Rick Shinkman has an interesting proposal to deal with our natural lack of empathy for those we consider outsiders:
“When people are reduced to numbers—as the civilian victims of bombing during the Korean War were—we don’t feel their pain. We don’t automatically put ourselves in their shoes, which is by definition what you do when you are feeling empathic. We have the bomber pilot’s problem. We don’t feel anything for the victims. But historians can help. Storytelling is in our toolkit. All we have to do is use it.”
Historians have already been doing this in many cases by writing about the experiences of other peoples, but what I think Shinkman is wanting us to do it in a more immediate way in response to current events where empathy is in short supply (like the Syrian refugees for example). Here again I think that this is being done, and in many cases very well, by reporters, humanitarian aid workers, and even comedians (see John Oliver’s show on refugees. It’s wonderful!). The problem is that those who lack empathy either ignore or dismiss information that humanizes the relevant group.
I think it would be more helpful, albeit it’s a long-term strategy, to educate the general population about their “stone-age brains.” In addition, we have to convince them with all the evidence that we have that their gut instinct is misleading them. I admit it won’t be easy, but I think it would be more effective in the long run.