2007 - Most Philosophical - 6th grader in America:

Andris Bibelnieks, Minnesota.

Violence or Compassion: Which has a greater impact on society?

      Violence has a greater impact on society than compassion. The effects of violence are visible. Violence gets people's attention which leads to awareness and action. Violence is a catalyst for compassion.

      If one is asked to name events which have had significant impact on society and how people function within a society, the events that come to mind are war, murder, crime of various degrees, and atrocities against groups of people or events which significantly impact animal populations or the natural resources of the earth. The reactions and consequences of these types of violent events are always far reaching. Wars divide countries into those in support of war and those opposed. War divides the population within a country and furthermore, within the country's societies into citizens who either support or oppose the war. This creates tension, disagreement, and visible debate as to what policies the society should enact to deal with the consequences of the war. Laws and rules are enacted to control society and its actions. Crimes, for example the threat of a serial rapist at large in St. Paul, and other atrocities against human life results in not being able to move freely about their community, feeling fearful for their children and family, and feeling like prisoners in their own houses or neighborhoods. In contrast, compassion allows to us to go about our business as usual. Those that commit compassionate acts are viewed as good citizens and models for others that are often rewarded for their acts. However, most of the time compassionate acts are short lived in the public's eye. They might find their way into the newspaper, but it certainly isn't on the front page the next day.
      Compassion usually results in the reaction "oh, wasn't that wonderful" or an outpouring of thanks or gratitude. No one responds to compassion by suggesting new legislation to protect citizens from uncompassionate acts or to require people to engage in compassionate acts. Violence, on the other hand, seems to call people to action to defend against the violence or retaliate against the wrong doers. People bond together for a common cause. Organizations and groups are formed to ensure that action is taken to prevent further violence from happening. Once formed, these organizations tend to continue to grow in size and membership, even after the violence has passed and hence have a lasting presence in society to make sure the violence doesn't happen again.

       Violence is a catalyst for compassion. If a box sits in the corner of a closet, taped shut and unopened, it is often forgotten. The contents of the box are disregarded or not considered important. It is only when the box is opened that society takes interest into what was in the box and society begins to judge what was in the box. If the box contains something that is bad for society or is harmful, people are more likely to react and take action to correct the situation. Compassion rarely is what opens the box. Violence is more often the way the box is opened. For example, war or atrocities against large groups of people opens the box. Society becomes immediately aware of the situation of the people involved or the victims of the crimes through all of the different types of media. The awareness leads to compassion and often great acts of compassion or try and remedy the situation of the less fortunate individuals or societies. Hence, without the violence, there would be no compassion for those individuals or societies.

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