The violent compassion of social justice

I have had this concept of “violent compassion” in my head for about 20 years, as behavior I’ve observed, but couldn’t fully map to an analogy. It’s the tendency of social justice warriors, with all their compassion, to focus their compassion entirely on those they feel need protecting, and care not a whit about the thoughts, feelings, dignity, or even safety of those they target (often incorrectly) as oppressors. When they point an accusing finger at “bullies”, they don’t see that their own level of hate, aggression, and bullying is often much higher than that of those they accuse. They feel justified because they perceive themselves as compassionate protectors, even if the person they attack happens to be innocent. They want that person destroyed. Jordan Peterson does a masterful job of breaking it down. His use of predatory snakes as the target is perfect, as many people have irrational fears about snakes, venomous or not:

“One of the things you want to do with a conception like compassion is you actually want to start thinking about it like a psychologist or like a scientist, because compassion is actually definable. And, I think the easiest way to approach it is to think about it in “big 5” terms because it maps onto agreeableness. And especially, you can break agreeableness down into compassion and politeness. And the liberal types, especially the social justice types are way higher in compassion; it’s actually their fundamental characteristic. And you might think, “Well, compassion is a virtue.” It’s like, *yes*, compassion is *a* virtue. But, any uni-dimensional virtue immediately becomes a vice, because real virtue is the intermingling of a number of virtues and their integration into a functional identity that can be expressed socially.

And compassion—compassion is great if you happen to be the entity towards which it is directed. But compassion tends to divide the world into crying children and predatory snakes. Right, so if you’re a crying child, great, man. But if you happen to be identified as one of the predatory snakes, you’d better look the hell out. And so, you know, compassion is what the mother grizzly bear feels for her cubs when she eats you because you got in the way. Right, exactly. We don’t want to be thinking for a second that compassion isn’t a virtue that could lead to violence, because it certainly can.”

— Jordan Peterson

The quotes comes from this video, titled “An incendiary discussion at Ryerson U”, around 1:04:30. It is an answer to a question that comes a little earlier in the video.