It occurs to me these days that far too many of us have misplaced two of the cornerstones of what makes humans special – compassion and empathy.
This is not to say that animals do not feel those things since they clearly do, but for us humans, our compassion and empathy for a person or people can move us to change ourselves, our lives, and life’s trajectory to better align our lives to our beliefs.
We don’t all do it but there have been people who have changed everything to help people.
The rest of us will do what we can, sometimes a little more, and at the very least we can ‘feel’ the pain that our fellow humans feel because we are all one species and all understand pain, loss, and anguish.
The problem though is that in recent years we have started to treat compassion and empathy as weaknesses to be overcome. As if we are suddenly above such petty concerns.
Some of it is politics, sure.
But not all of it.
Not at all.
Because some of us have been this way long before the politics got weird.
Some of us chose to be this way because we are so caught up in ourselves that we just don’t see past us. Sure, yeah, OK, some people have bad stuff happen, and that sucks, but, you know, I am trying to get what I deserve.
I am trying to hustle and that’s my concentration.
It’s a choice some make where they are a brand and they need to focus on building that brand and not on worrying about people they don’t know. Unless, that is, it can be monetized.
It’s not that these people are monstrous so much as they just trained themselves not to care.
Some though, were taught not to care.
Some of us grow up in a world that is always pain, always fear, and always loss.
Some of us grow up in a world where we are told we can never be anything more than a loser because of our skin color, our economic background, our sexuality, our heritage, or some other nebulous reason someone has. We have it pounded into us everywhere we look, with everyone we meet, and with every day we see – there’s no escaping this life.
Some of us have to turn off compassion and empathy because they feel too much of it and it’s the only way they can come up for air.
Others have it turned off though.
They see the world as an unsafe place and it’s better not to feel anything than to feel the wrong thing at the wrong time and be punished for it.
It’s not that they don’t feel bad for the dead children or the murdered innocents but that they can’t see that far out all the time when their whole life feels like one battle after another.
Oh, then there’s the ones that weaponize everything they can get their hands on. People whose goals and ambitions are a little darker than just becoming wealthy and famous. These people want power. Absolute power, if not for themselves then for the flag they stand beneath. Sure, there’s greed there, because what good is power if you aren’t rich? But there is a nastiness to how they want to gain their power and wealth and why they want it.
They want to rule, absolutely, with obedience and silence.
They want to wield absolute power where they can bend society to the will of their visions, sometimes faith based, sometimes on ‘party’, and sometimes on some other ideals and ideas that are far murkier.
These are the people that see a shooting and immediately move to raise their hands and say – it was THEM, it wasn’t US – before the blood even dries.
These are the people who never want to have the hard debates about guns because it’s ‘too soon’.
These are the people who will find a way to defend any action, no matter how heinous, if it is done by someone that falls under their umbrella. There was a reason, they say, and it was a darned good one!
We have forgotten what it’s like to feel someone else’s pain.
We have turned off our ability to mourn the loss someone else feels.
We refuse to see one another as equals and as parts of the same big species, let alone nation or race.
We see horror and we look on in dark glee and get our cameras out to make sure to capture it for some perceived audience.
We see terror and don’t intervene but stand back and watch in awe.
We have become passengers in a world we seem to feel disconnected from. We use screens to put things one step away from us, to keep it at arm’s length, because maybe secretly we’re afraid of feeling too much. Or feeling anything at all.
We have seen over and over again that the world devours the weak and instead of holding one another up, instead of holding hands, we wrap our arms around ourselves like shelters to protect us.
We have made the world a place of thorns and we seem unsure how to move around them.
We see blood, we hear gunfire, and we are not as shocked anymore, because it almost seems inevitable.
We are waiting for the other shoe to fall.
We see war, we see atrocity and we shake our heads and move on.
This is the world.
Though it doesn’t have to be.
It doesn’t have to be this mean, or this nasty.
We can stop allowing people to keep spreading nastiness and lies.
We can reach out to one another.
We can take threats seriously.
We can remind ourselves that we are all in this together, whether we like it or not, and that we can only survive if we work together to save the world and one another.
It’s hard to feel so much, it never gets easy, but that’s a price we pay for our humanity. We can’t just turn it off or we separate ourselves from that which makes us unique.
Once we weaponize pain and grief we are not human, we are not animals, we are not robots, we are creatures preying because we like the taste of flesh. We don’t need it, we just like the way the blood slides down our throats as we take another bite.
We are better than this, and if we aren’t, then we can’t act surprised when the lights go out and we’re left in the cold, in the dark, and waiting for something bigger to come take a bite out of us.
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