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Category Archives: Politics
Could compassion be the answer?
It may sound airy fairy – preachy – perhaps even simplistic to suggest that global issues could be solved by more understanding and kindness.
But it’s an honest question. And one that I don’t think comes with an easy answer.
The 21st century’s problems are wide-ranging. Yet, whilst varied – from uncaring NHS staff, to environmental injustices (see EJOLT for list), to gay intolerance to the global poverty that kills 18 million people every year – they seem characterised by a lack of compassion.
On visiting “The Great War in Portraits” exhibition at the National Portrait gallery at the weekend- visitors were exposed to visual representation of the depths of barbarism humanity can plunge to in order to kill one another. Such depths were described as a signal in a change of human nature; a loss of compassion.
Perhaps the two most striking exhibits for me were:
1) The Rock Drill, a bronze sculpture by Sir Jacob Epstein, originally created in 1913, to echo man’s increasing interest in machines and power. But in 1916, it was remodelled. Limbs were severed and the sculpture altered, thought to reflect Epstein‘s altered perception about the future of humanity – mutilated by loss and destruction.
2) The second, of which I can’t find a picture, was the before-and-after drawings of patients undergoing re-constructive facial surgery, following extensive war injuries.
So did the “Great War” and wars since kill more than just bodies? Do we need to go looking for compassion once again?
To emphasise – I certainly don’t want to be moralistic about all this.
After all, I know that I’m more culpable in this loss of compassion compared to the vast majority of the world’s population.
To quote from Thomas Pogge (ref below):
Many more people – some 360 million – have died from hunger and remediable diseases in peacetime in the 20 years since the end of the Cold War, than perished from wars, civil wars and government repression over the entire twentieth century. And poverty continues unabated, as the official statistics confirm…[and so on]”
I know this. And as one of the richest people on earth if I gave away more of my income, I could help this. Yet I only give so much. An embarrassingly small fraction considering my culpability in not solving the problem.
So from this I take, that compassion may well be the solution.
But compassion doesn’t seem too easy.
1. Thomas Pogge – “Politics as Usual – What lies behind the pro-poor rhetoric“
The conservatives “blank cheque” for dealing with the floods does not represent benevolent leadership.
It represents the unnecessary cost to tax payers, arising from bad planning and a fundamental failure from both the current and previous governments, to acknowledge the consequences of climate change.
What future costs will the Conservatives’ determined avoidance of the realities of climate change incur?
I’ve recently discovered a theory of change which suggests we should appeal to human values rather than rationale – “Common Cause”. Could such a movement could take some cues from religion? Common Cause is a group of researchers who have … Continue reading
Us humans have a tendency to undervalue the future compared with our immediate needs. That’s why banks pay us interest on money we don’t spend.
Despite this, and because security is important to us all , many of us have the foresight to save, provisioning for our future old and infirm selves.
At first, we may rally and moan against the short-term sacrifice of saving for pensions, but we soon settle down. We’d rather make a sacrifice in the short-term to ensure our security in the long-term.
Yet governments around the world are unwilling to make the same sort of decision – failing to recognise the value of security in our future.
Ecuador’s announcement of their plans to auction off more than 3 million hectares of pristine Amazonian rainforest to Chinese oil companies (as reported by Jonathan Kaiman) is understandable. As described by Ecuador’s Ambassador when addressing the Chinese delegation at talks, this would establish “a win-win relationship” between the two countries. Meeting both Ecuador’s development needs and China’s energy requirements – the arrangement is one which the West could not denigrate without being hypocritical.
Yet this decision prioritises immediate reward over the natural capital offered by forests, important for both national and international security in just decades. Our collective environment is akin to our common pension.
Governments are charged with responsibility, to lead their nation for today and tomorrow, and within that to look after the commons. So we need to let them know, we want to save some for humanity’s future.