Sunday , April 14 2024
We've been lucky so far, but luck can change for the worse at any time and anywhere.

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 other’s heads, stealing each other’s food, and doing whatever we can to ensure our survival in the face of competition?

Don't let anybody fool you into believing one race of man was 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 to stop fighting among the five nations who made up the Iroquois Confederacy. They had no problems burying their hatchets in Huron heads or those of other non-Iroquois nations.

Of course the Europeans were the professionals, starting from before Christ's time with the Macedonians under first Philip and 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 to the values of compassion and pacifism comprising integral parts of their belief systems, but neither one has had any difficulty in recognizing 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 pacifist credentials, or at least a pretense 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.

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. 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 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 a couple of years back, we can open our hearts and checkbooks readily enough, but not unless we're hit over the head with something. We've become so self-absorbed and our heads are so far up inside ourselves, we're navel gazing from the inside out. How else could we let two of the wealthiest countries in the world, Canada and the United States, 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 who’s spent the last twenty-five years of his 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 and shelter, and more often than not, they want for parental affection and attention as well. Even if we just went by relative population size, with the United States having 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 homes or are heading to our jobs, 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 parents’ age to live on subsistence pensions that barely get 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 judgment, 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? When we are out in the world, so many of us 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.

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 judgment than 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 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.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of three books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion" and "Introduction to Greek Mythology For Kids". Aside from Blogcritics he contributes to and his work has appeared in the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and has been translated into numerous languages in multiple publications.

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