How Compassion Can Transform Our Politics, Economy, and Society
A book for our time. Solving problems with compassion.
Posted November 14, 2021 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma
- We need politicians to understand their role and responsibility.
- When political leaders face problems with a lack of compassion their perspectives are inhibited.
- Humanity would not have got this far without compassion.
Whether you read this book as an academic, journalist, politician, activist, businessman, or constituent, these chapters will bring a deep understanding of How Compassion Can Transform Our Politics, Economy, and Society.
Some books are timely
As psychologist Professor Paul Gilbert of The Compassionate Mind Foundation suggests, we appear to be at a tipping point and need to decide how we want things to be going forward. Professor Gilbert likens this moment to when the NHS was conceived along with a program of welfare and building of social housing after World War II, despite the economic predicament of the nation.
Compassion may have been lacking from politics for years, generations even, but as we stumble through what we hope to be the end of a pandemic, whilst grappling with the politics of climate change, a constant refugee crisis, and a growing necessity for foodbanks, we see that many of our politicians in the UK are focusing on serving corporations, and second jobs. Matt Hawkins, Director of Compassion in Politics reminds us that politics is meant to be an activity performed by humans on behalf of humans.
What we know is true
This book asks us to focus on a compassion deficit in public life that we observe every day. We watch the news, and we shake our heads. Intuitively we know that it is not new rules or laws that we need, rather a different philosophical approach. We need politicians to understand their role and responsibility in this progression.
A collaboration of experts offering solutions
The eclectic list of authors shows that no matter the perspective, what society lacks is clear and it’s causing problems. Renowned psychologists, philosophers, climate scientists, academics, activists, and politicians have collaborated to consider how compassion provides solutions. The authors argue that it holds the answers to solving everything from climate breakdown, to crime, social justice, and economic problems, like growing inequality, in a society that presently cultivates both billionaire space tourists and homelessness.
However, the way that the public reacts when asked to show compassion, whether it be thanking or volunteering to help the NHS, or donating to this week’s BBC Children in Need, we see a tide of compassion flood the nation. When we see children in need our natural human reaction is to react compassionately to solve the problem.
Humanity would not have got this far without compassion. Somehow, we have suppressed it. Although we yearn for our politicians to take a lead, change typically rises from the collective, which seems ready to support leadership that understands its needs and becomes able to solve its problems.
When political leaders face problems with a lack of compassion their perspectives are inhibited. They fail to avoid becoming part of the problem. Knowing the problem is key to solving it. Yet too often our politicians seem so distant from reality they cannot see it, let alone understand it. And when confronted with alternative perspectives the reaction is ridicule. Progress is made through empathy and understanding, not othering.
By collaborating we comprehend one another and discover solutions to the problems we share. The climate crisis is a fine example. It is something that impacts everyone, rich and poor, east and west. Yet politicians still look to compete rather than connect, maintaining economic philosophies, which serve few and increasingly produce more problems than they solve.
Better for society and each individual
The book focuses on so much more than political issues. A more compassionate approach can change society and culture. We can consider compassion on an individual level too and enjoy personal gain. Professor Gilbert reminds us that showing compassion makes us healthier and more attractive. Professor Barbara Taylor quotes Seneca: “Live for others if you want to live for yourself.” Professor Gilbert adds that if we lack compassion we may end up as a rapist, in prison, or very rich. None of these things will help society. Well-being, happiness, and personal fulfillment alleviate pain and suffering, not crime or excessive financial inequality.
The well of compassion
From philosophy to the latest science, this book draws on what we now know to be true, providing a platform from which we must decide where we go. The book concludes with some proposals for change, together with examples of where such ideas have worked in other places or times. These examples remind us that compassion is a rich well available for the whole of humanity to tap into, whenever we decide to do so. Deciding to read this book is a fine starting place for us all.