Why We Fear Compassion
A couple of years ago I wrote about BugZooka which is a “fast, simple, safe and clean way to rid your home of unwanted spiders and bugs.” (See God-Training with BugZooka )
Well, it broke. Which is no big deal, of course, particularly after a couple of years of use. So, I readily and promptly ordered another one. It arrived: nothing has changed – same excellent product that it was. The packaging, however, seems to be just a tad more psychologically sophisticated. The product promises a “kinder, gentler way to win the war on bugs.” I am impressed: this is a message of compassion, albeit kind of tongue-in-cheek.
But the word “compassion” itself is nowhere to be found, either on the box or in the manual. And this, I believe, is symptomatic of our culture. In my blog from two years when I waxed poetic about BugZooka I talked about how its use is truly a compassion-training opportunity. After all, each and every time we catch a bug, we are playing god. “Shall we kill or not kill?” becomes the question of the moment.
As I read through the manual for BugZooka I see the all-too-familiar Western values. To those interested in order, sterility, safety and distance from the gross, BugZooka offers the safety of an arm’s length and an optional non-transparent catch-tube so that you wouldn’t see the bug in all of its presumed grossness.
Similarly, the cultural value of study and inquiry is emphasized. Indeed, BugZooka markets itself as a kind of toy for kids who want to catch and study bugs. Nothing’s wrong with that, of course. Science matters.
So, as I analyze this product I see three marketing angles here. Bugzooka is for those who want to get rid of the bugs in a non-gross kind of way, it is, indeed, a far more aesthetic way of removing the bugs than spraying some kind of neuro-toxic stuff along the baseboards of your home only to see a Normandy-invasion-style shores of dead bugs along the walls. Naturally, BugZooka is also for the curious, investigative, scientifically-minded types (be they adults or children). And it is for those who value compassion, kindness, and non-violence.
This last value – the value of Compassion – is kind of down-played. Sure, there is this nifty, humorous slogan: “kinder, gentler way to win the war on bugs.” But there is really no “preaching” on the subject, so to say. No development of the point. No selling of the doctrine of ahimsa/non-violence. Not a paragraph on how helping cultivate compassion might be to our collective advantage.
And, granted, this is just a bug-removal gadget. The technical writers that created the text for the packaging and the manual are primarily preoccupied with sales, not with social reform. But all of this brings the following point to my mind: as a society we are afraid of compassion.
Compassion is indeed scary. Compassion gives way to forgiveness and non-judgment. This trio – compassion, forgiveness, non-judgment – feels like moral anarchy. Compassion is scary for those who feel lost without strict moral guidelines. Forgiveness confuses the overly-moralistic mind, it blurs the comforting lines in the sand. The silence of non-judgment spooks the mind that has come to rely on the thundering rhetoric of moralizing the complexity of the world into the over-simplified “rights” and “wrongs.”
And this bugs me.
It bugs me that we – as a culture – seem to be “addicted” to differences and progressively numb to our fundamental similarities, that we seem to love to hate, that we’ve become masters of dichotomy and artisans of mutual blame, that, as a nation, we are becoming progressively more polarized and divided.
So, we fear compassion, forgiveness and non-judgment because not to know our differences is akin to not-knowing ourselves.
Knowing ourselves through differences is not the only way to know ourselves. We can also know ourselves through similarities, through identification, by seeing ourselves in the other.
And that’s what the BugZooka is all about for me. It’s about the daily morality of recognition of myself in the bug that bugs me.
Bread photo available from Shutterstock
Somov, P. (2012). Why We Fear Compassion. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindful-living/2012/08/why-we-fear-compassion/