Rafed English

The basis of Social Co-operation

The delicate feelings and emotions that illuminate the panorama of life in the form of various forms of kindness, help and assistance to one's fellow beings belong to the sublimest of human motives. It is this feeling that intensely affects the human heart on witnessing the sufferings, hardships and afflictions of others and prepares it for all kinds of self-sacrifice and self-denial.

It is an undeniable fact that pleasure and pain, suffering and joy, poverty and prosperity are an inalienable part of man's life. But fortunately many of these sufferings, misfortunes, and afflictions, with all the bitterness and burden they entail, are remediable, and their causes, which blacken the horizon of the lives of the afflicted, like dark and inauspicious clouds, can be cleared with mutual assistance.

Man is not merely a living organism but the bearer of the universal message of goodness, wisdom, beauty, and human worthiness. The mutual relations of human beings with one another should be based on sincere reciprocal sympathy, love and co-operativeness, not on the basis of ostentation, expedience and a businesslike attitude. The solution of life's problems is impossible without forgiveness, sacrifice, and kindness to fellowmen in critical moments, for sympathy, self-sacrifice and mutual forgiveness are among the pillars of the edifice of social life, which is based on co-operation.

Those, individuals or groups, who have such a spirit in social conduct attain to their full maturity. Those who have concern for life should, in the first place, render it service and play a dear and definite role in the creation of a strong and healthy society. The higher the degree of emotional maturity of persons and the more developed their social outlook, the more will they be attentive to one another's interests. A positive and sympathetic thinking about others, as a mark of developed humanity, will help create a wholesome environment for a better life for the individual. The social sciences prove that true self-interest involves concern for others, co-operativeness, and sympathy.

There is a saying which says, "You receive with the same hand that you give." How can one who does not sow the seeds of benevolence reap the fruit of kindness? Accordingly, one's social outlook and ethos constitute the basis of one's human merit and the criterion of the individual's personality.

On the contrary, the absence of such a spirit in individuals and groups is a sign of backwardness and lack of social maturity. Their indifference, unconcern, and lack of the sense of moral responsibility are symptoms of a psychological disorder and sickness, as much as they are marks of social immaturity. They do not perceive the relatedness of their own lives to the happiness and welfare of others. Such a society resembles a ship sinking in a storm at sea, where everyone tries to save his own life.

To be sure, the habits of sacrifice, forgiveness, and altruism are not easily acquired. One thinker says

Altruism is difficult at first, but the further we advance on this path the greater becomes our capacity for it, as if benevolent acts were mothers which in the course of time give birth to numerous offsprings!

This is a fact. Serving the people and sacrificing for their sake is hard for someone who is selfish and self-centred, who greedily wants everything for himself and is willing to sacrifice everything in order to attain his own ends. Every effort and endeavour involves discomfort, even thought and understanding. There are different forms of effort. One kind of effort gives vision, broadens the horizons of thought, leads man to truth and the knowledge of the world's realities, helping him obtain the highest rewards in the Hereafter. The other kind of effort leads man into deviance and alienates him from reality. An effort that constantly enlarges the circle of self-interest with no reasonable limits will lead to the dissolution of the inner faculties that govern man's moral conduct.

There are many persons who consider themselves as being endowed with feeling and emotion; they are dismayed at witnessing the misfortunes and afflictions of others. But they are not willing to make any commitment involving responsibility. They shun any responsibility that may fall upon them and which involves helping the needy in a monetary or some other manner, or requires some effort on their part, or involves foregoing a part of their pleasures. The reason behind such an attitude is that they have not wanted to get used to even small and simple duties that could prepare them for more significant tasks.

To feel the grief and suffering of others is a good and admirable thing. But what is the use of it if that does not lead to action and cannot lighten the burden of those who suffer? What benefit can humanity derive from dormant feelings that hide in the heart and have no effect whatsoever on real life? Mere goodwill for human life is not sufficient. Genuine goodness inevitably involves action.

Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"

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