A thread I was in earlier reminded me of this:
What is the Monkeysphere? | Cracked.com
Some of it is tongue-in-cheek, and I should issue a mild language alert if you go to read it, but overall, the concept makes sense and I tend to believe the truth of it.
The idea is that we, as humans, only have the capacity to consider a very low number of people as 'people'. Everyone else fades into the background as 'them' and not 'us'. (They say the number is around 150 people)
This includes everyone that you know... friends, family, co-workers, etc, etc. According to the article, once this maximum level is reached, you begin prioritizing people as either 'inside' or 'outside' the sphere of 'important'.
An example being "Which would affect you PERSONALLY, more, your mother dying, or X thousands of people dying in an Earthquake halfway around the world."
The main problem that they see with society in general is that we have created societies much larger than our brains were intended (or able) to handle... our 'circles' have gotten too big.
In order to deal with this overwhelming feeling of responsibility for people that we naturally can't feel a true empathy for, things such as racism, stereotyping, etc comes into play, where we group people together to make their number more manageable, especially as the world grows more connected and you can suddenly see protestors in foreign countries being killed on YouTube. Suddenly a person who was just an 'idea' becomes a real, live person with a family and hobbies... who now tugs at your heart strings.
The idea has merit, and the implications are huge... my Ni/Te has gone off the charts with it.