When human empathy is in short supply it can have terrible consequences.

Adolf Eichmann was brought to trial in Israel in April 1961 accused of playing a leading part in the Holocaust. Hannah Arendt, the philosopher and historian, was at that trial and wrote about Eichmann: “The longer one listened to him, the more it became obvious that his inability to speak was closely connected to his inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of someone else…”

It was a piercing criticism of a man who had been responsible for the deaths of millions. And whilst it was an entirely valid criticism of Eichmann, I wonder whether we should not take heed of its wider ramifications.

For instance, is not the decrease in social care in our society something to do with an absence of human empathy, the inability to stand in the shoes of those in genuine need?

Or the strikes on the railways that we have endured for months and months; is there not, in that situation, a wilful blindness about the cost to the economy, and the resultant crippling of small businesses?

Or the constant pressure in education of exams, exams, exams, without asking what the consequences might be for the creative energies being blunted by such a Gradgridian philosophy? 

Or the harassment of figures in public life who are subject to frequent and sometimes violent abuse?

It is as though, in all these varied circumstances, the qualities that make us human are being battered into non-existence. 

If we are unwilling to think from the standpoint of someone else, our selfish society will become even more brutish. That way lies the possibility of serious disorder in which the weakest will go to the wall.

It is vital for our society to rediscover and celebrate empathy, isn’t it?