Imagine for a moment a common scenario in any major urban area. You’re caught in the morning traffic, stuck a few cycles behind a stoplight. Nobody has moved in a while. A beggar walks between the cars with a faded cardboard sign, hand out for whatever pocket change or crumpled bills you might have stashed in your center console. Maybe you have some this time, or perhaps not. Either way, you don’t feel like giving anything to the beggar. He walks by your car, and you avert your gaze. You feel wrong for giving nothing. A stab of guilt hits you, or perhaps worry that other drivers will see how stingy you are, even though it is likely you will never encounter the other drivers again.
And while there is a fair chance you might encounter the beggar again, for they each have their various territories and haunts, it is doubtful he will even recognize you from the thousands of other drivers wasting their lives away at the intersection.
Where does the guilt come from? Would it not be better to part with a couple of wadded up dollar bills to be rid of it? After all, what are you going to use them for, maybe buying a coke out of the vending machine at work?
I am fond of referencing a specific incident on Twitter that ties into this problem. In it, a woman laments that Elon Musk should have fixed Flint’s water supply, rather than launching a car into space as part of a publicity stunt. It ties in neatly with those protesters, back during the days of the Apollo program, who demanded that the funds given to NASA to do the thing should have been used to improve the lives of poor black people instead.
I wonder if the NASA engineers and scientists ever experienced a similar pang of guilt, if they drove past the protesters and refused to make eye contact with them out of misplaced guilt. Certainly, I’d hope they didn’t feel such guilt, but human nature being what it is, it would not surprise me if they did, at some level.
We live in a strange time, perhaps. Or maybe it isn’t strange, and things were the same thousands of years ago. Who can say? Today, Americans – and probably Westerners in general – go deep into debt keeping up with the Joneses. Having done this, they drive past people who, in many cases, actually have more net worth than they do (for many possess negative net worth – zero is a financial improvement), walking down the street, hat in hand, grabbing the wadded bills and worn pocket change.
Sometimes I’ll listen to Dave Ramsey on Youtube. He’ll get callers who are deeply in debt, trying to claw their way out of financial stupidity. Yet to causal eyes, such people would appear to be wealthy – certainly more so than a street beggar. Do those who are deeply in debt still feel a stab of guilt that they haven’t given their last few quarters and pennies away? Perhaps folks like that shouldn’t buy a $70k BMW on a wage-earner’s salary. That would be sensible, I think. Yet… if they can afford the car, could they not afford to give away wealth instead?
Should they mortgage the house to pay beggars instead? Should they take a $70k note to donate to charity, or pay high taxes to the government for some social welfare program?
If this sounds confusing, that is because none of it makes any sense at all.
In the bizarre moral calculus of the modern West, people view each interaction in a moral vacuum. You are driving a nice car, therefore you should give money to the beggar. This is near to universal in the thoughts of most Americans, this is why the stab of guilt reaches them, despite their own respective situations. You could be one step from bankruptcy, but it doesn’t matter. At that specific moment, your lifestyle is greater, so you should give up something.
When an illegal immigrant hops over the border and the Border Patrol catches him, only that specific moment matters at all. The Border Patrol agent’s lifestyle is greater – indeed, all of America’s lifestyle as a whole is greater – thus the illegal should be permitted entry. It is morally wrong, to many, to think otherwise. Yet at some level, people are aware of the contradiction. This is why many do not give their last dimes to the street beggar, and do not want the illegal to enter.
Ask a Leftist if he is an open borders advocate, and most will say no. Ask them to judge every single case of illegal entry, and each individual case would be allowed on charitable grounds, creating a de facto open borders situation some Leftists may not even be consciously aware of (others certainly are, and desire this). Ask a Leftist if he thinks every person should have an absolutely equal standard of living, and almost every single one would say no. Yet each individual incident will be judged on the basis of who has more wealth, or who appears to have more wealth, and thus the flow of wealth must invariably go in one direction only, until no such inequality remains. It is de facto support of identical standards of living for all.
I know a man who is deeply in debt, hovering on the edge of bankruptcy, and his wife constantly argues to take in poor, unfortunate people off the street in order to help them. Such people will undoubtedly be held up as heroes to most. And yet, is this right? If your husband is working multiple jobs just to keep the creditors away a little longer, should you give away his money to strangers you don’t have any connection with?
I am told of another man, a father-in-law to another friend, who has been robbed, wronged, and stolen from by the folks he purports to help, over and over again. He declines to do anything about the thefts and the wrongs, and takes in more such people, who consistently use him for freebies. Such people aren’t getting their lives together, they are merely mooching off a gullible man, easily conned out of his money and possessions.
No doubt, if confronted, the thieves would couch the thefts in terms of their needs, and their mark’s relative high standard of living. He has more, you see, so it is just to take from him.
As I mentioned in my previous post, we have a modern interpretation of every incident in life according to a very strict and stupid set of moral requirements. They are as follows:
- Each incident must be considered in a complete vacuum. You cannot take into account the wider implications, or the future, or past actions, or even larger contexts. Only that individual’s circumstances, in this exact moment, matter at all.
- The one whose standard of living appears greater is automatically the quasi-oppressor. Moral obligations flow from the individual who appears to be more wealthy to the individual who appears less wealthy. Moral obligations in the other direction do not exist.
- Various exceptions may be permitted according to racial/religious minority status. In such cases, moral obligations flow from the caste perceived to be more privileged to the caste perceived to possess less privilege. Moral obligations in the other direction do not exist.
- Relative privilege is assigned by a sort of popularity contest.
Only the appearance matters. If you drive a BMW, and the other person does not, he has no moral obligations to you, but you have every obligation to him. If he steals your car, it’s probably because you were privileged. You probably deserved it. If the beggar spits on your car because you did not part with your pocket change, that is your fault. If you take in a poor person, and he steals your stuff, that is because you were privileged. Shut your mouth, loser, and take in someone else. If the illegal crosses the border, he should be admitted even if he’s a crackhead and wanted for robbery in his home country, merely because in that particular moment, his circumstances appear worse than yours.
The true-believer Leftist will brain-lock in any of these incidents (the Deceivers won’t – but that’s a matter for a different post). He will be unable to rationalize himself out of the moral problem. And so, if he doesn’t give up that last dollar to the street beggar, he will feel guilty for it. He will be unable to escape the Kafkan moral trap without either doing what is desired (giving up his money) or feeling guilty. The guilt, of course, is equally useful to power-seekers, for it can be used to craft social policy.
Many Rightists will also be caught in the trap, because quite frankly, most of us have grown up in a world that follows the moral demands I’ve outlined. The four points can be summarized further:
The Lie: GOOD IS ALWAYS NICE
It’s a lie. Furthermore, it’s a lie that even Leftists are aware of at some level. They are fond of referring to Rightists as Nazis, and then becoming violent and very not-nice toward us. Are they thus evil because they are not being nice to us? They escape the trap by saying that we are so bad (they have said we are Nazis, after all), we deserve it. We have it coming.
That is tacit admission that the good must be nice policy is bullshit. Yet the rule is still applied to all others. Leftists will often consume themselves in an orgy of self-destructive behavior to arrive at who is at the bottom of the stack (and thus truly at the top of the stack). Moral obligations are one way and flow from privileged to not-privileged, in every individual situation.
Now, real, actual charity can be a good thing, provided a few conditions are met:
- You know that your actions are likely to help. Handing a crackhead more money will not improve his situation. It may make it worse. Welfare programs suffer the trap of not necessarily helping the supposed beneficiaries. This is why charity usually works best if you know the other person, and are in a position to judge whether or not your charitable actions are actually helping.
- The receiver of the charity acknowledges his own responsibility. For instance, if you decide that some money will help a poor person, and you give the money to him, he now has an obligation to both himself and you. He must use the funds responsibly, to fix his situation, because that was why he was given the money. He should not, for instance, go buy beer with it.
- The charity is personal, and not pressured. You want to do it. You weren’t forced to do it by government, or peer pressure. Otherwise it’s just a form of theft. If you feel guilty about the situation, you should avoid the situation, because that pressure is coming from somewhere else.
- The charity should cease if the beneficiary doesn’t acknowledge his own responsibilities. If he buys beer with your money, he should receive nothing else from you. If he steals your stuff, he should be reported to the police.
- You don’t screw over other people in order to do it. Ruining your family’s finances to help a stranger is not a net good. This includes yourself. Ruining your business, your own life, and all that… these are not net gains either.
Good doesn’t have to be nice. The concepts are not linked. Nor do moral obligations flow in only one direction. In all interactions in society, moral obligations are two-way, and if the other participant flouts them, you are under no obligation to continue to use them yourself with regards to him. In simple terms, if he hits you, you hit him back. One-way moral obligations constitute a form of slavery.
In this way, modern Leftists are slavers. Being nice exclusively, and without reciprocation, is an invitation for evil. It is a bright neon sign casting light far into the distance that says “please come and use me.” Leftism enshrines its notion of all interactions as effectively one-way moral transactions. It cannot even understand the notion of a mutually beneficial exchange. Capitalism must be exploitation, says the Leftist, because he can’t understand two-way interactions.
The Eurythmics track Sweet Dreams contains a line to this effect:
Everybody’s looking for something.
Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to get used by you
Some of them want to abuse you
Some of them want to be abused.
Some of the Leftists are abusers, looking to abuse you, to steal from you, to mooch off you, to use you. Others want to be abused, to be stolen from, to be used, in order to trumpet their supposed superiority over the rest of us. These are all one-way interactions. The correct answer is: none of the above. All interactions are either two-way, or you should get the fuck out of that situation.
Truth: GOOD IS NOT ALWAYS NICE
Enshrine that and live it.
Also, if you see a street beggar, unless you know the guy and his situation (in which case, do as seems best), just say no. And don’t avert your eyes when you do it.