The Injustice of Society's Attitude Toward Suffering

by phil on Saturday Mar 13, 2004 11:37 AM
classism, suffering

They say that money doesn't buy happiness, and yet they ridicule the rich when they suffer.

People believe that having things that others covet denies the right to suffering. When middle-class teenagers complain about boredom, disillusionment, and angst, they are laughed at by society. And then when a coal-miner is in the muck all day and comes home to a family who can't afford healthcare, his suffering is noble. He is allowed to cling mightily to his church and family, and thus he does not feel guilty for living life in pain.

I believe that the true statement is the first one: money doesn't buy happiness. In other words, suffering does not discriminate by relative social position.

Most of my audience is in the group of higher social position. You most likely have high-speed Internet access and a level of sophistication that enables you to understand the contents of this site.

When people of our class suffer, they feel they have a petty disease that must be eliminated. So they pop their pills and they go to expensive therapy, anxious to remove this mark of weakness.

This weakness is an illusion though. Regardless of how small or how large the objective contents of suffering are, the subjective experience is ultimately what matters. A welfare mom's hunger is a Malibu child's social inadequacy. A shivering Russian factory-worker is a suicidal New York stock-broker.

You can help stanch this injustice of bias. When someone suffers in a way that you cannot understand, try to see beyond the confusion and into their raw pain, regardless of their relative position to yours. Don't let jealousy tamper with compassion.

Recognize that wealth or dearth, prettiness or ugliness, intelligence or ignorance, and charismatic or hermetic are all abstract human objects. Those objects never translate directly into neuron impulses of hurt. There is nothing in our nerves that comprehends external levels of possession.

Unfortunately, society has biases that won't allow certain people to suffer. However, you are not society. You are an individual and don't ever have to feel guilty for suffering.

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