Comment Of The Day: “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Ethics”

I am very grateful for veteran commenter Extradimensional Cephalopod clarifying explanation regarding how and why adversaries on the “dreamer” issue so often talk past and around each other, with never the twain meeting. The first I heard of the “Honor vs. Compassion schism” was in this 2009 essay in The New Criterion by James Bowman. I should have referenced it before. He wrote in part,

Compassion is a virtue, but it is a private, a face-to-face virtue which almost invariably ceases to be one when it takes on a public dimension. An act of compassion by a government, in the full glare of publicity, is not a virtue but a bid to be given credit for moral superiority.

Bingo.

Here is Extradimensional Cephalopod‘s Comment of the Day on the post,Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Ethics:

It’s a classic honor versus compassion schism. Honor represents orderly good, enforcing consistency and stability so that society may benefit from people knowing where they stand. Compassion represents chaotic good, making exceptions and doing things that cannot be expected or required so that society can benefit from such kindness. Both are necessary, but they must be balanced against each other.

Because your position is based on honor, and makes sense in that context, it’s impossible for people to rebut it in those terms. Instead, they assert that the harm allowed by not extending compassion outweighs the benefits provided by honor, or they reject the concept of honor entirely. They don’t really understand honor or the harm done by dismantling it. Maybe they never noticed the benefits of honor, and only saw its negative effects, or they were oppressed by an ill-conceived brand of honor.

Whenever someone talks to such people about the importance of rule of law, it doesn’t really get through to them because their paradigm interprets it as “the importance of rule of social justice law”, and other laws can be disregarded. The name is a dead giveaway, really. Honor and compassion are also known as justice and mercy. “Social justice” is an oxymoron, because “social” things are inherently based on favor and choice, whereas justice is based on restrictions and requirements

It will take patient education to show people why honor is important, probably with some basic example scenarios. I think it would be immediately effective, though, if you were to speak their language by talking about helping out people who are actually living in the countries illegal immigrants are coming from, as you suggested. It’s an excellent point that they’d be likely to understand. Have you brought that up with any of them?

As a side note, I was impressed that nobody tried to make DACA spell anything warm and fuzzy until you mentioned it was an executive order and not a law passed by Congress.

 

 

33 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy

33 responses to “Comment Of The Day: “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Ethics”

  1. Other Bill

    Tremendously helpful. Thanks EC and Jack.

    • Other Bill

      “Social justice” is an oxymoron, because “social” things are inherently based on favor and choice, whereas justice is based on restrictions and requirements.

      Thank you. Man, do despise the term “social justice.” Ugh. An oxymoron. Indeed.

      • luckyesteeyoreman

        Hmmm. I think of “social” as an unnecessary modifier for “justice.” Which is, I believe, consistent with thinking that “social justice” is, at its core and in its ultimate consequence, an authoritarian, perverse, and evil concept. If each human being truly had no need as an individual for interaction with any other individual, then we would have no need for a “standard justice;” each human could establish justice for himself as he pleased, with no need for regard for any other human, and revel in unaccountability. But, we are a social species; we are not solitary wasps, who “socialize” only for the sake of reproduction, then lay eggs and leave them for the luckiest hatchlings to fend each for themselves. Therefore, justice must be established, and it must be established in consideration of, and as a result of, interactions. To that end, authoritarianism is much more anti-social than democracy.

  2. ““Social justice” is an oxymoron, because “social” things are inherently based on favor and choice, whereas justice is based on restrictions and requirements”

    I don’t think this point can be undersold. I’ve said before that Social Justice isn’t actually justice, because if we were merely talking about justice, we would call it justice, and if it were merely a flavor of justice, then it wouldn’t be at such stark odds with actual justice.

    When I first read EC’s comment, I was content to nod and move on, but then I thought about other oxymorons, and how not all contradictions are made equal. “Jumbo Shrimp” for instance, aren’t materially morphed into something other than shrimp by pointing out that they are larger than normal the same way that say… “palliative healthcare” morphs the service being rendered from the pursuit of health to the management of pain.

    But even though palliative care is fundamentally different from healthcare, it still has a place, the compassion involved in not simply pulling the plug and sending grandma out on an ice floe, despite that making sense from the most cold and dispassionate view, has a place, a necessary place, in our society. It’s just not the place of healthcare. I think we can all agree that it would be absurd for a hospital to give palliative care to a teenager with a broken arm.

    Similarly, social justice has a place. The aspiration of justice for all in the face of a system that does not always provide it, is compassionate, and necessary, and has a place in our society.

    It is just not the place of justice.

    • Other Bill

      I disagree, HT. “Social justice” strikes me as having elites (or Unitarian and Presbyterian ministers) decide what’s fair and just and who gets what. I just don’t think it works. Let’s stick with capitalism leavened with a sense of honesty and fair play. It’s the only system that is built upon the one consistently reliable human instinct: self-interest.

      • Capitalism is the best system of economics currently devised by man, but it does not deal with charity, mercy, or even fairness. There is no model of capitalism where a rational, self interested person sacrifices personal wealth for other people. But that sacrifice is good, is necessary, for society, And so we need more than just pure capitalism.

        • And just to be clear… When I say “more” than capitalism, I don’t mean some abomination of capitalism cut with socialism. Historically, churches have taken on many roles we now rely on government for; before schools and hospitals, for instance, churches and monasteries were centers of health and learning. Likewise, charity was and remains a cornerstone of Catholicism. Was the church capitalist? Not by any reasonable definition.

          • Chris

            Historically, churches have taken on many roles we now rely on government for; before schools and hospitals, for instance, churches and monasteries were centers of health and learning.

            Is there any evidence that leaving these services to churches was a better system than allowing the government to intervene?

            • I’m not sure it’s legitimate to say they intervened, right now America has a mix of public school, religious schools and other private schools. Church based education and medicine was never mandated away, they just became more marginalized as other institutions entered the market. And at the time, like now, I’m not sure you can make a case that the education or standard of care that the people partaking those services at religious institutions was better or worse than the alternatives.

              But even if they had, my point was never to say that church run institutions were better, only that there are alternatives to having the government run certain services as a monopoly.

        • “Capitalism is the best system of economics currently devised by man, but it does not deal with charity, mercy, or even fairness”

          No, it deals with individuals making individual choices on a free market…like whether or not to engage in charity, mercy, or even fairness.

          Some days you accidentally slip into Marxist paradigms of arguments and use their language.

          • Other Bill

            As I’ve noted previously, the irony of the modern left is that it has obliterated organized religion only to turn government into an enforced, universal church. And lefty churches have gotten too much into trying to run governments. (See your local church militating for social justice or the current Pope being a commie, for Christ’s sake). Let’s keep governments out of charity and churches out of government and we’d all be better off.

          • “No, it deals with individuals making individual choices on a free market…like whether or not to engage in charity, mercy, or even fairness.”

            I’m frustrated. I’ve rewritten whole paragraphs trying to explain to you in detail why you’re wrong… but it’s like… If someone insisted to you that a circle was actually a square. You could explain the differences between a circle and a square, but while doing so you have to fundamentally question who it is you’re explaining the concept to.

            The answer to “what is 2+2” isn’t determined by capitalism, it is determined by math, and while math is critically important to capitalism, capitalism has no effect on math.

            “Capitalism” is not a decision making process, it is the system that enables the people within it to make decisions. It explicitly does NOT influence decisions like whether to engage or not in charity, mercy, or fairness… It allows you to make those decisions… If perhaps cognizant that other people within that system can also make decisions, and the way you interact with those people will probably effect their behavior.

            • Except this bit where you stated:

              “There is no model of capitalism where a rational, self interested person sacrifices personal wealth for other people.”

              Since the model of capitalism DOES involve individuals making individual choice on a free market, making a claim that excludes “charity, mercy, and fairness” from a range of choices than an individual can make in a free market means you can’t affirmatively say that Capitalism “does not deal with charity, mercy, or even fairness“. Yet you do affirmatively claim that. And it’s a Marxist talking point to claim Capitalism is irrecoverably flawed.

              It’s fine. These occasions where you say something errant are few and far between, which is why disagree rarely. But you grossly misstated whatever it was you were trying to state.

              • You say “The model of capitalism” like you’re actually referring to something other than your aspirational definition of what capitalism is. I challenge you to cite something that actually says that charity is a component of capitalism, as opposed to something that can work symbiotically with it.

                You can get as lost in muddying definitions as you want, at this point it should be beyond obvious to anyone reading this what I meant: Capitalism and Charity are different, you can have capitalism without charity, and charity without capitalism. And that isn’t a knock on Capitalism, is is the recognition and understanding that individual systems cannot facilitate everything.

                And if you want to paint me as a Marxist for saying that, I mean… you do you… But it’s stupid. You know better, I know better, everyone that reads this knows better, and it just doesn’t reflect well on you to say it.

                • “You say “The model of capitalism” like you’re actually referring to something other than your aspirational definition of what capitalism is. I challenge you to cite something that actually says that charity is a component of capitalism, as opposed to something that can work symbiotically with it.”

                  Are individuals being empowered to do what they want with their private property a component of capitalism or not? See, you would say yes (and it’s true) and charity, mercy and fairness is an aspect of people choosing to do what they want with their own property as some people will do that with their private property. You won’t say no, because you don’t willingly speak error.

                  So I’m sure I’ll get some more diversion.

                  “And if you want to paint me as a Marxist for saying that…”

                  LOL.

                  You certainly take correction too personally. There’s no need to say this since my comments were in plain legible terms, , but for you I will: I didn’t paint you as a Marxist. Obviously. I said you slipped into Marxist language. Accidents happen.

          • And as an aside.

            “Some days you accidentally slip into Marxist paradigms of arguments and use their language.”

            I’m just saying… When progressives, BLM and Antifa, bitch about what the white capitalist patriarchy are doing to them, they’re making the same mistake of conflating the system with the decisions people within that system make. YOU are slipping into the trap of using their language.

  3. Good work, EC. An only tangentially relevant observation follows:

    This is an important distinction, one that resonates particularly well as I prepare to discuss Aeschylus’s Oresteia in class tomorrow. The opposition between honor or duty on the one hand and compassion or “human feeling” on the other is central to virtually every age of dramatic literature, which, after all, holds the mirror up to “nature,” meaning among other things the social values of the culture in question.

    Interestingly, no one ever sides with the law-and-order character. Hegel notwithstanding, no one applauds Creon in Antigone or the fathers of Romeo and Juliet, or Torvald Helmer in A Doll House. In comedy, blocking characters, often parents, are always representatives of honor (often of misplaced honor, but they of course do not see themselves in those terms), and they’re almost universally not merely ineffectual, but foolish.

    Nor is this a specifically Western dichotomy. Indeed, much of Kabuki theatre is centered on the struggle between giri (honor) and ninjō (human emotion). There, as in Western tragedy, there’s no way out, regardless of what characters choose to do: we are always sympathetic to their plight, but more often than not, the young lovers (for that’s what they usually are) end up dead before the final curtain, lest their violation of the terms of duty and honor become acceptable. So the question becomes: do we love them despite their flouting of societal norms and expectations, or do we reject the anarchy they threaten despite our love for them?

  4. Not directly on point to EC’s post, but here is an interesting take on the current conflicts between honor and compassion, from the perspective of US, British, and French Enlightenment vs. Germanic Romanticism. I am not I completely agree with the author’s points, because there is plenty of Enlightenment literature and art that celebrates counter-intellectualism in contrast to the Age of Reason. For instance, Victor Hugo considers the distinction between justice and mercy, as does Shakespeare. Dickens also broaches the subject in “Oliver Twist”.

    jvb.

  5. Again, not on point as it relates to DACA, but I thought this NPR article about Leslie Van Houten’s recent parole hearing was interesting. She was part of Charles Manson’s group and participated in the stabbing death of Rosemary LaBianca, whom she held down with a pillowcase over her head as others stabbed her dozens of times. Then, ordered by Manson disciple Charles “Tex” Watson to “do something,” she picked up a butcher knife and stabbed the woman more than a dozen times. Here is the link:

    http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/07/549094324/charles-manson-follower-leslie-van-houten-recommended-for-parole

    What I found curious was this paragraph, about midway through the piece:

    “Looking frail and on crutches after injuring her knee in a recent fall, she told the panel, “To tell you the truth, the older I get, the harder it is to deal with all of this, to know what I did, how it happened.”

    Why did the reporter put that fact in the piece? What is the author trying to do? Illicit compassion for Van Houten because she has been incarcerated for 40 years for a violent crime?

  6. Alex

    So, let’s talk about ethics in videogames… no really, I promise it’s relevant. 🙂

    This honor vs. compassion discussion reminded me of the best character creation in an RPG ever. I’m talking about Ultima IV (yes, I’m that old) described here: http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2010/05/ultima-iv-character-creation.html

    You have to answer a number of questions pitting two virtues against each other, so that you find your guiding virtue (this has big in-game consequences, but that is besides the point). Just for the fun of it you should get a copy (legally free at Good Old Games) and play that sequence and think about the choices you make. It could be improved, but it beats what passes for morality and ethics in more recent gaming (just a binary choice between save the puppies and kill the kittens, with minor in-game effects). I’m sure more than one geeky kid of my generation first experience what an ethics conflict was through that game.

  7. Thought provoking comment of the day EC.

  8. Dwayne N. Zechman

    “As a side note, I was impressed that nobody tried to make DACA spell anything warm and fuzzy until you mentioned it was an executive order and not a law passed by Congress.”

    Based on his comments in the previous article, I’m guessing that Windypundit would go with Deportations, Also Called Abductions.

    –Dwayne

    • Dwayne N. Zechman

      But on a serious note, EC (or is it XF?), I always enjoy your take on things. Few people can step back and look at something in the abstract AND articulate that point of view so eloquently. Bravo.

      –Dwayne

  9. Isaac

    Great comment. “Honor” shouldn’t be a thought of as just a “conservative word” but that’s where we’re headed.

    One of the many contradictory trait pairs of the emerging Alt-Left is the use of purely emotional arguments (ignoring honor/rule of law and devoid of logic) in order to win at politics, while simultaneously screaming of their devotion to “science” (or “The Science”, as some have nicknamed the shallow, uninformed, idolatrous perception of science as viewed by the type of people who share posts by “I F**king Love Science” on Facebook.)

    How do intellectuals (and I don’t deny that many of them are very smart) so often take a child’s view of things while at the same time paying lip-service to reason and evidence? How can a person who claims to be pro-science still believe in the Patriarchy or the wage gap? I submit that C.S. Lewis called it back when he wrote “The Abolition of Man”; science, logic, and reason don’t work properly when its adherents aren’t allowed to be passionate about the continuing search for objective truth in all things.

    If you put a brilliant mind on a postmodern, subjectivist heart, you’ll get a person perfectly able to make a logical, informed argument, but willing to shamelessly do the opposite whenever it suits his purposes. The type of scientists who would, let’s say, take money from the sugar industry in return for a false report that fat, not sugar, is what causes obesity. You get a guy like Bill Nye who claims to represent science and then says you should experiment with “butt stuff” and that gender is a social construct. If science is independent of any kind of sense of honor or moral duty, then there is no passion for Truth. Truth (the capital T kind) doesn’t exist, and science and logic are just persuasion tools for whatever your opinion happens to be.

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