Compassion: The Forgotten Word
Do you ever stop and wonder how our species has lasted this long? How is it that we've made it after who knows how many millennia of busting each others heads, stealing each others' food, and doing whatever we can to ensure our survival in the face of competition.
Don't let anybody fool you into believing that one race of man were better than another, no matter who we were we'd stomp your ass if we could get away with it and it served some advantage. Long before the Europeans even existed we were forcing each other to fight for our lives in Africa and North America.
The great peace tree Hiawatha planted was only among the five nations who made up the Iroquois Confederacy. They had no problems burying their hatchets in Huron heads or other non-Iroquois nations.
Of course the Europeans were the professionals, starting from before Christ's time with the Macedonians under first Philip then his son Alexander carving a swath through central Europe and Asia just for the sake of Empire building. The Romans were no slouches in that manner either stomping the barbarians from Turkey out to Hadrian's Wall on what's now the Scottish border
Since then we've been at it pretty much non-stop; country against country, religion against religion and faith against faith. For all that both Muslims and Christians lay claim to compassion and peace-loving being integral parts of their belief systems, neither one has had any difficulty in recognising the business end of a weapon.
So what is this compassion that the big two of religions hold fast to as a means of establishing their passive credentials, or at least a pretence of concern for their fellow species members. Well according to the Online Dictionary, compassion is a deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.
Well that doesn't leave very much room to equivocate does it? I personally don't see anything in that definition stating that you need to be the one who has inflicted the suffering upon the other before you feel the desire to relieve it. But judging by the way most of the world seems to function these days that seems to be the modern definition.
First we're going to bomb the crap out of you, then we're going to shake our heads at your pitiful state and maybe decide to have a benefit concert for you. If we don't do that we'll at least send our troops in and impose our way of life upon you. Then you get to experience all the benefits of either being a devout Muslim living under a totalitarian religious government, or enjoy becoming a slave labour force for Nike and The Gap. Either way it will be such an improvement and it will make us feel better about ourselves.
All sarcasm aside where has our compassion gone? I'm not just talking about foreign aid either; I mean day in and day out we just don't seem to feel it any more. Sure if there is some major disaster like Katrina or the tsunami of a few years back we can open our hearts and check books readily enough.
But unless we're hit over the head with something we've become so self-absorbed our heads are so far up inside ourselves we're naval gazing from the inside out. How else could we let the two of the wealthiest countries, Canada and the United States, in the world degenerate to the state they are in now?
The means for a person to support their family in dignity have been stripped from countless people as their jobs have been shipped to other countries. What is a person whose spent the last twenty five years of their life building cars supposed to do when the plant closes due to management inefficiency and union greed? Retrain to be a call centre operator? That might work as long as those jobs haven't been shipped out overseas as well.
Over a million children in Canada live below the poverty level, meaning that they aren't getting adequate food, shelter, and more often or not want for parental affection and attention as well. Even if we just went by relative population size, with the United States have roughly ten times the population of Canada, it means around ten million children in the U.S. are affected similarly.
How can we call ourselves a caring people if just one of those scenarios exists? Why aren't we more appalled to know that as we sit in the comfort of our home, or are heading to a job that people in our countries are going to bed hungry at night, with little or no chance of a proper meal the next day as well?
What kind of caring society allows people who are our parent's age to live on subsistent pensions that barely gets them a room in a hovel or a welfare hotel? What kind of dignity is that for a person to live out their supposed golden years sitting and watching paint peel in a room with mouldy carpet and a broken spring bed.
Instead of feeling pity when we see homeless people we stand in judgement wondering how they could have let themselves get in such a position. Or if a person is dying of AIDS instead of sorrow and compassion we judge them on what might have been their lifestyle when what should matter is why there is no cure for it after all these years.
What has happened to turn our hearts into unfeeling slabs of stone? So many of us when we are out in the world just plough straight through people on the sidewalk, knocking over people in walkers and complaining about them being in the way.
I have a hard time dealing with going out anymore, because it either gets me so angry to be around people that I might start hitting them with my cane, or it makes me so sad at how far we've fallen that I could cry.
I guess it shouldn't surprise me that people on the street have so little compassion. They take their lead from the attitudes that are prevalent in society. Our leaders are more concerned with passing judgement then with caring, and that's what is reported in the papers every day as the state of the world.
Compassion has somehow become an antiquated ideal very few people feel or understand. Until we can remember what it was it like to care about another person, and how our actions might affect them, the world will continue along on its present path.
I don't know how much longer we can keep it up, we've been lucky so far, but luck can change for the worse at any time and anywhere.