They flee from despots and war in the Middle East and Africa. They inhabit deteriorating slums in Alexander County.

Regardless of religious creed, moral ethos or political affiliation, we just don't care about those who are different or those in-need.

It's humanity's legacy.

More than 8,000 refugees are flooding Europe every day, says the European Union. Syrians make up the lion's share, looking to escape a civil war that's killed more than 110,000 civilians since 2011. 

Much of central Europe has responded with barbed-wire fences and border crackdowns. Even Germany, which is ramping up a refugee processing infrastructure, has shuttered its points of entry. All the while, the developed world has spent months sitting on its hands as human beings seeking only peace have drowned by the thousands in the Aegean Sea.

Anyone who's cruised through Cairo was aware of foul tenements in which Alexander County Housing Authority stores some of Illinois's poorest. 

I most certainly noticed. I just shook my head, sighed and kept on driving.

This is our legacy.

Images of dead Syrian children washing up on European beaches allegedly "horrified" the modern world. But, in reality, we collective shrugged and went about our business.

Last week, Christianity's most influential leader asked the U.S. Congress to embrace migrants. The deliberative body's leader -- Republican John Boehner -- promptly announced his resignation because his party's right-wing refuses to compromise on much of anything, immigration reform included.

In fact, migrant and Muslim bashing have become a litmus test for any potential GOP nominee. Establishment-pick Jeb Bush went full-on victim blaming last week, claiming that black voters are interested in "free stuff." Donald Trump's supporters recently booed a hypothetical Mexican infant after the billionaire derided "anchor babies" at a campaign stop in Dallas. And, this past year, governors throughout the country described Central American children, running from war-torn communities, as nothing but vehicles for disease and national debt.

This is our legacy.

Evolutionary psychologists, decades ago, designated two types of altruism: Reciprocal and kin selection.

It makes reproductive sense to help out those most related to you. Their offspring also carry your genes. As a result, throughout mammalia, individuals are vastly more likely to come to the aid of, say, a sibling than a distant cousin.

Reciprocal altruism comes with the expectation that you will get something out of your act. You're owed something. Or, as is often the case in society, the notoriety gained through false selflessness carries its own benefits. 

The fact is, people -- or any other social organism -- don't do anything for free. We talk a good game about helping the poor, aiding the weak. The lofty, often-religious rhetoric flies in the face of human history, where established populations feared outsiders and ethnocentrism reigned supreme.

Dehumanzing those who are different might just be in our genes. 

And, perhaps, that's the fundamental failing of modern liberalism. It assumes reason and reflection can trump base instinct. It requires humanity to accept the fact that, at its core, it's one tiny species in a vast, hostile universe. On the contrary, Marx talked in terms of class. Marx knew people were fundamentally selfish. And, in those terms, his ideas spoke to individual, albeit widespread, gripes. 

The world's reaction to the Syrian refugee crises is sickening. The region's apathy toward the primarily black residents of Alexander County Housing Authority's shanty town is disturbing.

Both examples are just more evidence that, at the international and local levels alike, we really don't care about the plight of those not directly connected to us. Compassion only rules when it pays. 

This is our legacy.

Jon Alexander is opinion page editor at The Southern. He can be reached at jonathan.alexander@the southern.com.

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