Altruistic Morality and Victimhood
Altruistic morality is the view that people ought to be nice to other people, merely for the sake of being nice, and not for any other reason. The altruistic view of society is that the individual has intrinsic obligations to the collective and vice versa. The individual should contribute to society purely for the sake of doing so, and not for any reward. Likewise, society should help the individual just because the individual needs help, not as a reward for the individual’s contribution to society.
That, in a nutshell, is altruistic morality. It is fundamentally incoherent. Here are some of its many problems:
- How do you know whom to be nice to?
- How nice should you be? How much should you sacrifice your own interests for the sake of others?
- How do you know what the interests of other people are?
- What are your own interests? How do you separate your interests from those of others?
Altruistic morality is not a rational approach to decision making. I’m not going to go to the trouble of debunking it here. (Anyone who thinks it can be made into a rational framework, I encourage you to try to work it out explicitly.) Despite its irrationality, altruistic morality can be a useful heuristic in certain social environments, especially when combined with other heuristics.
Morality is the internalization of the power structure of one’s society. We acquire morality when we are young, so it often reflects the social environment of childhood, such as the family and school, more than the social environment of adulthood. This has the unfortunate consequence that people use a form of morality suited to the kindergarten classroom to critique social arrangements such as the free market.
Think back to kindergarten. How did that social environment work? The children did not have to produce anything. They spent their time “actualizing their potential as human beings”, to use left-wing rhetoric. They had to follow the rules laid down by a higher authority who was benevolent but also demanded obedience. At circle time, all the children sat down in a circle and cookies were handed out. Each child got the same thing: one cookie. Children were expected to obey the rules purely for the sake of social approval, and they expected kind treatment and cookies from the central authority.
The moral principles required to get through kindergarten are basically these:
- Keep your hands to yourself. Don’t verbally or physically harass other people.
- Do what you are told to do by the teacher.
- You can expect to receive benefits without making a contribution.
- Your source of power is your ability to project emotional distress. If you get hurt, if someone bugs you, if you drop your cookie, you can get the teacher to help you by appearing to be distressed.
It is not that children have no power in this environment. Their power is based on their ability to portray themselves as needy. Imagine little Sally bursting into tears when little Johnny pokes her. Little Johnny gets into trouble, and little Sally smirks to herself. She was exercising her power in the kindergarten environment. Her power came from her ability to emotionally manipulate the teacher into acting on her behalf.
Someone who internalizes these principles and takes them into adulthood approaches life a certain way. They obey the law, they seek approval of those with power, they expect to be rewarded merely for existing, and they seek power by portraying themselves as victims of circumstance or oppression.
Your typical social justice warrior, such as a feminist, is a person who has internalized the power structure of kindergarten to a high degree, and has never developed the adult morality of cooperation and personal responsibility. In our society, where people lead extremely sheltered lives, it is not surprising that many never develop beyond this childish morality. It does, after all, reflect the power structure of the welfare state. It does not, however, reflect the power structure of nature, nor the power structure of exchange relations and cooperation on which society ultimately depends. Altruistic morality is a morality of distribution by need and contribution by ability.
Given that people are naturally selfish, is it any wonder that left wing types such as feminists cling to their victimhood so tenaciously? Victimhood is their source of power, it gives them the moral justification to demand benefits from society. If they can claim to be victims, then society owes them redress. If, on the other hand, they are powerful and privileged, then they are expected to contribute to society. The frantic efforts of feminists to portray themselves as victims is due to the fact that victimhood is power in an altruistic moral framework. They seek power as selfish individuals. But they do so within a moral framework of altruism, and this makes them into hypocrites and liars.
The moral framework of altruism does not lead to actual altruism. It leads to individuals seeking power through victimhood.
The left-wing sycophant has a weak personal identity. That is one reason why she absorbs the morality of the kindergarten classroom so fully and deeply. Little Johnny remains somewhat aloof from the rules of kindergarten. He tests them and breaks them occasionally, because he recognizes his own interests as separate from those of the collective and the teacher. Little Sally, on the other hand, wants to identify with the source of power: the collective and the teacher. Left-wing identification with the “interests” of the collective does not cause the left-winger to actually do anything for the benefit of the collective. She does not actually act altruistically toward the collective. Her real motive is to identify with the source of power — to feel powerful as a member of something, because she does not feel powerful as an individual.
That is why the main occupation of the left-wing sycophant is moralizing. She constantly preaches to others about their obligations to the collective. In moralizing, she gets to identify with the power of the collective. She feels the thrill of that power, and she demands obedience on behalf of the collective. She gets to claim moral superiority in the name of altruism, without making any sacrifices herself.
Why do feminists hate Warren Farrell, a mild mannered professor, more than they hate Eminem, who sings about strangling bitches? Because Warren Farrell threatens to take away their cherished victim status. That is what scares them, not real misogyny. Without their victimhood, they are nothing. They would have to confront the truth that they are losers who have contributed nothing to society and are owed nothing by society.
Altruistic morality cannot work as the basis for a functioning society, for the simple reason that people are naturally selfish. It only works in a kindergarten classroom because there is an independent source of authority and wealth: the teacher, the school, and the community as a whole. Someone else makes the cookies, someone else enforces order in a benevolent way.
When this kind of morality is used as the basis for a real society, it leads to a totalitarian nightmare and eventual social collapse.