Compassion

Almost everyone agrees that compassion is good. Most religions say we should be compassionate. Compassionate behavior has been shown to increase your mental and physical health.

So we are all compassionate of course, right? Yes we are, because compassion is a natural instinct, found in all the higher animal species. Maybe in some of the lower species also, who knows.

Compassion is all good, for everyone everywhere. So there should be no problems in the world, right? Everyone knows they should be compassionate, so everyone tries to be. And since it’s a natural instinct we don’t even have a choice — we are compassionate like or not. Except maybe some depraved sociopaths.

As long as everyone behaves with compassion, things should go well for our society. Oh, but darn, there are all those greedy selfish people who tend to be in charge. They ruin it for all the rest of us, right? The 99 percent are good, it’s that greedy 1 percent that ruins things.

Tell me if you think I’m wrong. Isn’t that a summary of how compassion is seen in our society? So why do I care enough to write about it, since we all agree and there is nothing else to be said.

I am writing about it because I think it is total BS. I think it is all wrong, and it can’t be right, because if it were right then nothing would make sense.

The extreme pro-compassion view is more likely to be associated with progressive, or leftist, politics. However it isn’t limited to that. It is everywhere in modern society, in all ideologies and philosophies and religions.

One problem I see with the compassion craze is that ironically it promotes hatred. People who value compassion are likely to despise the greedy villains who ruin everything for the rest of us because of their lack of compassion.

But the main problem I see is that the whole theory is wrong, because it is rooted in modern reductionism. And what do I mean by reductionism oh this post will be a hundred pages if I try to explain, so I will skip ahead and say I am promoting a holistic, systemic, view of things. The holistic perspective is mostly ignored in our society, which I think is really too bad. Yes we have holistic medicine, but we also need a completely holistic way of thinking about everything.

The trouble with the ideal of compassion is that all concepts are completely empty unless they are seen in context, in relation to other concepts. The word “love,” for example, is thrown around all the time with no attempt to say what the concept means. And the word “compassion” has the same problem.

I want to give a simple example that I hope will easily explain what I mean. Let’s say there is a big male gorilla who is the boss of a bunch of females and their babies. The females are responsible for protecting their babies (and they know this because nature has given them the compassionate maternal instinct), and the big alpha male is responsible for protecting the whole bunch. He also knows this because of his natural instinct for compassion, for loving his “neighbors,” his social group.

So let’s say a lion wanders in to the gorilla’s territory, hoping to eat some gorilla babies (I don’t know if lions really eat gorilla babies, this is just an illustration of a concept). The big alpha gorilla has NO compassion for the lion. He fights it off or scares it off, or whatever. Because the gorilla has compassion for his females and their babies, he MUST NOT have compassion for the lion. He would be glad to kill it if possible.

Ok, that example wasn’t very good? Here is another one. Our bodies are constantly at war with things that try to make us sick. There are immune system cells that try to destroy any cell that does not belong in the body. These immune system cells are acting out of compassion (well, something like it anyway), but they have NO compassion for the invading cells they try to destroy.

Ok, here is one more example and then I promise I won’t give any more examples, I will just hope you get my point. A mother wolf is protecting and feeding her babies, because she is naturally compassionate and she loves them and wants them to live. And her babies are so cute, after all.

The mother wolf goes out and finds some baby rabbits and kills them and brings them to her babies. The baby rabbits are cute too, but she doesn’t care. She has NO compassion for the baby rabbits.

I hope I have explained what I have tried to explain. I suspect people will either say that’s ridiculous, or else they will say well duh that’s so obvious.