On Sentimentality and Compassion

If you read only one Dalrymple column this week or month, make it this one.

Having sought help from a social worker for someone he considered particularly deserving, the good doctor was rebuffed on the principle that, to quote Clint Eastwood’s film Unforgiven, deserve’s got nothing to do with it:

…the elimination of desert as a criterion of allocation of resources destroys both compassion and empathy. Need can be measured by checklist (and often is), but the assessment of desert cannot. It requires judgment, both moral and practical. To regard everyone as equally in need of compassion is the same as regarding no one as in need of compassion, for it is not humanly possible to sympathize equally with the unfortunate and the villainous. The demand for equal compassion is the demand for no compassion.


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