To collectivists (progressives, socialists, statists, call them what you will) –
No man is an island. Every man is a traffic jam.
That perceptive summary comes from an article by Daniel Greenfield, from which we now happily quote more. Do yourself a favor and read it in full here.
The gun control debate, like all debates with the left, is reducible to the question of whether we are individuals who make our own decisions or a great squishy social mass that helplessly responds to stimuli. Do people kill with guns or does the availability of guns kill people? Do bad eating habits kill people or does the availability of junk food kill people?
To the left these are distinctions without a difference. If a thing is available then it is the cause of the problem. The individual cannot be held accountable for shooting someone if there are guns for sale. Individuals have no role to play because they are not moral actors, only members of a mob responding to stimuli. …
The clash that will define the future of America is this collision between the individual and the state, between disorganized freedom and organized compassion …
The final failure of accountability for the left is a failure of moral organization, while for the right it is a failure of personal character. The right asks, “Why did you kill?” The left asks, “Who let him have a gun?”, “Who didn’t provide him with a job” and “Who neglected his self-esteem?” If you eat too much, it’s because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it’s because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem.
The defining American code is freedom. The defining liberal code is compassion. … On one side stands the individual with his rights and responsibilities. On the other side is the remorseless state machinery of supreme compassion. And there is no bridging this gap.
Liberal compassion is not the compassion of equals. It is a revolutionary pity that uses empathy as fuel for outrage. It is the sort of compassion practiced by people who like to be angry and who like to pretend that their anger makes them better people. It is the sort of compassion that eats like poison into the bones of a man or a society, even while swelling their egos with their own wonderfulness.
Compassion of this sort is outrage fuel. It is hatred toward people masquerading as love. And that hatred is a desire for power masquerading as outrage. Peel away the mask of compassion and all that is underneath is a terrible lust for power.
Freedom goes hand in hand with personal moral organization of the individual by the individual. Organized compassion, however, requires the moral organization of the society as a whole. A shooting is not a failure of the character of one man alone, or even his family and social circle; it is the total failure of our entire society and perhaps even the world, for not leveraging a sufficient level of moral organization that would have made such a crime impossible. No man is an island. Every man is a traffic jam.
Social accountability on this scale requires the nullification of the personhood and accountability of the individual, just as the moral organization that it mandates requires removing the freedom of choice of the individual, to assure a truly moral society. When compassion and morality are collective, then everyone and no one is moral and compassionate at the same time. And that is the society of the welfare state where compassion is administered by a salaried bureaucracy.
Choice is what makes us moral creatures and collective compassion leaves us less than human. …
This is the society that the left is creating; a place filled with as many social problems as there are people, where … freedom is the enemy of a system whose moral code derives from creating a perfect society by replacing the individual with the mass. It is a society where there is no accountability, only constant compulsion. It is a society where you are a social problem and there are highly paid experts working day and night to figure out how to solve you.
One of our constant themes is freedom versus collectivism. Obviously, we are on the side of freedom. We find it awkward, sometimes exasperating, that many (and in America most) of our fellow fighters for individual freedom are enslaved to one or another religious superstition: mostly Christianity, from which the sentimental, somewhat contemptuous, and inevitably hypocritical doctrine of love-and-compassion as a guiding principle of societal organization* – as also the leftist ideal of material equality** – derives. This makes it odd that the Christian Right in America is on the same side as we are in the political war. Odd that they don’t see the collectivist Left as their natural political home. But we soldier on with whatever allies present themselves, because individual freedom is the highest value, the condition of human existence that must be protected at any cost.
* See our post Tread on me: the making of Christian morality, December 22, 2011.
** eg. 2 Cor. 8:14: “But by an equality, [that] now at this time your abundance [may be a supply] for their want, that their abundance also may be [a supply] for your want: that there may be equality.”