When Compassion Becomes Warped - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
When Compassion Becomes Warped
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A mother and child march in the National Trans Visibility March in Sacramento, California, on Oct. 9, 2021 (Chris Allan/Shutterstock)

The world has gone mad today
And good’s bad today,
And black’s white today,
And day’s night today…
Anything goes.
— Cole Porter, Anything Goes

There seems to be no end to the things we are capable of rationalizing. History might better support calling humans the rationalizing animal rather than homo sapiens.

It is not just that moral norms are overturned with extreme rapidity. It’s not just that things that formerly were forbidden now become unexceptional. It’s that, in some very specific and public ways, what was unthinkable becomes mandatory.

Like a wedding cake for a gay wedding.

It was an accepted norm that people go out of their way to find people on their wavelength, whose tastes and sensibilities resonated with the bride and groom, to be involved in the making of the wedding. Yet suddenly, it became the business of the state to compel people under severe penalty of law to participate in the celebration of weddings to which they object on well-known religious grounds, as if somehow that compelled compliance would add to the spirit of celebration — rather like the compelled performance of gladiators gladdened the gentle hearts of the denizens of the Colosseum in Rome.

As grave as the persecution and financial ruination of a bakeshop owner is, it pales next to the juggernaut of governments, medical professionals and their organizations, educators and their institutions, and the woke aspiring sans-culottes herding children and barely pubescent teens into chemical neutering and surgical mutilation.

Had anyone back in the days of the Clinton presidency said out loud that in just 30 years, parents would be denied even notification that their child is going to be given puberty blockers or prepared for removal of their genitalia or breasts at an age when they cannot legally consent to sex, be bound by a contract, or even drive a car, they would have been branded a member of the vast right-wing conspiracy, a certified paranoid nut case.

And yet here we are, having to fight tooth and nail against vicious slander and powerful entrenched interests in government and in the helping professions to save our children from what is likely to be irreversible physical and psychological mutilation for all but the rarest few cases of genuine dysphoria.

How did we come to such a place that was unthinkable to us just a few years ago?

A rabbi from the time of the Talmud noted the psychology that underlies this phenomenon more than 1600 years ago. The first time a person sins, he noted, he feels bad. The second time, it already feels normal.

A rabbi of the 1800s added that the third time, they tell themselves and everyone else that it is a mitzvah — it’s actually a deed so good that it’s mandatory.

That traces the outside, the phenomenon as it appears. What is going on inside?

In a recent interview, psychologist Jordan Peterson explored the inner workings with Stephanie Davies-Arai, who has advocated successfully for children before Britain’s High Court and helped close down the Tavistock transgender clinic in Britain and was awarded the British Empire Medal from the late Queen Elizabeth II for her work. As Peterson and Davies-Arai explored the thought process together, they articulated the idea that the adult enablers and projectors of gender dysphoria into the minds of vulnerable teens believe they are compassionate and all who oppose them lack compassion.

As far as it goes, that sounds like one point in a discussion. But for the enablers, this is the end of discussion.

For them, compassion is not merely a commendable character trait or even a virtue. It is the sole virtue, and it is of such an overwhelming and all-consuming nature that it will admit no critical examination, no need for discernment, if it would hinder a child’s headlong plunge into irreversible sterilization and irremediable psychic damage.

The founders of psychotherapy wrote of a kind of devouring compassion that results from parents or authority figures refusing to allow a child to escape a parent’s need to be the reliever of their child’s every difficulty. The figure of Oedipus’ mother figures in Freud’s thought as the mythic paradigm of something that grownups occasionally do that results in psychic trauma for their children. Mothering becomes smothering, the child becomes an object for the adult’s self-definition, and its life is damaged — and all is under the name of that most benign of character traits, compassion.

Centuries before an irreligious Freud appropriated their insight (probably without knowing he was doing so), the rabbis who wrote the masterworks of the Kabbalistic tradition explored the inner workings of consciousness. They proposed a basic structure of the soul, balanced between emotions to reach out in love and emotions that have us defend our integrity and define the proper boundaries of our space in the world. Among the emotions they list is compassion.

Each emotion has its space and on its highest level is a window into holiness, the divine at work in our soul and in our heart.

Yet, in this yet unfinished world, each emotion admits of an unholy misappropriation. There can be unholy love, which is self-indulgence; there can be unholy self-definition, which instead of guarding integrity is merely a setting of the self against the world, an expression of unaccountable, amoral power.

There can be, as well, an unholy compassion, a word that in Hebrew stems from a root meaning “womb.” Instead of taking on parenthood as a holy mission requiring the highest levels of dedication and self-sacrifice, this unholy compassion seeks to control the child through indulging it. It does not even stop when such indulgence leads to the child’s ruin. Unholy compassion uses the womb as a prison from which the child can never escape.

For the concern of this kind of compassion is never the child in its hurt and confusion. This kind of compassion is not interested in seeing the child go through that hurt and confusion to emerge as an adult. Rather, the idea of compassion camouflages the appropriation of the child’s hurt as an opportunity for the adult to decorate their ego, to imagine himself or herself as morally superior. The child becomes a means for them to appear virtuous and achieve the lofty social status properly given to the virtuous person.

The 16th-century Kabbalist Rabbi Yitschak Luria of Tsefat described a world of the soul in which each emotion appears with maximum strength, imbued with a conviction that it alone is the true expression of all that is good and any other expression is illegitimate. He called this the World of Tohu, this last word being the biblical word for the primordial chaos that preceded God’s creation of light.

This description is eerily reminiscent of the monomania that grips the woke today and is particularly virulent in those who have deeply invested their egos in the hurrying of confused teenagers toward a hell that they sell as heaven. Theirs is a cancerous compassion that takes over and chokes off every other emotion and insight so necessary in the development of a real, grounded adolescent who is ready for the trials and shocks as well as joys of becoming an adult.

The prophet Isaiah taught that God has not created the world to return to primordial chaos — God creates it to be settled, with a balance and a blend of creativity and order. Now more than ever is this insight necessary — in thought, in word, and in action. We must stand for the wholeness of life, of its balance of hurt and joy, and of the need to be compassionate. We must stand as a guardian of the difficult but necessary truths that every child deserves to learn.

Figures like J. K. Rowling, Abigail Shrier, Peterson, and Davies-Arai have bravely and publicly fought to uncover the mistruths that camouflage the massive failure of our institutions to respond to this plague that is damaging our children, and may their work be blessed with success.

We as well need some balance, even here, and Cole Porter supplies it for us. Listen to Anything Goes, and you will realize that there is very little that is new under the sun.

Cole Porter could lampoon the pretensions of the rich by laughing at their absurd pretensions that somehow their status exempts them from being bound by moral truths. Today, when the powerful hector us to join them in their malignant absurdities, Porter can still get us to see how laughable such pretensions are. We need a balanced arsenal in this battle. Humor is a powerful weapon. Even just an inner chuckle can free us of the fear that we too might fall prey to the malignant pretensions of the woke and their horrifying consequences.

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