Progressives hold compassion sacred, believing that no human being should be made to suffer unduly. Ultimately, regardless of their actions, each human is afforded a certain level of care and respect. They don’t want any individuals to be ostracized to the margins of society.
Conservatives on the other hand hold the laws of karma sacred. Ultimately, they want good behavior to be rewarded and bad behavior to be punished, creating an incentive for moral action and self-sufficiency. They see such an incentive as a key part of the system that keeps society functioning. They want to keep society as a unit healthy and together.
This may be heresy among progressives, but I think both propositions are equally true. I don’t think in a cosmic sense, anyone is really deeply responsible for their behaviors. Behaviors inevitably are inextricably linked to genetics, cultural values and beliefs, the circumstances of one’s childhood beyond their control, etc. In that sense, an ongoing underlying thread of compassion is really the only reasonable position.
On the other hand, properly constructed consequences, for both good and bad behaviors, have been one of greatest tools in driving human behavior toward peace, justice, and harmony. Punishment is how we enforce laws and expectations. Rewards are how we incentivize socially beneficial behavior.
The problem is these worldviews, at least on the surface, appear to be in conflict. How can we be truly compassionate when we are punishing people? How can we encourage good behavior if we don’t hold people accountable for their criminal actions?
This fault line has created intense polarization in our country. People typically hold one side quite passionately and believe those on the other to be immoral, hateful, and well, evil. Progressives just can’t understand how conservatives can be so cruel. Conservatives just can’t understand how progressives can be so lax on fundamental expectations that foster good behavior.
But what if not only are both perspectives absolutely necessary for a functioning society, but they actually reinforce another?
Are not consequences that help correct someone’s actions a form of care and compassion? How can we help reform individuals if we don’t use our most highly developed tools for discouraging bad behavior? It’s tough love. Progressives, isn’t that what you want?
And isn’t compassion and love also ultimately a strategy for maintaining strong bonds within a society? Without compassion, won’t we push more and more people to the frays of society, sewing dissent and rebellion? Through compassion, we keep investment in and commitment to society greater. Conservatives, isn’t that what you want?
- Does the Stanford rapist deserve love and compassion?
- Social justice warriors and political correctness are tearing us apart
- The ecosystem of change
- As protests on the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many other black Americans surge across the country, several cities -- including Alexandria, Birmingham, and Fort Myers -- have begun removing Confederate monuments and several more plan to do so imminently. Read More »
- White folks: We are all the problem. It’s not just the overt racists. It’s not just the cops. It’s not just the president. Racism lives inside us all. It is the air we breathe and the water we swim in. Read More »
- There is no objective definition of humanity. There is no objective time when humanity began. These are all stories we created for ourselves to help make sense of our world. Read More »
- 155 businesses, representing five million employees and a combined market capitalization of over $2 trillion USD, are urging governments around the world to develop economic recovery policies responding to COVID-19 that also advance climate goals over the short- and long-terms. Read More »