Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Compassion - It's like Freckles
Have you ever wondered how someone could be so callous, so heartless, so insensitive?
Normally, you would consider such behaviour understandable, if it were obvious that external or environmental contributing factors, such as retaliation, alcohol, momentary lapse of reason, severe stress, etc. were evident.
However, sometimes you'll be taken aback by the calm, rational decision a person makes to be utterly brutal without even blinking and then carrying on as though nothing happened. Sometimes it's like that person has no compassion at all.
Well, maybe they don't? Maybe some people don't even have the faculty of compassion, sympathy, empathy, or whatever you want to call the thing words like compassion are meant to signify. How would I like it, if that was me or my loved one? That kind of thing. Words fail description of such an obvious characteristic of most human beings. We feel compelled to suffer and identify with other beings when they are, or may be, vulnerable. We want them to feel better, we want to help.
Some of us seem not to bear such a burden at all. It's hard to tell, because all we have to go on is behaviour. When the behaviour contradicts our expectations, we look for excuses. Sometimes we don't find any. Could it be that some of us physically cannot care for the suffering of others? It would certainly explain a lot.
We the Authors argue that this is so theoretically tenable, it may as well be true - although it may not be empirically verifiable - it doesn't need to be true, because just pretending it is true will make living with others easier.
Sometimes Contingent truth is neither good, nor useful. There's no good reason to seek truth for truth's sake. Sometimes, whatever works is better than whatever is true.
So, if you go around simply assuming that some humans don't have the faculty for compassion, you will be able to explain and predict human behaviour that would otherwise inconvenience you, at best, and destroy you, at worst.
Compassion may seem subject to the tenets of Cultural Relativism - different people groups around the world would have different views on what deserved compassion and what didn't. Some parts of the world do seem to have different levels of compassion based on their social norms. But every culture in the world, every religion, every ideology, uses the language of compassion. It is not a Western concept.
Officially, it is thought by most people that the only humans that are without compassion are psychos, psychopaths, the demented and deranged. But why stop there? Why assume the condition is only available to nut jobs? Why not sane, normal people? Physicians, businessmen, judges, lawyers, politicians, sales assistants, work colleagues, bus drivers, teachers? Why not?
Therefore, We argue the following: some humans have no compassion. They never have, they never will. Like freckles, blonde curls and long legs, you either have them or you don't. Compassion is not learned or acquired. It is like an organ. You've got one or you don't. If you don't have compassion, you can appear to people as if you do by mimicing the behaviour of those who do, in order to blend in with acceptable society - like a psychopath. They walk amongst us.
Understanding this argument will make your individual life easier. Know your enemy.
But there is a bigger, societal issue at stake also:
Those who don't have a faculty for compassion are responsible for almost all human-caused suffering in the world. We as a society need to identify these morally disabled individuals and deal with them. We can't have amoral humans wandering the earth getting powerful and important jobs.
We need to quickly identify them and ensure they are not given opprtunities to harm others - just like we do with sex offenders and violent psychopaths released into the community.
Next time you see one, don't twist yourself into a knot trying to explain the behaviour. Tell yourself, I've found a live one, and warn others.