Imagine in a discussion about the sex abuse that goes on in Hollywood, someone said, regarding the victims of the abuse, “I guess I’m meant to cry tears of sympathy for all of these people who were molested. Somehow I just can’t muster a single tear. You made your choices. Nobody put a gun to your head.” That would no doubt elicit gasps and a good deal of the familiar point and sputter. If nothing else, people are expected to show a little empathy for the victims of predators, especially when it is kids or young adults.
Empathy is essential to a high-trust society. It allows people to cooperate, rather than spend their time defending themselves from others in society. Empathy allows people to engage with others, trusting that the other side is acting in good faith and not trying to cheat the other party. It makes it possible to engage in things like charity and social improvement. When you can put yourself in the mind of a person outside your kin-group, share their feelings about things, cooperative society is possible.
It’s why liars and cheaters can never be tolerated. Their actions put the trust of society into question, which means their lack of empathy costs everyone. In some respects, the lack of empathy is worse than the crime itself. A man who kills another man in a dispute, but feels remorse, can be rehabilitated. A man who steals from another man and is unable to understand why it is wrong or celebrates his act, can never be rehabilitated and can never be a part of society. He can never be trusted, because he lacks empathy.
This basic insight into the nature of society has been a central element of the Western Right since de Maistre. It was always the radical that imagined human society as based entirely on self-interest. Humans would either cooperate because it worked to their advantage or not cooperate because it was to their advantage. Humans were infinity selfish and altruism was just a consequence of society and culture. Therefore, set the conditions of society just right and people will cooperate with one another.
The Right has always rejected that, until recently. The quote at the start of this post is a variation of this tweet from Matt Walsh. He is, according to his handlers, “a writer, speaker, author, and one of the religious Right’s most influential young voices.” In addition to that, they claim “He is known for boldly tackling the tough subjects and speaking out on faith and culture in a way that connects with his generation and beyond.” In reality, he is reproducing official dogma for the Official Right, what remains of it.
What that tweet reveals is that Official Conservatism™ thinks it is perfectly fine for sophisticated parties to prey on unsophisticated parties. In his case, it suggests the religious Right would be OK with the strong preying on the weak, as in the example at the start of the post. After all, pederasty is by definition a crime because one party, the adult, is sophisticated, while the other party, the young person, is not. Therefore, it is assumed they cannot bargain in the sexual marketplace on fair and equal terms.
Now, there is nothing in the writing of Matt Walsh to suggest he is in favor of pederasty, but there is no reason to think he would oppose it. After all, if he is so utterly lacking in empathy that he cannot muster even a bit of sympathy for people saddled with egregious school debt, his fitness for society is in question. His brand of flamboyant sociopathy is what we would expect from a serial predator or maybe a banker. You have to wonder what is wrong with someone who is so proudly callous toward his fellow citizens.
This is exactly why Official Conservatism™ is headed for the dustbin of history. It no longer offers a philosophical alternative to radicalism. Instead, it embraces the same callous and materialist view of society as the radicals. It starts from the premise that we are just random strangers flung together by serendipity, ruthlessly trying to advance our self-interest. The only difference between the radical and the so-called conservative is the former still thinks this can be remedied, while the latter embraces it.
A civil society is one in which the individuals naturally balance their interests against the interests of the whole. Popular government assumes this to be true. The people will debate and persuade one another about the proper balance. A democratic society composed of sociopaths quickly descends into gang warfare, where ever-shifting alliances of individuals makes war upon one another in a zero-sum game, ruthlessly exploiting the available resources. That’s a prison yard, not a high-trust society.
That’s why people with a soul should look at the student debt problem with sympathy and horror. It’s not just that these kids are saddled with debt. It’s that they and their parents are being preyed upon by sophisticated parties, with the aid and protection of the state. It is a form of economic piracy, in which the crown is quietly supporting the pirates, at the expense of the people’s commerce. Conservatives have always rejected this. Christians have always rejected this. Today, the “religious right” embraces it.
This inability to comprehend the basic building blocks of Western society is also why they cannot understand how open borders are a disaster. For someone like Matt Walsh, people are interchangeable, not only with one another, but with other economic units. In the materialist world view, social capital matters only in that it can be exploited for economic gain. In the zero-trust, Hobbesian world of the modern conservative, the greater the diversity, the greater the openness, which makes exploitation easier.
Authentic conservatism has always understood that Western society is built on trust and trust comes naturally to the familiar. Our greatest natural empathy is toward our family and then our kin group. From there is extends, but weakens, to those who look and sound like our kin. It breaks down entirely when it reaches those who are alien in appearance, speech, and custom. Therefore, high-trust societies can only exist in societies with a shared heritage and a shared biology. Diversity and trust are mutually exclusive.