Pink Floyd’s album Animals asks us to consider the consequences of our answer, claiming that it is empathy above all else, that differentiates human behavior from the behavior of other animals. Without empathy, we behave no differently than pigs, dogs, or sheep, vacuously zig zagging through life, hoarding, obeying, or being led astray.
Animals are actually capable of empathy, but their caring is limited by their lack of language and culture. When society accepts greed as a desirable principle, our caring becomes limited by a lack of opportunity to express it. We start to believe in “market solutions” more than in our ability to productively communicate, resulting in the fictions that someone must “hit bottom” in order to choose to quit an addiction, that economic profit is the driving motivation behind scientific progress, and that the poor are somehow responsible for the economic difficulties they face.
With the loss of empathy, we also lose our ability to openly communicate the struggles we face. As a species, we backslide.
“If you didn’t care / what happens to me,and I didn’t care / for you,we would zig zag our way, through the boredom and pain,occasionally glancing up through the rain...And watching / for pigs on the wing”