Relative to our focus on “Good People Doing Great Things” (soon to have its own site on WP) is a telling, informative editorial in yesterday’s Sunday, New York Times.
“There is an income gap in America, but just as important is a compassion gap. Plenty of successful people see a picture of a needy child and their first impulse is not to help but to reproach. . . . .
“There may be neurological biases at work. A professor at Princeton found that our brains sometimes process images of people who are poor or homeless as if they were not humans but things. . . . .
“Likewise, psychology experiments suggest that affluence may erode compassion. When research subjects are asked to imagine great wealth, or just look at a computer screen saver with money, they become less inclined to share or help others. That may be why the poorest 20 percent of Americans give away a larger share of their incomes than the wealthiest 20 percent.” [bold type mine]
This is a very disturbing phenomenon, but helps explain why ordinary every people are the real unsung heroes providing immediate hands-on help—directly–to those in desperate, sometimes life-threatening situations. The rich statistically don’t do anything for anyone that isn’t quid pro quo, expecting “payback” that will enhance their status, finances or public persona. As Kristof says later in his editorial, they don’t look at the desperate and disadvantaged as human beings, but as things. They blame and revile them for getting themselves in situations in which they are helpless and vulnerable. They blame the victim, for most often these hurting suffering people are indeed victims of forces beyond their control.
That’s sad. Sad but true.
The following article from the Atlantic goes into greater depth on the stats and the social implications of this habitual heartless stinginess of the rich in our nation and in the world.
I encourage you to read both of these pieces. They are short, but powerful and backed up by data and research. They explain why it is so critical for all of us, without fanfare or in hopes of any “ROI,” to reach out in our everyday lives to the suffering and desperate, real people, right under our noses. Charitable organizations can’t do it all and what they do is often done poorly and comes too late because of their bureaucracies and slow response time.
Also of interest and bearing on this topic:
What is love? Love can only be shown or revealed when we comfort those in sorrow.