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Karen Armstrong argues for practical compassion

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I think another interesting fact is that many of the people who have come forward to help me have been businessmen. In Pakistan, for example, a leading business consultant has adapted my book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, as a course for compassionate business. Google is way up in front on this – they recognize that if they treat their employees more compassionately, they get better results. They’ve looked into the abyss of 2008, when selfishness was allowed to run riot and proved disastrous for the economy. This is a very interesting development, a key one, because politicians are not going to be deflected from their course by somebody like me; they listen to business.

Bruce: They certainly do in this country.

Armstrong: They do everywhere now, because the market runs modern society. So that is the way we have to go. Next year in Seattle, for example, we’re going to have a conference on business and compassion.

 Bruce: Are there examples of governments that have officially shown support of the charter?

Armstrong: The Compassionate Cities campaign is an important development in this regard. What it’s doing is taking this ideal, which could sound New Age-like and perhaps even self-indulgent, and inserting it into the gritty reality of city life. It’s no good just sitting in a glade being compassionate to somebody – it’s got to go into the cities. There are about 80 cities going through the process, as well as universities and schools. Part of where we may have to go – to be quite realistic – is to shame governments into it. If they find other cities being compassionate, saying, “Why aren’t you doing this?” they might be persuaded to begin making changes.

Bruce: Once cities affirm the charter, what concrete steps would you like to see them take in order to implement positive social change?

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