Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Compassion vs. Foolishness

From a post originally written in 2016:

Hold on to your hats, folks: I'm about to discuss some more psychology. In particular, I'm going discuss the phenomenon of pathological altruism.

Pathological altruism manifests in many ways. You have, for example, the enabler: the family member or friend who financially supports a substance abuser because he wishes to rescue the addict from a life on the street. Drug treatment professionals are in near 100% agreement that enabling prevents recovery; it shields their patients from the worst consequences of their actions and therefore removes a powerful motivation for getting clean. Enabling, however, is so strong a temptation for an addict's loved ones that entire programs have been created for the sole purpose of dealing with its destructive force.

Another example: the animal hoarder. Hoarders genuinely feel for all the poor, abandoned creatures they take into their homes. Along the way, however, they lose sight of reality. They don't notice that their animals are constantly sickly -- or that their houses are coated in fecal matter and collapsing all around them -- or that they're struggling to pay the rent or keep the lights on because they're blowing their budgets on pet food. Pulling a hoarder out of this situation is traumatic and usually involves intensive psychotherapy.

A final - and even more common - example: the indulgent parent. Parents spoil their children not because they intend to raise brats but because they can't stand to hear their babies cry. But of course, if you give a child everything he wants and consistently puff up his self-esteem, you don't end up with a happy, healthy adult. Instead, you end up with a brittle perpetual adolescent who cannot regulate his emotions, delay gratification, display humility, or show empathy for others. You end up, in other words, with a campus activist who shoves undeserving students into walls and screams obscenities in their faces because his demands are not being immediately satisfied.

Pathological altruism is a clinical name for the disordered definition of love I've discussed in earlier posts. It is to compassion what psychopathy or sociopathy is to simple selfishness, and in many situations - obviously - it can be just as damaging. The problem, you see, is that this kind of altruism is divorced from rationality and truth. It encourages recklessness and cocoons people in their lies.

The left has chided us right-leaning folks for ages for our "failure to be kind." But it is not fundamentally kind to bankroll a man's bad habits with the federal purse; not only is that stealing money from people who might've used it more wisely, but it is also insulting the recipient's basic human dignity by implicitly denying his agency. It is, to put it frankly, a form of enabling. Likewise, it is not fundamentally kind to release violent criminals into the general population in the name of "mercy" and "rehabilitation." Again, I believe in the possibility of redemption as much as the next Christian, but prudence, friends! Prudence matters. Without it, you will needlessly injure - or even kill - innocent people...

Please keep the above in mind each time you hear certain politicians promise endless free crap. TANSTAAFL. But more importantly, it's the opposite of moral to reach into other people's pockets while pretending to be generous.

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