Thursday, March 03, 2005


Some excerpts from a book review by Roger Sandall

In his 2003 book Conspicuous Compassion Patrick West argues that today's extravagant displays of public grief, concern, and sympathy are "about feeling good, not doing good, and illustrate not how altruistic we have become but how selfish." So it's the insincerity of the emotion displayed at events like Diana's funeral- the outright fraudulence- that deserves to be scathingly denounced. In his view what's going on is moral posturing, theatricalised compassion, public displays of cheap sentiment illustrating Wilde's remark that "a sentimentalist is someone who wants the pleasure of an emotion without paying the price for it." And in the case of conspicuous compassion, the moral kudos that goes with being seen to care......

Compassion is about helping the distressed. Conspicuous compassion is about showing off-not about results, not about feeding the hungry or bandaging those who bleed, but about various forms of moralistic self-display indulged in for their own sentimental enjoyment. In the wake of the tsunami it's important that the distinction be understood, for what Patrick West attacks is the second, not the first. In his introduction to the Australian edition of West's book Paul Comrie-Thomson helpfully contrasts the two, noting that compassion entails a commitment to alleviate a problem, while "sentimentality does not entail a commitment to do anything." Sentimental acts, he says, are accompanied by public announcements that one is `doing good'; but what the sentimentalist is mainly doing is `feeling good'.....

West's book is a useful study of moral pathology. It may well be true that the phenomenon of "recreational grief" he describes is increasingly expressed in much the same spirit as rather more mundane public events. Despite its solemn rubric, Australia's annual National Sorry Day on behalf of the Aborigines is an orchestrated apology that has now turned into a picnic outing where solidarity prevails, camaraderie overflows, and everyone has a jolly good time feeling morally superior to the rest of the world. Amidst a plethora of T-shirts, reconciliation badges, and Sorry Postcards, the masochistic appeasement of white guilt is what it is mainly about: it is most unlikely that Black Australia benefits in any way. In the theatrics of National Sorry Day, white, middle-class, feelgood politics is classically embodied.....

Yet human psychology is complicated, and I suspect that rather more is going on in displays of conspicuous compassion than author Patrick West admits. Our motives are seldom pure. They usually bring a variety of emotions and moral feelings into play. This is obvious enough in the remark of U2's Bono that "As a pop star I have two instincts. I want to have fun. And I want to change the world." And it is even more explicit in Doris Lessing's admission that "few things are more enjoyable than marching, picketing, striking, rioting; to be part of a large crowd high on singing, chanting, slogans. To be, by definition, with the forces of good against evil."

We are given to such displays of empathy because we want to be loved ourselves. Despite being healthier, richer and better-off than in living memory, we are not happier. Rather, we are more depressed than ever. This is because we have become atomised and lonely. Binding institutions such as the Church, marriage, the family and the nation have withered in the postwar era. We have turned into communities of strangers.....



Opinion Journal has some pretty pungent comments on the latest bit of legislation emanating from the U.S. Supreme Court. That those guys can get away with making the law up as they go along cries out for a remedy. They are only supposed to interpret the law, not dream up new laws out of thin air. This will certainly encourage use of the "nuclear option" (a Senate rule change) if the Dems try to filibuster any of GWB's Supreme Court nominees.

Those wise German socialists again: "More than 5.2 million Germans were out of work in February, new figures show. The figure of 5.216 million people, or 12.6% of the working-age population, is the highest jobless rate in Europe's biggest economy since the 1930s. The news comes as the head of Germany's panel of government economic advisers predicted growth would again stagnate. The growth warning triggered anger even from government supporters, who said the Social Democrat-Green administration of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had to do more. "We are not going to create more jobs with growth of 1%," Harald Schartau, head of the Social Democrats in the northern state of North Rhine-Westphalia, told ZDF television. The German government insists its efforts to tackle the stubbornly-high levels of joblessness with a range of labour market reforms are only just getting under way. The core is the "Hartz-IV" programme introduced in January to shake up welfare benefits and push people back into work - even if some of the jobs are heavily subsidised" [Maybe they need some "cowboy capitalism"!]

The "Arab street" turned out to want democracy! "The return of politics to Iraq has had many blissful secondary consequences, one of them apparently minor but nonetheless, I think, important. When was the last time you heard some glib pundit employing the phrase 'The Arab Street?' I haven't actually done a Nexis search on this, but my strong impression is that the term has been, without any formal interment, laid to rest. And not a minute too soon, either. In retrospect, it's difficult to decide precisely when this annoying expression began to expire, if only from diminishing returns."

Britain toughening up? "Britain's Counter-Terrorism Minister warned the Muslim community last night that it must face the reality of being targeted by the police because of the threat from an extreme form of Islam..... Ms Blears's comments appear to conflict with the commitment by the police not to target suspects because of their race, a key recommendation of the 1999 inquiry by Sir William Macpherson into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager. She said yesterday that Britain's 1.5 million Muslims should accept as a reality that people of Islamic appearance are more likely to be stopped and searched. "At the moment the threat is more likely to come from those associated with a most extreme form of Islam or who are falsely hiding behind Islam," she told MPs. "It means that some of our counter-terrorism powers will be disproportionately experienced by people in the Muslim community. There is no getting away from the fact." ... She said later that because the current threat came from people masquerading as Islamists, police would have that in mind when using stop-and-search powers. "That is the reality. I do not think it should go unsaid."

Moderate Dems switching: "Citing his dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party and its liberalism, Tippah County, Miss., Sheriff Brandon Vance switched parties Tuesday. "Howard Dean taking the chairmanship of the Democratic Party brought home to me that I was no longer comfortable in the Democratic Party. Dean's and the Democratic National Committee's values and beliefs are too far on the fringe for me," Vance said. Vance's decision to join the GOP continues a trend that picked up steam after Mississippi Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck switched parties prior to her successful bid for re-election. State Republican officials said four state senators, five state representatives, Public Service Commissioner Michael Callahan, and several county and municipal officials have followed Tuck since she crossed the aisle in 2003".

My latest posting on MarxWords notes that Engels despised non-Germans. My latest posting on "A scripture blog" looks at Revelation 5 and a lamb with 7 horns and 7 eyes!



That power only, not principles, is what matters to Leftists is perfectly shown by the 2004 Kerry campaign. They put up a man whose policies seemed to be 99% the same as George Bush's even though the Left have previously disagreed violently with those policies. "Whatever it takes" is their rule.

Leftists are phonies. For most of them all that they want is to sound good. They don't care about doing good. That's why they do so much harm. They don't really care what the results of their policies are as long as they are seen as having good intentions.

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist"

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