Bernard Mandeville

Fable of the Bees,

 1723

The nearer the object is the more we suffer, and the more remote it is the less we are troubled with it. To see people executed for crimes, if it is a great way off, moves us but little, in comparison to what it does when we are near enough to see the motion of the soul in their eyes, observe their fears and agonies, and are able to read the pangs in every feature of the face. When we hear that three or four thousand men, all strangers to us, are killed with the sword, or forced into some river where they are drowned, we say and perhaps believe that we pity them. It is humanity bids us have compassion with the sufferings of others, and reason tells us that whether a thing be far off or done in our sight, our sentiments concerning it ought to be the same, and we should be ashamed to own that we felt no commiseration in us when any thing requires it. But when men talk of pitying people out of sight, they are to be believed in the same manner as when they say that they are our humble servants. Those who have a strong and lively imagination, and can make representations of things in their minds, as they would be if they were actually before them, may work themselves up into something that resembles compassion; but this is done by art, and often the help of a little enthusiasm, and is only an imitation of pity; the heart feels little of it, and it is as faint as what we suffer at the acting of a tragedy, where our judgment leaves part of the mind uninformed.

Angelina Jolie

Speech at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Governors Awards,

 2013

I came into this business young and worried about my own pain. And it was only when I began to travel and look and live beyond my home that I began to understand my responsibility to others. And when I met survivors of war and famine and rape, I learned what life is like for most people in this world. And how fortunate I was to have food to eat, a roof over my head, a safe place to live, and the joy of having my family safe and healthy. I realized how sheltered I had been, and I was determined never to be that way again. We are all, everyone in this room, so fortunate. I have never understood why some people are lucky enough to be born with the chance I had, to have this path in life, and why across the world there’s a woman just like me, with the same abilities and the same desires, same work ethic and love for her family, who would most likely make better films and better speeches, only she sits in a refugee camp, and she has no voice. She worries about what her children will eat, how to keep them safe, and if they’ll ever be allowed to return home. I don’t know why this is my life and that’s hers. I don’t understand that, but I will do the best I can with this life to be of use.

Related Reads