Presented by: Shahaduz Zaman
The concept of ‘compassionate community’, derived from the ideas of Allan Kellehear, encourages support for people and their families who are either dying or living with loss. It aims to enable people to live well within their communities, to the very end of their lives. In order to implement the concept various ‘community development’ and ‘community capacity building’ models have been invoked. We argue, however, that there are barriers at the structural level of modern society, which inhibit and hinder the expression and practice of spontaneous compassion. Even where individuals ‘possess’ compassion and/or are ‘trained’ in it, we argue that it is difficult for this compassion to flow freely, particularly within Western society. This relates to specific socio-political structural factors that include: the sense of privacy and individualism in modern industrialized countries; highly professionalized closed health systems; anxiety about litigation on health and safety grounds; a context of suspicion and mistrust within the global political scenario; a policy of free market economics; and a political philosophy of modern citizenship that is guided by reason and self-interest, not by compassion. We must then ask ourselves whether compassion can be created intentionally, without paying attention to the structural aspects of society. One consequence of globalization is that countries in the global South are rapidly trying to embrace the features of modernity adopted by the global North. Are people both from the global North and South then heading structurally towards a society where ‘compassion deficit’ becomes an anthropological condition?