I actually wrote this piece about a year ago, but I thought it would make a good addition to this blog. It's kinda long, but I hope you enjoy it.
The subject of compassion is one that I learned a lot about working in a hospital. I was a phlebotomist at a university hospital in southern California for three years, working in the lab and collecting blood samples from the patients upstairs and in the ER, before I decided to go back to school and get my degree in programming. Before that, I worked in a veterinary office, assisting the doctor with the animals. Healthcare, both human and otherwise, is a field not to be attempted by those with weak stomachs. I saw some truly horrible things, things I didn’t want to see, but I’m glad I did. Some things can only be learned the hard way.
At the animal hospital I saw dogs that had literally been neglected to death. I saw cats with lead pellets in them. I saw two mangled pit bulls which, despite what one would have guessed, were the sweetest animals, even after being made to fight other dogs to the death. I saw a woman who had made her dog desperately ill, and kept it that way, just to get drugs for herself. During my time there, I assisted in so many euthanasias of dying animals that I lost count. It was heartbreaking, but some of those animals were in such agony that it was admittedly a relief to see them relax, fall asleep, and stop breathing.
At the human hospital I saw a toddler with a serious concussion, a cracked rib, a broken leg, and a sprained arm, all caused by a violent father. I saw car accident victims teetering on the edge of death. I saw a white supremacist with six bullet wounds to the chest and back, who was somehow still alive, if only barely. I saw cancer patients fighting their disease valiantly, and others who had given up. It was always the kids that got to me the most.
My first experience with a pediatric patient was when I was still in training. Myself and two other students had gone upstairs with one of the veterans. She was very good at her job, and we learned a lot from her. She asked us if we were up to helping with a little kid. We said sure. It was a little girl, four years old, cute little thing, and they were still trying to figure out what was wrong with her. She had had fifteen blood draws in less than two days, and she was not happy to see us. Neither was her poor mother. I felt so sorry for that woman. She looked like she wanted to hit someone, but she agreed to let us do our job. She went downstairs, not trusting herself to be in the same room while we made her daughter cry.
It’s amazing how strong a sick child can be. We three students held her down, wrapped in a sheet, while the old pro stuck her with the needle. The fear and pain in that little girl’s screams were almost unbearable. It was clear that she didn’t understand why we were hurting her when she already felt terrible, and why her mother wasn’t stopping us, and we couldn’t explain it to her. I had never experienced anything like it before, and it shook me to my soul. Later that day, while talking to my mother about it, I broke down and cried, trying to explain what it was like. She has had lots of experience with small children, since she was a public school teacher for sixteen years. She told me that the height of compassion is doing what is truly in someone else’s best interest, even if they don’t agree. This applies especially to children. I already understood this on an intellectual level, but I was emotionally unprepared for such a dramatic example as that little girl.
During the rest of my training to become a phlebotomist I had several more experiences with children that tested my own sense of compassion. I would often think back to that little girl, and I finally managed to convince myself emotionally that I was doing the right thing by collecting blood from emphatically opposed children. I decided that I could help them the most by becoming as skilled as possible in my job, so as to make the process as fast and efficient as I could, thus reducing the trauma to the child. I started volunteering for all the pediatric draws I could get, and sure enough, I became exceptionally good at drawing from children, even babies. Nurses on the pediatric units would ask for me by name. I even got pretty good at reassuring the kids, convincing the ones that were old enough that it would only hurt a little bit for just a second, and then it would be over.
Of course, not all of them could be so easily soothed. Most of the time it was several nurses holding the kid down while I got in and out as fast as possible. But there were a number of times when either a parent, or even a nurse, would be upset that we were going so fast, and they would want to slow down and try to calm the child. What they didn’t seem to realize was that the longer we stood there trying to get the kid to relax, the more riled up they would get, and the more afraid they would become, and the more afraid they would be next time. Anticipation of imminent pain is not something that children are good at dealing with. I would try to explain this, and suggest that the faster we got it over with, the sooner the kid could calm down for real, and get some rest. If that meant hogtying the kid and piling nurses on them to give me a steady target, so be it. Sometimes they listened, and sometimes they didn’t.
Then there were the parents that would refuse to let us draw the child’s blood. I watched doctors and nurses beg and plead with parents, trying to explain that they couldn’t properly treat the child without the blood test results. The parents were understandably distraught, but they seemed more concerned with not upsetting the child than with the child’s eventual recovery.
Over the past two years or so, I have come to the conclusion that there are two types of compassion. Blind compassion, and enlightened compassion. Blind compassion is the parent refusing the blood draw for fear of making their child cry again. Blind compassion is the nurse who wants to delicately and gently draw the kids blood while the poor kid screams their head off and hyperventilates for twenty minutes. It comes in other forms as well.
There are far more good intentioned people on this planet than malicious people. The fact that civilization can exist at all is proof of this. And many of these people do what they can to help others. But there is a serious problem in the way many of these people think about their assistance to others. There are many people who believe that poverty can be solved simply by throwing more money into the welfare system. There are people that believe that the horrible suffering in many parts of Africa can be solved if only powerful nations like ours would give a few more billion dollars to the governments of desperate countries. As if all those people are missing is money. It has become politically incorrect to even discuss the real reasons behind human suffering, such as lack of education, corrupt dictators, and loss of basic moral values.
My younger sister had an experience in college that illustrates blind compassion very effectively. In a social sciences class she had, the class was discussing world hunger. There was a young man who worked himself up into a full blown rant, berating the U.S. government for allowing people in other countries to go hungry. He couldn’t understand what was so hard about simply taking a huge load of food over to a needy area and giving it to the people. My sister, being the thoughtful and rational person that she is, interrupted his tirade in order to explain to him the immense logistics that go into moving that much food that far, including the legal and diplomatic difficulties often encountered. As if he hadn’t even heard her explanation, the young man wanted to know what was preventing someone from simply taking a crate of Ramen Noodles (yes, he said Ramen Noodles), getting on a plane, flying to a third world country, and giving the noodles to some starving family. My sister tried to explain what a colossally inefficient use of philanthropic money that was, and how unlikely it was that the third world country of his choice would even let him through customs with a crate of food, and that it was far more likely that they would simply confiscate it, and send him packing. She then gave examples of how even well established and reasonably well funded professional charity organizations, like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army and the Peace Corps, have trouble getting into some places. And once they do get in, they often need military escorts to protect them from a variety of threats. The passionate young man in her class then suggested that we could simply give all the food to the government of the target country, since they would be better able to distribute it where it was needed most. My sister replied that the food would most likely never reach the starving citizens, and would instead be given to the military, or sold. The young man had no coherent response to this, and simply refused to believe that it was that hard.
This way of thinking has become all too common in this country, particularly amongst the Liberal population. Born of the hippie movement, which thought that love and peace would solve all the world’s problems, the idea that material and financial charity is enough has rooted itself firmly in the ideology of the political left. As if love and peace can be pulled out of thin air and spread around the world with a wish and a song.
People who subscribe to these ideas are still under the delusion that “war never solves anything”. Tell that to the Jews. They are under the delusion that if we all just kiss and make up, then everyone will play nice and peace will prevail. Tell that to the Islamic terrorists. Liberals honestly believe that it is morally wrong to invade a country in order to liberate its oppressed citizens. They seem to lack one very crucial piece of understanding. There is real evil in this world, and it won’t play nice no matter how politely we ask it to.
Their warped understanding of true evil has been illustrated by the common use among Liberals of the terms “holocaust” and “Hitler”. They attempt to equate situations they find distasteful and the people involved in trying to make the best of a bad situation to one of the most blatant and clear cut examples of true evil in the history of humanity. They refuse to acknowledge the fact that there are evil people actively trying to prevent peace and love, who will run rampant unless checked by people willing to do the right thing by fighting them, no matter how distasteful it may be.
A perfect example of this mentality is the Liberal opposition to the current war in Iraq. They believe that the only reason our forces are encountering any resistance at all is that their mere presence there has provoked it. That our enemies are blowing up police stations and school busses because they fear a loss of independence at the hands of Westerners. They have deluded themselves into believing that withdrawing American troops will quell the fears of the insurgent forces and convince them to stop fighting. They simply will not accept the fact that these people do not want Iraq to be free. That the enemy is committed to maintaining the status quo in the area of fear and oppression, and that withdrawing our troops will leave nothing to stop them from doing just that.
Liberals simply cannot wrap their minds around the idea that there are evil people who want to do evil things. And when they are confronted by an undeniable example of this unpleasant fact they attempt to explain it in other ways. They say that the terrorists are merely trying to preserve their own culture, and they don’t understand that we are trying to help them. They say that we need to try to understand how they must feel, and that with enough understanding and compassion, we can convince them that we are not their enemies. Even after captured terrorists have gleefully exclaimed their commitment to the extermination of America, and described how the children of the infidels shall burn in the fire of Allah’s wrath, the Liberals remain incapable of understanding that these people are evil.
Now, it’s important that we understand something else. It’s true that not all people who do evil things are themselves truly evil. There were Nazis who had been so brainwashed that they honestly believed that the extermination of the Jews was necessary for the future of the master race, and these people had been poisoned to believe that they were doing the right thing. The same is probably true for many Islamic terrorists. They have been poisoned since birth to believe that the infidels must die, and that they must accomplish this by any and all means necessary, because this is what Allah commands. But behind the people who lacked the ability to see through the poison are the people who are the source of that poison. And these people are truly evil. They understand exactly what they are doing, and they do it anyway. They relish the pain and suffering of other people, and no amount of counseling or therapy will change them. These are the Hitlers and the Bin Ladens who mastermind tremendous acts of pure evil like the holocaust and the September 11th attacks on America. Unfortunately, the pathetic souls that they get to carry out these evils are so poisoned that they are beyond any hope of recovery. They cannot be changed, and they will fight to the death, regardless of anything we try to do to help them. I pray that God has mercy on such people.
But I have strayed from my original topic. Liberals believe that the compassionate thing to do would be to withdraw our troops from Iraq, to avoid exposing the Iraqi people to more warfare. This is blind compassion. War bad. Peace good. This is the extent of the Liberal understanding on the subject.
The Conservative view is that war, when properly executed, is like surgery, and occupation is like physical therapy. There was a cancer in Nazi Germany, and it metastasized into the rest of Europe. Allied forces eliminated the cancer much like chemotherapy does. Chemotherapy is not gentle on the patient’s body. It’s toxic. Fortunately, it’s a little more toxic to the cancer than it is to the patient. The idea is to use chemotherapy and radiation, and sometimes surgery, to kill the cancer before killing the patient. Justified war attempts to eliminate evil while causing as little collateral damage as possible. Expecting zero collateral damage is as unreasonable and impossible as expecting cancer treatment to be gentle on the patient. Once the cancer is in remission, physical therapy attempts to help the patient to recover, to build their body back up to a healthy state. A military occupation attempts to do the same thing. Our forces in Iraq are trying to support that country and its people while they rebuild their homeland. The cancer that was there left it terribly weak and unable to support itself alone. Without therapy, it will decay back into what it was, or worse. The cancer may come out of remission, or a new disease may take hold. Pulling our forces out of Iraq prematurely is morally comparable to discontinuing a patient’s treatment because it’s uncomfortable, but on a much larger scale. Unfortunately for Iraq, it looks as if the cancer is either coming out of remission on its own, or it went deeper than we thought in the first place.
Enlightened compassion is realizing when a painful or difficult solution is the right one, and acting on it, regardless of the discomfort. This is similar to my father’s definition of courage. He says that courage is doing what’s right, even if it’s hard, or scary, or painful. Enlightened compassion is the same thing. And it takes tremendous courage to have enlightened compassion, because some problems are not easy to fix.
Poverty is not merely the lack of material or financial resources. Poverty is the end result of many factors. A lack of education leads to a poor selection of professions, which results in low income. A lack of education also results in a poor understanding of family dynamics which, when combined with low income, results in poorly raised and undernourished children. Moral standards begin to collapse as an environment of crime, exacerbated by poor education, and hopelessness invades the minds of these children. They grow up with a victim’s mentality. Their home life and nutritional standards contribute to poor performance in school, in addition to decreased cultural value placed on education. This is a repeating cycle, which inevitably results in a subculture that places no value on education, has terrible moral standards, and has itself convinced that there is no hope of changing their situation.
Throwing money at real poverty does more harm than good, for several reasons. First, poverty-stricken people don’t have the financial skills or discipline to handle large amounts of money. For example, look at the number of poor people who win the lottery, only to declare bankruptcy in less than a year. Second, giving handouts, while appearing generous, has the side effect of making the recipient feel resentful and entitled at the same time. The more you give them, the more ashamed they become, and as soon as you stop giving it to them, they feel you are denying them what they deserve. Third, money without the ability to make more creates dependency. If someone gets so accustomed to a welfare check that they go generations without educating themselves, they will become totally unable to survive without welfare. And last but not least, it is impossible to raise everyone above the poverty line with welfare. There simply isn’t enough money in the world. They will still be poor, but now they expect you to somehow drag them out of poverty, convinced that you’re holding out on them.
Before you can help the poor, you need to help them change their attitude and behavior. Education is the most important factor in alleviating poverty. They must learn how to support themselves and their family, and their children must learn to value education. Adults can learn trade skills relatively quickly, and begin supporting their families. Children will learn if you give them the means to do so and encourage their efforts. The hardest part is breaking people out of that victim’s mentality.
Unfortunately the political left has far too many people convinced that this would be the wrong thing to do. They believe that the compassionate thing to do is to give them that extra money, and tell them their situation isn’t their fault. Liberals seem bent on reinforcing the victims mentality of the poor and minority groups, which are far too often one and the same. This has led me to the conclusion that Liberals are morally lazy. They are far more concerned with appearing to be doing the right thing than actually doing the right thing. They want their caring and concern to be acknowledged by others so that they can feel better about themselves. They institute social policies that do nothing but reinforce the social problems, but convince themselves that they are doing the compassionate thing. Problems with schools? Here’s some more money. Look, we gave the schools billions of dollars, see how compassionate we are? Students are still having problems, even after all that money? It must be that they are being discriminated against, so we’ll alter the testing criteria to make them pass. Now they’re getting better scores, see how compassionate we are? People in Africa are dying at a horrific rate from AIDS? Let’s send the corrupt governments of the African countries a gigantic check and ask them to use it to help their people. See how compassionate we are? What, they didn’t use it to help their people? We’ll just send them another check and explain to them how important it is to use the money to help their people. See how compassionate we are? Someone is going to be executed? He raped and murdered five school children? Well that doesn’t give us the right to murder him in return, so we’ll do everything in our power to stop the execution, because even psychopaths deserve compassion. I’m sure with the proper counseling he could be rehabilitated and become a productive member of society again. He’s only been out of jail for a month, and already he’s raped and murdered another eight year old? Okay, maybe he really should be removed from society, but we still can’t kill him. After all, psychopaths are people too. See how compassionate we are?
Liberals have managed to delude themselves into believing that difficult problems can be solved easily because they don’t have the stomach for doing the right thing. Poor people need money, so we’ll give them money. Violence to fight violence is just more violence, so we’ll just try to negotiate while a dictator slaughters his own people and makes empty promises. They want to feel like they’ve done the right thing, so they brainwash themselves into believing that whichever “solution” is the easiest must be the right one. And they call it compassion.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
I actually wrote this piece about a year ago, but I thought it would make a good addition to this blog. It's kinda long, but I hope you enjoy it.
Posted by cyberjacques at 11/25/2006 02:48:00 PM