2007 — National 4th Place Winner:
Alissa Perman, Virginia.
Compassion or Violence?
No matter how horrific the destruction of violence, compassion will always have a greater impact on society. Compassion is the grace of humanity that sustains life through violence. Compassion brings meaning to life. It is the relief. After all, there are not many things that are more universally beautiful than the eye of the storm.
From a young age, children are taught that violence is wrong. As they grow up, these children craft their own moral codes. We have all crafted our own opinions about which actions are "wrong" and which are "right." I have come to believe that senseless violence is wrong. However, the definition of "senseless" is subjective. I think that a senseless action is any action that the one perceiving it cannot relate to. Senseless violence is violence that I, the observer, do not believe is warranted. Our government takes the same type of viewpoint. For instance, murder is a serious crime, but not if it is self defense.
Morals are abstract. Is it not actions that truly affect society? Morals are the basis of actions. Aristotle said that a person can be happy when his actions over his lifetime are in accordance with his virtues. So if the majority of people believe that compassion is virtuous and violence is not, the majority of people will strive to be compassionate and to avoid violence if possible.
Violence, though not taught as a virtue, will always exist because virtues tend to conflict. For instance, a parent may spank a child. The parent believes that violence is wrong. Yet the parent also believes that is it virtuous to teach the child right from wrong and spanking the child is what they perceive to be the best way of doing that. Still, the child seeks approval from the parent. Approval is a way for the parent to show compassion. Experiencing compassion is the child's goal. Compassionate actions are universally appreciated.
The great religions also place strong emphasis on compassion over violence. Such words as grace, redemption, and mercy are used to describe compassion and God's goodness. Religion is highly influential. Religion encourages compassion, not violence.
Kierkegaard said that religion is the only thing that can save people from despair. The goal of violence is suffering and suffering leads to despair. Compassion is one of religions greatest virtues. So I would conclude that compassion can save people from violence. Compassion is the long sought after break from inevitable violence that stems from conflicting virtues and opinions. Senseless violence will always cause destruction. Yet complete decimation has not yet occurred. Therefore, compassion must prevail for not only had it balanced violence and saved humanity as so far but it had overcome violence. We know this is true because we are alive. The eye of the storm, the break from destruction, and the appeal of virtue and goodness are still universally beautiful.
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