Sam Richards explains that, “It all begins with empathy” (TedTalks, 2010). Empathy is all about understanding other people’s values, beliefs and culture. Richards asks us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes in order to understand what they are going through (TedTalks, 2010). At the end of his presentation, Richards emphasizes his point that you do not have to agree but you need to try to understand (TedTalks, 2010). I think that is exactly what sociology is all about. The understanding of someone else’s culture and values.
He starts off the presentation by inviting us to put ourselves in a situation we would never consider, being occupied by Chinese who are exporting our resource. The Chinese are becoming richer, while the citizens of the United States are becoming poorer. When you put yourself in that situation, you think how horrible it is, how can someone do that to another country it is not fair, they should fight back. It makes a person angry and one thinks that if it happened to them they would fight back. Once he has the audience thinking that, he turns it around and explains that this is exactly what is happening in Iraq.Order now
Richards then has the audience imagine they are an Iraqi Muslim. In this experiment, he explains that the Iraqi Muslims want what we all want; a healthy and happy life. All Iraqis really see is that oil is causing destruction and death in their country when really it should be making them wealthy. The problem to them is not the oil however, it is the Americans who have laid claim to this oil. The media influences them, showing that we are all rich and happy over here thanks to their resource. They look around themselves and all they see is poverty, ruins and death. In their shoes, one can see why they are angry with America and do not agree with our occupation in their country. In spending a few minutes trying to understand why they react the way they do to Americans, it is easier to empathize with them. They see it as us coming into their home, making money off of their resource, causing death and destruction on their land, and trying to convert them to Christianity. This may or may not be true but this is what they see. Now we are able to see it through their eyes, and it makes one understand their anger and their resistance.
Now, we are back in our own shoes and looking at a picture of a woman who has lost a soldier in the war, we feel bad for her, most people probably know someone who has been in this situation. Richards has us jump into other shoes as well, such as the original ones with the Chinese occupying the US and asks us how we feel about the picture if that was a Chinese women. We step into the shoes of American soldiers who have caught Iraqi insurgents and also into the shoes of those insurgents who were caught. Each time asking how we feel in different situations.
This is what sociology is all about. Richards asks us to “step outside of your tiny little world, step inside of the tiny little world of somebody else” (TedTalks, 2010). If we do that enough we will have a much broader sense of the world and societies within it. We need to open our eyes and be aware of the world not just see it for what is shown on TV or portrayed in a movie but really see why people behave the way they do in a society and understand the reasons.