Saturday, August 25, 2007

Compassion Permanence

If I were to hold up a pen in front of you and ask whether or not it exists, you would reply with a resounding “yes!” If I moved the pen behind my back and out of sight and asked the same question, I would get the same response. How do you know the pen exists even though you can no longer see it? The reason is that you and I, as adults, have grasped the concept of object permanence. We know that just because it’s not right in front of us doesn’t mean it fails to exist.

Babies, on the other hand, have zero capacity for object permanence. Once a brightly colored toy is not in front of them, the object ceases to exist for them (as far as child psychologists can determine). Out of sight, out of mind.

Too often, we as humans treat injustice the same way as the baby treats a toy. If it’s not in front of us and does not directly involve us, then it ceases to exist or matter. As mature global citizens we must develop a sense of compassion permanence. We must be able to consciously engage a broken world and the injustice in it even when it’s not right in front of us.

Countless mass atrocities, human rights abuses and lives could have been saved throughout history if only individuals had not looked the other way. This is our world – we must engage it.

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