Column by Glen Allport.
Exclusive to STR
Kindness and non-aggression are the bedrock principles of civil society and of decent individual behavior: they are what allow and encourage every positive social form and institution. At this level, everything else is detail, distraction, trivia – or corruption.
Kindness flows from a feeling of empathy for all life; empathy promotes kind behavior and strongly discourages cruelty. Empathy, and thus kindness, is most reliably created by a loving early life and (to become or remain widespread in a society) must be further supported by social structures and intellectual understanding. Because kindness stems from each individual's unique consciousness, attempting to coerce or otherwise “enforce” kindness only adds aggression to the situation and thus reduces kindness overall.
The most important element here is feeling because without a widespread sense of empathy and compassion, kindness in a society diminishes. Intellect can enhance but not replace feeling where empathy and kindness are concerned.
The Non-Aggression Principle is incomplete and endangered without the specific, named addition of kindness as a co-factor.
Kindness is yin to non-aggression's yang: kindness and non-aggression are not merely connected but are different aspects of, and perspectives on, a larger whole. Kindness and non-aggression enlarge, strengthen, support, and clarify each other. Kindness compliments non-aggression by fostering emotional health and positive, proactive behaviors – both of which promote non-aggressive groups and societies. For its part, the Non-Aggression Principle opposes initiated violence and other unkind behavior among both individuals and groups; understanding of the NAP also exposes and chips away at the unkindness and destructiveness of the State.
Unfortunately, one can be empathic and kind personally while supporting State aggression in the mistaken belief that kindness can be fostered by aggression. Our hunter-gatherer core has difficulty separating the State from the family; the faraway King or President from the Parent; arbitrary and often corrupt political Law from generally sensible family or village rules. A focus on both kindness and non-aggression can help us understand what our instincts do not.
The clear need for something more than a lack of aggression creates common and often valid objections to the NAP. A related objection is that the NAP is sometimes at odds with sensible and correct behavior. For example, using coercion to, for instance, pull a child back from walking unawares into an oncoming car is right despite the aggressive action – because the life-saving kindness outweighs the brief, minor act of coercion. Clearly, the NAP is both incomplete and sometimes wrong – on its own. Only with the Kindness Imperative added does the NAP really make sense; we need more than the mere lack of aggression for healthy individual lives and for workable, healthy societies.
The coercive State in particular is entirely based upon systematic aggression, falsely justified by a variety of fantasies such as “the divine right of kings” or “dictatorship of the proletariat” or “the will of the people.” Modern States often disguise their aggression by claiming it is necessary for compassionate reasons including for safety or health or financial security or protection from (usually imaginary) enemies at home or abroad. The War on Drugs is a spectacular example of how this use of phony compassion to justify aggression and violence backfires, creating more harm than the alleged problem itself ever did. It should be clear to anyone willing to consider the topic honestly that widespread, systematic coercion undermines kindness rather than increases it. Aggressive war, forcible taxation, various market prohibitions, ever-expanding coercive State control (mislabeled as “regulation”), widespread surveillance of the public at large, and other government aggressions in the United States and many other nations have already degraded civil society to an alarming extent. Growing hardship, cruelty, and environmental damage are the result. See every Communist nation in history or today's Venezuela – once a wealthy modern nation, now a South American disaster zone – for especially vivid reminders of how quickly both civil society and simple prosperity can vanish when State aggression forcibly replaces a mostly coercion-free market. As aggression increases, kindness and compassion diminish.
"American society has divided along unreconcilable visions of the good, held by countrymen who increasingly regard each other as enemies. Any attempt by either side to coerce the other into submission augurs only the fate that has befallen other peoples who let themselves slide into revolution. It follows that the path to peace must lie in each side’s contentment to have its own way—but only among those who consent to it. This implies limiting the U.S. government’s reach to what it can grasp without wrecking what remains of our national cohesion."
"It is no coincidence that Reaganism-Clintonism and Thatcherism-Blairism coincided with prolonged asset bubbles, or that their most ardent proponents tend to be located in the City of London, Wall Street, and Silicon Valley. For a time, it is possible for stock-market booms, real estate frothiness, and other bubbles to fund redistributive taxation. But overbuilt welfare states that assume perpetual booms instead of slow, steady, and difficult productivity growth are destined to become insolvent."
Throw some VR tech into this mix along with an IV drip & catheter and you'd never need to move off the chair ever again. Maybe that's the idea?
"Last year, [MA voters overwhelmingly] passed a ballot question -- which Walsh opposed -- that legalized the sale of recreational marijuana in the state, [...] but while the State House is creating rules, more than 40 cities and towns are looking to opt out of recreational pot sales through bans or moratoriums [on licensed shops] despite a third of those communities voting for legalized marijuana." Bourgeois values at their best. They want this stuff, just not in their neighborhood.