You take a walk around your block and see a cloud of black smoke. When you find the source, you see flames licking the walls and roof of a house. A window is open on the second floor, and coils of cinder-flecked smoke writhe into the air. Someone is leaning out of the window and calling for help. They want to jump, but need someone to catch them.

No sirens or flashing lights appear to be approaching. The person pleads with you to stand under the window and just try to catch them. They tell you that the door to the room is too hot to touch. Shingles fall off the roof around the window.
What do you do? What should you do? Firefighters appear to be nowhere near. If they are not nearby, the person could pass out from the smoke, unable to jump to safety before the fire truck arrives. No one else is nearby, and all you have to do is stand under the window, break the person’s fall, and help them get away from the burning house.

If it is clear to you that helping the person is the right thing to do, you should be likewise ready to respond to calls for social justice, to investigate systemic bias, and to remedy injustice directly. In Buddhist philosophy the simile of the house of fire demonstrates the motive to help all people achieve liberation. Underlying the simile is an assumption that one is morally required to answer calls for aid, to put oneself at risk to save another in distress.

Social injustice has inflicted physical, psychological, and social damage in all societies. Class warfare is not an imagined future. The present day exploitation and destruction of working people and the world they inhabit is owner class warfare against the working class. Our world is burning, we are buried in debt and desperation, and we are divided and suspicious of one another. We need to heal, not ignore, the diversity of traumas wrought on us by capitalism, by the owner class, by the martial class. Escape for ourselves only is not enough. The house is on fire, and a lot of people need rescue.