“Why are people who have nothing willing to give so much?”

If you’re reading this, then you’re part of the one third of our population who is lucky enough to have Internet access.

As technology has been rapidly expanding over the years, especially within first-world countries, we have welcomed it with open arms and not only that, we allow our minds to be consumed by it to the point where it influences our thoughts and behaviour. In the richest countries, where we have the most power to change the world, it seems that our concerns turn away from poverty and war.

Instead, we are brainwashed by the media, paying attention to matters that are of little or no significance. And how convenient for the politicians that we can never put our phones down. I’m not saying that technology doesn’t have its benefits, but I think the devices that are used to control our mentalities will be the cause of our downfall.

In our more economically developed country, we tend to own something of monetary value. We tend to own many things. Once we get bored of these materialistic items, we discard them and buy new ones. We crave them. We believe that we need them. And so the cycle continues.

Now, for someone who has lost everything, for someone who does not own any possessions, what do they value? I think at such a point, one will discover the truth. From their struggle, they can identify with those who also experience hardship, and therefore, their level of empathy increases towards other human beings. They will understand the difference between necessities and luxuries. They will realise the importance of intrinsic values. Once this understanding comes about, they will know that we are not separate entities, and therefore, we must demonstrate compassion until it is an immediate non-action.

There are many videos circulating on the Internet which show an ‘actor’ carrying out a social experiment by pretending to be homeless. It is rarely the well-off citizens who help this person, but rather someone who owns very little. There are two things about this which shock me: the fact that they have no possessions and the immediacy of their compassion.

How do you justify walking past someone who is homeless without giving them any help? I’m in a rush, I don’t have any food or money with me, or perhaps we think that we have earned our lifestyle as we are entitled to it, are we not? But I think the most prominent factor is fear. We may feel nervous approaching a stranger, or weary as to how the person will spend the money. Surely, we could donate to a non-profit organisation who would use the money for appropriate resources. Maybe we don’t do this, at least as often as we should, because then there is no real sense of urgency and no evidence of the help you’ve given. Maybe we want the direct gratification in order to satisfy our selfish ego.

For so long, we have acted as though poverty is normal to the point where it actually feels normal. There is them, and there is me. We may feel guilt, but we accept the situation as it is. We expect there to be homeless people on every other street corner. But it is not normal. It is not okay. It is unhumane. We act separately instead of together. We have a distorted mentality that we can’t help the world. We want to wait until we can fix the problem for everybody, so we end up doing nothing for anybody. When really, we need to do something for somebody, regardless of how small it is.

So, what are we going to do about it?

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

― Albert Einstein