Compassion Does Not Recognize State Boundaries.


You know, sometimes I wonder if this whole war on ignorance business was such a good idea. I mean, most days, it seems like I’m preaching to the choir, like everyone’s on the same page as me. At such times, I consider just hanging up my warrior hat for good, and blogging only about really important stuff. Like Beyonce. Or Kim Kardashian.

But then I get a comment like the one below (in response to my Bangladesh flooding post) and suddenly, my life has meaning again. I know, I know, I really need to just let some things go and not take everything so seriously. Believe me, I did my best to let this one go. But this particular comment so irked me that I had to devote an entire blog post to it.

To the person who posted a comment under the name Maruti Turbo, thank you. Thank you for giving me something to blog about on this slow day.

Maruti Turbo
Why you showing interest in Bangla Desh Suddenly??
What is your hidden agenda?
Dont try and say you always have loved Bangla Desh!
Maruti Turbo,

You can see my response to Maruti Turbo here.

There is so much I can write in response that I don’t even know where to begin. So I’ll begin where I always do, with pseudo-intellectual nerd talk.

Clearly, Maruti Turbo seems unable to comprehend the notion that someone like me could post a compassionate, sensitive post asking readers to donate money to victims of the flooding in Bangladesh. After all, how could a non-Bangladeshi who has dared to openly criticize some some negative aspects of Bangladeshi society—specifically wife beating and domestic violence (which I’ve always maintained are not unique to Bangladesh)—possibly be sincere when writing about the misfortune and suffering of so many Bangladeshis he’s never even met?

The simple answer is that I care when other human beings are suffering and in need of help. They don’t have to have the same skin color, nationality, religion, or culture as me. We don’t have to speak the same language. Their humanity is all the reason I need to feel compassion. It’s the reason I care about domestic violence and violence against women.

In fact, somebody would need to be a pretty despicable person—and I mean on the level of mass murderer, genocideur, or tobacco lobbyist—for me to just turn away in the face of their suffering without trying to do something to help. I mean, if Bangladesh were full of Hitlers, Goerings, Pol Pots, interahamwe, and Phillip Morris executives, then maybe I would feel differently about the flooding. But I don’t have to be from Bangladesh to know that nobody deserves to endure what these people are going through. As human beings, they deserve better. They deserve more than my sympathy and my donations, but it’s all I can give them. Like people in Sierra Leone and elsewhere in the developing world, they deserve better housing, better sanitation, and better flood protection. They deserve better disaster preparedness, and better disaster relief from their government and the international community. But at a minimum, they deserve sympathy. That’s what they got from me in my blog post, and that’s why Maruti Turbo questioned my intentions.

The greater point is that, as human beings, we’re endowed with the largest brain-to-body ratio of any mammal, though comments like Maruti Turbo’s make me question whether this is a universal truth. Notwithstanding the possibility that it isn’t, I believe most people are capable of feeling positive emotions like love and compassion. Even the most emotionally stunted individuals are capable of feeling concern. But if we so readily feel these emotions for our family and our close friends, how can we not feel them when we see other human beings in distress? The fact that these other people are not in our immediate social or familial circles should not be an excuse? Why stop at family and friends? Why not expand the circle of compassion to neighbors and countrymen? Why even stop there? Why not include people in other countries? Our brains are certainly big enough to process the information that produces these positive emotions? Why limit ourselves?

Which brings me back to Maruti Turbo. Why would he/she have such a hard time accepting the sincerity of my post, or my motivation for writing it? Is it because of my non-Bangladeshiness? Maybe it’s because I’m from Sierra Leone? Or is it because I’m part Jewish? Who knows. Who cares. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that people—regardless of who they are or where they’re from—are capable of feeling compassion for others, even if they are geographically distant. That’s something to celebrate, not question.

As the thousands of Bangladeshi peacekeepers demonstrated during their time in Sierra Leone, compassion knows no national boundaries. Nor should it. If Maruti Turbo is Bangladeshi, I urge him/her to follow the example of his/her compatriots.

The planet’s too small for us to only care about people who share our blood, nationality, religion, or language.


8 thoughts on “Compassion Does Not Recognize State Boundaries.

  1. Tania,

    Thanks for the comment. It’s good to hear from you, and I’m glad you arrived safely.

    I hope all is well with you and yours.

    Incidentally, if you have the time or inclination to write an on-the-ground piece from Dhaka, I’d be more than happy to have you as a guest blogger. 🙂

    I’ve kinda been swamped with work from the last couple of days and I think T’ings n’ Times would benefit from some fresh material.

    Look forward to reconnecting when you get back to town.


  2. Abdul- I think in our short time of getting to know each other you know where I stand on the position. I am writing from Dhaka right now and I can assure you that Bangladeshis are one of the softest, sweetest, warmest and caring people on earth yet they are also some of the most patriarchal. My time here sheds a lot of light on many things and then not enough on some other things we have discussed. I look forward to touching base soon. In the meantime, ignore negativity and embrace the overall humanity of doing good and serving those less fortunate than us. It is a much bigger reward than giving a bunch of bigots any kind of unwarranted attention on your fabulous writing and thoughts. peace and wishes.


  3. It IS compasionate to write about and protest things like wife beating in Bengladesh. IF the wife beating were made to stop, then the person who would have a better life is a Bengladeshi wife. Just as the people who will have a better life with emergency food and water and other donations will be Bangladeshi.


  4. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Bangladesh: On compassion and state boundaries

  5. It’s people like Maruti Turbo who makes us Bangladeshis feel like shit, sometimes. Believe me, Abdul, not all Bangladeshis are this narrowminded and suspicious.

    Thank you for your compassion and concern for Bangladesh.


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