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Compassion and the Decline of America

Tuesday, Mar 20, 2007

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This past weekend, a friend of mine attended his 13-year-old son’s baseball game. What he saw encapsulates a major reason many of us fear for the future of America and the West.

His son’s team was winning 24-7 as the game entered the last inning. When he looked up at the scoreboard, he noticed that the score read 0-0. Naturally, he inquired as to what happened — was the scoreboard perhaps broken? — and was told that the winning team’s coach asked the scoreboard keeper to change the score. He and some of the parents were concerned that the boys on the losing team felt humiliated.

In order to ensure that the boys losing by a lopsided score would not feel too bad, the score was changed.

As is happening throughout America, compassion trumped all other values.

Truth was the first value compassion trashed. In the name of compassion, the adults in charge decided to lie. The score was not 0-0; it was 24-7.

Wisdom was the second value compassion obliterated. It is unwise to the point of imbecilic to believe that the losing boys were in any way helped by changing the score. On the contrary, they learned lessons that will hamper their ability to mature.

They learned that someone will bail them out when they feel bad.

They learned that they do not have to deal with disappointment in life. Instead, someone in authority will take care of them. (This is how reliance on the state for personal problems — the worldview of the Left — is formed early in life.)

They learned that their feelings, not objective standards, are what society deems most important.

They learned that they are not responsible for their behavior. No matter how poorly they perform, there will be no consequences — sort of like tenure for university professors.

They also learned to think in the feminine — with an emphasis on feelings — rather than to cultivate their innate masculine sense that winners win and losers learn to deal with it and move on to the next game.

At the same time, the boys on the winning team learned not to try their best. Why bother?

Building character was the third value trumped by compassion. People build character far more through handling defeat than through winning. The human being grows up only when forced to deal with disappointment. We remain children until the day we take full responsibility for our lives. Our increasingly feelings-based society has created a pandemic of immaturity in our society. And there are fewer and fewer maturity-creating institutions in our society. Indeed, the opposite is more often the case. Schools, for example, keep young people immature, none more so than college, which serves primarily to postpone adulthood.

The fourth value that compassion denied here was fairness. It is remarkable how often compassion-based liberals speak of “fairness” in formulating social policy given how unfair so many of their policies are. It was entirely unfair to the winning team to have their score expunged, all their work denied. But for the compassion-first crowd, the winning team is like “the rich” who earn “too much” and should therefore be penalized with a higher tax rate; the winning team scored “too many” runs to be allowed to keep them all.

Compassion in social policy almost always produces unfair results. Compassion for murderers allows them to keep their lives after taking the life of another. Compassion for minorities leads to affirmative action, which means that individuals who are not members of a designated minority will be treated unfairly. Compassion for immigrant children led to bilingual education, which subsequently prevented most of those children from advancing in American society.

Compassion as the primary determinant of behavior is effective in personal life. In making public policy, it is a morally and socially destructive guideline. In fact, it is so bad that thinking people must conclude that its primary purpose is to enable policy makers who are guided by compassion to feel good about themselves.

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