Leftist Morality and Distance- Steve Sailer’s “Leapfrogging” and Dickens’s “Telescopic Philanthropy”

Steve Sailer recently observed that leftists like to “leapfrog” their loyalties, to express loyalty and solidarity to those distant and foreign, not just neglecting those close, but actually to the detriment of those close.

Like all things leftists, the phenomenon is not new. Charles Dickens observed this in England in the 19th century, and lampooned it in the novel “Bleak House” in the character of Mrs. Jellyby, a “telescopic philanthropist” who is obsessed with helping people in Africa, while neglecting the care of her own family.

The phenomenon was old even in Dickens’s time. William Wilberforce was an evangelical Christian who worked to abolish slavery in the British empire in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. But he was resolutely opposed to reform improving the conditions of British workers.

Dickens satirizes it. Sailer observes it. Neither explains it. It’s moral grandstanding, but why?

Some people don’t care about those close to them. Some people don’t even care about their family. Some care about their family, but not their relatives. Some care about their extended family, but not their community. Some care about their community, but not those outside it.

All human beings recognize that caring for those close to them is good, even if they don’t do it much. Some realize caring for those farther away is good also. But why would someone prefer to care for those farther away, and be proud of it?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs his followers to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). Merely loving your friends, relatives and neighbors (who love you) is hardly any sort of moral distinction; even “tax collectors (i.e. really bad people) do the same” (Matthew 5:46).

So loving people far away, or evil people close to you, is a way to show your moral superiority. Caring for people close to you, or sympathetic people could be classified as mere genetic self-interest, as the genetic people like to say. A Catholic nun or Lutheran minister comforting a Death Row murderer can hardly be accused of that. To love the repulsive is to love truly! It is something you can be proud of, and hold up publicly as proof of your virtue.

But more to the point it’s a way to shame, humiliate and browbeat your opponents. To suggest spending a lot of time worrying about criminals or people on the other side of the world at the expense of your people is un-Christian or as they say these days “mean-spirited” and being un-Christian is the worst possible thing you can be.

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About thrasymachus33308

I like fast cars, fast women and southern-fried rock. I have an ongoing beef with George Orwell. I take my name from a character in Plato's "Republic" who was exasperated with the kind of turgid BS that passed for deep thought and political discourse in that time and place, just as I am today. The character, whose name means "fierce fighter" was based on a real person but nobody knows for sure what his actual political beliefs were. I take my pseudonym from a character in an Adam Sandler song who was a obnoxious jerk who pissed off everybody.
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10 Responses to Leftist Morality and Distance- Steve Sailer’s “Leapfrogging” and Dickens’s “Telescopic Philanthropy”

  1. Red says:

    Outstanding post.

  2. Pingback: Linkage is Good for You: Week of April 22, 2012

  3. Matthew says:

    There’s a killer reframe latent in Matthew 5:46-7. “Even the tax collectors and pagans know enough to take care of their own kin. Why don’t you?”

  4. Dale says:

    Much of the telescopic philanthropy is described by Jesus in “The Pharisee stands on the street corner, giving alms. Truly, I say, he has his reward/ When you give, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing.”

  5. Pingback: Charity begins at home « Patriactionary

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