By Horisun Antunee
Have you ever seen a movie where someone goes missing and a search party goes out to look for them? Usually there’s ten to twenty locals and an incredibly incompetant sheriff. Occasionally, they’ll even be a psychic detective or someone with Sherlock Holms esc mental abilities.
I saw one of those in a movie a little bit ago, and it got me thinking about compassion. Seeing the ten to twenty people looking for a missing person was depressing. It was such a low number. And in real life, I doubt the number would be much higher.
Compassion is earned in this world. It’s something given to the people that you care about: your friends, family, lovers, etc. And I don’t understand that.
Why would you need to care about someone to be kind? The field in that movie should have been filled with thousands of people. The same should be true in real life. When someone goes missing, everyone should do whatever they can to help find them. Millions of people should be compelled to find them, flocking in from all corners of the country—from every corner of the world. And this should be true of anything else. When someone needs something, people should be willing to help them. When someone needs kindness, people should be willing to give it. It shouldn’t matter if the person is your friend or family or lover or anyone else. It shouldn’t matter if you hate them.
But people don’t give kindness to everyone. People don’t feel compelled to go and help find a missing person thousands of miles away. And why is that? The simple answer is that people are kind because they feel for other people. And if you don’t know someone, then you don’t feel for them in the same way. And if you don’t feel for someone, then that lowers your responsibility to them. So, why would you be kind to someone if you don’t feel anything for them? They’re not your people. They’re not your family. They’re not your fucking problem.
I think that’s a stupid train of thought. Human beings boast about their autonomy. And that autonomy means that you have free will. You have the power of choice. And that means that you can choose to act in opposition to how you feel.
You might not feel anything for the missing girl in Kansas that you happen to see on the news. You might not feel anything for starving refugees thousands of miles away. You might not feel anything for people whose belief systems differ from yours entirely. And that’s okay, because even if you don’t, you can still behave as if you do. Autonomy gives you the power to rise above how you feel, or maybe more importantly, how you don’t feel.
You’re not a bad person for not feeling anything for someone else. But you do have a choice.