Translate

Friday, 20 February 2015

Is There Less Compassion Nowadays?

This post is part of the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion initiative. Today is United Nations World Day of Social Justice. Please check out other 'Voices' by using #1000speak on Facebook and Twitter.

It was my assumed answer to this question that prompted me to sign up for 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. The world seemed to be a fearful and frightening place, what with ISIS, Boko Haram, Ukraine, homegrown terrorists, Ebola, measles and on, and on. Every day on the news, more despair – isn’t there always?





The 1000 Voices initiative seemed to be a reaction to all of that, and one we seem to sorely need. The fact that one thousand bloggers signed up in less than two weeks speaks volumes. (The number now stands at twelve hundred plus, not to mention all those who will contribute who do not have a blog).

So is there really less compassion in our society now? On some level, I think the answer is ‘yes’. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but it often seems that the way modern society is set up discourages the kindness we all seem to crave.

Our modern world has grown out of a culture of competition rather than compassion. We grow up hearing that ‘it’s every man for himself’. Success has become defined by how well the individual achieves the external measurements of money, status and power.

The messages start at an early age and become internalized. We perceive ourselves as not measuring up, and that lack of compassion for ourselves can make us forget, or be less inclined to be that way toward others. We become cynical and hardened to their plight. Love gets lost when it’s ‘dog eat dog’.

We have built social safety nets to ensure that those who suffer misfortune do not get lost between the cracks. As institutions, they are less than perfect, but absolutely essential. And yet, they give us an ‘out’ on caring. We can abdicate the responsibility that we all, in fact, share by saying ‘It’s not my job’. Or ‘Someone else will take care of it.’

In our quest to achieve more and be more, we have glorified busy-ness. Who has time to even notice that someone needs help, never mind taking the time to stop and do something about it? There’s always somewhere else to be, something ‘important’ to do, someone who wouldn’t understand. It is not that we are intentionally ignorant, it is that often we are just trying to keep our own heads above water.


The Internet, the most powerful tool ever, seems only to amplify our separateness at times. We accessorize our busy-ness with Smartphones and iPads. Social Media has allowed cruelty to have a trickle-down effect. Where previously it was only celebrities who suffered the indignity of having their humanity stripped away by the paparazzi, now we are all fair game for anonymous trolls and on-line vigilantes.

So, if I believe that there is less compassion in the world now, then why worry about it at all? Why not merely turn off the news, stick my head in the sand and, given that I am incredibly fortunate, pretend that everything is hunky-dory? Because the more I looked and learned, the less sure I was that it was true. 




For one thing, the consensus seems to be that compassion is something we are born with, rather than needing to be taught. This is good news. We are social creatures, and quite possibly, synergistic ones as well. Kindness and co-operation have ensured our survival in the past. They will need to do so again in the future, as we navigate changing economies and an unpredictable environment.

For another, we are all more alike than we are different, despite what chauvinism, rhetoric and dogma tell us. We are all born, which means that we are all meant to be here, although as I can vouch, we may not always know why. We are all unique, made that way by our personality and our experiences, both the good and bad. Compassion and community give us people with whom to share those burdens, but also to celebrate the victories.

If the focus was changed from individual success to mutual benefit, could we nurture more well-rounded families and communities? If the focus was on our contribution to the greater good rather than the cost of our car, could our inner voices be kinder? How much more could we achieve by working together? I think the answer is yes and the possibilities are endless.

The really good news is that compassion and kindness are found everywhere when you look for them. Both are still so common-place that only the most extreme instances make it to the evening news, the small everyday acts that make our lives richer deemed too ordinary to be newsworthy.

And it is here that Social Media gives us all a voice to share - the ultimate use of Facebook – the Good News News! And, as the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion proves, there is still hope on the Internet. Without that, they would not have started this movement, I would not have heard of these wonderful people, nor would I be able to play my small part, using what I have - my words.

As a final note, a quote from William Wordsworth:

‘Worse than idle is compassion
If it end in tears and sighs.’


I have not always been the most compassionate person, to others or myself. This is a reminder to me that my words alone are not enough. Compassion requires action. I, and all of us, must also be and do.


16 comments:

  1. Hi Donna! I'm so happy to be joining you in this #1000speak project of sharing compassion around the world. AND I find it incredibly interesting how we can all share different aspects of this incredibly powerful force for good. I do believe that we compassion and kindness is a human trait that can be nourished and grown. Hopefully we can make a difference today. ~Kathy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kathy, I'm glad to be here and joining with you also. In reading your post, and those of so many others, my heart has been gladdened and I believe we can make a difference!

      Delete
  2. I like that you link compassion with community. What I get from your message is that it is more that just caring about others, but also working together. The other day I watched 'Dinotopia.' There was a common phrase that really stuck with me... "One drop raises the ocean." As a person, we feel so small, but as a society, we have more power to change than we realize.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. At first, I was feeling, as so many people do, that things are hopeless and I couldn't do anything by myself. I think community and working together makes us more than the sum of all our parts, so it's critical, and everybody affects someone.

      Delete
  3. I hope you're wrong. When I began blogging years ago I met many incredibly kind people
    Then I moved here and first I thought it a myth that Southerners were kind, and that "bless her heart" was always said sarcastically. Don't think either of those thing anymore!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pia, as I looked and learned, I realized my initial perceptions were wrong. What we focus on becomes self-realizing, and when I looked for compassion and kindness, was happy and relieved to discover it almost everywhere!

      Delete
  4. This resonated with me: "Our modern world has grown out of a culture of competition rather than compassion." So true. Did it start with the "me" generation, or earlier? Hard to say.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Helene. I think competition as a culture has been around a long time, but combined with modern technology perhaps has come to seem less caring. I think we will need to change our emphasis if we are to survive and thrive through some of the challenges ahead.

      Delete
  5. Your observation about "busyness" really resonated with me! It takes me longer to do many everyday tasks so it's easy to feel like I'm not keeping up with everything and everyone to my satisfaction.It really does boil down to being aware of what's going on around you and reaching out to those that need help.
    Thank you for your comment on my blog. I hope you'll visit often :-)

    Alicia
    spashionista.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you on the not keeping up with everything and everyone. It can feel overwhelming - we need self-compassion too, right. And awareness, yes, of those around us who may be struggling. Thanks for the comment - so many wonderful perspectives today!

      Delete
  6. Awesome post, Donna! I'm SOOO sharing it everywhere I can (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and in the G+ community for #1000Speak)!

    You ask some excellent questions here ... and you provide amazing answers and insights into all of them in this post. I especially love the question: "If the focus was on our contribution to the greater good rather than the cost of our car, could our inner voices be kinder?" And I completely agree with your answer. We definitely could achieve so much more in life - so many good things and be happier - if we'd stop putting ourselves first all the time. Easier said than done, but your post is a perfect reminder that Compassion means action and we all need to take it if we ever want to see things truly change.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, thanks, Marcia! I'm glad some of the questions resonated - I was playing devil's advocate with myself somewhat, as I wrote this. But am glad I was able to come out the other side with a renewed sense of hope.

      Delete
  7. Wonderful, Donna. Compassion for everyone starts today. And then tomorrow. And so on. A world of compassion? My Utopia.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you Cathy. Wouldn't that be wonderful to see? Perhaps one day, if we all continue to pursue days like this...

      Delete
  8. Beautifully said! Technology seems to have sped our lives to a dizzying pace we have no time to care for others. We are de-sensitized by the onslaught of information. We can not allow our hearts to break over everything that happens but if we all do something for (not to) others, it will help slow the pace.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Compassion is there - as you say, we just need to look for it. The gal who opens the heavy door on the ferry and let's you pass through first, the fellow who hands you one of his shopping bags when he sees you've left yours in the car, the stranger who insists you take his spot on the crowded metro ... I'm working on paying it forward. One day at a time.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...