Karen Armstrong is a former Catholic nun, a scholarly theologian and a bestselling author of books on comparative religion and the history of religions - and of God. In her short book A Letter to Pakistan, and a larger version of it, she focuses on compassion. She has also prepared a Charter for Compassion and an international network, which came out of the fact that she in 2008 was awarded the prestigious annual award by TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design). Other winners have included former President Bill Clinton, the scientist E.O. Wilson and the British Chef Jamie Oliver. The duty of the winner is to (continue) working for a better world. No problem, of course, for Karen, but then she was encouraged to concretise her efforts following the award. Karen always focuses on one simple but, at the same time, so difficult principle, notable the Golden Rule: Do unto others what you want others to do onto you. And she finds it in all religions, and in the six world religions she so often writes about, where human beings seek Dao, Nirvana, Braham or God: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Confucianism. In her preparatory work for the Chapter for Compassion, she received help from a group representing many faiths and traditions. In this article, I will use Karens work as a foundation and aspiration, but I will also branch off and sometimes be quite political. Well, she has also become more political in recent years, or maybe it is just that she, too, gets more impatient with age? I will include my own thoughts, inter alia, related to the natural and manmade disasters we have in Pakistan. This year, five million people are affected by floods in Sindh. First, the basic principle is that we human beings should try to understand fellow human beings. We should try to put ourselves in the place of others, try to feel the pain of others, as Karen would say, and, for that matter, the joy of others, when that may be the case. But do we live by these ideals? Sometimes we do, and some people more than others. And if we dont, then we wish we could. We may also try to learn how to do it, because it is true that concern for others can be learnt, on an individual and an institutional basis. Parents, mothers in particular, try to teach their children to be kind to others - brothers and sisters, schoolmates, friends and everyone else, yes, even animals. We teach our children to share, be helpful, consider the needs of others, and so on. Selfishness is seen as negative. On an everyday basis, I think I see more of this in Asia than in the individualistic Europe, but on a political and structural level, there is more of it within Europe, I think, and also in rural and small town Norway. We adults seem often not to notice the beam in our own eye, but we see the splinter in the eye of our brother. We dont follow our own teachings to children, not on a personal basis, and certainly not on a broader basis in society in a competitive world where the structures are. Indeed, working against our ethical and religious principles, and against socialist and communist principles, for that matter. Marxism is not in fashion in our time, but it may come back, and then hopefully revised, without many of the shortcomings of that ideology, or should we say, ideals and instruments of political analysis. It is also true that the wider economic system of the world, notably capitalism, is not a caring system, taking into consideration the needs of the least, the lowest and the last. It is built on competition and growth, evidenced clearly in recent years when the system is in major difficulties. Those who have to shoulder the cost of the failures in the economic and financial world, the disasters of the 'bubble that burst, are not those at the top of the social and economic ladder, who instigated it all. It is the workers and those who have been turned jobless at the bottom of the ladder; those who had not been promised golden handshakes if things went bad, or given options to buy shares. Why the capitalist system always needs growth is a topic for another article; instead of focusing on continued growth, could we not focus on how to share the enormous resources we after all have? In the 80s and 90s, when things were relatively good, the worlds financial institutions advocated structural adjustment programmes for the developing countries, and they included user fees, i.e. school fees for children, consultation fees at clinics for expecting mothers, and so on, never mind that it affected the poorest of the poor adversely. I worked in Africa that time and we used to say that we sacrificed a generation of young boys and girls because of the economic theories of some cold-blooded experts educated at top universities, without any understanding of the real world. None of these projects succeeded, and Pakistan, for example, cancelled the last of the structural adjustment projects before it was completed. The World Bank has since apologised for what it did. But that does not help much; the harm has already been done to vulnerable people, communities and states. When the geopolitical wars in Afghanistan started in 1979, on New Years Eve no less, when the then Soviet Unions tanks rolled into Kabul, it was not because they wanted to help the poor people there. Ten years later, when the Soviet Union withdrew and collapsed, it was not out of humanitarian considerations that the international community did not help in avoiding the civil war that followed and led to the Taliban rule. And it was not out of pity for women and concern for girls education that the West invaded Afghanistan after 9/11 - 10 years ago this autumn. It was all out of self-interest, in a quest for geopolitical control and competition with other major powers. The Afghans are the victims. At least six million Afghans had to go into exile and become refugees, many of them in Pakistan, creating added difficulties for their poor neighbours. Millions became IDPs in own land; all of this to no fault of their own, the poor, ordinary, beautiful Afghan people. And then, in Pakistan, the war on terror has led to major economic losses and increased problems, with American aid just being a token, and mostly to the army or on paper - and in the newspapers. The social fabric of the State is being shattered, this time not only affecting the poor, but also up to the upper classes. In Pakistan, we have had natural and manmade disasters. The military operations in the tribal areas and in Swat led to uprooting of some two million people, internal refugees or IDPs as we say, becoming an everyday term overnight when it happened. Many have returned, but many are still not back home again. And even if they have gone back, who will ever make a balance sheet of their sufferings, loss of family members and friends, loss of property, and loss of livelihoods and peaceful communities? True, not perfect communities, but what was it all about? We can never make it right again, turn the clock back. What has happened to the refugees and IDPs is irreversible. We can only help carry their burden, and that often means giving sympathy and look for funds from within the country and abroad. Then we have the flood victims, last year and this year. Five million are affected this time. Can we even begin to understand what it is unless we are affected directly, or maybe, if we are aid workers and local government officials? And if we dont speak up for them, we are also accomplices in the further suffering. And if we are aid officials in the UN and the government, but dont fulfil our planning duties, then we also have very serious questions to answer. Sadly, it is true what Karen Armstrong says, that we cannot feel the pain of others. If we could, little of what I have written about in this article would have happened. I would, indeed, have been happy to write another article. Even now, I feel some guilt that I have complained, rather than written about all the good people who do help each other in crisis, all those who do live by the word of Issa, Allah, God. They humble us all, and they give us hope. The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist based in Islamabad. He has served as United Nations Specialist in the United States, as well as various countries in Africa and Asia. He has also spent a decade dealing with the Afghan refugee crisis and university education in Pakistan. Email: atlehetland@yahoo.com