Empathy and Sympathy

H/t to LOTB, Norman Podhoretz says he has no empathy for the Palestinians.

Podhoretz violates a social norm here, because the social norm is that you are supposed to have at least a little empathy for everyone, even people you don’t like. Systems of social norms, whether you call them religions, spiritual systems, or legal and political systems, operate partly around ethics, or what the rules are, and partly around empathy, which is the understanding of a person’s subjective situation, and also sympathy, which is an understanding for a person’s subjective situation combined with compassion for them.

There are rules, but people don’t always follow them. Who, when they don’t follow the rules, gets empathy, sympathy and love? Who, when they don’t follow the rules, gets judgment, condemnation, and hate?

Most social systems feature mostly ethics for everyone, with some sympathy for everyone. People are supposed to follow the rules, if they break them they are punished, but not excessively. If the rules are difficult and strict, more people will break them, creating more need for empathy, but if the rules are hard the people making and enforcing the rules won’t be inclined to much empathy. This will alienate a lot of people. The rules have to be strict enough to allow society to function, but not so strict people will frequently violate them and lose respect for the rules and the rulers. Strict rules are great for the rulers, but tend to backfire in the long run.

The ethical system held by mainstream conservatives and libertarians mostly rules, with limited empathy, but the rules are not strict so empathy isn’t a big issue. You must not harm others. If you harm others, you will be punished, but only to the extent necessary to maintain order, not with hatred or anger. Conservatives expect traditional sexual mores to be respected. People unable to produce economically will get charity or welfare, to a limited extent, but they believe the economy can be organized so that it is easy to get a job and make a living.

Progressives have a quite different concept of ethics. Empathy and sympathy are extended virtually without limit to some groups and not at all to others. I think this goes back to Jesus’s admonition to “love your enemies”. Bible interpretation gets onto dangerous ground. The important point here is that progressives decided at some point that not only was it good to love your enemies in addition to loving your friends and relatives, it was good to love your enemies more than your friends or relatives. This to me is the Pharisaical sin of adding on to the law, but it allowed themselves to position themselves as morally superior, and moral superiority as power is the entire idea of the last 500 years.

Jesus also told people to care for the poor and oppressed, so progressives extend unlimited empathy- or demand that others extend unlimited empathy- to those they identify as poor and oppressed, and people regarded as bad. Progressives love criminals, and care deeply about their well-being, while having no empathy for crime victims, and subjecting them to a high ethical standard. They expect criminals will be treated with kindness and decency, love, and not punished but only given confinement and treatment such as needed to remove their defects of behavior, which are entirely understandable and only due to oppression. Crime victims are expected to not have any anger over their suffering and loss and expected not to hate the criminals who hurt them, but immediately forgive them, whether they show any remorse or repentance, and not demand any more punishment than a progressive criminal justice system would dole out.

The poor are by definition good, so they must receive a lot of money and aid from the government, and the non-poor must not object to paying for this.

Most people find homosexuals and transsexuals disgusting, but being different they are oppressed, and society must do whatever they want so they will feel comfortable, and normal people must not object to their presence or any of their behavior.

This upside-down system of ethics and empathy became more and more powerful up until the 1970’s, but then the massive crime problem it created caused a backlash and counter-revolution by normal people. The criminal justice system became a lot more strict. School busing was ended, so people were able to move away and keep their children away from badly behaving poor people. Gays didn’t move back legally, but they toned down their behavior somewhat and rather than acting like 60’s cultural rebels, have since tried to portray themselves as normal middle-class citizens.

The Pharisees took a fairly straight-forward system of law and ethics and added additional customs and rules to it, to make themselves look better and give themselves more authority. This frustrated and discouraged the population. If you are a city dweller with slaves who can go to a well close by, you can wash frequently but if you are a farmer or herder admonitions to wash frequently may be difficult or impossible to follow. Jesus only wanted to restore a reasonable system of ethics and empathy, tempered with humility. Only God is good, he reminded us.

Progressive Christians took the Pharisaical model of religion where well-behaved, outwardly religious people with money were good- very much like the pagan model- to one where the badly behaved poor and sexual deviants are the good people. You go from having Deuteronomy Pharisees, who are annoying, to Sermon on the Mount Pharisees, who are deadly.

Extending unlimited compassion to the badly behaved is really a Hindu or Buddhist concept- a theoretical one, since poor and badly behaved people aren’t treated too well in Asia. The reasoning here is a little better, because a murderer for example has to suffer many lifetimes, including murder himself before he is enlightened and enters a state of bliss, rather than getting a get-out-of-jail-free card. Extending unlimited compassion to a person who has harmed you is ethically questionable to me, because while you can discount the harm they have done to you, you can’t legitimately discount the harm they may do to others without punishment. But at least it’s your choice. Demanding other people extend unlimited compassion to people who have harmed them, while extending them no compassion yourself, is evil


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The Strange and Terrible Visions of Fred Phelps and Philip K. Dick

Cross-posted from my religion blog.

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Fred Phelps, RIP

Fred Phelps has died. The gays are dancing in the streets. Besides being religiously conservative he was a racial liberal, a civil rights attorney honored by the NAACP for his assistance to black clients. That’s considered very weird today, but until recently white liberals were repelled by sexual perversion and most black people still are.

Phelps had good reason to hate gays, as I wrote in my religion blog awhile back. Gays, supported by the good liberals of Topeka were unwilling to take action against child sexual abuse occurring openly in public. Let’s not kid ourselves. A great many gays, maybe a majority deep down, don’t make the same distinctions about children and adults that are a crucial basis for some kind of functional sexual morality. Whatever adults may do, kids are off-limits, that’s a sort of truce between formal morality and libertinism. But simply trying to enforce this Phelps got rebuked.

Not wanting your grandchildren to be solicited in a public park by homosexuals does not make you an evil homophobe. Or actually, yes it does. It wasn’t that homosexuals wouldn’t recognize this boundary, it was that the entire legal, political and religious establishment of Topeka, Kansas wouldn’t recognize it. And this was over twenty years ago, before the last two decades of gay propaganda.

Gays are very powerful, and probably have been for a long time. They help each other and probably once formed a very strong secret network, which is now pretty much public. You would think perverts hanging out in park restrooms looking for sex with children would be hobos, bums or lowlife freaks, but that may have been a hobby of a few respectable businessmen and ministers…… If our country is controlled by these people, we can’t much help it. But the fact no church in Topeka- in 1991- was willing to stand up to these people, no matter how futilely, shows that Phelps was probably right. America is doomed. Fighting for America is fighting for pederasty, on some level.

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Nationalism Versus Pseudo-Nationalism

I recently wrote about the old American organizing philosophy of “Americanism”, which called for the non-ethnic, non-racial, and non-religious unification of Americans in service of the greater interests of the nation, very broadly defined as including various wars and military operations overseas and major social reorganization at home.

Something to understand about Americanism was that it didn’t actually put all ethnic and religious groups on the same footing- it was implicitly understood that America was based on English political principles organized originally by English people, and while all were welcome, the newcomers were under obligation to conform to a deracinated version of this. Newcomers could take pride in being accepted into the nation, and the old Americans could take pride it was their culture it was based on. The joining together of things that are not actually the same is shown in the Americanist coining of the term “Judeo-Christian”.

I’m going to call this “pseudo-nationalism”-  a system that recruits the passion and pride of nationalism by giving some credit or at least paying lip service to traditionalists, without actually offering them the benefits of nationalism. America is the most obvious pseudo-nationalist entity. Empires that call themselves empires don’t need to engage in this obfuscation, because they can offer their citizens the benefits of nationalism at home and if they can’t make it at home or want to increase their status, they can go abroad for jobs as imperialists.

Russia however also qualifies as a pseudo-nationalist entity. Russian expansion over the centuries has meant incorporating non-Russian, non-Orthodox people into the Russian empire. Russians had a primary place in this empire as soldiers and administrators, but it was not really run for their benefit.

The Bolsheviks took over this system, but Russian nationalism wasn’t of any interest to them, in fact it was the sort of thing they were trying to wipe out. World War II changed this. A sense of Russian nationalism was helpful for fighting the Germans.

Viktor Suvorov, in one of his books, commented that economic well-being in the USSR was proportional to assumed political reliability- inversely proportional, the opposite of what you might think. He said the Central Asians were the best off, then the Ukrainians, and worst off the Russians. The Russians were allowed to dine off the idea that they were bosses of all this.

Putin is deeply loved by traditionalists, who seem to mostly regard him as the white knight against sinister foreign forces in the Ukraine. But Putin has just revived Russian pseudo-nationalism as policy. It’s a good policy- the US rose to hyperpower status as a pseudo-nationalist entity. Putin shows respect to the Orthodox at home, but real Russian nationalists who oppose Moslem crime in Moscow get harsh treatment.

The Ukrainian uprising seems to represent a split between West and East that goes back a long way. The Right Sector describes their conquest as a “Reconquista”, although I don’t know how the translation works on that. The protestors had Crusader crosses on their shields, and more pointedly one had made a helmet of the pepper-pot style preferred by the Teutonic Knights. According to Sailer one of the big Russian Ukrainian oligarchs is a Moslem, so there may be a lot of Moslem organized crime associated with Russian rule.

I can appreciate that Russian pseudo-nationalism has appeal to Russians, but no one should expect Ukrainians to like it. There are oligarchs and intelligence agents working both sides; I’m going to have to root for the side not poisoned by communism and multiculturalism.

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Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

The most recent news on the holiday was about gays in the New York parade. Still no gays, in this case apparently “freedom of speech” trumps “gay rights”. But it got me thinking-what does it all mean? The parades, the parties, the celebrations, the raucous assertion of identity?

The Irish like to think of themselves as rebels, but the truth is like the Scots and Welsh they have mostly been pretty loyal and reliable servants of the English. The Scots are Protestants and though of a different kind, able to accommodate themselves to the English. The Welsh are just too few in number to be significant. In reality none of these peoples had any real choice.

The Irish however still feel the need to push back a little bit. We are your servants, and we know it, the celebration says, but don’t take our obedience and loyalty too much for granted, because we still have a little independent spirit. And indeed the celebration represents no threat to the elite. The Puritan component is revolted by the revolting peasants- which is why they not only don’t care if gays march in the parade, they don’t really want them to, they don’t want their pets slumming- but the more moderate element understands the benefit of letting the help get drunk and blow off steam once a year.

Certain expressions of ethnicity- by loyal non-elite groups, mostly the Irish and Scandinavians- are not minded by the elite. So put on the green, have a cold one, or a few, and celebrate that strange condition we know as Irishness. And do so in the comfortable knowledge the masters don’t mind at all.

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The Existential Hero

I made a comment over at Jim’s Blog on the topic of working-class consciousness, how whites needed to see themselves as workers as well. Jim responded pretty strongly to this, to the original comment and to the extent of making a post directly on the topic,  Working class consciousness, dismissing the idea comprehensively as leading to Nazism or communism.

It turns out Jim isn’t a “neo-reactionary” at all but just a very familiar figure, a Randian capitalist libertarian. According to Jim, people don’t make things, joint-stock corporations make things.

I don’t like to put my own links in comments, but the comment I made on quasi-black nationalist/comic book nerd/Howard University dropout Ta-Nehisi Coates is strangely enough appropriate for Jim.  My comment on Coates was that black people don’t make things, white people make things; my comment to Jim, with only a few side comments needing changes, is that joint-stock corporations don’t make things, white people make things.

Ayn Rand is regarded pretty snidely by the good people- a crazy woman a few nerds like in high school, and some black-hearted libertarians and Republicans. And yet the Randian hero- a capitalist who strives against all odds, opposition, and even the law to build his empire- is at least as much a hero of progressives as of neoconservatives. Who is more the Randian hero than Steve Jobs? More the progressive ideal? Less heroic, but still in the mold, are Mark Zuckerberg, the Google guys, and various other tech capitalists. (The more socially conventional engineers who made it all possible with the actual technology are conveniently forgotten- after all they are just white guys making stuff in their garages like my uncle.) Unrestrained capitalism of the right sort is deeply admired by progressives. Blacks, latinos, women, and gays have rights, but workers are just losers, whatever their skill level.

The existential hero- a more modern version of the German Romantic hero- is the individual who defies fate and the conventional order to create his own destiny, to remake the world in his own image. Ayn Rand saw the mass-manufacturing capitalists of the late 19th century as her ultimate models, and yet the communist terrorists of the same era fit the bill at least as well. The existential hero shapes the colorless and dull mass of humanity to his ideal.

So both the idealized market economy and the two basic kinds of leftism- the cultural kind, progressivism, and the economic kind, communism- place great importance on the figure of the existential hero. Here’s the thing, though- there is no existential hero. Every human being is at the mercy of, a product of and hostage to forces far greater than he and far outside his power and control. The ostensible existential hero is only one, more visible member of a greater human community, and above that creation itself.

Marx placed the source of human wealth in the laborer- and ambiguous term, that in Marx’s original economics meant much more a skilled worker than came later, since he wrote in the early stages of industrialization. All the classical economists tried to form a labor theory of value, starting with Adam Smith, and never came up with a good one. Marx’s theory, which he set out at great length, is based on David Ricardo’s, which takes about a paragraph. Ayn Rand placed it in the genius of the untamed individual. Jim places it in a form of legal organization of assets.

All these things work together- work, of various levels of sophistication, genius and creativity, the organization of society, and in innovation a willingness to question and overthrow the accepted way of doing things. But to elevate one high above the others is to misunderstand their relationship. The defect of leftism is not a particular form of organization, as much as it is crushing the culture and the individual.

Another way- not exactly a third way, maybe a fourth or fifth way, without Marx or Rand, and without a corporate legal system that shuts out any plaintiff without huge amounts of money- recognizes the organic nature of human society, and protects and disciplines all. The truth is the existential hero is a myth. People build on the accomplishments of others, and pass along what they have built to others. A society or system that doesn’t understand or recognize the contributions of all types and classes of people will suffer from a harmful imbalance.

(Cross-posted with substantially the same content to my religion blog here.)

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Rex Lex, or Lex Rex?

This is one of those things that may be politics, or may be religion. The two are inescapably intertwined, and in many cases the same thing, so I will put it here on my politics blog first, then cross-post it at my religion blog.

I was reading some religion blog, I can’t find the source, and it brought up a Puritan named Samuel Rutherford, who took the ancient Latin proverb, rex lex- the king is the law- and turned it around to lex rex, the law is king. This of course follows the Puritan effort to delegitimize the authority of the king and the Catholic hierarchy, and replace it with something else- but what else? The law? What is the law anyway?

The “rule of law” is a sacred American concept, logically enough as America is a Puritan country. Conservatives love the rule of law, because they see liberals violating the law all the time, usually through the legal system itself.

Here’s a good example- I hate to foist the Atlantic on you, but it’s the only progressive fish-wrapper I read. This “legal scholar” presents his view on a subject, with a combination of confidently asserted logical fallacies and menacing normative language. The law might be any number of things, but for the most powerful people in the most powerful country, that’s what it is.

Rex lex means the king is the law, or says what the law is. Lex rex means the law tells the king what he can do. Since the law will always be interpreted by someone- especially in the Anglophone system, where the law is deliberately vague to leave power in the hands of the judge, who represents a king who no longer exists- there is always some power that comes before the law. The only question is what it is.

As far as Anglophone power reaches, we are ruled by the whims of the Puritan elite. In the religious or existential sense, though, what comes before the law is God, if you believe in God, or just simply reality, if you are an atheist, in which case reality is God- the final source that can’t be questioned or challenged.

Any kind of law, policy, or custom has to conform to, or at least not challenge, reality. Progressivism is entirely lies, but makes a loophole for itself by exempting the elite from most of their own rules.

So the answer is rex lex, and anybody who says otherwise is setting himself up as your ruler.

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