Category Archives: desert

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.

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.

Dehumanisation

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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 10.07.11