The Spectacle Blog

Trashin’ Compassion

By on 12.1.06 | 11:09PM

In The Objective Standard, C. Bradley Thompson drops a bomb on compassionate conservatism. It is a nuclear bomb -- the most sustained and withering attack I've seen yet. What's below is just the tip of the iceberg; read it all if you dare.


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The delivery method adopted by today's pushers of compassion is to harp day and night on those who fail and suffer; the goal is to induce in Americans en masse an arrested, perceptual-level mentality, a mentality that processes all moral and political matters emotionally and then acts accordingly. Americans are inundated on a daily basis-whether via the Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, Fox News, or the New York Times-with maudlin scenes and stories of human misery. They are encouraged to put their failures on display and to exercise compassion at every turn.

Ours is the Age of Compassion.

Rousseau's ghost now oversees a nation of social workers. The moral ideal to which our culture aspires is the moist eyes of the wet nurse. To lack compassion in this new world is to be morally deprived if not morally depraved. The Oprahization of American culture has made compassion the standard by which we judge whether men are good or bad, and so Americans today feel compelled to constantly display their sensitivity and to show that their "heart is in the right place."

The so-called "love" advocated by the proponents of compassion is not directed toward human virtue but toward human vice. It is not for their achievements that the weak are admired but for their failures. On the one hand, this is an utter inversion of morality; on the other hand, it is the annihilation of morality.

To treat compassion as a virtue promotes a kind of moral relativism-a non-judgmental, no-fault morality that takes people just as they are. "Don't judge people," its proponents say, "just accept their plight and help them." Fundamentally speaking, this is an attempt to negate the law of causality-to sever consequences from their causes. Forget about what caused a jobless person to be jobless; just give him a job. Forget about why a person has saved nothing for retirement; just give him some money. Forget about why a person failed to insure his Gulf-coast dwelling; just give him an apartment or a house. Personal responsibility or lack thereof (the cause) is irrelevant to the compassionate.

A moral code that upholds compassion as a virtue is the antipode of a morality of justice. It paralyzes one's ability to evaluate and judge the ideas and actions of individuals; it demands that one suspend moral judgment-that one not discriminate between the suffering caused by elements beyond one's control and that caused by irrationality, sloth, evasion.

The moral relativism promoted by this weepy sentiment naturally leads to political egalitarianism. [...]

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For my money, this resusciates well the old question of whether justice is best understood as a purely political question. Certainly just because they're not political functions doesn't mean love, hope, and charity should be wiped from the human heart and soul. But can we draw lines between these private- and public-sector sentiments in an age so soaked through with the psychotherapeutic ethic?

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