When Conscience Dies, Eyes Go Blind, and Ears Deaf

A man who picks a small kitten up from the middle of the road to protect it from being crushed…

A woman who buys something to eat for a child she realizes is hungry…

While watching similar scenes, most of us come to a realization; although many people see that kitten or child, very few actually feel the need to do something about it.

If you ask those people who just carry on their way regardless after seeing such a kitten or child, ‘Why did you not do anything?’ you will probably receive some quite reasonable replies, in addition to impassive ones. Some would say that they had to get to school or work; some others would say that it is unhealthy to touch a stray animal or that approaching a child could be risky in terms of safety. Although their excuses may seem quite reasonable and acceptable at first sight, it is still not possible to say that such people have behaved properly. 

Most people today may think that following their own logic in the face of events is the proper thing to do. However, logic generally tells us not to spend our money but to save it instead, not to fatigue ourselves, not to trust other people and not to endanger our own comfort and well-being. The proper thing to do is actually to heed one’s conscience.

Conscience is a spiritual feature bestowed on everyone, without exception, that tells them the best way to think and behave and that allows people to make healthy judgments and to distinguish right from wrong. Everyone, be they a believer, irreligious, atheist, conservative or secularist, is created with a conscience. What differentiates one person from another is the extent to which he makes use of it.

Aid provided for refugees is one of the important indicators of this. The toddler Aylan, who lost his life with his family while trying to cross to Greece and whose lifeless body washed up on the shore, is the latest example of failure to use one’s conscience.

Aylan might have been instrumental in stirring people’s consciences, but according to the official web site of the Spanish aid agency Accion contra el Hambre, 12.2 million Syrians, including five million children, are in need of humanitarian aid.[i] So what is the current situation in the world in the face of so many people in need?

Turkey is making a huge effort to help more than two million Syrians it is currently hosting on its soil. However, it is not possible to say that Europe, with vast means at its disposal, is implementing such a constructive policy as Turkey. Although the leadership of some European countries appears to be recalcitrant about this matter, Germany has recently announced that it will admit 30,000 more refugees, and France 24,000.[ii]

Government spokesmen and politicians in Europe generally prefer to give statements glossing over their policies toward refugees. Some even use discriminatory and more or less openly hateful language from time to time.

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and security Policy, is one of those who state that they should be acting in the light of logic, rather than conscience. Instead of focusing on the troubles of the refugees, Mogherini speaks of “...the need to take steps in the face of concerns of ending up a minority in our own Europe”.[iii] The position of other European leaders is no different to that of Mogherini. For example, Hungarian Prime Minister Orban wants the refugees to remain in Turkey since “Turkey is a safe country.” The interesting thing however is the effort to portray the ruthless attitude embodied by saying “The humanitarian and moral thing needing to be done is to say please do not come” as a moral necessity.[iv]

However, there are also Europeans, such as the Icelandic author Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir, who do heed the voice of their consciences. On his social media page on Facebook, Bjorgvinsdottir has started a campaign called ‘Syria is calling’ demanding that the Icelandic government admit more Syrian refugees to Iceland. The number of people supporting the campaign exceeded 10,000 within 24 hours. In addition to people offering to help by volunteering to welcome Syrian refugees into their homes, helping them adapt to life in Iceland by offering language lessons, the campaign also involves donations of clothing, toys and furniture.[v]

Bjorgvinsdottir is a living example of how conscience is a spiritual feature that tells people the best way to think and behave and that allows them to make healthy judgments and to distinguish right from wrong. 

Everyone, Muslim, Christian, conservative, atheist, nationalist or secularist, is created with a conscience. What makes one person differ from another is the extent to which he uses that conscience. In other words, when someone who steals, kills or acts immorally does so, it is not because he has no conscience, but because he has failed to heed it. The fact that everyone, from Paris to Budapest, from Istanbul to Berlin, knows, thanks to his conscience, exactly where and what he needs to do, is not enough by itself to make people moral: To be moral, one has to have will, intelligence, patience and determination.

In order for someone to always be on the side of right and capable of using his conscience, he must strive to always act in the manner that this conscience indicates. He must avoid actions that might erode his conscience. He must not act out of self-interest by saying “Sometimes one has to act logically.” He must not be apathetic, even though he knows full well what the proper course of action is, by saying, “Am I the only rational person around?” He must not forget that even a tiny drop in the ocean is valuable, rather than saying, “What good can I do?”

One of the things Europe needs most of all is more people who realize that fact. That attitude based on narrow self-interest, a view far too prevalent in many countries on that ageing continent, needs to quickly be replaced by an attitude based on sharing and altruism; one that treats people – all people - with love and affection.

What Europe needs most in order to grow stronger, to expand and be united is not a joint constitution or a common defense organization, but conscience. On the day that people heed the voice of their conscience over the stirrings of their selfish feelings, the world will become a much more tolerable place to live in.


[1] https://www.accioncontraelhambre.org/es/blog/crisis-de-refugiados-sirios-necesitan-nuestra-ayuda
[2] http://www.milliyet.com.tr/ab-turkiye-yi-guvenli-ulke-ilan/dunya/detay/2113999/default.htm
[3] http://www.sabah.com.tr/gundem/2015/09/05/avrupa-liderlerinden-aylana-vicdansiz-tepkiler
[4] http://www.amerikaninsesi.com/content/orbandan-turkiyede-kalin-cagrisi/2945232.html
[5] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/iceland/11835537/10000-Icelanders-offer-to-house-Syrian-refugees-after-authors-call.html

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2015-09-24 21:45:38

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