Category Archives: exhibition of virtue

Needed: soft hearts, hard heads

Blaise Pascal

In an age of exhibitionism, writes Dalrymple,

a soft head often passes for a good heart.

He says that fuzzy thought, or the substitution of supposedly generous ideas for real reflection,

is to be combatted not by equal and opposite sloganeering, but by rational argument. It is not only liberty the preservation of which imposes the duty of eternal vigilance: the preservation of reason imposes it as well.

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 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.