I’ve discussed many times how Progressives use guilt and Weaponized Empathy to shame people into supporting their agendas. How does this find purchase in the minds of normies, however? The answer to that is found in one of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals:
4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.
Buried in this rule is an implicit assumption: every rule must be obeyed perfectly and completely. If a person fails to live up to the rule, he is shamed and made to feel guilty for his failure. As Alinsky tells us, no rule can be obeyed to this level.
Growing up, I had an evil stepmother who shall serve as a good example of how this behavior works. Yes, yes, cliche, but I learned a lot from the experience. She was fond of pronouncing rules like “if you see a mess, clean it up!” That rule sounds reasonable enough, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it contains no upper bound, no condition, upon which, I may consider my duty satisfied. This gave her carte blanche to find fault in everything I did. If I walked past an errant dog hair on the carpet, I technically violated the rule. I saw a mess, I failed to clean up. Therefore, she was justified in punishing me. If I did not see the supposed mess, I was still guilty, because my failure could only be due to either negligence or dishonesty. If I cleaned up a room, invariably I would miss a spot, or fail to eliminate a streak, or some other such thing, and that was deemed evidence of laziness.
The end result of the “if you see a mess, clean it up” rule was that I had two options: be cleaning at all waking hours of the day or accept constant punishment and abuse. The purpose of the rule and the strict interpretation thereof, of course, was merely to provide an excuse for the abuse, an excuse for her to have additional power over me. However, if challenged by my father, she could always escape by saying that I violated the rule.
Progressives use this tactic on a much larger scale. In America, we have largely eliminated the sort of poverty you find in a Charles Dickens book, or in the Third World. Exceptions exist, of course. They do not change the rule. The major mess, so to speak, has been thoroughly cleaned up. Yet some people have much less than others. There are still spots in the room, hairs in the carpet in places. It’s not perfect. This is deemed evidence of racism, sexism, x-phobia, bigotry, hatred, or a just plain greed. That absolute equality is, like absolute cleanliness, an impossibility actually serves the Progressives.
In a debate, the Progressive can always escape by saying that we violated the rule. The implicit rule, of course, is that “if you see poverty, make it go away.” Or, put more generally, “if you see x-ism, clean it up!” Again, it can be made to sound perfectly reasonable to those not attuned to what it really means, and yet it results in a choice of either serving the Progressive agenda at all times, or being punished and abused by the long arm of Progressive media and social justice mobs.
Over the years, many have been converted into the service of social justice and Leftism by such guilt and shaming tactics. This includes many on the nominal Right who, even if they still proclaim the virtues of limited government, military service, and self-reliance, have implicitly accepted the Left’s rules for how the game is played. Watch a debate on social media, and you will see the Rightist claiming that Capitalism serves to elevate more poor than Socialism. Completely true, but like telling my stepmother the bathroom was cleaned, the Progressive will invariably find a spot, and declare the whole thing to be a failure. You didn’t eliminate poverty, you see. Therefore you failed. Therefore you need to be punished (usually by social shaming, but sometimes mobbing, threats to your job, etc…). Unless, of course, you accept Progressivism as your Lord and Savior, and work to advance its agenda at all times.
Always be cleaning. Always be practicing activism. The parallels between a wicked stepmother and Leftist thought is utterly disturbing, at times.
If there is anything I regret from my childhood, it was not punching the manipulative little tart in the face. If anyone I’ve ever known deserved it, it was her. But there again, she would hide behind her gender. Sure, she could chase me around the house with a knife and threaten to stick me with it, but if I even raised my voice at her… I was an evil woman-beater in training.
Even in this, Progressivism is similar. They will justify violence, assault, property destruction – even violent, murderous revolution. They are fond of catchphrases like ‘speech is violence’ to justify themselves. If you have the temerity to even publicly dispute this – with words, no more – you, naturally, are Hitler-incarnate. The purpose behind all of this is just power. Nothing more. They want it, using guilt as a political pry bar has worked for them for many years (Trump’s election was a sign that the tactic may be weakening from overuse, however), and so they will continue to do it until someone pops them in the mouth.
They’ve set the rules and standards for long enough. They set them maliciously, to entrap their political opponents in an endless guilt-shame cycle. This gains them some converts, and weakens the resolve of those who continue to fight through a constant wearing down process of media and social bombardment. This is what must change if are to free ourselves of them.
That, and like my stepmother, if anyone in history deserves a metaphorical (or perhaps literal) punch to the face, it is these cretinous, manipulative asswipes.
Sympathy is often conflated with respect. This insight popped into my head during a conversation with a friend. What do I mean by this? It’s difficult to articulate, but I will try. Most folks I know have a relative or two who frequently uses guilt trips to get what they want. If, for instance, you got caught behind a bad traffic accident, and were a few minutes late meeting one someplace, he would be offended by it. He might say “you don’t care about me” rather than merely inquire as to why you were late. The idea is to elicit a sense of guilt, and then a corresponding sense of sympathy for him as the victim of your mistake. You’re a bad person for not doing what he wants. You should try to be a good person by obedience. It’s kind of like a weird form of Pavlovian conditioning. He controls your behavior through conditioning.
Such people are deeply unpleasant to be around. Always, they are on the lookout for ways to be offended, to take things personally, and bludgeon you with guilt in an attempt to elicit your sympathy. Some will even burden you with their other problems, completely unrelated to you, in the sense that they will complain about things in an effort to make you feel sorry for them, and then use that to get things from you. If you deny them their requests, the guilt trip will be applied. “You don’t want to help me? You don’t care about me!” They always portray themselves as victims. They rarely take responsibility for anything, but demand that you take responsibility even for those things you have not done.
It is as if they have conflated sympathy with respect, and strive for the former over the latter without really realizing it. They do not understand that you can feel sorry for someone you do not respect, and you can respect someone you don’t feel sorry for. Since they crave your sympathy, they are on constant lookout for ways to obtain it. Such a man can deliberately take your words out of context in order to cast himself as the victim. He can deliberately misinterpret your gestures, ignore context, dispose of nuance. He can even mishear what you say completely, or make something up. A common method of the latter is to say something like “well, someone told me that you said X, how could you?” Naturally, this is done without inquiring whether or not you actually said X. Sometimes the statements are completely fictitious, in that no one even told them anything of the sort, but it is useful to solicit sympathy by making the claim anyway.
Of course, in order to get back into the good graces of a person like this, you must prove your worthiness. This can be done by doing what they want you to do, by giving them things, by obeying their every whim. Such a person might ask you to denounce people he doesn’t like, even if those people are close to you. You may be required to buy things, give them money, or do work for them. It may be more emotional nature, where you have to constantly manage his own feelings, such that he can outsource responsibility for his own emotional state to you. The price for that person not treating you as if you were a bad, hateful person has a tendency to rise. Eventually your whole life must revolve around him, or else you don’t care. And you want to care, don’t you?
Does this sound like a good many political activists these days?
Weaponized empathy works much the same way, just on a much larger scale. Groups of people can burden you with their failings and blame you for them, then demand that you take action or you don’t like them, you nasty racist you. You’re a bad person for not doing what they want. The price similarly has a tendency to constantly rise. Today X is demanded. Tomorrow X, but also Y.
The real goal of such people is power over you. Power to make you do what they want, to be made to obey. And they use your own desire to be seen as a good, caring person to do this. Guilt only works on someone who is not a sociopath. But guilt is an effective weapon for a sociopath to deploy on others. Such people find sympathy more useful than respect, perhaps. Of course, you don’t have to be a sociopath to use it. For some, I suspect, it is confusion which drives this behavior.
Such confusion may begin in our education system, which has been infected by victim politics for as long as I can remember. The sanctity of the victim is absolute with them. Is it any wonder people can so readily confuse sympathy and respect? Too many people want to be victims, thinking that sympathy will grant them power that has been denied them otherwise. In this they are correct for the nonce, given our political climate, but in accepting this, they have thrown out legitimate relationships with people built on respect. Again, it is very possible to feel sorry for someone and to still lack any real respect for them. Respect is more enduring the sympathy.
Consider the racial animus present in today’s political environment. Many others feel some sympathy for the historical wrongs perpetrated upon American blacks. They may wish to help them. But when demands are made upon wallets, and when not acceding to these demands is declared prima facie evidence of racism, good will is extinguished. The possibility of earning respect is lost. Sympathy may still be forced by peer pressure, but genuine sympathy is replaced with grudging reluctance forced upon others at metaphorical gunpoint. This grudging reluctance is then declared further evidence of racism. It all spirals out of control.
With the possibility of mutual respect taken off the table, all options become progressively worse.
The use of weaponized empathy may rip this country apart. It is extraordinarily divisive. It makes people hostile and defensive. And for good reason. After all, if you have a relative who does this to you frequently, do you really want to hang out with him? Do you really enjoy his company? Do you respect him? Clearly he does not respect you, if he blames you for things you didn’t do, and demands that you right wrongs you have not committed. The terribly irony of it all is that if he didn’t make demands upon you, you might very well offer to help him right the wrongs of your own free will, regardless of who was at fault for them. You might possess both sympathy and respect for him. And that could become the basis for a real relationship. But his attempt to make himself out to be the victim, and his assumption that you must pay the penance for being a victimizer, destroys any potential goodwill.
This problem is everywhere in modern America. It crosses lines of race, gender, sexuality, religion, and a thousand other such things. And at some point – probably in the near future – the demand for sympathy will come up dry, such that not even peer pressure and a metaphorical gun held to your head will be sufficient to compel it. Only the literal variety of gun will be work then, and that is when it will descend into pure madness. Weaponized empathy is a sociopolitical weapon of mass destruction. It almost assuredly will result in the deployment of something equally nasty. It needs to be put away before it is too late.
But I have no expectation that it will. After all, “victims” want their sympathy, and the power it brings them. That there is a price for this hasn’t really occurred to them yet. And by the time it does, it will likely be too late.
Today there is a new weekly column up on Dangerous: THALES: Turning Empathy Into a Weapon, How Social Justice Fights Dirty. This is a summary of a concept that’s been central to my posts here at The Declination.
Weaponized Empathy is a chief weapon of the Left, and we need to deprive them of it. To do so will impose a cost. Namely, many Leftists will hate you, and say the worst about you. But its a cost that must be lived with if the truth is to prevail. Indeed, the longer the cost is deferred, the worse it is likely to be.
On Monday, Francis penned an interesting post which touches upon the idea delayed gratification, something most Americans do not practice. By pushing instant gratification, and kicking the cost can down the road, our civilization has incurred an enormous amount of debt, and not merely financial debt (though that too).
The perverse incentives of our political figures has made this possible. But the citizenry itself cannot avoid responsibility either. After all, Americans have been voting en masse for short-sighted, destructive policies as long as I’ve been alive. The money quote:
We the People have earned a certain suffering-debt for our previous sociopolitical sins – never mind that we were set upon our sinful courses by an earlier We the People, who passed their accumulated suffering-debt down to us – then our choice is simple:
We could accept the penalty, endure it, and come out healed;
We could reject the penalty, which would compound the ultimate suffering.
Since World War II at least, the public has preferred politicians who will “kick the can down the road.” In consequence, government has gone ever further astray and our accumulated debt of ultimate suffering has compounded year by year. At some point, though the moment is difficult to predict, the debt will be paid. If it’s grown large enough, it will destroy our society completely.
But a payable sociopolitical suffering-debt is like a prison term: it’s finite. It will end. It can and should be endured, especially if the alternative is to raise it to an unpayable level. Our unwillingness to accept and endure the penalties that have already accrued is propelling such debts toward the threshold of sociopolitical bankruptcy.
Note, when Francis speaks of sociopolitical bankruptcy, is essentially discussing the fall of the United States as a functional, intact nation. And the longer we kick the can down the road, the more likely that outcome becomes. Indeed, I’m not even sure we can still avoid it.
On a positive note, Trump managed to push tax cuts through. They are not anywhere near as extensive as I would have liked, and I am sorely disappointed with the behavior of the GOP (more with the Senate than the House), but this is something.
Tax cuts used to be a sort of bread-and-butter of GOP politics, alongside strong foreign policy. The various factions within the party would jockey and argue over everything else, but low taxes and strong military were generally always agreed upon. That this much infighting was required to get the GOP to push through a tax cut – any tax cut at all – is disturbing. It demonstrates the slow evolution of the GOP Establishment away from the base, and toward a more Fabian Socialist agenda, agreeing with the Democrats in principle if not in time frame.
Still, this was why many folks chose Trump over Hillary. We knew we weren’t getting what we wanted, but a tax cut is better than a tax hike. Still, some Dems are going off the deep end telling us the tax cuts will literally kill people. They’ve clearly left sanity behind.
Bigotry is the ultimate sin in modern American Leftism. Racism and sexism are the most commonly cited varieties, of course, but other permutations exist. Homophobia, Islamophobia, fatphobia, ageism, and presumably a whole host of other possible violations.
The fact that it is accounted as the ultimate sin provides the Leftist with a moral club with which to browbeat his opponents. If one accepts the proposition that these are the worst sins of humanity, and one also accepts the proposition that all humans are biased (which is true – humans categorically cannot be fully objective), then everyone is guilty of the ultimate sin. Weaponized empathy is then applied. You are guilty, look at all the horrible things that happened in the world, which are now your fault because you’re guilty of the ultimate sin.
Redemption is only possible through the application of Progressive policies. Give up your wealth, give up your possessions. Surrender your country, vote the way the Progressive technocracy wants. And even then, the intercession through political submission is only temporary. Tomorrow you will still be a racist, and more will be required of you.
Take this Leftist example on Twitter. Admittedly, he is not exactly the brightest bulb even in the ordinarily dim Progressive world. But he does a nice job of illustrating this view of the Ultimate Sin ™.
Read it very carefully. “Someone who is not racist is a better person than someone who is.” And then our intrepid Leftist attempts to escape by taking issue with my application of “a tad.” The application, of course, was very deliberate, as was my example. We’ve already had plenty of real life examples of highly intelligent, useful, inventive people being tarred and feathered because they were deemed guilty of the Ultimate Sin ™. Remember the case of Brendan Eich? Remember Tim Hunt? So a man can do something, accomplish something great, but everything is rendered null and void with even a minor violation of the Progressive narrative. You could cure cancer, but if you made a joke about “chinks” you’re now accounted as lower than every person Progressives see as not-racist.
Let me rephrase that a bit. The person Progressives deem as not-bigoted (and this is a temporary license which can be revoked at any time) is automatically a better person than some of the brightest, most accomplished people in history.
Worse, bigotry is seen as a binary state with them. You are either bigoted, or you are not. Gradations are meaningless. The man who makes a politically incorrect joke about “wetbacks” is as evil as Hitler, because both are “bigots.” This is one of the convenient tools of Antifas who see Nazis in their breakfast cereal, all Ultimate Sinners are bigots, all bigots are Fascists, all Fascists are Nazi, all Nazis are Literally Hitler. They misunderstand why Hitler was evil. He wasn’t evil because he didn’t like Jews, he was evil because he killed them by the millions. It is the physical action not the thought which rendered him evil.
Progressives lump both into the same category and call it all bigotry, but one of these is not like the other. If you have a bad thought you must feel guilty for the thought. If the badthink turns into speech, you are a Nazi, because speech is synonymous with physical action (except when they are talking, in which case it isn’t). They are like Neo in The Matrix, dodging sense and consistent definition like the protagonist dodged bullets.
Everybody has inappropriate thoughts of some kind or another. The sensible person dismisses them and does not allow them to unduly affect his life. He need not feel guilty about them. He merely needs to not act on them. Do not allow weaponized empathy to hijack your brain and make you feel guilty for bad thoughts (some of which aren’t even bad in any objective sense – they are just un-PC). Do not fall into the trap of bigotry as the Ultimate Sin ™. And certainly there is no need to submit to Progressives so that they may conduct intercession for you or grant you a temporary, revocable license as a non-bigot.
Consider the extreme endpoint of the Progressive train of thought. An equal-opportunity murderer is better than the man who cures cancer but makes a politically incorrect racial joke. The Marxist roots of this line of thinking should be evident by now. It’s the same strain of ideological madness that led to Communist regimes prioritizing political criminals over violent ones. Fidel Castro released many murderers and employed them as guards and executioners for political prisoners. After all, the murderer is better than the political opposition.
Progressives think this is getting to the root of the problem; that by attacking the thought, the bias, they are somehow curbing the action. Except that this doesn’t work. Controlling thought at this level is impossible short of deliberate brainwashing; short of making everyone functionally identical drones. The proper way of heading off bad behavior is to not act on something inappropriate. When a man gets mad at someone over something small, he may think about beating the stuffing out of that person. But should he act on the thought, or dismiss it and calm himself down?
This is part of simple human maturity. The Progressive must treat humans as children, incapable of walling off thought and action; that each thought must turn into corresponding action, so one must be constantly on the lookout for biases, wrongthink, or otherwise. Some of the smarter ones attempt to escape this trap by (truthfully) admitting that this isn’t actually possible. But then they turn around and say we must now compensate for these implicit biases; for these thoughts. They believe that the thoughts must somehow be turning into unconscious actions that are small and immeasurable as single units, but still causing a collective effect. Since clearly [insert demographic group here] are worse off than another, the Progressive might say, we must compensate for the difference, because the cause of the difference must be collective wrongthink; collective bias against [demographic group].
There is an unfounded assumption baked into that: namely, that such small, unconscious actions are the primary cause of such inequity. Many other explanations exist. With the famous “77 cents on the dollar” comparison with women, different personal career and life choices probably play a role. With regards to black people, Thomas Sowell points to the welfare state as the primary cause. He has explained that by subsidizing the destruction of the black family, the black middle class has been wiped out, and this, accordingly to him, has resulted in the inequity. Some suggest nutrition and dietary choices play a role; that people who eat like crap don’t develop as well. Others suggest general biological differences as another possibility (and not merely racial – but also sexual). Progressive brains explode into rage at the mere hint of this notion. It is considered beyond the pale to discuss. Cultural differences are also often cited, with the famous Asian stereotype being a common example (“you study to be doctor NOW!”).
Point is, whatever the reason(s), the Progressive assumption is that it must be the fault of wrongthinking bigots, and we must transfer their ill-gotten, bigoted gains to the poor, oppressed people of… whatever. Naturally, as intercessors on your behalf (and they get their cut, accordingly), you must submit to their will, or your non-bigot license will be revoked and you will be considered worse than literal murderers.
Because bigotry, you see, is the Ultimate Sin ™.
Poverty is an issue Leftists badger the Right about incessantly. Poor people provide a convenient excuse for government control over your wallet. They need food, shelter, transportation, healthcare, and so on, and why shouldn’t these things be guaranteed by a friendly government? Why rely on the charity of individuals to do this, when it is possible that private charity will miss some people, that some of the poor will slip through the cracks and suffer? Only government can make this a mandate. Let us raise taxes, they say, or reduce funding for the warmongering military, to help our poor people! As one Leftist detractor explained, let’s do it for national pride, compassion, and empathy!
The buzzwords sound great, of course. But they are empty platitudes. You cannot eat compassion, nor will empathy put a roof over your head or supply you with good, inexpensive healthcare. And as we give government our money to do these things for us (or, rather, as it is taken from us), be advised that the bureaucrats and politicians will take their slice of the action. They are the middlemen, and naturally a middleman wants his share of the spoils.
Government inefficiencies aside, many of those who are supported by government anti-poverty programs are, essentially, lifers. They are mired in permanent poverty, never to escape. What percentage, exactly? Well, it’s difficult to tell. But those receiving government benefits in the 37-48 month category (the longest period I could find concrete stats for) stands at around 43% of those on government assistance.
In browsing around these statistics this morning, I came across a Huffington Post article that was using essentially the same data (they differed by a couple percentage points here and there, but were clearly using a similar source). Their conclusion was that a majority of people used welfare benefits of varying types for only short periods of time. This was technically true (after all, 43% is a minority). But nonetheless, we are not far from that magic 50% marker.
In any event, for our purposes 43% of welfare recipients will do. These are people who are essentially in a state of permanent poverty. There are probably some who are too proud to take government benefits for long, too, or who do not qualify for one reason or another. So the actual number of those in permanent poverty is probably somewhat higher than that number would indicate.
Thing is most of us, myself included, have probably experienced some form of temporary poverty. For me, this came during the dot-com bust in 2001, when getting work as a web developer was essentially impossible. This happened to a lot of my friends in the industry, too. Those were tough times for folks in my line of work. I took a job as a Costco stocker for a time. Some friends took various odd jobs, or moved back in with family.
When talking to friends, family, and some of my readers here at The Declination, I can safely say that most of us have experienced temporary poverty. When I was born, my father was broke and just barely struggling to keep the lights on and food on the table. But that, too, was temporary. My wife’s family came from Cuba with nothing but the clothes on their backs, all that Castro permitted them to take with them. But their poverty was temporary, also. My wife’s grandfather quickly landed a job (all physical labor, but that was enough) and he managed to claw his way out of poverty. Her father managed to prosper, working his way up from a minimum wage pharmacy worker job to part-owner in a lucrative pharmacy business.
What is the difference between those who fall into poverty, for whatever reason, and those who stay there?
There is a mindset I’ve seen with people who are stuck in permanent poverty. A family friend, who for sake of anonymity I will call Harry, exemplifies the permanent poverty situation quite well. Harry was a general contractor, and had a set of skills that ought to have made him permanently well off. But when he’d land a good contract, and score some hefty profit, he would quickly burn through money. Harry’s house would be filled with toys, from a new lifted F-150, to boats, RVs, motorcycles, whatever. And then, a year or two later, after going through several lean months, the possessions would disappear one at a time, sold or repossessed by the bank.
Feeling sorry for Harry, my father helped him score a job worth a substantial amount of money. Half was to be paid upfront, the remainder upon completion of the job. But Harry spent the advance too quickly, burning through it at the bars and the strip clubs, and found he did not have enough money leftover to buy all the supplies needed to finish the work. The broken contract cost him his contractor’s license, and he found himself out of work. Things continued to go downhill after that, and he spent several months in jail on some unrelated charge.
Harry has since been released, and is back working in construction, but now as a regular laborer. His lucrative career as a general contractor is gone forever. And even still, after all this, he quickly spends his money on booze, women, and toys, and finds himself in financial pickles. So far as I know, Harry has never taken a dime of welfare money, but he is still stuck in permanent poverty. And all the help my father and I could give him was for naught.
The thing is, you could give Harry a million dollars, and it would soon vanish. Just as you could give some folks on welfare piles of money, and in the long run it would do them no good. The money would not improve their lot, but if taken out of your paycheck, it could worsen your lot. That isn’t to say money can’t help a poor man at all. Those who are in temporary poverty may very well be helped by a timely infusion of cash, or some food, shelter, or otherwise.
Differentiating between the temporarily impoverished and the permanently impoverished is a mission we’ve largely outsourced to the government, and I consider that a mistake. The government is ill-equipped to do this. Some of the temporarily impoverished may be turned away, and many of the permanently impoverished may supplied with money and/or benefits that are, essentially, wasted. Take this story, confirmed by Snopes, of a man using his girlfriend’s EBT card to buy steak and lobster. He then resold the food for cash, 50% of the value of the original food. He was caught and arrested for fraud; for reselling the food and using someone else’s benefits. But this sort of thing goes on all the time. And sometimes the EBT benefits are sold more directly. And let us not forget the FEMA cards after Katrina, often being used for strip clubs and booze, not unlike what Harry did with his profits. Some got caught. I suspect many more got away with it.
The point is, some of these folks have a mindset that mires them in permanent poverty. Even given the food, they will sell the food at a discount and use it for something else. Given the welfare cash to pay bills, they will spend the money on something else. Give them millions, and they will soon be broke again. Such aid only truly improves the lot of the temporarily impoverished. And even then, I’ve never taken such benefits, even when temporarily impoverished, and neither have most folks I know. Most of the time, we can get out of temporary poverty with some bootstrapping and some assistance from family and friends.
How do you change the mindset of the permanently impoverished? I don’t know. What I do know is that if the purpose of government welfare spending is to lift them out of this state, it’s not going to work. It may help the temporarily impoverished, though I’d argue we could do that more efficiently via private means. But the permanently poor are going to stay that way, short of changing their mindset. I’ve spoken at length on the possibility that pain is a good teacher; that maybe making people too comfortable in poverty (the regularity and guarantee of government assistance) may work against learning the habits and mindset necessary to escape poverty. But Harry’s example is also instructive, he’s had every incentive in the world to change his behavior, and he never did. Some people may be beyond our help. It’s an unpleasant thing to contemplate, but it may nonetheless be true.
The question is, if some people are beyond our help, if lifting them out of poverty is beyond our means, what is our responsibility to them? Do we owe the government an ever-increasing slice of our earnings to fail to help them? Where does our obligation end? To those in power, of course, middlemen taking their slice of the action, the answer is that the obligation never ends, and is an essentially unlimited mandate.
Our resident Lefty troll has spent the better part of the last few days lecturing my readers on their moral inferiority. He offers no solutions, no costs, no benefits, and is quite vague on matters of policy. Rather, he hopes to play the Alinsky handbook out and see where it takes him. But in the process, he has exposed a facet of Weaponized Empathy that bears elaboration.
A few months ago, a friend of mine suffered some serious legal trouble. He was innocent of the charges levied against him, and his lawyer was confident of victory in court. Indeed, the charges were immediately lowered, and just last night I heard that his lawyer had secured evidence that ought to clear him. But, as is often the case, the punishment is the process. My friend’s legal fees were mounting. He does pretty well for himself, but while the court case was pending, his employer placed him on leave. So he was eating into savings very quickly. Things were looking grim.
A few of us got together and did some crowdfunding for him on social media. We secured enough money to pay his legal fees through small, private donations. It was enough to allow his savings to cover his day-to-day costs, and keep him afloat in what would otherwise be a very trying time. And we did so with small donations. $25 here, $50 there. It all adds up. So at no great cost to ourselves, we willingly helped him, and it worked.
Legal fees being about as ridiculous of an albatross as healthcare, one wonders why this approach isn’t championed by the morally-enlightened paragons of the political Left. With the rise of the Internet, and the power of mass media, it seems there is a great missed opportunity. When a leftist browbeats you with some sob story, and uses it as evidence as to why we need some government program, why we need higher taxes, ask him about this.
Take a look at this story: A disabled Dallas woman faces eviction after getting slammed with late fees higher than her rent.
The tone of the article would have you believe that the landlord is a heartless, cruel company (or person). Why, for a mere $173, they charged this woman late fees, and now she can’t catch up! More subtly, the article is asking the question of why this woman should even have to pay rent at all. Clearly, the government should pay all of her housing expenses (it only pays most of them now). There is even a picture of the woman in her wheelchair next to her son, trying to waive down a bus to take them to the courthouse. Think about that, a reporter who knows this woman’s story is right there taking the picture, seeing this woman suffer, and can’t even be bothered to give her a ride. But the staff photographer has plenty of time for some quick Weaponized Empathy photo ops.
Yet if $173 is a mere trivial nothing, and the late fees so unimportant that the landlord should be expected to waive them away because of media outrage, where is the gofundme for this woman? And why have the journalists who exposed this terrible case not donated a few dollars themselves? You could circulate that crowdfunding link around the office of The Dallas Morning News and pay this woman’s bills for an entire year with what these people spend individually on a cup of overpriced Starbucks coffee every morning.
Some time ago, I read an article (which I can’t find at the moment – if my readers know, please reply in the comments) where some old woman wound up dying because she could not afford her electric bill. The electricity wound up getting shut off, and she froze to death in the winter. Naturally, everyone was angry at the utility company for shutting off her power. Why, the whole community was outraged at the greed of such a terrible company.
Yet where were these outraged people when she was still alive? Could they not cobble together a few dollars each to pay her bill, to see her through the rough times? No, chances are they didn’t even notice she existed. And if they did, they paid her no mind. She wasn’t their problem. She was somebody else’s problem. And when she died, they were shamed, because they let it happen. The utility company, who likely had no idea what was going on (only that they weren’t being paid), became the scapegoat for their shame, for their lack of caring for their fellow man.
The solution for such people is to outsource the responsibility of caring to someone else, namely the government. Out of sight, out of mind. They never have to mix it up with folks living at the edge. They don’t even have to bother with the time it takes to go to a gofundme link and donate a few dollars. Let the government handle it all, they say. And they account themselves our moral superiors because of this.
To them, charity is some distant, impersonal thing. Some money is taken out of their paycheck every month. Where it goes, nobody knows. But the leftist has done his duty, you see. He doesn’t have to think about his fellow man anymore. Indeed, he could write a story about a poor woman in his own community who needs a mere $173, and use his podium to lecture the public that someone else ought to cough up that money.
When government charity fails, when it breaks the human spirit, when it destroys entire communities, leftists can always point to the mean old Republicans and blame us for the suffering. All because they can’t cope with the shame that, when you get right down to it, they did nothing. All they did was watch the IRS come and take some portion of their paycheck. They did the easiest thing in the world: they threw some money at a problem and hoped that it would go away and trouble them no more.
Out of sight, out of mind.