Being humane while we intend to do good

Photo by Suraphat Nuea-on on

How far can our intention to do good go and what form can it take? Our black and white ideologies offer simplification and clarity, but may not always be humane. What steps are we taking to keep our good selves in check? What’s our moral compass saying now, and tomorrow, and day after? How fast are our perspectives changing and how are we acting on them? Are we hearing the voice of those we are making decisions for? Are we really helping someone or are we just executing our ideologies because we can?

“Little things done with love are much better than big things without love.”  ― Lailah Gifty AkitaPearls of Wisdom: Great mind

It is hard to imagine the rigidity of our world but a series called Black Mirror does it for us. One of its episodes called White Bear shows a contemporary society, how technology’s effect on people’s empathy has given rise to vigilantism that has a twisted idea of justice and punishment. Another series called Manhunt Unabomber, tells a story of Ted Kaczynski who after witnessing the destruction of the wildland surrounding his cabin, concluded that living in nature was untenable and began his bombing campaign.

It’s a two-way street. An individual has as much effect on the society as the society has on the individual. So, who’s really responsible? We all are. Collective social responsibility requires community participation. Following are some examples where socially progressive individuals or countries have taken bold and kind steps to be humane to those with varied degrees of criminal backgrounds.

  • In April 1994, a ten-day Vipassana course for over a thousand inmates was held inside the confines of Tihar Prison in New Delhi, the capital of India. The course was conducted by Mr. and Mrs. S.N. Goenka, with 13 assistant teachers. This was the largest Vipassana course to be held in modern times, inside or outside of a jail.
  • In Scandinavia, a Danish Prison and Probation Service and architecture firm CF Møller have designed what they’re calling the world’s “most humane” maximum security prison.
  • When Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, USA, opened more than 180 years ago,  this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners.
  • At my time with Toastmasters in New Jersey, I learnt that the Toastmasters Gavel Club there visits the Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) facilities for mentoring, as volunteers in these correction facilities.

First or second, a chance is something we all deserve, don’t we? So do developing countries setting ambitious national targets to tackle climate change. How do our perspective about these countries change when we realize that their banks are funding coal? Aren’t they trying enough already? Who’s counting? In a study published in 2014, scientists revealed a ‘fair system’ for countries to tackle climate change.

Perhaps we need more than just a chance, we need help, we need resources. Human rights is also a part of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Are we heeding to the feedback and changing our corporate social strategies? Many corporations are helping refugees and helping people in disaster struck areas. Microsoft and the UN Human Rights Office are developing cloud technologies and data analytics in new ways to expand and improve protection of human rights around the world. Open source technologies for instance encourage collaboration, a decentralized way of sharing knowledge so that everyone can contribute and together make the world a better place.

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