I believe that in my native culture, for example, such a stance would actually almost be seen as intrusive, rather than compassionate.
It's a theme I've addressed before, but then something happened recently that made me reflect on it further: the degree and scope of collective spirit inherent in my adopted culture. It came to the fore again with the tragedy of the German plane crashing between Barcelona and Düsseldorf, which obviously affected many local lives. As I followed the coverage on TV and in the local and international written media over several days, I noticed the marked emphasis in the local media on the fact that the affected families had all travelled to the scene of the crash tots plegats and that they were all attempting to come to terms with the tragedy as a group, rather than as individual families dealing with their own personal disaster. You might argue this is the same whenever something of this magnitude happens, as witnessed not long ago by the response to the Malaysian plane going down in the Indian Ocean and all family members gathering in the airport desperate for news of their loved ones. But there is a difference between that and travelling together to where the accident took place, and the fact that this is mentioned repeatedly in the media with an emphatic tone that confirms beyond doubt that all of those watching and reading are also with them at this tragic time. Of course, another reason for the families to have travelled together was that they were not going to travel by aeroplane and were thus all taken on the same bus from Barcelona to the crash site; but again, that's not as obvious a thing to do in other cultures as it might seem here. In the same scenario in other cultures I can imagine families making their way individually, even if the government or some support organisation laid on joint transport for them all. I can't really imagine British families wanting to share their grief with strangers in the environs of a bus over some seven hundred kilometres, and yet it seemed the perfectly natural thing to do here.
The fact is, I can't see this type of behaviour and media reporting happening in some other cultures, and let me stress again that I'm not talking about the media not highlighting families comforting one another, of course they would, but rather that the burden of grief be somehow shared among not only all those involved but the larger media-consuming community as a whole. I believe that in my native culture, for example, such a stance would actually almost be seen as intrusive, rather than compassionate. Intrusive on the suffering families, who may wish to grieve in complete privacy, and intrusive on the media consumers, who are automatically expected to share a grief that is not their own. This difference is possibly the reason why in English we have no satisfactory translation for the adjective solidari, in its group caring sense. Does that make me and my culture discompassionate, or my adopted culture overcompassionate? Neither of the above, of course, but simply different. And that, dear reader, is the type of striking cultural difference this column is all about.