Below is the second part of a four-part guest essay by Richard Cocks about Social Justice. Previously: Part 1
Social Justice: An Analysis
by Richard Cocks
Tough love vs. mother love
It would be a strange world in which absolute equality reigned. There would be no one to admire. To develop and get better in any regard; financially, musically, or athletically, would be impossible. Everyone would be exactly the same. It would be the least diverse world possible; a static, boring hellhole.
Thomas Sowell points out that even the same person is not equal to himself at different stages in his life. An older child will be bigger, stronger, smarter and more capable than the younger version of himself. This is natural and inevitable. Workers are likely to be more productive and become more capable over time. Teenagers frequently start out at the minimum wage while most millionaires are over sixty. Very few people start on minimum wage and remain there as older adults. As more experience and seniority are accumulated there is the likelihood of promotions spanning decades. For this reason the same individual is likely to occupy multiple economic groups over a lifetime. And when people retire their income is likely to decrease.
Age differences between individuals, or the median age of ethnic groups, would alone be enough to generate economic inequalities. The median age of American Jews is 52 while the median age of Hispanics is 40 and partly for that reason, Jews are on average better off than Hispanics as groups.
In America, most millionaires and billionaires have not inherited their wealth but have earned it. The titans of the tech industry, for instance, are nearly all self-made men.
This obsession with leveling differences between people can be linked to the love a mother has for all her children — an unconditional love looking out for the lost lamb. Agape is the Greek name for compassionate love, and it is focused on acceptance and non-differentiation.
Eros is a more masculine-style tough-love aimed at looking out for the welfare of people by encouraging them to develop and get better; to promote hard work, discipline and sacrificing present pleasure for future gain. In principle anyone at all, no matter his talents and starting position, can get better. To truly care about someone is to wish him to improve.
In metaphysical or religious terms, in the realm of the Absolute there are no distinctions, all is one. Everything is equally divine and good: Agape. In the realm of the Relative, distinctions exist and the possibility of things being better or worse relative to other things or relative to themselves at different points in time comes into being: Eros.
Ken Wilber in A Brief History of Everything argues that real non-pathological love is a combination of Eros and Agape. The push to grow and develop combined with an acceptance of someone just as he is. Unfortunately, there is a tendency in popular culture at the moment to regard masculinity, and thus masculine virtues, as “toxic.” Thus, Eros-derived achievement and success is looked upon as suspicious and a reason for others to feel resentful.
“Social justice” is the pathological promotion of Agape with no Eros attached. Superiority, and thus development, is then regarded as a sin.
Kindness and Charity
The idea of social justice is not a harmless mistake. The claim that all people who are less successful in a given economic system are the victims of discrimination and injustice divides the world into victims and victimizers; the oppressed and the oppressors. It is imagined that if it were not for these evil people, all people and groups would be at the same economic and social level. This kind of thinking has its modern roots in Marxism which divided the world into two groups; the bourgeoisie (capitalists) and the proletariat (workers). The exploiters were to be murdered and the exploited freed.
Marxism posits a cause for the proletariat’s suffering: they are being actively suppressed and kept down. This imagines the proletariat have all the ingredients for tremendous happiness and success but their fantastic potential is prevented from being actualized by nefarious others. In this way of thinking, it is not prosperity that needs to be explained, which is imagined to be the default and natural situation of man, but penury. Any failure to achieve economic wellbeing then must not be the fault of the individual but that of some external force, in exactly the same way the National Socialists claimed the Jews diabolically pulled the strings of international commerce.
Sowell argues that relative poverty and a hardscrabble existence have characterized humanity for most of its history. Prosperity is the anomaly, not the default condition. It is that which needs explaining. Japan studied the success of the Scots and English when they realized they were falling behind technologically, while the Scots copied the English to lift their own performance.
Failure is always easier than hard work and changing cultural attitudes. The majority of countries simply resent their higher performing minorities and seek to suppress them; for example, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia with regard to their ethnic Chinese minorities and Fiji against its ethnic Indians.
Economics is also not a zero-sum game. The standard of living of rich countries is high for everyone relative to poor countries. If wealth were attained by stealing it from the poor, the more wealth a country had, the poorer the masses would be. This is not the case.
Members of modern democracies tend to be fairly good at recognizing scapegoating when the targets are at the lower end of the success spectrum, such as the poor and the handicapped. However they tend to fail dismally to perceive scapegoating when the victim belongs to the higher-ups. Scapegoating the king or the chief is historically very common. The powerful person is already singled out by his office, and since he occupies a position of authority, he can be blamed when things have gone wrong. The individual can never succeed against the mob, so this person is as vulnerable as anyone else. When SJWs target the 1% this is classic scapegoating — the 99% against the 1%.