Written by Anne Kingston.
In February, Canadians received a rude wake-up call about the lack of compassion of some Ontarians. After a late-night Amber Alert chimed on cellphones signalling the abduction of 11-year-old Riya Rajkumar, some people turned to social media, not to express concern for a child in peril (Rajkumar was later found murdered), but to vent about having their sleep disturbed. Others called 911 to complain, jamming lines for people with real emergencies. The angry blowback to the blowback was swift. Yet an identical cycle was unleashed during another Amber Alert a few months later (happily, the three-year-old boy was found safe).
The selfish reaction to the alert was upheld as more proof of dwindling societal empathy, of “me-first” narcissism, of the further tattering of the social contract that citizens share. The reaction to the reaction was telling, too—reflexive judgment, mockery and name-calling. The entire dust-up serves as a microcosm of a far bigger conflict now playing out: the urgent call for compassion as the last-gasp remedy for systems on the brink—politics, health care, civil society, the planet itself.
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