EN-110 8:00 am
In the essay “On Compassion” Barbara Lazear Ascher states that “We are not born compassionate. It has to be learned through one's own adversity and suffering.” I do not agree with this statement at all. She tells the story of a mother pushing her child in a stroller who gives a homeless man money. She questions why the woman would do that, weather it is fear or compassion. She goes on to how New York City looks today with the well off people weaving there way through poverty. She says that it is by seeing this that people begin to empathize only when we are constantly seeing adversity that we can't hide from. I do not believe compassion is learned. I remember as a kid on the playground I saw one kid fall and crack his head open. I remember that gut wrenching feeling that I need to help him. I did not know him and no one had told me that as humans we are obligated to take care of one another. I was still an age when I believed the whole world revolved around me. But when I saw that kid get hurt and that he was helpless I felt the primal instinct wash over me, the instinct called compassion. I do agree with her statement that “We want to protect ourselves from an awareness of rags with voices...” But I believe that is because we would go insane if we were constantly worried about others and we still need to care form ourselves. I don't think compassion can be learned but it can be repressed. What I believe she thinks is learning compassion is more like remembering compassion. We naturally want everything to be perfect and beautiful so we try to hide anything that does not conform but when it is in front of us all the time we can't deny our deepest instinct. A few months ago I started putting my son into daycare. I walked in to pick him up one day and decided to observe him before he saw me so I could see how he is adapting. My son can barely speak and this is some of the first times he spent around many kids. There was a little girl who had fallen off her chair and had started crying. With out missing a beat I watched my son get up and walk over to her and even offered her his sippy cup. If a child who can't even fully speak yet can have compassion then it must be something deeper in our DNA and not a learned trait. Another story form my childhood was during the Iraq war when we were bombing Baghdad. I remember watching the television with my family and I mentioned how I felt bad for everyone there, not understanding what was fully going on. My uncle looked at me and said “It is there fault for attacking us and it is there fault for being there. They are the enemy and you should never have compassion for the enemy.” That statement was the first time I taught to repress compassion. It has become a social norm to think of the world as us versus them. This is a mentality that teaches us to repress compassion to only include those close to you. I imagine this social behavior has its roots in self preservation. We need other people but if you want success you need few people with many resources. So we trained ourselves to be distant from those who we don't need so that we may be more successful without feeling the guilt of ignoring compassion. In the end of her essay I do agree that seeing these people suffer inspires our compassion. The idea that it is by pure luck that we aren’t int their position. Seeing a homeless man sitting on the street with no food make us realize our common humanity. If we were there we would wish someone to be compassionate to us therefore we will be compassionate to them.
Unfortunately in our society today we have become very good at hiding and ignoring others suffering. People are separating more and more and we are repressing our compassion to very dangerous levels. Without compassion there is nothing that stops…