To enlarge our Sympathies: The Task before us .?

by Rev. Uche Dr. Obodoechina

Concerned with the well-ordering of the society and the common good G. J. Warnock in his, 'The Object of Morality, (1971, 17), remarked among other things that the 'human predicament is inherently such that things are liable to go badly'. Lamentably he enumerated five deplorable factors capable of making things actually go bad in any human society.

These factors are as follows: limited resources, limited information, and limited intelligence. Others include limited rationality and limited sympathies'. Of great relevance for us and for the Nigerian society today is the fact of our limited sympathies.

It is the Ausgangspunkt of this reflection that the situation of poverty and hunger in Nigeria with the recurrent issues of insecurity and systemic corruption, anarchy, lawlessness and lack of due process, would experience a dramatic change for the better, if one tenth of the Nigeria population are agreed to expand their sympathies for the good of all.

Warnock was of the ardent conviction that the entire object of morality is the expansion of human sympathies, nothing more and nothing less. What then does expansion of human sympathies mean in our context?

Expansion of sympathies would ordinarily mean creating a space for the other and recognizing the status of each and every member of the society as being equal. It means also giving each man or woman his or her fair share of the national cake. It is a conviction that the society belongs to all of its members.

It is a deep-fellow-feeling for the other. It shuns selfishness. The welfare of each and every member of the society is the preoccupation of such a moral revolution. Extending our limited sympathies would imply putting our lives on the line for the good of all. It is not living at the expense of anyone.

Rather, it shows the largeness of the heart in concrete human actions capable of touching and transforming the lives of others. It undertakes an enormous volume of pains and sacrifices for the good of all. The philosophy of expanding our limited sympathies is a powerful instrument in the transformation process of any society.

In this way, it deals also with the reformation of the heart. The reformation, when it succeeds, leads gradually to a real moral revolution in the innermost part of the human heart and bears the external fruits of harmony among the people of any society. The moral revolution involved is a radical one.

But our Nigerian society is one with a difference. It suffers from limited sympathies. The issue of the Common Good is a theory. Hardness of the heart is experienced daily in our social intercourse. There is this mentality of winner takes it all, the rest of men and women can perish. Selfishness is the order of the day.

Each man seeks whom to cheat and confuse. It is akin to the state of Nature described by Hobbes. The State of Nature is one where everyone is an enemy. It is about the survival of the fittest. Morality is thrown to the winds. The end justifies the means. For the mighty, the sympathies should not be expanded.

For them the joy of being mighty is the fact that there are men and women of the same society who are absolutely on the ground. They are condemned to a life of poverty and misery. They do not need to rise again.

At best, they can eke out a miserable existence in their condemned corner of the society. For the people who think and live in the way of limited sympathies, the expansion of concern and love for the other in the dynamics of social justice is today an imperative.

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