Who Deserves Compassion?
By David Metcalfe
July 1, 2019
Who deserves compassion? Do drug users deserve compassion? Do prisoners deserve compassion? Do First Nations people? Do gay people? Do poor people? Do people from other countries?
We live in a world where politicians, teachers, the media, and masses of people have answered “no” to these questions. We’ve launched a “War on Drugs” that locked people up for 10 years or more for small drug related offences. We’ve treated prisoners like sub-human garbage to be an outlet for a sadism masked by “righteous punishment”. We’ve ripped First Nations people from their homes and subjected them to mental and physical abuse on a mass scale. We’ve told gay people that they are “an abomination” and pushed them into the margins of society. We’ve given massive tax cuts to the wealthy and severely underfunded schools, food banks, and healthcare. We’ve exploited people from other countries with labor, war, and a lack of crucial aid.
I say “we”, because even though I myself, and possibly not you either, ever directly contributed to these problems, we live in its effects. We exist in the cultural legacies that this lack of compassion, over generations, has defined. But we also exist in the world of people trying to shift these cultural legacies.
We’ve decriminalized marijuana and adapted drug use sentencing to more rehabilitative methods. We’ve made reforms to prisons to increase the quality of life for inmates, prevent abuse from prison guards and police officers, and treat them like the human beings they are. We’ve made efforts to reconcile with First Nations communities through affirmative action and recognizing the value of their cultural heritage. We’ve told gay people that they are valuable people, deserving of love, kindness, and respect. We’ve increased taxes on wealthy people and gotten millions of people out of poverty. We’ve made healthy alliances and trade deals that mutually benefit each nation as equal partners.
But whether we act in the first way or the second way going forward is up to each of us. It’s a democracy, and the power to make the world is within each one of us, coming together in solidarity. But where will this solidarity land? Will compassion be superseded by fear, hatred, greed, and superiority?
The way to a better world is found in an increased recognition and harnessing of compassion. It’s when the question, “does x deserve compassion?”, is answered with an emphatic “yes!”. When compassion is restricted to a certain group of people, those who don’t fit the group fall under the weight of so-called “righteous judgement”. It’s our duty as good citizens to look beyond ourselves and ask, “how has society lacked compassion, and what is my role in filling that gap?”.
Let’s make our country one where fear, hatred, greed, and superiority are obscure and unfamiliar, and where compassion is intimately known and embraced.