I assume that the majority of people on this site, like me, follow a vegan lifestyle because they see it as the most compassionate and respectful way to live, and to treat both people and other species. That is why I thought it was relevant to discuss the nature of compassion and empathy, and why there seems to be so little of it in the world, or nowhere near enough, at any rate. I always remember the line from that old song: "What the world needs now is love, sweet love/That's the only thing that there's just too little of." It sounds like a corny, saccharine sentiment, but if you really examine it, you see the truth of it!
I often find it depressing going on websites such as Facebook these days, because of the increasing number of posts relating to some form of animal abuse. I never realised before how many sadists and sickos there are in the world. So many horror stories now.... There seems to be a worldwide epidemic of cruelty and sadism, to both animals and to people. So many cases of companion animals like cats and dogs being tortured, mutilated and killed, never mind the horrors that routinely go on in slaughterhouses, intensive farms, fur farms, etc. More and more too, of these "crush" video websites/pages seem to be springing up (for those not familiar with the term, it is where a small animal, eg a cat or a rabbit, is crushed to death by a woman in stilettos, for the sick, perverted "enjoyment" of certain viewers).There are more too of these illegal dogfighting rings, not to mention paedophile rings, and the two activities are just different expressions of the same psychopathology, I am convinced. Both are related to power and taking a sadistic enjoyment out of suffering. Why? What is wrong with people who can take pleasure in the suffering of another?
I am sure it is no coincidence that we have seen this epidemic of cruelty and sadism over the last few years which has grown in tandem with the credit crunch and the world's financial crises. I feel that the increase in human cruelty and sadism is something to do with the deep dissatisfactions people have with their lives, and their emotions become correspondingly cut off, disconnected. There are some people who seem to have no empathy naturally. But I also think that some people get hardened by certain events and experiences, and their capacity for empathy diminishes. They get to be kind of way past caring, about anyone or anything. One of the explanations behind the social problems we had in Britain last year, the riots and looting in London and other cities in the summer of 2011, was that the youth who were doing it (it was mostly youth) said that they felt "disconnected"; no sense of community, etc, which was why they didn't care. I think that is what happens with people who abuse animals or other people; it is some kind of deep unhappiness, a lack of connection with life, making them do it. Not that that excuses it!
Sadly I think it is relatively easy for someone to become desensitised to violence, pain and suffering if they are exposed to enough of it. After a while they begin to perceive it as normal. You have only to look at what goes on in China, for example, the way they treat both animals and people! What can be done about it? To quote a friend of mine: "It is such a big subject also intractable. Although the solution seems simple, people just behave with more love & respect & compassion, it is easier said than done." That's true enough; if it was so easy to change, we would not have all the violence and cruelty that we have in the world.
My belief though is that if more people were follow some kind of spiritual discipline like yoga or meditation which calms their mind, and makes them feel connected to Source, as it is known, that would then help to solve a lot of the world's problems. Since, it is my belief that so many of these problems stem from a lack of "connection", for want of a better phrase. It may sound foolishly naïve, but if everyone felt "connected", I am sure there would be no killing, violence and suffering in the world, we would all be vegan, and live in compassion, harmony and peace.