Friday, January 09, 2009

The death of kindness

A reader of my book wrote in to me with the link to this article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Love thy neighbour. The article states, “Kindness has gone out of fashion. In the age of the rampant free market and the selfish gene, compassion is seen as either narcissism or weakness.”

The article adds:

“Most people, as they grow up now, secretly believe that kindness is a virtue of losers.

"There is nothing we feel more consistently deprived of than kindness; the unkindness of others has become our contemporary complaint. Kindness consistently preoccupies us, and yet most of us are unable to live a life guided by it.

People placed under unremitting pressure become estranged from each other. Like the bullied child who bullies others in turn, individuals coerced by circumstances become coercers. Sympathies contract as open-heartedness begins to feel too exposed. Paranoia blossoms as people seek scapegoats for their unhappiness. Such scapegoating is a self-betrayal because it involves sacrificing our kindness.”


We spend a large part of our lives at our workplaces, which are dictatorship systems. The emotions this system produces – fear, anger, paranoia, and so on – are bound to spill over into our non-working lives. As the research I’ve quoted in my book shows, people bullied turn into bullies themselves. Those bullied at the office can bring their anger home, bullying those less powerful than themselves.

It sounds a bit of a stretch to say that the dictatorship system is to blame for the lack of kindness and compassion in our lives, but I would say that it’s at least partly to blame.

(If you have any comments, please email me at You can get more information about my book and reader comments at