Way back in 1962, folk singing legend Pete Seeger wrote the song, ‘Where have all the flowers gone’, a song made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary (different Peter). It was a song that demonstrated real compassion.
Where has all the compassion gone?
In 2017, I ask the question, ‘Where has all the compassion gone?'.
My office is located in the epicentre of the Perth CBD. When walking to or from the office each morning and evening, my attention is drawn to the homeless people sleeping rough. When walking at lunch time, my attention is drawn to the people, very often young people begging. As I walk past these people I often hear the words of other business people ringing in my ears – ‘why don’t they move these people on?’.
Many business people and indeed many shoppers and workers, view the homeless and the beggars as an eye sore or problem that restricts their capacity to make money. They make many other people feel uncomfortable.
I am a member of the board of Foodbank in Western Australia, an organisation that serves more than 8 million meals a year in WA, including 18,000 meals a week to children who do not get it at home. I was telling the Foodbank story to a colleague who questioned the merit of the activities of the organisation.
She suggested to me that feeding ‘these people’ gives them a way out of working, the capacity to not work as hard as they should. This person suggested that Foodbank was supporting lazy people who should get up and work. Not only is this not true, it is entirely irrelevant to children who should not be responsible for finding their own food.
Every time I see Peter Dutton, the Federal Minister of Immigration, talk disparagingly about boat people kept in concentration camps in New Guinea, or illegal immigrants who want a better life in Australia, I am given to wonder where we found this mean-spirited man. Then I realise that he was elected by thousands of equally mean-spirited voters.
Australian voters seem to largely cheer every time the Federal government clamps down on ‘dole cheats’ even when that clamp down impacts negatively on people who are behaving entirely legitimately. In other words, there is a preference for kicking the bad guys and hurting the good guys as a result, over helping the good guys and accepting the bad guys as a side effect.,
These are four of many hundreds of examples of where we seem to be lacking compassion:
The Dalai Lama has suggested in a number of books attributed to him that compassion is the key to happiness. I take the view that managing expectations is a far bigger key to happiness, but there is no doubt that compassion contributes to happiness. When we are compassionate – we feel better about ourselves and there is no doubt we are more likely to help others.
I am not sure Jesus Christ ever existed, but if he did, and if all that is written about him is true, he was clearly a compassionate man who called in his followers to be equally compassionate. Despite this, I cannot think of a body more lacking in compassion than the Catholic Church which over the years has burned people at the stake, sided with Hitler and more recently worked very hard to cover up the rape of children by ugly members of its own clergy. This is a Church that continues to rally against condoms, even where they reduce the incidents of aids.
It is better that a child is born with aids than a man wear a condom. If this is what God wants, then God lacks compassion. If it is what the Church wants, then the Church lacks compassion.
I am less familiar with Islam, but to the extent that I understand this faith, it seems that Muslims are also called on to be compassionate. But I see little evidence that Muslims are any more compassionate than the not-at-all compassionate Christians who still make up 50% of the Australian population.
So, I ask again, where has all the compassion gone?
I know that some would say that most Australian’s care a great deal about the people I refer to here. In addition to refuting this, I would argue that there is a big difference between caring and compassion. Compassion requires action!!
So, for a third time, where has all the compassion gone?