Everything we do changes the world, of course, and I remain a strong advocate for kindness. Nonetheless, we need to face the fact that the children’s book version of “be kind and change the world” hasn’t worked. Wars and crime proceed as they have since the Bronze Age, and long years of promoting “be kind” hasn’t changed that a bit.
And so we need to find out why kindness hasn’t worked beyond the personal and family level. If we don’t, our efforts to cultivate it will be empty dogmas that have no effect in the real world: Our preaching on kindness won’t go much farther than making children behave.
The First Problem
We all know that kindness matters in our private lives: we’ve all been touched with it, and we’ve touched others with it. It matters, and in fact it’s essential to a healthy life. Beyond that point, however, kindness simply vanishes from view, whether in whole or in part. This has been our great error.
Our problem is not that we haven’t cared about kindness, it’s that we haven’t taken it seriously enough. And here I’ll riff on St. Paul:
Western man has settled for a form of kindness, while denying the power thereof.
Western man’s kindness has been contained. It’s fine for children’s books, but not for adult deliberations.
The Practical Problem
The practical problem with kindness is that it doesn’t work with sociopaths; they are impervious to it. They’ll smile, attempt their best sympathetic face, and stick a knife in your back (usually metaphorically) as soon as the moment is right. And so kindness is of no value – of negative value – when dealing with sociopaths.
Most of us, after some horrifying and wasteful experiences, learn to to accept the reality of sociopaths and learn how to spot them. And so individual sociopaths aren’t an overwhelming problem.
But it also happens that everything from geopolitics to local elections are sociopathic. In those realms, kindness is for chumps. And that brings us to an important conclusion:
Government… rulership… is not a kindness-permeable structure.
There are many decent humans employed by governments, but they’re decent in spite of the influences of rulership, not because of them. And they’d be better without them.
The fact is that rulership, including the blind enforcement of law, is sociopathic. That statement is really no different than “power tends to corrupt,” but it’s so pointed that it can be troubling.
Nonetheless, it’s true, and it drives us to another question: Why are we sacrificing our lives and treasure to a system that is fundamentally antithetic to kindness… inherently oppositional to the thing we claim is of maximum importance?
I’d say that’s worth some thought.
There is, of course, the appearance of kindness in politics. Some politicians go on for decades about “helping the poor,” after all. But they never consider – never allow to be considered – the unseen victims of their policies. While “helping the poor,” they utterly ignore the costs to everyone else.
They blot out the millions of families who become (because of their policies) unable to send their children to a decent school. They evict from discussion the shopkeepers who can’t afford to take their children to see their grandparents. They eliminate the possibility of kindness for parents who work non-stop but still can’t get ahead or spend time with their children.
These are real victims, and they surround us. And yet, their sufferings are obliterated by the supposed enforcers of kindness. Only certain kinds of suffering are to be seen and mourned… which, incidentally, are the types they get paid for.
There are other types of focused blindness – and other carefully-selected targets for theatrical kindness – but this isn’t a treatise and I’ll stop here. Suffice it to say that any “kindness” running through politics is sucker bait, or near enough to it. Again, the structure is not kindness-permeable.
If We Want Kindness…
If we want kindness in the world (and I think we should), we need to be serious enough to acknowledge the truth of our situation. If we can’t do that we’re merely play acting.
Kindness works on the personal and family levels… on the decentralized and voluntary levels of human life. But no matter how hard we try to squeeze kindness into a sociopathic structure, it doesn’t work… because the structure is not kindness-permeable.
If we want success, we need to expand all things decentralized and voluntary: kindness is able to flow through these things.
If we do that, kindness will change the world. But not until.
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