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Look me in the Eye … If you intend to harm me!

In a world that is increasingly interconnected, the ability to form deep, empathic connections with others has never been more crucial. When we look someone in the eye, we establish a personal connection that allows us to understand their thoughts, feelings, and experiences on a profound level. This empathic connection is essential if we are to make wise decisions that take into account the impact of our actions on others.

Empathy is the foundation of compassion, understanding, and cooperation. When we truly connect with another person, we are able to see the world through their eyes and appreciate their unique perspective. This understanding enables us to make decisions that are not only beneficial to ourselves but also to those around us. By considering the needs and well-being of others, we can create a more harmonious and equitable society.

The Shuar, an indigenous tribe of the Amazon, have a belief that reflects the importance of empathic connection in decision-making. They hold that one should never kill a man unless they can look him in the eye. This belief emphasizes the gravity of taking a life and the need to fully understand and acknowledge the humanity of the person being affected by one’s actions. It is a powerful reminder that our decisions have real consequences for others and that we must be willing to face those consequences directly.

Unfortunately, in the corporate world, decisions are often made without regard for their impact on individuals and communities. Corporations are driven by the pursuit of profit and the interests of their shareholders, who may be far removed from the consequences of their decisions. This disconnect between decision-makers and those affected by their choices can lead to a lack of empathy and a disregard for the well-being of others.

The consequences of this empathic blindness are far-reaching and devastating. Corporations that prioritize short-term gains over long-term sustainability contribute to environmental degradation, climate change, and the depletion of natural resources. They may also engage in practices that harm public health, such as the production and marketing of unhealthy products or the pollution of air and water.

Moreover, the lack of empathy in corporate decision-making can exacerbate social inequalities and contribute to the marginalization of vulnerable communities. When corporations prioritize profits over people, they may exploit workers, engage in discriminatory practices, or neglect the needs of underserved populations.

The Shuar’s belief about looking someone in the eye before taking their life is particularly relevant in the context of corporate decision-making and its impact on the Shuar themselves. Oil corporations, in their pursuit of profits, have encroached upon Shuar ancestral lands, causing deforestation, pollution, and the disruption of their traditional way of life. These actions are tantamount to killing the Shuar culture and way of life, yet the decision-makers behind these corporations are not required to look the Shuar in the eye and confront the human cost of their choices.

The root cause of these environmental, health, and social crises can be traced back to a fundamental lack of empathy in decision-making processes. When we fail to consider the impact of our actions on others, we risk creating a world that is unsustainable, unjust, and inhospitable to future generations.

To address these challenges, we must cultivate a culture of empathy and compassion in all aspects of society, including the corporate world. This requires a shift in values and priorities, away from the single-minded pursuit of profit and towards a more holistic approach that takes into account the well-being of all stakeholders.

By fostering empathic connections and considering the impact of our decisions on others, we can create a more just, sustainable, and compassionate world. It starts with looking each other in the eye, recognizing our shared humanity, and making choices that reflect our deep interconnectedness. Only then can we hope to overcome the challenges we face and build a better future for all, one in which the wisdom of the Shuar and other indigenous peoples is respected and upheld.

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