Friday Musings: Compassion Trumps Animosity

In my Tuesday piece, Principled Sacrifice, I explored the power each of us holds to either punish or reward those most manipulative and destructive companies.

There is a dangerous perversion of my argument that I’d like to warn against: the extreme politically correct Social Justice Warrior (SJW) movement and their proclivity for undeserved character assassinations. SJW demands should not be confused with principled sacrifice. This moral posturing is a symptom of a bizarre culture where prestige is awarded for outrage and accusations of bigotry. With no regard for truth or intent, the SJW routinely exaggerates offense, manipulates words, assumes malice, and suspends reason in order to appear “woke.” Ideals are never refined and sacrifice never required.

Paradoxically, by crying wolf every time the wind blows, SJWs allow more people to rationalize the true bigotry expressed at the opposite extreme. The dogmas of those most truly bigoted are a manifestation of the same undeveloped moral certitude characteristic of SJWs. Both are fueled by an environment less concerned with truth than ego; an environment that promotes outrage over personal responsibility- comfort over constructive criticism.

Fox Sports personality Jason Whitlock, a black man from Indianapolis, has provoked a great deal of condemnation for his opinions about the methods of our modern Social Justice Warrior. If his aggressors would take the time to listen, rather than calling him an “Uncle Tom,” they might find that many of his goals match their own, but are informed by the study of Civil Rights Leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, and Nelson Mandela. Whitlock objects to incoherent Twitter rants and those who call for “Defiance” for its own sake. As he says:

“I don’t see any examples of this working.... Their (the SJW’s) approach, to me, contributed to Trump being president…. They’re allegedly against Trump, but their approach fuels Trump.”

Whitlock goes on to explain how the process of winning progress has never featured divisive eruptions of outrage that are opposed to civil discourse. It has never been won through one day or one march. Change does not follow unrefined or unclear thought patterns. Real social progress has always been the product of clarity, long-term sacrifice, intelligent dialogue, and maturely taking the moral upper hand with thoughtful actions and words. This requires honest self-reflection, the demand that one’s constituents hold themselves to a standard, and an earnest desire to grow and mature with anyone willing to talk honestly. Nothing important is ever accomplished expediently. It is commitment, clarity, perseverance, and a willingness to be wrong that drive progress. 

The brilliant Eric Weinstein was preparing for a recent live speaking event. He asked his daughter what he could do differently in this talk, to which she responded: “Remind people to be compassionate with those who are struggling.” Simple, beautiful, and wise. Compassion often goes far further than animosity. As Weinstein tweeted: “It’s a simple shift from the coerced compassion of call-out culture. Yet it changes everything.”  

Place the Common Good Over Ego

 “To go to prison because of your convictions and be prepared to suffer for what you believe in, is something worthwhile. It is an achievement for a man to do his duty on earth regardless of the consequences.”  –Nelson Mandela

Throughout British colonization and Apartheid, South Africa’s indigenous majority faced inhumane treatment and systematic marginalization. For his role fighting for equal treatment, Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison. Mandela spent the next 27 years in hard labor under the unforgiving South African sun. He missed watching his children grow up, yet, somehow, upon being released, he insisted on forgiveness. Mandela was elected to become President of South Africa. Rather than yield to the anger and retribution that so many desired and a part of him assuredly could rationalize, Mandela chose forgiveness and reconciliation. South Africa overcame its colonial traumas and escaped the pattern of blood-feuding that too often characterizes a change in guard. Mandela created the standard for other African nations to move forward peacefully.

As always, the lesson is to seek balance. Stand for convictions and fight for what is right, while remaining empathetic and optimistic towards those who disagree. Easier said than done, but a worthy goal all the same.

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