Pitiless egalitarianism

April 6, 2013 § 48 Comments

There is all the difference in the world between pity and contempt.    The former expresses caritas for someone who suffers from a disadvantage or is lower in the social hierarchy.  The latter treats someone as an outcast from civilized company.  There are times and places for both; but the time and place for the latter obtains only when the person has brought it upon himself.

Parents of illegitimate children have brought it upon themselves.  The children themselves have not.  To express contempt rather than pity for the latter is, itself, contemptible.

Egalitarian modernity struggles with the difference between pity and contempt, because to be “in” society at all just is to be equal.   To egalitarian modernity anyone who isn’t an equal isn’t anyone at all.  He is worse than contemptible: he is subhuman.

§ 48 Responses to Pitiless egalitarianism

  • Chris says:

    It is a tad binary, is it not?
    There is no ability to say, as the preacher said to the beggar “There but for the grace of God go I”.
    There is no room for mercy, there is no room for charity, there is no room for human decency. What a cold world.

    Mark Steyn today said this… and I think it applies.

    Speaking of actors from across the pond, I had the good fortune of meeting at the end of his life Hilton Edwards, the founder of Ireland’s Gate Theatre. Hilton and the love of his life, Michael MacLiammóir, were for many years the most famously gay couple in Dublin. At MacLiammóir’s funeral in 1978, the Taoiseach and half the Irish Cabinet attended, and at the end they went up to Edwards, shook hands and expressed their condolences – in other words, publicly acknowledging him as “the widow.” This in a state where homosexuality was illegal, and where few people suggested that it should be otherwise. The Irish officials at the funeral treated MacLiammóir’s relict humanely and decently, not because they had to but because they wished to. I miss that kind of civilized tolerance of the other, and I wish, a mere four decades on, the victors in the culture wars might consider extending it to the losers.

    Instead, the relentless propagandizing grows ever more heavy-handed: The tolerance enforcers will not tolerate dissent; the diversity celebrators demand a ruthless homogeneity. Much of the progressive agenda – on marriage, immigration, and much else – involves not winning the argument but ruling any debate out of bounds. Perhaps, like Jeremy Irons, you don’t have “strong feelings” on this or that, but, if you do, enjoy them while you can.

    Now, Hilton lived in sin. He was not in a state of grace. But, to not raise a hand to a man grieving for the love of his life in this fallen world is inhumane. We are were able to be gracious. Indeed, we can honour the man and woman who desires the same sex and sacrifices that for God. The nobility of those people is to be cherished.

    The fracking liberals, those functional fascists, are removing honour, charity, and nobility from us. They are no the way to perdition much more surely than Hilton.

  • Chris says:

    were able to be gracious in second to last para.

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    I wonder the reasons for not being able to distinguish between pity and contempt nor the times and places where just one or both are used. Is it blindness? Misplaced compassion (“kindness”)?

    Okay let’s somebody says, “My goodness. That poor love child. He doesn’t deserve this. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t have a daddy.”

    Does that mean the person wants to gloss over the fact that the child is fatherless or illegitimate, and to try to overcome this disadvantage, pretends that the situation is somehow good or legitimate, in an effort to get rid of the problem?

    For example, I have a small dog in the house. And I don’t want it to be a dog nor for it to be found because I don’t want for people to point at it or comment about it. So I put a blanket on it. It’s still a dog underneath. The dog will probably run around with the blanket over it around the house and sooner or later it can take it off and make things worse.

    What then should I do? Should I put the small dog in a cage?

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    And then the small dog with a blanket (aka bastard/illegitimate glossed over), can be found fighting or barking with the bigger, more advanced dogs (aka legitimate children from intact families), and my genius scheme will lead to even more failure…

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    On my small doggy:

    Should I keep the blanket over it? But wouldn’t I hide its nature and lie about its entire life and existence? Probably disadvantaging it overall?

    Should I put it in a cage and hide it from the world and keep it locked/safe? But in which way? As an asylum or as cocooning (from which it will be released into the world)?

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    Or should I find a place where both big dogs and small doggies congregate?

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    I’m using small dogs and big dogs as analogies for the following below.

    Small dog = Bastard/Illegitimate/Fatherless
    Big dog = Legitimate/Intact Family

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    Or should I abandon the small puppy outside?

  • William Luse says:

    I knew this place would go to the dogs eventually, just not so soon.

  • Zippy says:

    I think I have fleas.

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    You have fleas? Apologies.

  • Vanessa says:

    Unlike dogs, humans have dignity all their own because they are made in the likeness of God, regardless of their parentage. That said, I pray that my children — if they do marry — marry someone from an intact family (no illegitimacy or divorce). No need to stack the deck against yourself when choosing a mate.

    As to the main topic, very interesting. Yes, pity, like mercy, is inherently unmodern because of the implied hierarchy. You can only pity someone or be merciful to them if you deem them lesser in some way. If someone is quite similar, than pity becomes impossible because of the lack of detachment (Aristotle says that terror casts out pity), and if they are quite superior, then you will be more indifferent to their suffering because you will see them as profiting on balance.

  • Vanessa says:

    I do pity fatherless children, but the upside of that is that I have that much more admiration for those who manage to land on their feet as adults. It’s like a social handicap. I reserve my contempt for my equals, as I feel that they should know how to behave themselves, and I can’t cut them too much slack without cutting myself some as well.

    If you do not pity the illegitimate children, then that means that you do not think they are generally worse off than the legitimate children. If you are contemptuous of them, then that means that you consider them your social equal and feel the need to punish them somehow to reassert the natural order.

    I think that the welfare system can give the impression of equality in this case — both illegitimate children and legitimate children have food, clothing, shelter, education, basic medical care, etc. — but these are all superficial things. They are all inputs, but the output is very different between the two groups. The prisons, the welfare rolls, the brothels, the soup kitchens, the family courts, and the unemployment lines are all heavily populated by illegitimate children. They suffer quite a bit already, so it seems mean to want to punish them further.

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    Unlike dogs, humans have dignity all their own because they are made in the likeness of God, regardless of their parentage.

    I was using a small doggy (pup) as an analogy. Also isn’t that messing up the image of God with his likeness?

    Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all[b] the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” — Genesis 1:26

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    God created man in his image, according to his likeness. A man obviously cannot lose the image of God, but can’t a man lose his likeness to God? Like degradation? You see this after the Fall with Cain murdering his brother Abel for example. Both were made in the image of God, but Abel seems more like him in likeness.

    Like all humans are made in image of God, but some are closer to his likeness and others are less?

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    Opps. I meant Genesis 1:26-28

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    Let’s say a murderer. He has his own sin. That person is made in the image of God, but is that person according to the likeness of God?

    Of course we can’t live in an utopian perfect egalitarian peaceful world, so somebody who says that killing something is always bad is obviously a nutcase.

    What about a thief or an adulterer?

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    Or am I going in circles and getting confused?

  • Vanessa says:

    I was using a small doggy (pup) as an analogy.

    I know, but I found the analogy inapt. It’s less a question of pure breeds versus mongrels than well-loved dogs versus abused ones.

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    I didn’t use the word “pure”. I used small dog vs. big dog.

    than well-loved dogs versus abused ones.

    Let’s say I abandoned my small puppy outside. That’s abuse. Now, if I cocooned the dog until it could be released into the world, maybe that’s love?

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    Maybe I should go for a different analogy.

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    Any ideas?

  • Vanessa says:

    I think you’re stretching the analogy a bit because you’re assuming that we should be controlling the dog’s life. The dog already has an owner — of higher or lower quality. It’s a question of whether we pity the dog that has a bad owner or treat it with contempt.

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:


  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    I think you’re stretching the analogy a bit because you’re assuming that we should be controlling the dog’s life. The dog already has an owner — of higher or lower quality.

    Can’t the dog be without an owner?

  • Zippy says:

    … but the upside of that is that I have that much more admiration for those who manage to land on their feet as adults.

    Yes. With great power comes great responsibility; or

    And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more.

    I think that the welfare system can give the impression of equality in this case…

    More than that, I think the modern welfare system is largely driven by the equality imperative; which is quite radically different from patronage of the poor and downtrodden. As I’ve argued before, socialism and its cognates in general are what happens when classical liberals realize that the property regime they support becomes a de-facto new feudalism: that the classical liberal regime does not in fact achieve equality of opportunity.

  • JW says:

    I would call it the difference between empathy and sympathy. Empathy being the acknowledgement of a inferior circumstance in another’s life and agreeing with the substance of that circumstance (it does, in fact, exist) and sympathy being taking partial ownership of that circumstance for another (it does, in fact, exist, and it’s my problem, too). Empathy leads to an objectivity that can lend itself to action while sympathy presupposes action. We tend, in our modern age, to be far more sympathetic than empathetic.

  • Vanessa says:

    To empathize is to understand what someone else is feeling because you have put yourself into their position. To sympathize is to acknowledge a hardship and to comfort them when in that hardship.

    Pity is neither of those. Pity is to acknowledge the existence of a hardship and to feel sorry for someone because of that hardship. That is why it is impossible to feel pity for an equal.

  • Vanessa says:

    When someone experiences hardship, in other words, there are three possible responses:

    They are your inferior, so pity them.
    They are your equal, so feel terror that the same thing might happen to you.
    They are your superior, so acknowledge that they’ve received a hard knock, but also that they’ll do well because of that superiority.

    For instance:

    You are a woman with a BFF who lives a similar life to you, and both of you are happily married. You get along well and there’s no animosity between you. Then one day she tells you that her husband has run off with another woman.

    If you think she is missing some essential husband-happy-making quality that you possess, you might feel sorry for her, but the news won’t make you nervous about your own husband. If you think that the two of you are very similar, you will break out in a sweat and start having nightmares about your husband also abandoning you. If you think she’s wealthier and better-looking than you are, you’ll hug her, but say, “Hey, it’s his loss!” and mean it.

  • Vanessa says:

    What I mean to illustrate is that in all three cases, you have both empathized and sympathized with her, but the rest depends upon your relative status.

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    Thank you for the explanation between sympathy and empathy in a hierarchy Vanessa. God Bless.

  • Vanessa says:

    You’re very welcome.

  • Gian says:

    But is contempt ever the right attitude towards anybody?
    How is contempt compatible with love?

  • Chris says:

    JW: empathy is being with and understanding and tolerating the emotional content of a discourse without identifying with it. Sympathy is to identifiy with the emotion and thus amplify it.

    Which is why I teach empathic ways of communicating, not sympathetic.

  • J.W. says:

    I’ll have to disagree with your notion of empathy/sympathy Vanessa. Chris, your working definition more closely matches mine. I counsel my staff to avoid sympathy while fostering empathy. Though, empathy is much more than tolerating emotional content (and isn’t simply about emotions — one can empathize with situations).

  • J.W. says:

    On another note, I think it’s odd to view life through a hierarchy — one where you constantly evaluate all of your interactions (even with “peers”) by whether or not you are above/below a person in a certain situation. It seems very tiresome (and tiring) to persistently conceive of others (and yourself) as above/below. I also think it’s a tad unchristian to put oneself in the “judgement” seat (not of right or wrong, but in evaluating this self-imposed hierarchy, even among friends).

  • Zippy says:

    You’ve expressed a conventional, respectable (in our society) modern liberal view. In reality of course egalitarian liberal societies expend tremendous energy attempting to suppress natural hierarchies, both at the input (“equality of opportunity”) and output (“equality of outcome”).

    Pious adherents to liberal doctrine are so deeply indoctrinated that they see equality as a natural low-energy (stable) state. But it isn’t. Not only is political equality unnatural: it isn’t even consistently conceivable. That’s why liberalism as practiced in reality always has its untermensch.

  • J.W. says:

    Zippy, I wasn’t talking about political equality. I’m talking about interpersonal hierarchy. As discussed — the idea that one is constantly evaluating each and every interpersonal relationship and relating to each person on a conscious level as either above/beneath you. That, I would guess, would take enormous effort and would also be subject to a whole lot of error.

    Political equality is unnatural as it tends to negate human nature on a broad scale. Anyone who thinks about it for even a few minutes can determine that, objectively.

    I work in a field that necessitates a certain level of personal accountability from our clients. We (as professionals) cannot force a client to do what’s in their best interest to do, we can simply provide them with the education and access to resources that least hinders them from making that choice. Sometimes (often) people are forced to choose between two really crappy choices — but they still have an obligation to choose.

  • Zippy says:

    As far as I can tell, interpersonal hierarchy is just as natural as political. People have to make an active effort to suppress it.

  • Vanessa says:

    JW, empathy and sympathy are not the topic. Pity and contempt are.

    Pity and contempt are both motivating emotional states. Pity can move us to kindness and contempt can move us to anger, but they’re feelings that need to be redirected or they can end badly for us. Contempt can lead to anger and then hate, for instance.

  • Vanessa says:

    “That, I would guess, would take enormous effort”

    Most people do it subconsciously. It’s the basis for ethos.

  • Zippy says:

    If something weird happened to anyone’s comment let me know. The WordPress app on my phone just kind of wigged out.

  • Zippy says:

    Most people do it subconsciously.

    Interpersonal hierarchy is spontaneous and pervasive. At the beginning of getting my MBA the faculty put us through a “team building” exercise. Our cohort of classmates for the most part did not know each other. They sent us out into the woods, gave us some minimal resources – rope, a small boat, a horse, tarps, and such – and gave us an objective that involved crossing a river and other stuff, with various constraints.

    Being a sociopathic sigma, I rolled my eyes and did other sociopathic things. The alphas and the betas immediately organized into a hierarchical workforce and solved the various problems. When they couldn’t figure something out I would sometimes help, if I felt like it.

    That night we were supposed to make our own shelter and sleep in the open. Someone had brought a guitar, which I noodled around on a little as everyone worked. I drove home after everyone had sacked out and slept in my own bed; then I drove in the next morning to arrive before the instructors, who had IIRC gone off to a hotel.

    Of the two guys who had emerged as “alpha” leaders, one did not have the intellectual gifts to succeed long term. The other was one of a handful of people who became millionaires working for me on a project I started.

  • Black_Rose says:

    Just recite the Yoda chain:

    Fear leads to anger…

  • Micha Elyi says:


    Parents of illegitimate children have brought it upon themselves.

    Nobody offers pity to fathers of illegitimate children. So why throw the blanket word “parents” over the facts?

    The heart of the problem is that pity is being foolishly offered to the mothers of illegitimate children. Throwing pity-parties for females has become a bad habit of moderns. Irresponsible females are quick to take advantage.

    Q. What’s the difference between a terrorist and a welfare mother?
    A. A terrorist has to take hostages, welfare mothers make their own.

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    As far as I can tell, interpersonal hierarchy is just as natural as political. People have to make an active effort to suppress it.

    No, wonder I snapped (went depressed) a couple of years ago. I felt like I was in some sort of a Matrix (yes, like The Matrix from 1999).

    This world is kind of freaky. There are vestiges saying that hierarchy/inequality/heritage/religion/etc. is natural, good, beautiful and moral, but everything, from the schools to the media to most stuff, rebels against it and actively suppresses it, rejects it and disregards it.

    That’s the most striking thing. Since enlightened modernity couldn’t, and can’t, destroy the natural balance of the universe, they suppress it, mask it, hide it. Or lie about it. Or pervert its true meaning.

    Why can’t they destroy it? Well, like a parasite on one’s host, if the host is dead, then the parasite will die along with it.

  • Mike T says:

    I don’t know if you still follow W4, Zippy, but if I were drinking coffee right now my lap would be burned from the “W…T…F…” experience I had reading this post from Lydia. I swear, it’s like trolls from Dalrock’s comment section (no reflection on Dalrock, he’s a good guy) hacked her W4 account.

  • thebigpappy says:

    I don’t believe in equality, I believe in fairness instead. A fair society to me is one where everyone is where they belong and is happy about it. That doesn’t mean everyone is at the same social status. On the other hand, an egalitarian society is one where everyone is told they can and should be Beyonce or Obama. It’s just not realistic.

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