A brief analysis of corrupted social ideology and its dysfunctional outcomes
I vehemently disagree with the rubbish in the New Statesman article above. It represents all that is really dysfunctional and loathesome about what once was legitimate humanism.
I think we are blighted by an indulgence economy replete with an indulgent humanist social ideology that no longer has the capacity to tell the difference between compassion and indulgence.
Compassion is a great virtue. Indulgence destroys everything in its path, whether it is economic indulgence whose production inputs and outputs destroy the global ecosystem, or social indulgence which eviscerates our social software, infrastructure and our children.
Indulgence turns liberty into disinibition and life without boundaries. It turns rights into consumer styled entitlements. Indulgence subtly destroys the social and moral agency that gives life and empowerment to those prized artefacts in our social culture.
Indulgence makes governance and self governance disappear. It turns human sensibility into an egoistic wasteland. And it both blunts and actively discourages the capacity to make critical judgements that might expose the absolute mongrel it really is. Criticism becomes heresy.
When George Orwell in his book '1984' brought us the notion of 'doublethink' and the slogan 'Freedom is slavery', he saw that as a function of a totalitarian propaganda and police state. Today, we have a privatized version brought to us by the proud sponsors. And the tools they use are the same pervasive propaganda, but instead of the police state, a culture of indulgence does the same job, without all the obvious downsides and giveaways that state sponsored terror brings in its wake.
We let Freedom Inc do things to us that Stalin and Mao never managed, like removing children from their families and taking them to the magic mountain of consumerland, led by the Pied Pipers of Cool....and their little humanist helpers, whose expurgated rights agenda turns liberty into its opposite, reduces socialization to the level of adolescence and elimates systems of social mentoring and modeling til all that is left is easily manipulable, morally blind, opportunistically inconsequential, socially chaotic and vulnerable egoism, that can be sold anything and led anywhere.
Resistance is now fought not with the threat and use of force, but steady and remorseless marginalization that undermines as it delegitimizes as it reduces its victims into mystified and 'out-of-touch' dorkasaurs who have been made into 'the problem', instead of the libertarian economic and social forces that are destoying their social infrastructure in favor of marketing and sales.
Unlike Ukraine (which I visited last year), almost all our beggars (in Australia) are victims of indulgence.They are the extreme end of a culture that deliberately works to disarm the internal control mechanisms that deliver disciplined, robust and empowered adult (as opposed to adolescent) lives.
And the miserable impacts of this affect everyone to some extent, from corporate boardrooms down to the mean streets and our prisons. Poverty isn't just lack of money. Half our net worth is to be found between our ears and it doesn't matter how much money one has, without decent social software, one is still motherless broke and variously reduced to sociopathy that turns life and its relationships into a mess, whether one is Midas or a beggar.
Indulgence seems innocent enough, which is why it is so dangerous. Underneath its benign exterior is an acid bath that reduces its victims to pulp, whether it is on an industrial scale like the global financial crisis or an addiction end game. It is no co-incidence that the Reformation that marked the beginnings of the modern period was kicked off by objections to the sale of indulgences by the mother church. And it is my prediction that exactly the same thing will end it.
So, I won't indulge most beggars by giving them anything, because all I am likely doing is propping up their shamelessly poor life habits, much as I would be doing if I became the indulgently forgiving customer of a bank that has an equally shameless track record of poor habits like rigging interest rates, money laundering, and insurance and financial advice scams. Bailing people out and forgiving too easily merely reinforces the status quo, by reducing the consequences of their behavior and the incentive to change.
The beggars I do give to, are those who have clearly and irreparably lost the battle to save themselves. That is compassion for people who really are down and out, and helpless for whatever reason, which is the same instinct Ukrainians have when they give to a beggar ex soldier who has had his legs blown off in the war against the Russians, or an obviously ashamed old grandmother who is an aged victim of desovietization and is too old to work.
The time is coming when we must call the bluff and put an end to the kind of moral fudging, cribbing and excuse making that is the hallmark of The Age of Indulgence. When one goes to a place like Ukraine, almost everyone who isn't a thief does it tough, because its rulers and their corporate cronies have robbed the place blind. It is so run down and regulated so badly that everyone struggles. The beggars there really have been overwhelmed by these forces, which is why their poor neigbours give them a little if they can.
Going to a place like Ukraine really puts what is going on in more affluent parts of the world, and what now passes there for 'helplessness', into some sort of perspective.
During the peak of the depression in Australia, almost a third of the workforce was out of work and there were very limited welfare provisions. Tens of thousands of families were forced into tent communities and men took to the roads, looking for work. They were hard times, but people were not helpless. They grew food, caught rabbits, scrounged and repaired rather than replaced worn out items. And when they could, the more fortunate gave what they could, because that was the right thing to do....compassion.
An old American recounted to me when I was a young man about how he and a friend were walking the country looking for work at that time. It was Thanksgiving and snow was about as they trudged through a small town. It was that time of day when the tradtional meal was being eaten and they saw through a window a family in the process of saying grace before the meal. The man at the head of the table saw them in the street and beckoned to them. They came to the door and were invited in to share the meal...compassion.
That kind of moral clarity is a disciplined choice built by strong values and a capacity to judge when exercising it, that it is the proper thing to do, having regard to all the circumstances. And that is the difference between true compassion and an indulgent soft touch who is susceptible to anything if his or her buttons get pushed; the guilt button, the 'the poor thing' pathos button, the feel good button, the excuses button....