Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Altruism: Servility and Humanity as Sacrificial Animals

Thank you, Ron Fournier.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for what could not be a more vivid portrait of altruism in America and exactly what is wrong with it.
In case you didn't see his commentary on the nobility of sacrifice as an American tradition, here's the link so you can see for yourselves.


What disgusts me about this the most are the assumptions that he makes about good and evil and what is noble or ignoble. He places selflessness as an ethical ideal, sacrifice as its expression, and a state of servitude as the blessed pinnacle of human endeavor.

How horribly backward this all seems to me.

"Sacrifice," writes Fournier, "is a word that Americans like to associate with their heritage, their ideals and themselves." I don't. And I know quite a few other Americans who don't. What is it about sacrifice that makes it an ideal? Even if it has been in our heritage, it does not necessarily make it so. Rather it would seem better treated as a regret, a misfortune forced on us to deal with governments and movements of masses which demand our sacrifices and offer little in return. When sacrifices are forced upon people, when their property is stolen under the guise of social works, when their lives are chained and mandated by the asphyxiating legislation of special interests, then they are made sacrificial offerings on the altar of Society rather than choosing to make sacrifices. I fail to see what is noble in being made a victim. Victims of any form of brutality deserve the same respect as any other human being and some compassion or pity. But suffering is not a virtue in itself any more than sacrifice is.

"No Mother Teresas there" quips Fournier about Romney and Huckabee. Well, none here either. I recommend Christopher Hitchens' book The Missionary Position for a detailed presentation of exactly how "virtuous" she was. If we were to call virtuous those who would work unwaveringly towards foisting Catholic law on an entire nation of people as she did in Ireland we would be turning the very notion of virtue on its head so that tyranny most foul would become the goal of our aspirations and submission (or "service") to such tyranny would be the honorable role of the enlightened citizen.

But Fournier is just getting started. He moves on to berate our "materialistic" nature which as he puts it is "consumed by consuming, a materialistic culture that encourages people to pursue happiness via shopping sprees and save sacrifice for tithing on Sundays and distant do-gooders."

He lumps together ideas like it's a fire sale. Everything must go! First of all, materialism does not necessarily mean that one will think of shopping malls as Nirvana, or seek absolution on Ebay. According to Wikipedia, "The philosophy of materialism holds that the only thing that can be truly proven to exist is matter, and is considered a form of physicalism."

And here's the entry from Merriam-Webster online:

1 a: a theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter
: a doctrine that the only or the highest values or objectives lie in material well-being and in the furtherance of material progress
: a doctrine that economic or social change is materially caused — compare historical materialism

: a preoccupation with or stress upon material rather than intellectual or spiritual things

So, what we have here is a pathetically cloaked attempt to get us to swallow the idea that we should feel guilty for our material success, because what we should be doing, according to Fournier, is to be stressing over spiritual matters. This is an assumption to which any athiest should take offense.

But he cannot be satisfied with these offenses against reason, he has to rub salt in the wound.

He writes:
"But it would be a mistake to assume there is no stomach for sacrifice — or its sister virtue, service — in our society and in our politics. The desire to serve is part of human nature, and a particularly American virtue. History tells us that our selfless instincts flower in troubled times like these, and can be tapped by leaders looking for ways to motivate an anxious people."

He simply has to keep stressing his assumption that sacrifice is a virtue, as though saying it enough times would be sufficient proof. Of course he doesn't feel like he needs to justify this, as he is obviously writing for a spiritual audience, one that accepts the Judeo-Christian ethics at face value. Unfortunately far too many athiests do as well, a symptom of their misguided attraction to collectivist ideologies such as socialism and communism which share the same ethical base. Placing sacrifice and selflessness as virtues in the place of accomplishment and pride wreaks havoc on the moral compass of humanity, turning all our ideals against the mandates of the reality of our survival. It demands that we all become sinners and robs us of our self-esteem because of the impossibility of the demands on our conscience. Rather than feeling pride for what good we have done through the virtue of our work, we must feel shame for every empty mouth, and every shattered soul. Rather than feel the shining glory of purposeful action, we must become cynical and bitter at the impossibility of ever there being an action with purpose. THIS is what it means to place sacrifice, servility, and altruism as ideals. For a more detailed argument on the horrors of altruistic belief systems, I would refer the author to the works of Ayn Rand, most notably The Virtue of Selflessness.

I could go on. Fournier definitely does. I've written this much and only covered the first half page of his editorial. He fills up 2 full pages with this tripe. But I won't bother. The reason is that pulling the ideologies from his work is just that simple. He assumes that everyone feels the same way about these things, and so he makes absolutely no pretense about covering them up. It isn't enough that we simply do what we can, when we encounter misfortune in this world, we must give our whole lives to it to merit consideration in Fournier's analysis.

Dying in war counts as a worthwhile sacrifice in Fournier's analysis, but surprisingly in that he so readily takes on the mantle of a determiner of virtue, he cannot discriminate between the virtue of the abolitionists or the confederates, nor between the struggle for Manifest Destiny or the struggle against fascism and communism. Clearly all these endeavors are rendered equally virtuous in that the people who fought for them died. And there we have it at its heart. As long as you die for something, then you're virtuous. I would rather live and place life as the ultimate value. There are far too many Jihadists that would be rushing to agree with Fournier at this point.

As for me, I can't stomach to read through his raving scribbles for one second longer. So, go check it out for yourselves, and try to think about this one thing if nothing else--If it is virtuous to sacrifice the most you can to the most "deserving", what would utopia look like?

(And no cheating. We're talking about real sacrifice here. That means that you don't get equal or greater values in return.)

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