The Compassion Deficit by William Klein

The dangers of denial in the human heart are many. These dangers have immediate detrimental effects that can cause great harm to a society. One of the greatest deficits in the human condition is the most problematic and that is the deficit of compassion.  Never take for granted the power of compassion to heal and bring needed change to a community.

The compassion deficit impacts billions of people and prevents people from identifying with dignity of the human person to the fullest extent.

Take for example this case from the last few years. There was an issue of human rights that was being discussed in Congress. The issue dealt with the rights of homosexuals to leave their pensions to their next of kin – their lovers. This is an issue that is taken for granted by a heterosexual who retains the fruits of a spouse’s livelihood. It is needed for the spouse to keep going.

One Congressman was opposed to this particular piece of legislation because he didn’t believe in the right of gay spouses to receive pensions. This quickly changed when the Congressman’s own son came out as gay. He was face to face with someone he loved identifying the problem to him in a unique way. Much to the Congressman’s credit, he completely changed his position on the issue and was in favor of gay spouses receiving support.

There was a compassion deficit here. He couldn’t identify with the problem until the problem directly affected him or a person he loved. This basic human right was a no brainer to me because I have friends who are gay who have or had a sacred bond that is or was deeper and more realized than some heterosexual marriages I’ve encountered. Think of all the couples who have lost their loves and been denied the right to receive pensions that were coming to them. Like heterosexual spouses, they supported that person, they took care of that person, they inspired that person to greatness but were denied the basic fruits of such devotion. It’s basic unfairness that stems from a trumped up belief that fundamental rights given to minorities will undermine straight white male priviledge.

We see compassion deficits in other ways as well. People don’t worry about particular rights of groups until they’ve been directly impacted. I recently read that 11 percent of Guatemala’s GDP comes from people coming to America, doing work no one else will do and sending money back home. Policies have imposed restriction of movement by Central American families. Meanwhile corporations are having trouble filling jobs that no one (else) will take. Fast food places are giving signing bonuses to those who work for them and pay is going as high as $17 an hour a job that used to pay $8 or $9.

There was a crab fisherman on 60 Minutes who talked about his business being impacted by Trump’s travel restrictions.  He supported the policy which limited the prospects of an individual who would come for seasonal work and return back to their countries to support their families during the off season. This compassion deficit was impacting his own profit margin, but he still stood by the unjust policy. He even stated that he would continue to support the policy and its leader. Compassion deficit. Pound wise, penny foolish?

The restrictions of movement on the parts of those particular groups have heightened the need for basic human rights in countries like Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Mexico.  If we examined the work visas program and allowed groups to come in and do these seasonal jobs, we would benefit greatly from their services. It’s a win-win for all. Instead, people let the politics of division cripple their own businesses and undermine the potential profit. In those particular countries, the levels of poverty increase, causing more violence, more instability and undermining the basic human rights of their citizens.

Compassion deficits are visible in the actions of dictators like Vladamir Putin, Kim Jung Un and Bashar al-Assad. These are men who are sitting in palaces, living the good life yet denying that same basic right to their own citizens. The need to divide and conquer is inhibiting growth in their own countries or in some cases causing greater division. Russia is suffering from the sanctions the West has imposed on it, yet the war rages on in Ukraine because by gaining control of the Ukraine Putin feels his coffers will be richer in the long run. Those who speak out against the unjust actions of their leaders are jailed or killed. These leaders have no idea of the pain they’re causing others – or, if they do, they deny it for the sake of power.

Greed is the greatest sin in creating a compassion deficit. It blocks an individual’s heart from making decisions for the greater good. Human history has not looked kindly on such individuals, yet the lessons that have not been learned cause more problems.

How do we cultivate a heart of compassion? We listen to groups who feel they don’t have a stake in our country; we open our minds and go out and identify with groups who we don’t readily see. We do the hard work of delving deeper in the serious issues of our times and put ourselves in the shoes of another. We make every effort possible to hear out the people who are begging to be heard.

We step outside our comfort zones and serve! We work to heal communities and support policies that stand for the basic human rights and tenets of human dignity in work. We call out injustice and stand for the rights of all and stand up and speak truth to power that imposes hurt and inequality through its insidious and relentless attempts to maintain white male dominance.

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