctors can practice in America legally. That their medical school is recognized and certified. And that their medical licenses have reciprocity with our states.

We don’t have enough doctors in America because the AMA colludes with Big Healthcare to keep the competition away to sustain demand for doctors and high medical costs.

American conservatives have their drug war to protect Big Pharma, the police, military and prison establishment, and to suppress the minority vote. They attack countries under false pretenses to protect their oil companies. They bribe politicians to protect their looting of natural resources and pollution of our environment. And they protect the big healthcare monopolies from competition.


Years ago I visited a friend on a campus of a great plains university, while out for a quiet walk we noticed music of a Native American kind, coming from a building as we walked by. A young man told us all were welcome, so we went in and observed the celebration taking place. It was a dance and a gala celebration of some kind, and what struck me that evening, among other things, was a little girl, no more than about first grade age dancing. An elderly man approached the girl and gave her a dollar, after a few minutes, without being prompted she gave the dollar to a little boy about her age. There are cultural differences not determined by any overarching economic materialism. I’ve never forgotten the little girl, so “unamerican.” and so beautiful. They were Sioux people, from the Rosebud Reservation.


“In 1999, Cuba founded ELAM (the Latin America School of Medicine), the world’s largest medical school. It offers a free education (including books and a living stipend) to students from poor countries, and more than 10,000 students have graduated from its highly respected six-year program. The only requirement is that students make a moral commitment to return home and serve marginalized populations. Note: Since 2007, more than 100 young people from the U.S. have graduated from ELAM and returned to work in underserved areas of the United States”.

And then, in stark contrast, we have the “School of Americas” recently renamed “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation” (WHINSEC)- This American tax payer funded school for foreign students teaches how to Propagandize, overthrow Democratically elected leaders, institute Dictatorships, form death squads, torture, maim and kill…

“The School of the Americas (SOA) has been given other names – “School for Dictators”, “School of Assassins”, and “Nursery of Death Squads”. And, countries with the worst human rights records send the most soldiers to the School.
If the SOA concentrated its training on protecting country borders from foreign aggression or safeguarding citizens from invasion by outside enemies, it would be considered an exemplary institution, worth the cost of American tax dollars and US prestige. But, the SOA has very different goals. Its curriculum includes courses in psychological warfare, counterinsurgency, interrogation techniques, and infantry and commando tactics. Presented with the most sophisticated and up-to-date techniques by the US Army’s best instructors, these courses teach military officers and soldiers of Third World countries to subvert the truth, to muzzle union leaders, activist clergy, and journalists, and to make war on their own people. It prepares them to subdue the voices of dissent and to make protesters submit. It instructs them in techniques of marginalizing the poor, the hungry, and the dispossessed. It tells them how to stamp out freedom and terrorize their own citizens. It trains them to destroy the hope of democracy”.

These two schools reveal the polar opposites of Capitalism’s “Ethos” and that of Socialism-


Once the travel ban gets lifted Cuba is gonna make fortune in medical tourism from Americans going there to get treatment at fraction they get in the US. All those party nomenklature hospitals are gonna be put to good use. Hope fully some of that will trickle down to healthcare for regular Cubans.


Cubans get regular health care. They have full access to health care and live longer lives then do Americans and have a lower infant mortality rate than the USA.

Even as they are poorer from a material perspective.


Clearly, Cuba is a dire threat to life as we know it on planet Corporation.


At its root, culture is cooperation, even in a capitalist system. The simple agreement that paper money has value and can be exchanged for arbitrary goods and services is a form of cooperation. Even though people are competing for access to money, it’s still a cooperative venture at scale where we agree money has value.

I think without cooperation there is no basis whatsoever for culture. In a purely competitive system every individual is against every individual.

Cooperation as social feature probably arose because it enabled us to compete as groups and we produced more offspring than when we competed as individuals.


That’s what the Cuban communist regime says. Reality is somewhat different. As Cuba’s gates open that will become more obvious.


"A volunteer physician in Venezuela added, “We Cuban doctors devote everything to love and solidarity because that’s what we’ve been taught since we were little, in school.” This was a founding principle of the Cuban revolution.

“Cuba’s robust medical internationalism contradicts the common-sense, bleak view of human nature, the dominant narrative of hyper individualism and the profit motive.”

Often I’ve explained this idea that there are a variety of driving motivations that flesh can be made heir to.

In the U.S. empire, the archetype of naked self-interest, competitive personal advantage, and “hyper-individualism” all connote Mars and by extension, the central place that militarism holds in our society.

The profit motive, a variation on the theme of “the love of $ representing the root of all evil” signifies “mammon.”

But Love is stronger than both and love is not much taught in the U.S.

The Protestant Work Ethic now merged with a particularly cruel form of Calvinism promote an ethos of punishment.

Pornography and violent video games reduce women to objects to use, abuse, and even denigrate, disrespect, and destroy. These images make love impossible.

And it’s the absence of love that tears a society apart impeding its capacity to cohere. That, in turn, makes violence all the more probable thus feeding the state that Mars and Mammon prefer.

Many take the end product of these twisted behaviors–inculcated through religion, the economic system, and the competitive “jungle” that life has become for too many–and extrapolate from this “evidence” the conclusion that human nature is violent.

That’s like taking opinion polls on population pools that have been so long and thoroughly conditioned by mass media memes and stating that the polled opinions somehow represent some naturally occurring belief.

As nature teaches, it all begins with a seed and from a cognitive perspective, that means “seed thoughts.” Just as Monsanto holds primacy in today’s U.S. agricultural system, seeds of thought are similarly toxic and devoid of LIFE.


Oh really? You are full of yourself. The numbers are provided by WHO.

If any nation lies about its numbers and massages the data it the USA unless .you believe that crock of 5.5 percent unemployment.

Cubans live longer then Americans and have a lower infant mortality rate. Contrary to your suggestions peoples from all over the world outside the USA visit Cuba, vacation in Cuba and do so regularly. The gates have been open for a long time and no I do not think the USA , the self proclaimed “Indispensible nation” can make a more accurate assessment of such data than other nation states.

NGO’s from Oxfam to UNICEF all have a presence in Cuba and have had for a LONG time.

UNICEF confirmed in a report long ago that Cuba has ZERO Child malnutrition. This does not come from the Government of Cuba. UNICEF is there and has been there for decades. UNICEF indicates Cuba the only Country in Latin America with 0 child malnutrition.

According to your spin this means they the only country that lies about those numbers and can hide hungry children from groups such as UNICEF.


He/she must be watching regular TV that keeps talking about the Cuban people being miserable and are hoping that their lives will improve with the Americans coming in.

Most American people are miserable, have lousy healthcare, live on low wages, have less and less freedoms by the days. Who is coming in to rescue all those miserable people from the government?


This is the same guy who insistes Canadains pay more for health Care then Americans.


It should be remembered, too, that Cuba offered to send medical teams to the US in response to Hurricane Katrina. The US government refused that offer.


There was a very interesting study reported on by the CBC detailing new discoveries as to how the human brain is moulded.

It found that after puberty the brain of a child is in one of its most susceptible states when it comes to the learning process.

This when depending on the environment and external stimuli the real hard wiring begins and this where much of personality formed.

As example children who start smoking at this age will find it harder to quit as they become wired for addiction.

The IQ of a child can actually go up or done or stay the same dependent on stimuli and experience. It at this age that most of what is seen as mental illness manifests itself as well which becomes harder to unwire at an older age,

It no great leap in logic to suggest that if a societies children more exposed to empathy at this age period that this will carry on into adult life.

If one raised on a society where it all about competing with rather the cooperating with the other than it makes sense there less empathy


The numbers are reported by the communist Cuban govt to the WHO and then published by the WHO.

“Contrary to your suggestions peoples from all over the world outside the USA visit Cuba, vacation in Cuba and do so regularly.”

I never said they don’t. If you look at some of my previous posts abt Cuba i always countered uniformed posters’ statement that there is a “blockade” of Cuba with the fact that everyone else in the world does business with them and vacations there.


I never said that. If you wanna recheck the post history i said that “Comparing that to the what i get taxed in the US (never went past 12%) and what i pay for health insurance i’d say it’s about even, maybe better here”

My point, that you obviously missed, was that the inflated US healthcare costs from the fact that hospitals report unpaid bills at chargemaster prices and not at real cost.

As for the two tier Cuban healthcare, remember that feeling when you found out there was no Santa Claus? Well, be ready to experience it once again once more and more USAns vist the island and talk about their experiences.