Our 20th century morality is obsolete. We can talk about compassion for other individuals, or grow up and get real, and talk about compassion for the whole of our world, including nature and our own common sense.
No one lacks a morality. Each of us has a moral interpretation and if we mapped them all out, we’d find there’s only a handful of structurally different ones, but many nuanced interpretations that add up to those same few ideas.
As the 20th century wore down on us, more of this kind of stuff started appearing:
Imagining what it is like to be someone other than oneself is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion, and it is the beginning of morality. – Ian McEwan
Descended from Christianity, and convenient for commerce, this is humanism at its core. We must not be selfish as individuals; we must see it from the other guy’s view, and as a result acquiesce to his demands.
Never mind that this becomes a race to the lowest common denominator, because whoever comes up with a new demand now wields the power of making others yield to them.
But as the 21st century warms up, we’re seeing a new struggle. Actually, it’s the old struggle hybridized with the 20th century struggle. Instead of human against human, we’re looking at human against nature, with the human against human struggle being necessary to determine that outcome.
Compassion for other individuals will not solve the problems above. In fact, it’s a non-sequitur. We need compassion for the whole. The process of nature, the natural selection we impose upon ourselves, and even compassion for economics and politics so we can understand them and master them.
For too long, intellectuals in the West have declared the world a cinder and backed away from having a practical plan. Instead, they tell us we should have compassion. Unfortunately, that’s the most easily-coopted view, and the radical strides of the hippies and progressives are now standard fodder in advertising and big media entertainment.
A new way must be found. Having compassion for individual humans, or humanity itself, is a subset of the actual question, which is how we adapt to life on earth, improve ourselves in morality and abilities, and find a balance with nature so we don’t commit ecocide on our way to self-destruction. Compassion that, tweebs.