We have this concept of “sociopathy” that defines a person without conscience. Someone who can cause great harm to another, inflict terrible suffering, without any remorse. We also have this concept of “compassion” that defines acts that attempt to undo harm to, and relieve the suffering of others. You would think that the two define completely opposing ways of acting. And you would not be mistaken to hope that the compassionate acts outnumber the sociopathic acts in any given individual.

One would think then that normality — to be a normal person — would entail compassionate acts. And because compassion is a desirable motivation normally, that a normal person would feel remorse for any of their acts that inflict pain and suffering on another — even if the act was unavoidable.

Yet when we see a person that does not act compassionately in a situation where there is financial gain at stake, we applaud their competitiveness, rather than faulting them for their lack of compassion, and we find it completely acceptable, indeed normal, that they should feel no remorse for their actions. “It’s just business,” as the saying goes.

Likewise, when someone has no remorse for the pain and suffering that their actions inflict on others outside of a privileged group — family, community, tribe, country, race, political affiliation, etc. — in which they count themselves members, people seem to find that to be perfectly normal; rather than finding it normal to be a more compassionate person, even toward those outside of our habitual range of concern.

This confuses me. We seem to have an economic system built on sociopathy and an ethical system that finds sociopathy normal in economic matters — and probably political matters as well. So much so, that the mere absence of pain and suffering being inflicted on others is seen, not as normal, but as compassionate — an act that is beyond the norm.

You would think that we would attempt to correct our behaviors that contribute to the destabilization of our global climate because it is inflicting great harm and suffering on others, yet, instead, we stubbornly continue the behaviors that are causing it, and often complain that we are personally being affected negatively in some way, either by the destabilization of the climate that we ourselves are a partial cause of, or the attempts of others to correct it — or both — and we feel no remorse about being so tone-deaf towards the suffering of others!

Does that make us normal? You know, sociopathic?

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།
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