Phil Greenspun wrote a satirical posting on why it’s ok not to care about other people troubles. His self amused argument is that in the Modern world such work can be left to specialists.
Modern, aka Urban, life is all about residing in numerous communities. If you buy into my two part model of communities (That they stand on three legs and generally have a limited liablity for their extent.) Then Phil’s strawman can be reframed as one’s duty to other members of a community is limited to that which is within the liablity scope of that particular community.
Phil’s posting is amusing because of it’s exagerated nature. Few communities are very formality about their limited liablity contract. In fact it may well be a sign of a scam in progress when a community becomes exacting about it.
Why exactly am I expected to be sympathetic to a coworker who’s not feeling well? Is that work part of the community social contract of the workplace? Possibly not, more likely it’s part of the social contract of some larger community we both inhabit.
Sometime ago a friend of mine suffered a horrible event. It laid waste to a major aspect of their life. Discussing it, a long after the fact one aspect of the story struck me. People in other spheres of this person’s life had no idea.
It was just like the sailor with two wives, two families, in two ports recieving word of the distruction of his other home. People would have idea what to make of his mood. If he told them their first reaction would be “Gee! I never knew you had another life.” In part their reaction included an element of “Oh, I thought your loyalities lay elsewhere.”
Modern life’s advantage is that it provides a diversified portfolio. Diversifited portofolios only work well if your willing to dump parts of the portfolio.