7.2 Religious, Communist and Beyondist Contrasts on the Virtue of Charitableness


Within-group morality, as derived from group survival, demands a high degree of altruism and readiness to mutual sacrifice among citizens. Yet the values which it requires in regard to suffering, poverty and failure are very different from those traditional in revealed religions. It is no exaggeration to say that the latter have actually perpetuated poverty, as Communists and socialists explicitly claim, though it may quickly be added that socialistic welfare is doing the same in a deeper sense. The latter systems have abolished begging, and that appeal to the exercise of immediate compassion which the universalistic religions seem to have liked. But there is a sense in which their immediate effect is really only to spread poverty more thinly, and their long term effect to make it a greater threat to the positive advance and adventure of societies. Some of these matters belong to "social machinery" which we reach in Chapter 8, but here our concern is more with the values themselves.

Let us begin by recognizing three types of poverty. First, there is ill-luck, which is distributed as randomly as shot on a battlefield, and the victims of which unquestionably deserve the full compassion and total assistance of comrades. Let us call this Type A or extrinsic or accidental poverty. In older societies, such as that in which Christ moved, the vicissitudes of fortune and the inequalities of opportunity were so great that possibly a majority of the poor were of "Type A." In many modern societies, with education and medical assistance, universal and free, on the other hand, there is no question that at least downward from the average "good" earning level a strong correlation exists between poverty and inherent characteristics of the individual designatable as "incompetence" (to be defined more operationally later). The representatives of this inherent inadequacy, or Type B poverty, tend to be below average intelligence, and/or lacking in normal foresight in looking after health and property, and/or deliberately evasive of work responsibilities and prone to emotional impulses which land them in a cumulative downward spiral of difficulties. For example, it is common for this type to beget a family of a size out of any relation to the financial and characterological capacity of the parents to look after it. Thus, even if given outright by society what would for another type be an adequate annual allowance (though with no relation to their real earning capacity), Type B will remain in poverty where others will not.

Once an average standard of effective living is achieved, the dedicated scientist, writer or artist will usually cease to strive for material gain as such, so that in the "above average" range of income decidedly less correlation of comparative "poverty" with incompetence will be found than in the lower half of the range. Indeed, the "poverty" of, say, the minister or the academic man compared to the wealth of a business man of equal intelligence is purely relative (though it does not prevent the less mature of writers and academics from generalizing that all poverty is undeserved, and that artificial, authoritarian re-distribution of property is "progress").

The normal degree of disregard for material surplus in the culturally interested person can, however, pass over into carelessness and poverty, as in the hippie movement and the "holy men" of India. This we may call Type C or cynical or schizoid poverty. When it reaches true poverty, rather than "simple living," entirely new psychological, narcistic and attention-seeking motives, as in the exhibitionistic cynicism of Diogenes, have usually entered in. Aldous Huxley, in his penetrating comments on religious poverty, dirt (which is "material") and disease (presumably also material) in India has said the subtle things needing to be said there (1926), and has brought such observations into a political framework. It is, however, not only far Eastern religions which have these values, for Christianity through medieval times, in such saints as St. Francis, and in its inherent argument "They toil not, neither do they spin," has assumed that men may have such need to be constantly examining their souls that they have no time to work, to create, to advance human knowledge. (One must remember, however, that the Middle East in biblical times gives every evidence of being a large mental hospital.) The person concerned with intellectual culture today need not and must not espouse poverty; for laboratories do not grow out of the ground; libraries and hospitals need expensive factory productions, and ill-nourished people do not think effectively.

The implication of the above analysis is that in Type B poverty, which is by far the largest class, we are speaking simultaneously of poverty and inadequacy for the culture, and therefore, our concern is with compassion in a broader sense as it concerns both of these. The evidence that Type B poverty in the modern world is associated with relative "incompetence" is very strong. Research on the intelligence levels of occupations shows a decline from the professions (generally overworked by more demand than supply) through skilled workers (generally with a good market) to unskilled (somewhat in excess of demand) and so to the lowest levels in unemployed (Cattell, 1971). But the same holds for the broader definition of competence which includes personality as capacity to work with concentration and to adjust to fellow workers. Repeatedly unemployed persons have a measured personality profile nearer than that of the general population to clinical cases (Cattell, Tatro and Komlos, 1965). It is relevant to remedial measures to ask how much of this is cause and consequence of poverty, and how much is innate or acquired. The answers to both are undoubtedly "both," but the reality of innate components is shown by the fact that children of persistently unemployed (but well fed) also fall significantly below the intelligence level of children of employed in approximately the same social status.

The "rationalist" approaches, in Socialism and Communism and the welfare bureaucracies of most modern countries, have essentially continued to handle such poverty as an economic problem only. They have removed the sentimental charity to beggars of traditional religions, but a Beyondist must point out that there is still a sense in which they have "swept the problem under the mat," perhaps in the long run spreading the disease they seek to cure. (This is still more striking in inter-group charity.) Common sense observation, before documentable scientific evidence, has long asserted this though the assertion has stupidly got entangled in political arguments really concerning quite different economic levels (those between the "haves" the so-called right and the "have nots" disguised as a progressive left). As Hardin (1964, page 28) says, "Ever since their appearance in the sixteenth century, poor laws have been under fire as poor laws: there was more than a little suspicion that they actually increased the poverty that they were supposed to ameliorate."

So much for illustration in a concrete setting. Let us return here to the question of values, where the main point is that whereas traditional religions have lauded compassion and charity as unquestionable virtues, of which there cannot be too much, the psychologist with an evolutionary perspective is compelled to cry "Halt, let us examine this assumption more critically." The inborn, instinctual capacity to feel pity and succor the young, the hurt and the helpless has its obvious biological origins in evolution as something contributing to the survival of the family and the group. In just a few of the situations where this purpose has been perceived to be negated by compassionate behavior men have learnt to behave differently from animals. For example, most primitive peoples when the birth rate is too high for the food supply set out newborn children to die of exposure; men in the last war abandoned their drowning companions rather than risk the certain destruction of the rescuing ship, and Eskimos, when grandparents become too old to eat tough food or move about, abandon them.

Instances of where the spontaneous primitive emotion does not perform its purpose, however, abound more freely in civilized life in what may properly be called perversions of the parental, protective erg if we properly define perversion by just the same standards of uselessness or harmfulness as we apply in defining, say, sexual perversions. Our society waxes lyrical (especially in dog food advertisements) over-feeding fifty million dear household pet dogs while fifty million children (more remote) go hungry. It finds its "conscience" opposed to sterilization of those who would pass on terrible and irremediable defects. Its tender feelings lead it to cripple medical research by anti-vivisection campaigns. Both life and literature abound in the cult of misguided pity. Perversions, i.e., acts missing the aim of compassion by substituting some immediate indulgence for a more remote and greater alleviation of human suffering, that would be immediately pilloried if they appeared in sex, self-assertion or even curiosity, are assumed to be sanctified because pity is the motive. Literature, from Dickens to Dostoyevsky, abounds in the sanctimonious, tear-jerking tale of "oppression" and neurotics pore over it and vote against necessary social disciplines. What would society become but a mutual narcism club if it followed the values in Dostoyevsky's The Thief? As Lord Snow points out (1959) the Communists, who are determined to eradicate poverty (even though their neglect of genetics may wreck their intentions), in spite of their pride in Russian literature, have felt impelled to disown Dostoyevsky as an enemy of society and the party, as they see it[3].

Every man is a failure, judged by some positive standard in himself or others, and almost every man finds himself in poverty at some time or other through Type A misfortunes. What does a Beyondist ethic say on this? Haldane, a scientist and a completely free questioner of values, says: "In most human societies it is regarded as a duty to help our weak and unfortunate fellows. This may be a fallacy. I do not think it is." The Beyondist answer is clearly that our instinct developed, and rightly developed, in terms of Type A misfortune (temporary and unmerited), has real evolutionary fuction there, but is exploited mainly by fools and knaves for perversions in certain forms of Type B distress. Haldane comes to recognize this in a second thought "It is illogical that sound people should be taxed to support the unsound."

In justice to the intelligence of the leaders of traditional religions it should be recognized that they have not always taken the common view of their congregations (and possibly of St. Paul) that love and charity are the solutions to all things. Dean W. R. Mathews (of St. Pauls) writing at a ripe old age of service tells us that Christian ethics is not satisfied that "Your heart will tell you how to act." The real determiner of what is moral in our culture comes from an outer (see Catholicism), not an inner message. It is, of course, a fact of human nature that people love "kindness." A recent "popularity" survey showed that this is the surest single determiner of personal popularity. Every party politician works this for all it is worth, no matter though his promises would bring, by some higher morality, harm to the individuals concerned. And we are fast approaching a point in politics where a woman who does not own a car to take her five illegitimate children to school is considered in "poverty" and fit for the public payroll.

From a broader evolutionary standpoint, objective justification for a society being more indulgent to its citizens than is (from other considerations) good for them, must come, from some auxiliary argument and though such are hard to find, possibly it may be that societies of higher mutual indulgence excite more loyalty and therefore, survive better as societies. On the other hand, it may be quite wrong that indulgent societies are stronger, and social psychological research has by no means said the last word on this. Indeed, an eccentric statesman, appealing to a group of more than average superego development, has been known to raise morale by promising nothing but "blood, sweat and tears." Indeed, to make "relief of suffering" a primary goal is to veto many important goals, e.g., much scientific research, when suffering is interpreted from the overprotected sensitivity of some groups. No important advance has been made in human affairs without discomfort, suffering or death, whether one is talking about drilling mountain tunnels, setting up nuclear power stations, practicing medical operations on animals, or travelling to the moon. One does not make an omelette without breaking eggs.

The insights of literary men well before the era of modern psychology (Blake: "Damn braces; bless relaxes") have questioned the community functionality of indiscriminate "love." The motivational dynamics of a progressive community is extremely complex; but it is certain that compassion cannot be given title, as in some traditional and secular religions, to the unqualified designation of being invariably, pre-eminently ethical. The true Beyondist position would seem to be that though all forms of human misfortune merit compassion, the unintelligent use of compassion in Type B misfortunes is a social problem, since it perpetuates them. The fact that love is rarer than other motivations, such as lust, pride or fear does not mean that it cannot err just as profoundly. Nature is neither compassionate nor cruel, and human societies, since they have to come to terms with the cosmos, can make a bank of human kindness only to the extent that they can afford indulgence compatibly with realistic control and defense against nature.















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