There are innumerable Causes in circulation these days. You could probably name a dozen off the top of your head, so I feel no need to do so for you. The Cause plague started well before I was born, propelled by early American “progressives” and Communists. The Causes of those early years usually featured the same central motif as do the Causes of today: ersatz “compassion.”
“Don’t you care?” the Causists screech at their intended victims, always in the most mock-earnest of voices. For ‘tis the heyday of Evangelical Compassion. You’re supposed to care. You’re practically required by law to care. Not caring is bad. It marks you as cold, unfeeling, heartless… a moral monster. And until fairly recently, by exploiting the inchoate but widespread sense of guilt about not caring, the Causists succeeded in browbeating money, petition signatures, and votes out of many who would have preferred to be left alone.
But in a heartening trend of which I speak in the most cheerful of tones, people not only don’t care, they don’t care who knows it. We might still feel a residual twinge of guilt about it – especially the Christians among us, who’ve been compassion-bombed from the pulpit until it leaks out of our ears – but we’ve made our peace with it, nevertheless.
And I shall explain why.
I believe it was Adam Smith who said that a man is inclined to prioritize his own hangnail above a famine in China. (This may not apply to any Gentle Readers currently resident in China.) This is normal. Each of us stands at the center of his personal universe. What’s near to us affects us more directly than what’s far away. We have more power to affect what’s near to us than what’s far away, as well.
However, with the emergence of mass media there arose a global compassion-flogging industry that fattens on tragedy wherever it may lie. It had to happen, you see. Whenever a niche forms that would favor organisms of a particular type, that type will be dominant. And so skilled manipulators and emotional parasites flooded into the nascent industry to feed on our guilt about not really caring but being unwilling to say so.
Their tools have ramified and refined over the years. It starts with words, of course: verbal depictions of vast fields of suffering among helpless if faceless others. In the early years of “progressivism,” that was all the compassion-floggers had. But today the words are supplemented by pictures and recordings: pictures of suffering, starving children and abandoned or brutalized animals; videos of swathes of poverty and destruction; narrators, often famous in their own right, earnestly entreating you to “help if you can.”
The producers usually make out very nicely from such productions, as do the unseen legions toiling in the charities’ back offices. But whether any portion of your “help” ever reaches the supposedly intended beneficiaries is dubious. The indications are that for 15% of a charity’s gross revenue to reach its claimed targets, whether as cash or as goods or services, would put it among the leaders in its field.
For my part, I’d rather be robbed at gunpoint than contribute to such a campaign. I can no longer ignore the dishonesty. And I’d bet the rent money that the majority of my Gentle Readers feel the same.
The following exchange has not happened in all its particulars. It is provided as a pattern to be studied:
Compassion-Flogger: (hawks some Cause in an earnest voice.)
FWP: Go away.
CF: What? Don’t you care that people are suffering?
FWP: Name three.
CF: (flustered, sputters)
FWP: Just as I thought. How much do you care about these people you can’t name?
CF: I’m out here fundraising for them!
FWP: At what salary? What benefits?
CF: Well, ah…
FWP: Can you name someone you have personally helped? Someone nearby, whose actual status I can verify?
CF: (more confused sputtering)
FWP: I thought not. Go away.
CF: (indignantly) I’m not getting a penny for this!
FWP: So why are you doing it, when you could be personally helping to feed, clothe, or shelter sone needy neighbor? Don’t you want to help those in need?
CF: I am helping!
FWP: No you’re not. You’re harassing strangers for contributions to an international scam. You could be doing actual charity whose results you could personally verify. Instead you’re donating your precious time and energy to a corporation whose executives wear suits and ties and probably never get their hands dirty. Go away.
This, of course, would mark me as “hard-hearted.” So very “un-Christian.” But it would be an accurate expression of my convictions regarding impersonal charities and the people who feed from them, who are assuredly not the supposed beneficiaries.
No one admits publicly, and hence public opinion does not admit, that ingratitude is the norm. It is astounding that countless benefactors allow themselves to be persuaded over and over that ingratitude with the resultant hatred is a rare and special case. — Helmut Schoeck
The sanctification of rapacious ingratitude and envy has reached a terminal point, such that it cannot be deepened further. The more we give, the more we concede, the more we set our own priorities aside to placate the demands of others, the more we are resented. Yet the demands escalate. There is no saturation point, for a specific and enraging reason: The livelihoods of the demanders depend upon it.
There’s a two-part dynamic behind this: the flogged-out pseudo-compassion itself, and the self-righteousness of those who seek to evoke it. Consider the following statement from the part-owner of an NBA franchise:
Let’s be honest, nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay? You bring it up, because you really care, and I think it’s nice that you care. The rest of us don’t care. I’m telling you a very hard, ugly truth, okay? Of all the things that I care about– yes, it is below my line. Of all the things I care about, it is below. My. Line.
Now view the reaction from a woman who probably thinks very well of herself:
Umm… Mr. Palihapitiya, with all due respect (which is less than none), go f*ck yourself.
Like I guess it’s too bad that caring about people being methodically, systematically rounded up, imprisoned, raped, tortured, sterilized, and killed doesn’t make you millions of dollars, but usually when people are that morally bankrupt they try to keep it to themselves.
So, Miss Hoffman, what are you doing to help those oppressed Uyghurs? You personally? Apart from flogging someone else for being candid about their position in his priorities, that is?
Your “caring” is shit. You can do nothing for the Uyghurs, and you know it – and however bad it makes you feel about it, your response is to berate another person – a man who owns a business that provides jobs and salaries to an unknown number of others, who use those salaries to support their families and perhaps to do actual charity for others about whom you know nothing! – for not verbally toeing your preferred line!
Chamath Palihapitiya is your moral superior, Miss Hoffman. He doesn’t castigate others for not sharing his priorities. At some level in your cinder of a soul, you know he’s your better – and you resent him for it.
And for the record, I couldn’t give a fart in a hurricane about the Golden State Warriors or the NBA.
“Why don’t I shut up and stop stuffing your ears with nonsense when you ought to be stuffing some other organ entirely?” — John Brunner
It is vital not to give the compassion-floggers a nanometer. Don’t say “Well, yes, I care about them in an abstract way.” Don’t say “Well, if I thought I could do any good.” Your abstract accord that yes, oppression, torture, and starvation are bad no matter who’s being oppressed, tortured, or starved is an opening wedge for them. The floggers want your money and your guilt – possibly, your guilt above all else.
Not caring about something over which you have no personal control or influence is a pro-social position. It conserves your resources for things that are relevant to you and your community. Being candid – even brutal – about saying so to a compassion-flogger is a pro-social act. It makes them less likely to harass someone else…possibly someone weaker and more tractable than you.
Give the floggers nothing. Stay on the attack. Make them cringe for their cheek.
There are innumerable things to not-care about – to leave to the ministrations of others nearer to them. Constructive indifference to them helps us to preserve our own resources of time, money, energy, and emotion for problems we can personally help to ameliorate.
Make “Mind your own business and let me tend to mine” your mantra for this Year of Our Lord 2022. Your “widow’s mite,” given freely and out of true charity, will please Him infinitely more than your semi-coerced contribution to the March of Dimes or the United Way.
I have spoken.