Monday, November 19, 2012

Compassion or Compulsion



The question of compulsion or compassion is a critical one, not merely a choice of words but a decision of the motivations of others and the ultimate outcome of a National spirit.  Within these two alliterations falls the entire process of humanity.  Side one is the compulsion of actions by some for others and the other side is the compassion to give to others.

From the very start of analysis the compulsion side has an extra character involved, increasing the complexity and decreasing the functionality, while on the compassion side the act is generally designed for two.  Compulsion mandates change and forces compassionless set of scenarios.  Many would say the two have the same end result, the poor and downtrodden getting the help they need, but let’s take this argument to the logical end and see the results.

Depak Chopra used an example of a simple sandwich to illustrate the differences between compulsion and compassion.  Imagine a man sitting by the side of the street, his head down, despondent looking, dirty, odorous.  Another man approaches and offers him a sandwich.  The curb sitting, homeless man looks up and with a strained smile accepts the compassion.  

Both men are grateful.  The receiving man has food to fill his belly, the giver has food to fill his soul, a perfect win, win.  No one loses.  The act of giving was voluntary as was the act of receiving.  The importance of this freedom to choose is in the outcome and the positive affirmation of the process.

Rewind the scenario and enter the picture a third party.  As the man with the sandwich starts to pass the unsettled man on the street the third drives up in his black SUV, screeches to a halt, jumps out, points a gun at the sandwich man and says “give that man your sandwich” he pulls back the hammer on the gun to emphasis his seriousness and the startled man with the sandwich complies.

Many would surmise no difference since the outcome was the same but let’s look closely at the outcomes.  First let’s look at the man with the food, does he feel the same?  Does he have the same level of compassion or charity than in the last scenario, no, more like an intense fear and a slight despondency over losing his lunch? The man on the curb gets to eat but does he feel the same?  Is his soul filled with the spirit of charity, no it’s filled but with the sandwich only?  If this were only a onetime event there may be little damaging effects on either party but can you imagine the consequences if this were a regular event?

The man with the sandwich would stop carrying food; he would change his rout and maybe even try to hide his identity.  The man on the curb would start to feel entitled and may even start demanding more variety and better portions.  

Sure there’s a risk that the man on the curb might not eat but the road of compassion will never be enhanced though the compulsory actions of another.  Let’s be clear about this topic, no one should have to starve, no one should have to suffer and there is a role for government to play in mitigating these terrible circumstances but that role should not involve coercion, under pressure or outright force.  It’s time to remember that we are a very forgiving people, willing to die for each other, share what we have to help another and we do so willingly.  That willingness is being dissolved and with it the true compassion of what makes us great.

Thanksgiving is almost upon us.  This is a fitting tribute to the herculean efforts of generations before us that gave to all the gift of generosity, tenacity and the ever present gift of compassion.  Obviously not all share all those traits but without a majority of our forefathers being of kind mind and conscientious the reality of what we have today would not exist.  Let’s be grateful, giving and compassionate, our efforts are enough to feed the world and the man on the curb.