Category Archives: compassion

I hug the masses. I feel their pain

Competitive compassionate gesturing — and calls for taxpayers’ cash and property

The Grenfell Tower fire, writes Dalrymple,

could not have come at a better time for Jeremy Corbyn.

Dalrymple notes that while the Labour leader is

a natural hugger of potential voters, Theresa May is not. And what establishes the depths of a person’s compassion for victims more indisputably than a hug?

Corbyn, indeed,

senses that he is but a compassionate gesture or two away from occupying No.10.

Time for some good old Leninist expropriation

This Marxist says that he is angry at what happened, which he links to

what is known as fiscal austerity—that is, when government spends only 108% of tax revenue, instead of the much higher percentage that he favours.

Of course, Corbyn

skated over the part played by the public sector in the tragedy.

The hope of a dilemma-free world is naïve where it is not power-hungry

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-19-05-57The problem, says Dalrymple, with a nationalised health system’s

incontinent sharing of risk

is that

it deprives people of one possible motive for behaving responsibly. They believe, not without reason, that someone will always pick up the pieces for them at no cost to themselves. Irresponsibility thrives where there is no penalty for it.

He points out, however, that the problem with individualised insurance is that

it may place intolerable or unsustainable burdens on people through no fault of their own.

In short,

incontinent sharing of risk is unjust: too little sharing of risk is inhumane. Since both justice and humanity are desirable qualities, but not always compatible, now one, now the other, will be the more important; but the tension between them will remain.

Dalrymple writes:

That ethical decisions sometimes cannot be made that are indisputably correct, that entail no injustice or no inhumanity, is difficult for rationalists and utilitarians to accept. They want every division to be without remainder. They want a formula that will decide every question beyond reasonable doubt. They want a universal measure of suffering, so that the worth (in units of suffering averted) of every medical procedure can be known and compared. There is a cognitive hubris at play, according to which information will resolve all our dilemmas; and if our dilemmas have not been answered, it is only because we do not have enough information.

As for the doctor,

he cannot be so limitlessly compassionate as to deny patients’ responsibility where it exists, nor should he deny his patients his compassion by blaming them even when they are to blame.

How do I appear concerned and compassionate to my friends, colleagues, and peers?

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 23.03.21

More humanitarian than thou, not to mention a great deal richer

This, says Dalrymple, is for the pols, the polly-toynbees, the pundits and the pampered celebs of the West the real and most pressing question raised by any social problem.

The rules are:

  • Never give the appearance of blaming the victim of any social problem, or anyone whose life is poor or unenviable, by examining the bad choices he makes
  • Refrain always from looking at the reasons for those choices, since victims are victims and not responsible for their acts, unlike the small class of human beings who are not victims
  • Do not stare at a social problem for very long. Turn to abstractions, to structures over which the victim has no control

The rawness of reality must be avoided, says Dalrymple, so that

utopian schemes of social engineering can be spun.

The bien-pensants view people as

in the grip of forces that they cannot influence, let alone control—and therefore as not full members of the human race.

That people are reduced to automata suits the élite, for it

increases the importance of its providential role in society.

Compassion made prose

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‘Nobody suffers in the world but she feels for him, in the same way as God knows and cares about sparrows. The wonder is that she gets any sleep’

Compassion is better as a retail than as a wholesale virtue

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 21.31.17No doubt, writes Dalrymple, there are exceptional people

who are able to feel compassion towards populations or categories of humans. But they are few. The more widely a person’s compassion is cast, the thinner it tends to be spread, until we begin to suspect that it is not compassion but a pose or an exhibition of virtue — humbug, at best an aspiration, at worst a career move.

State-subsidised bogus charity

State-subsidised bogus charity

The welfare state, Dalrymple points out,

  • protects people from the consequences of bad choices and fosters and encourages those choices, which follow the line of least resistance or favour instant gratification over longer-term desiderata
  • undermines the taking of individual responsibility, especially where the economic difference between taking it and not taking it tends to be small
  • favours the undeserving more than the deserving, in so far as the undeserving have a capacity or talent for generating more neediness than the deserving. (They also tend to be more vocal)
  • dissolves the notion of desert. There is no requirement that a beneficiary prove he deserves what he is legally entitled to. Where what is given is given as of right, not only will a recipient feel no gratitude, it must be given without compassion — without regard to any individual’s situation
Save the aid workers

Save the aid workers

The difference between public and private charity

is not that the former does not consider personal desert while the latter does; Christian charity does not require that recipients be guiltless of their predicament. It is the spirit in which the charity is given that is different. That is why large charities so closely resemble government departments: you cannot expect a bureaucracy to be charitable in spirit.

The compassion bureaucrats

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 16.13.54Dalrymple points out that homelessness is

a source of employment for not negligible numbers of the middle classes.

He pays a visit to a hostel for the homeless sited in

a rather grand but disused and deconsecrated Victorian church.

He discovers that

there were 91 residents and 41 staff members, only a handful of whom had any direct contact with the objects of their ministrations.

The homeless

slept in dormitories in which there was no privacy whatever. There was a rank smell that every doctor recognises (but never records in the medical notes) as the smell of homelessness.

And then,

passing along a corridor and through a door with a combination lock to prevent untoward intrusions, one suddenly entered another world: the sanitised, air-conditioned (and airtight) world of the bureaucracy of compassion.

The number of offices,

all computerised, was astonishing.

The staff,

dressed in smart casual clothes, were absorbed in their tasks, earnestly peering into their computer screens, printing documents, and rushing off for urgent consultations with one another. The amount of activity was impressive, the sense of purpose evident.

It takes some effort for Dalrymple

to recall the residents I had encountered as I entered the hostel, scattered in what had been the churchyard.

They were

swaying if upright and snoring if horizontal, surrounded by empty cans and plastic bottles of 9% alcohol cider (which permits the highest alcohol-to-pence ratio available in England at the moment).


the hostel administrators made pie charts while the residents drank themselves into oblivion.

How do I appear compassionate?

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 23.34.33How do I appear concerned and compassionate to my friends, colleagues and peers?

For pols and pundits, writes Dalrymple, this is

the real and most pressing question raised by any social problem.

It is imperative

to avoid any hint of blaming the victim by examining the bad choices that he makes. It is not even permissible to look at the reasons for those choices, since by definition victims are victims and not responsible for their acts, unlike the relatively small class of human beings who are not victims.

No member of the modern liberal intelligentsia

can stare at a social problem for very long. He feels the need to retreat into impersonal abstractions, into structures or alleged structures over which the victim has no control. And out of this need to avoid the rawness of reality he spins utopian schemes of social engineering.

He is ever on the lookout for reasons to exempt criminals from responsibility for their acts,

as a sign of his generosity of spirit.

The moral grandeur of Western leaders

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 08.07.27The honour of being governed by the likes of these

Thank heaven, writes Dalrymple, for our enlightened Western leaders, with their

profound — and profoundly humane — views

on the matter of, for instance, criminal justice.

They see things all so clearly.

Finding himself in the West Country, Dalrymple picks up a local paper, the Western Daily Press, and lights on the following report:

A Chard [near Yeovil] teenager has been jailed for his part in what a judge called ‘an horrendous attack’ on a vulnerable and defenceless man with autism. Daniel Rodrigues, 18, of Beckington Crescent, and two co-defendants subjected their victim to a ‘brutal’ attack after a bout of heavy drinking. A police officer who attended the blood-spattered scene in a flat said it was ‘like something out of a horror movie’, Taunton Crown Court was told. All three attackers had blood on them and at one time they were all hitting their 20-year-old victim, Robert Macdonald, at the same time.

Macdonald was struck over the head a number of times with an iron bar and was taken to hospital with multiple cuts to his forehead, face and scalp, said Fiona Elder, prosecuting. Forensic scientists found he had been hit while already bleeding. He needed surgery with a general anaesthetic and a blood transfusion. In a victim impact statement, he said the vision in one eye was affected, he had scars to his face and head and had to move away from Taunton because he felt so scared.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 08.08.51Rodrigues, the paper reports,

was jailed for 15 months for inflicting grievous bodily harm.

Dalrymple explains that in other words, Rodrigues will serve

at most 7½ months in prison (remission of 50% is an inalienable right) and quite possibly fewer, if he is granted early release.

Dalrymple asks:

If he gets 7½ months for a crime like his, which sentence must lesser criminals, such as mere burglars, get?

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 08.19.23Punishment, he says,

must be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence; and surely anyone can see that to send a burglar to prison for (say) six weeks is utterly futile. It follows from this that to send Rodrigues to prison is itself totally pointless; Rodrigues ought to be released at once, to prevent the terrible absurdity, the mockery, of it all.

Primitive punishment impulse is overcome

Thank heaven, writes Dalrymple, that

we have a justice secretary who sees this all clearly. Really it is an honour for a population to be ruled by people of so deep an insight, so sincere a compassion and so uncompromising a realism. We may be proud of our state that it has at last overcome the primitive impulse to punish, incarcerate and incapacitate young men like Rodrigues, who so badly need help. Pity about Robert Macdonald, the victim of the attack, but the question we must surely all ask ourselves is, Did he have a triple lock on his front door? And if not, why not?


Brutal institutionalised sentimentality

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 09.12.52Dalrymple points out that

sentimentality and hardness of heart are two sides of the same coin.

Ersatz feeling and indifference

Dalrymple explains how when sentimentality

Hollywoodian ersatz feeling elevated over appreciation of reality, masking utter indifference

Hollywoodian ersatz feeling elevated over appreciation of reality, masking utter indifference

is made the basis of policy, its denial of reality and its elevation of ersatz feeling over appreciation of reality leads straight to bureaucratic indifference.

The ideology of assistance allocated by need irrespective of desert

This orthodoxy, writes Dalrymple, is a sentimental one that

empties life of meaning and is a pretext for hard-heartedness of pharaonic proportions.

The elimination of desert as a criterion of allocation of resources

Ani's heart weighed against a feather: judgment of the dead in the presence of Osiris, papyrus from the Book of the Dead of Ani. From Thebes, 19th Dynasty, c. 1275 BC

Ani’s heart weighed against a feather: judgment of the dead in the presence of Osiris, papyrus from the Book of the Dead of Ani. From Thebes, 19th Dynasty, c. 1275 BC. British Museum

destroys both compassion and empathy. Need can be measured by checklist, but the assessment of desert cannot. It requires judgment, moral and practical.

The demand for no compassion at all

To regard everyone as equally in need of compassion

is the same as regarding no one as in need of compassion, for it is not humanly possible to sympathise equally with the unfortunate and the villainous. The demand for equal compassion is the demand for no compassion.

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 09.54.50At the heart of the sentimental doctrine lies

hardness of heart, as well as lack of realism.


The sentimental

dehumanise the objects of their supposed compassion by denying them agency or full membership of the human race.

Baroque age of self-harm

We live in

Leonardo da Vinci, Le proporzioni del corpo umano secondo Vitruvio, c. 1490. Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Leonardo da Vinci, Le proporzioni del corpo umano secondo Vitruvio, c. 1490. Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice

the baroque or rococo age of self-infliction. One of the reasons for the growth of self-infliction is the failure to recognize its existence even as a possibility.

In the outlook that refuses in the name of compassion to make a judgment,

the villainous are victims of upbringing, social injustice, neurochemistry. Self-infliction cannot exist.

But Man is

not only a political animal, he is a judging animal. To pretend to make no judgments is to make a judgment, and one with bad consequences.

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Perambulation in the Métro

Screen Shot 2013-03-02 at 11.44.24Dalrymple encounters a blind beggar and passes by on the other side, thinking the man a fraudulent scrounger. But it turns out the blindness is genuine. Generalised dishonesty, concludes Dalrymple,

gives us an easy pretext for indifference and lack of compassion.