Nigel Bamber

Head of Structural Analysis, Caterham F1 Team

This conversation is closed.

Have you signed the Charter for Compassion, and if not, why not?

The Charter for Compassion was opened for people to affirm in November 2009.
I signed it last night, and was the 88390th person to do so. Tonight it is up to 88429.
Nearly 1/2 a million people have watched Karens' TED talk announcing the Charter.
So why haven't more people signed it?
Perhaps you didn't know about it? I've only just found it out of over a thousand TED talks. Perhaps you watched the talk, but were too busy to look at the charter website? Perhaps you took a dislike to Karen?
I hope there wasn't anyone who didn't sign because they are opposed to the idea of compassion!
Maybe you are a non-believer and thought it was only a religious thing. It's not.
Read it. It asks you affirm a principle which is at the heart of secular codes of morality as well as religious ones, a principle which may be hard wired into our brains.

So have you signed it? Have a look at the charter itself (ignore the talks, all the other stuff on the charter website) and if you can't sign, please tell me why. What would have to be different for you to accept it!

There are 1.2 million TED community members. Let's see if we can give the charter a boost and stand up and be counted in the process?

  • thumb
    Jul 26 2012: I didn't know about it until you brought it to my attention. I've signed. Thank you
    • thumb
      Jul 26 2012: Lawren,

      You've just made my day!


  • Jul 13 2012: Morally how can one "love one's enemy" if said enemy has proven that they do not respect the Golden Rule? How can you continue to show compassion to those who have shown and continue to show no compassion for others?

    The Golden Rule is a guideline for treating people with compassion. It does not ask for continued compassion where no compassion can be found.

    I would say the Golden Rule really should be stated as "Treat your neighbour as well as he is willing to treat you and others." If you both follow this you then can live harmoniously.

    I do not look at someone I have not met or heard about as a person to be looked down on; however, I will not consentually be "nice" to someone whom I know to, or has been proven to, have done things morally aborent to me. You do not be "nice" to the serial rapist.

    I will be compassionate to friends and strangers alike but I will not let that sway my morals when it comes to the lack therof. This is why I cannot sign the Charter for Compassion.
    • thumb
      Jul 26 2012: Hi Stephen,
      It's taken a long time and a lot of thinking, before I felt able to reply to your comment.
      I once listened to a lecture give by a United Nations historian on the history of the organisation. He said that he felt that the quest for Justice was preventing peace from being established in most of the worlds troublespots. People would not draw a line under a dispute until the scales of justice were balanced and it was entirely subjective who had tipped the scales of justice first, and by how much. They could not be balanced in everyones eyes at the same time.
      Let's consider your rapist. Why did they commit the crime? Perhaps they were abused as a child, the scales are already tipped against them. What would the outcome have been if they had been shown more compassion in the past, before the crime? Perhaps they are mentally ill, they did not want to be this way, the scales are already tipped against them. Total lack of empathy (Psychopathy) is a mental condition that is not chosen as a way of life, and so the scales are tipped agsainst the Psychopath from the start. The important thing is to understand the reasons for the crime, try to see that it does not re-occur in the offender, and look to see that new offenders are not made. Demonstrating compassion is not impossible with either of these goals in mind.
      What about the victim? Justice may be demanded by, or on behalf of the victim, but in the case of a rape, the justice will not undo or make reparation for the crime. So is the Justice demanded in fact Revenge? Perhaps what the victim really needs is the compassionate support of the rest of the community, whilst rebuilding their life. This support is usually sadly low in the list of priorities for most legal systems.
      I'm fortunate, I've never experienced a serious offence against my family or friends. Would I be able to practice what I've just said if I did. I don't know. I hope so, and signing the Charter is a part of my effort to ensure I would try.

  • thumb
    Jun 28 2012: Have you ever heard of compassion fatigue. No I will not sign.

    I got more to care about than I can reasonably handle as is.
    • thumb
      Jun 29 2012: Hi Linda,

      Had a look at your link. Is it the case that this isn't so much "compassion fatigue" as "lack of compassion coming back from other people fatigue". Would the care givers' plight be more bearable if they were shown more compassion and support by other people before it got to the compassion fatigue stage?

      Are you in a care giving role? If so,do you think that support from others would help or are you really compassioned out.
      • thumb
        Jun 29 2012: No I am not compassioned out, but I have been in the past. No I do not think it is a lack of compassion from other people. It has to do with boundaries and taking care of yourself.

        Once I understood the limits of my own compassion, I learned to nurture it. As part of that nurturing, I learned to set up boundaries. I guard those boundaries and literally think, "this I will care about and that I won't invest the energy."

        I learned the hard way and I won't make the same mistake again.
        • thumb
          Jun 29 2012: I think, what you are telling us can be summed up in the Serenity Prayer. Is this correct?

          God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
          Courage to change the things I can,
          And wisdom to know the difference.

          I don't know if I'm infringing any copyright by reproducing this here. I've been walloped on copyright infringement in a previous TED posting, but that's another story :-)

          Once again, a religion has put an issue nicely into words, whether there's a God or not. There needs to be some secular poets working on some of this stuff.

          So do you feel that the charter is asking you to take the plight of the whole world on your shoulders? For me, the idea that other people would sign this reduced the feeling that it was all down to me and there was no way I could do anything about it. My own efforts would be insignificant and unimportant.

      • thumb
        Jun 29 2012: Yep, its pretty much like the prayer only you have to realize that sometimes you can't change things because of yourself, not circumstance. And of course it was written by religion, priests were the only ones that could write for thousands of years.

        No I don't think the charter is asking me to take on the world. I don't know how plainer to say it than I got enough to care about.

        I think if you sign it you should do it. Unfortunately it will become a panacea to a bunch of people who feel guilty.
  • thumb
    Jun 27 2012: I have not. The reason is I simply do not agree with the charter. That is not to say I oppose it, but that I know I could not fulfill it.
    • thumb
      Jun 29 2012: Hi Robert,

      I know that I can't fulfil the charter 100%. Already lost my rag at someone who pulled out in front of my car on the way to work, hitting the horn and feeling full of righteous aggrievement. Then I thought, "What am I doing? I signed the Charter for Compassion the other night". It made me feel a right idiot and defused my anger. I should have been working for peace on the road, instead of wanting justice for having been nearly crashed into. For the rest of the journey I was giving way to people on the road all over the place. But the memory of signing the charter will fade. What will happen in a month or twos' time in a similar situation. Perhaps I should have a charter that I sign every evening or week to reinforce the compassionate concept in myself.

      This regular reinforcement of concepts is something that is done very effectively by ritual in lots of religions. There doesn't seem to be an equivalent process in the secular world. Alain de Botton does a very interesting TED talk on the lessons that the secular world can learn from the religeous world.
      • thumb
        Jun 29 2012: It is interesting that you would bring up religion and I find it a valid point as religions do convey various benefits to those that participate. My own religion does not operate in the same manner as most. This pledge is not consistent with my religion thus it makes it very hard for me to "make the pledge". I would have to chose between following the practices that have gotten me to this point and a new set of practices that I have not tested in my life. I do not try to convert people to my religion because one of the things my religion is based upon is the complete understanding that it is not for everyone. So that may bring up the question of do I have compassion that is comparable to what is in the charter? At this point I can not say as I judge my self based only upon the actions I take and not the thoughts I have. In other words I get no points for thinking good thoughts I must do good deeds. So is signing a charter a good deed? In the view of my religion it as I know my actions will not support the charter in full. It would be a kind of deception. Worse it would be a deception without direct purpose.
        • thumb
          Jun 29 2012: Now you have me extremely curious! Would it be too much of an intrusion to ask if you able to tell us something about your religion? If not publically in this forum, them could you PM me?
  • Jul 26 2012: Sorry Nigel.

    The Charter's intro claims it to be above ideology, but it's filled with it.

    Karen says[?], "...we should help make religion a force for harmony."
    To me, "force-&-harmony" stink of a oxymoron.

    Is this gonna end up being another Law (read: "battering-ram)?
    I get the impression that it's saying, "Join our clique, have more power, be cool; because you [little-old 'you'] just aren't important-enough to help on your own."

    I don't believe ANY religion has compassion at its center; I believe they all have a God at their center. This Charter would see those Gods displaced!

    The emoticon on their web site: I believe that's a dark-magic sigil, (or closely-tied to one).

    Karen says "Let's revive the Golden Rule." What is the Godlen Rule: "Do unto others as you'd have them do to you." It seems to be fairly/very close to perfect - (but not good enough). Even the Jewish Torah on One Foot: "That which is hateful to you, do not do..." ...well, seems antithetical to define good "in the negative."
    Perhaps it's egotistical for me to search for something better than TGR, but I search.

    I did try to look around the site at "acts" to do, but found it hard to find anything useful; may try again later.

    The definition(s) of "charter" seem chock-full of legalistic spirit; hardly the stuff of "compassion."
    All-in-all, it tastes too One-World-Governminty.

    Perhaps I am merely reminded of the United Nations Something-Something on the Rights of Children; which I found to espouse "not enough rights."

    I WILL (merely) continue seeking a better life for me & others, without the help of this Charter.

    Edit: I just got to read the rest of the responses - {wow} lots of "No's". I feel bad for you now. Had I known before, I would've been so thorough.
    But it's good to see that you're trying to put it to use out there, and didn't "just sign the Charter." Hope you help others.
    • thumb
      Jul 26 2012: Hi Steve,
      I'm sorry you don't feel able to sign. A lot of your objections seem to focus on the surroundng information on the charter site, rather than the charter itself. I do agree that the arguments in Karens' intros and talks have holes in them, but I felt that the charter itself offered a good tool for the religious and non-religious to find common ground. That's why I asked people to focus on the words of the charter and not the surrounding noise. I saw the logo as the mathematical symbol for infinity, but perhaps that's my scientific background showing through.
      I don't think that God lies at the centre of all religions as there are several religions that don't have a deity :-)
      I do see compassion as being a common thread that could give all people a starting point for peace.
      I've just got my first signing from Lawren above, and this made me feel extremely positive. It's this mutual movement of optimism that I feel the charter could generate, instead of being a clique. A sense that instead of feeling "why bother when everyone else doesn't" people could feel "I'm not the only one that feels this way". Cliques are exclusive, whereas the Charter shouts out to people to be included.
      We've all been stitched up in the past by the small print in legal documents so perhaps calling it a charter brings some of this baggage with it. Perhaps it should be called the Promise, and sealed with a virtual handshake or a kiss. Having to always look carefully at the small print has made us all cynical. Is it possible to look for the good in the charter words themselves, without worrying about being trapped?
      There are a lot of NOs here, but at least no one has said that Compassion itself is a bad idea. :-)
  • thumb
    Jul 1 2012: Howdy y'all. Didn't know about till your question. Don't care to read it so proably won't. Now you know why feel better now. Good
  • Comment deleted

  • thumb
    Jun 28 2012: No I will not sign. I do not believe that signing the Charter makes me any more moral, compassionate, ethical, etc ... I am not a person who needs to join a group to feel good about myself.

    I feel it is more important to be moral, be compassionate, act ethically, etc ... than to sign a feel good pledge.

    All the best. Bob.
    • thumb
      Jun 29 2012: Hi Bob,

      I don't think I signed the Charter to feel good, at least I hope I didn't. What I really crave is to know that there are other people out there who feel the same way about Compassion in society, that I do.
      I am greatly relieved that the three people who have told us so far, that they wouldn't sign, were not opposed to compassion, but all had well thought out reasons for still not wanting to sign.
      In a reply to Robert below, I explained that the Charter acted to me, as a reinforcing reminder of the commitment that I wanted to show to this. I think that seeing other people sign would also aid this reinforcement, and hopefully act as a reinforcement back to them.
      Living up to the Charter is hard for me, and I imagine, for a lot of other people too. Just someone else saying "me too" would make it a lot easier. There is a lot of evidence that Humans' are basically copying creatures.
      If we could get several million people to publicly shout that compassion is a very important social objective for them, how many more people would this encourage to start thinking about the issue.
      So how about signing on these terms?

      You are right, of course, the Charter is worthless if the people who commit do not try to be moral, compassionate and act ethically as well, and they can do that without signing.