Pathological altruism occurs when a person’s sense of beneficence extends to such a radical degree that their actions inevitably cause harm and suffering for both themselves and the beings they’re trying to help.
The crazy cat lady who takes care of too many animals is easy to recognize. When the targets – the altruistic supply – are animals, we can see plainly that the “caregiver” hasn’t the mental faculty to allow something to survive on its own.
However when humans are in the equation, we never question the motives or psychology of the altruist. Could caring for our fellow man not signal some kind of psychological depression in the do-gooder just as it does with the animal hoarder? In fact, I would be more skeptical of the humanitarian than the animal hoarder because at least the animal hoarder is trying their best to care for real, actual beings that they can see and touch, while the humanitarian desires to help people they have never met, people who live in far-off lands, people that exist as an abstract character in the realm of the mind and outside the territory of the monkeysphere.
So if someone says they care for Africans while living in the first world then I can only conclude that the speaker is posturing and they don’t really, truly care (which indicates narcissism), or that they do indeed care for beings they’ve never met (which indicates hyperactive/pathological altruism).
While Anonymous Conservative has made his mark by studying the link between narcissism and leftist politics, I believe there is a similar link between pathological altruism and the left because both narcissism and pathological altruism originate in the same place – the deficient ego – but manifest differently.
The leftist pathological altruist, that is to say the human animal hoarder, is fueled between two main motivations: status signaling, and care-giving as a means to relieve emotional pain. In the former, the altruist wants to extend their care to all the animals (or humans) in the world in order to climb over the average pack of humans to become an exceptional (and transcendental) moral being. In the latter, the altruist feels a deep loathing, or deep sadness, or more likely guilt inside themselves that only the care for others could possibly relieve. Add to that the notion the left holds that people are all connected, that all humans are human, that we are all citizens of the Earth and that no one is an illegal alien, and the world suddenly opens up to become the altruist’s psychological supply (not all that different than the narcissist’s narcissistic supply). The targets of the altruist don’t even have to be real, living humans. The altruist only needs to believe these humans exist.
In truth, thousands of humans, even human children, die every day by disease and starvation. No sane person would weep for each individual the way they mourn their own parents, or siblings, or children. Thousands of lives are born and die and the vast majority of the world carries on with business as usual. It would be madness to do otherwise. The image of a child, dead on some foreign beach, is supposed to trigger the altruist, but it should not evoke anything from any normal person. Why? Because, relative to us, that child did not even exist the day before – none of us had even heard of him, let alone met him. These people are fictions, because they only exist in the realm of narrative. Unless you can talk to them, see them, touch them, then they might as well be characters in a movie.
I can’t treat every human being that crosses my path as my own family, unlike the cat lady who can treat every stray as her pet. I have a mental territory, my monkeysphere. It has boundaries.
The left will not draw these lines because it means people will die, and their altruism will not let that happen. Turning away people at the border means that some of them will die, just as turning away wild animals means they too may die. Cutting off the single mother once she’s had her Xth child, or cutting off the drug dealer, or criminals, means that some people will fall through the cracks and possibly die. The left doesn’t like this reality. They don’t want people to experience needless pain, so they make no barriers and they will never turn their back on others. In their view, everyone must be taken care of, no matter who or for how long. Their universalist, one-species-one-people ideology, however, turns the Earth into a glorified animal shelter, and like any overcrowded animal shelter, it will result in needless pain for those who run it as well as those who within.
When that lady on animal hoarders looks around at the walls painted with cat urine and reduced to splinters from the clawing of a hundred paws, she is told that the world she’s made for her pets is a living hell, both for them and herself. She is told that, had she never taken them in, they would have fought to survive on their own, that many would have died, but the far-reaching consequences for both them and her wouldn’t have been as dire as this. They would not have become dependent. They would not have lived in overcrowded squalor. They would have not gotten sick, and many wouldn’t have needed to suffer.
If the results are so painfully clear to us, then why stop at cats?
I believe the same is true in the artificial state of man’s civilization. What we need is a little dose of sociopathy for the human animal, while at the same time not losing our empathy for those we value.
The key as usual, is found in the wisdom and delicate balance of multiple concepts.