The Danger to Us All

Lesson 1: Topic 1 of 9

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Fear of violence at work is understandable because work is a place where many of us are forced to interact with people we did not choose to have in our lives.

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In April, 1995, a bomb in front of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City shook the nation. Killed were 168 people, including 19 children, and hundreds more were injured. It was the worst act of domestic terrorism in this country’s history. For his actions, Timothy McVeigh was executed six years later; his co-conspirator Terry Nichols is still serving 161 consecutive life sentences without possibility of parole. 

Growing up, he’d had an ordinary middle class childhood, and during his stint in the Army McVeigh had been a model soldier. But he had difficulty readjusting to civilian life and had developed a deep distrust of the U.S. government ― a belief which began first by learning about Ruby Ridge, then was cemented in his mind by watching in person the assault upon the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. There, the FBI and the ATF had killed 75 people, a third of whom were children. Blowing up the Murrah building was McVeigh’s way of getting revenge, in his mind. Yet the actual victims of his crime were not guilty of anything. They had just gone to work that day, assuming it would be like any other day. 

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Our society is suffering from increasingly weaker social bonds, says John Scott with Zurich Insurance Group. Globally, levels of empathy plummeted by almost half in the three decades between 1979-2009. Compared to our ancestors, we have fewer friends, feel more loneliness, struggle with higher anxiety, and are more isolated from one another. “Complex transformations in three areas — societal, technological and work-related — are creating an increasingly anxious, unhappy and lonely world, where anger is increasing and empathy appears to be in decline,” Scott writes. He goes on to warn that as empathy decreases, there will be increasingly stark risks to society as a whole.