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Reflections on Ethics 120
Human Morality: compassion

by: Gordon Barthel

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The most cherished and celebrated human morality is compassionate, desiring to help others, to help those who are sick, to help those who are injured, to help those who are famished. Compassionate human morality is the desire to alleviate the pain and suffering of others, and humans throughout the world and throughout the ages have compassion.

Humans definitely have the capacity for incredible cruelty and depravity, a detail the front page headlines will confirm whenever another example surfaces. Yet, humans also have the potential for incredible acts of compassion, a detail journalists might acknowledge when they run out of horrifying headlines or they are desperate for some good news. Humans can be incredibly depraved yet ordinary people can also be incredibly compassionate, and sometimes cruelty and compassion seem to go hand-in-hand. Some of the most famous stories of compassion follow on the heels of the most horrifying atrocities such as accounts of ordinary people helping Jews escape the Nazis.

Day by day, human compassion is probably far more prevalent than human cruelty, though ordinary compassion does not garner the dramatic headlines. We send clean water, nonperishable food, clothes and blankets to the victims of natural disasters on the other side of the planet; we open our doors to refugees from another country, giving them the opportunity to build a new life, we give our forgotten shoes to shoeless indigents, we give our old sweaters to the working poor, we bring hot soup to a sick neighbour, and we pick up garbage so birds, turtles and furry creatures don’t get hurt by our waste.

There definitely are cruel people in the world, but compassionate humans outnumber the beasts, Unfortunately, we tend to discuss the barbarism more readily than the compassion and we tend to remember the atrocities longer than we remember the selflessness.

Despite this proclivity, the most cherished and celebrated human morality through all time and space is compassionate, helping anybody who needs a little help, whether they need a hug or a pint of blood.


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