Why so like that (Selective compassion and apathetic ignorance)


In Dawn‘s latest blog, she wrote about her thoughts on the sudden flurry of help for a few unsterilised cats whose lives are threatened by complaints and the lack of responsible caregivers in their community.

Dawn said:

While I am glad so many people are taking an interest in these cats and wanting to rescue them, it does make me wonder, why these cats in particular? As far as I know, no one knows these cats personally. Here’s my question – what about all the other cats at the AVA that are caught? Why isn’t there a huge outpour of emotion to try and get all of THEM out? Amongst them, there are some unclaimed sterilised cats too, which means that at some point in their lives, they did get some care – they were sterilised after all. There are also even more unsterilised cats whom no one has ever taken care of. Why aren’t people asking for these cats to be released?

I feel very deeply with this sentiment. This is the comment I left on the post:

I think it’s a common human affliction.

All that outpouring of grief for Ah Meng and her granddaughter Atina, but no one’s raising as much as a whimper at what the orang utans in Indonesia are threatened with.

Same as with whale slaughter – NZ only specifically requested the Japanese whaling fleet to leave Migaloo the white Humpback alone when they announced they were going to kill 50 humpbacks this season as well. Why only Migaloo? Aren’t the “normal” humpbacks just as deserving of a reprieve? What about the 50 to 70 highly endangered Fin whales, and 1,000++ little piked whales the Japanese kill year after year after year?

The beef recall that resulted from the downer cattle abuse also – I got an sms and also an email calling for a boycott of US beef. But the abuse is not unique to the slaughterhouse or at this time. It’s been ongoing for so long. Mad cow has been around the block too. And so has bird flu and assorted farm animal epidermics. But people still eat beef and farm animals, and people still don’t care how they’re getting their meat, that factory farming is a problem and they are contributing to it.

Carmen the dog featured in that TODAY commentary is another good example. People went all out to help look for her when she got lost. But why didn’t people do things that would prevent other dogs from going through what she did in the first place? Why so eager to help her, but not other dogs?

After all the protestations of affection, and the outpouring of grief and assorted emotions, life resumes, and it’s as if all the browbeating and breast hammering didn’t take place. And all the abuse and cruelty resumes and keeps happening, until another bout of outcry and outrage. It’s like a merry-go-round that won’t stop.

Why are humans like that? How can we differentiate and compartmentalise our feelings so clearly and so distinctly? I’m sure there’s a scientific name for this condition.

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