Thursday, December 30, 2010

Common Good Act 3: Responsibility and Compassion

It has been hard for me to say definitively that one man is accountable for another. We are not accountable for each other, but we are accountable to each other.  For this reason it has been hard for me to separate compassion and responsibility.  Responsible: chargeable with being the author, cause, or occasion of something; having a capacity for moral decisions and therefore accountable; capable of rational thought or action. None of us can live alone, without the help of others...without community.  We are made to live together.  We will all need help at one time or another, and chances are, someone will be there to help you.

If you saw a man or woman starving on the streets, would you help?  If you saw a wounded man, woman or child, would you do what you could to help them?  I hope you answered yes, for humanities sake.  Humanity: the quality of being human.  

Why would someone answer, "No." to the above questions?  It just so happens that I took a survey of 100 people a couple of years ago on campus, asking people if they would be nice to a homeless person.  The survey was a reaction to my Comparative Politics teacher, who argued that America had as much of a class system as Britain and France, but that we just don't acknowledge it.  Well, all of the Americans I asked said they would be nice, though some tentatively.  The only five people who said they wouldn't were from England or China.   "Why not?" I asked those who said they would not be nice.  "Because, they deserve it," was invariably the answer.

It is my theory that the the five percent who said they would be mean suffer from the delusion of elitism.  Elitism: the belief that society should be governed by a select group of gifted and highly educated individuals; pride in or awareness of being in an elite group.  

Elitism popped up in an earlier blog when I was discussing 'Can leaders make us do bad things?'  Zimbardo's article mentioned that evil is an effect of situations, such as poverty, racism, sexism and elitism

Do not the definitions for 'responsible' hold elitists and governments accountable for poverty and suffering of the people with whom they claim to be 'governors' of?  Does it not also compel us all to provide for a fellow human who is suffering, if we have the means?

The gray area here is in the word 'moral.' For in our age, in our country, we cannot compel others to be moral, being moral is a choice.  Moral: of, pertaining to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical.  
Considering this definition, those who choose not to act responsibly in caring for others in need, may choose not to, but the choice is unethical and wrong.

Our government, our 'elite' and we as a nation have a responsibility to feel compassion for those who suffer, for those who are wronged, and for those who fall through the cracks in society.  Compassion: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.  It is the responsibility of our community leaders and representatives to identify and correct systemic faults that perpetuate poverty and suffering in our nation.  It is each citizens responsibility to pay taxes to fund this protection that the government should provide us, and also to help those who we see that are in need.  To do less would be irresponsible. 

"A Nation's greatness is judged by how it treats its weakest members." -Ghandi
"There will always be poor people in the land. That’s why I command you to be generous..." -Jesus Deut 15:11

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