Kindness. While most would agree with the concept, as an ethicist, a psychologist, and a social scientist, the word’s ambiguity is problematic. In practice, anything that can be lawyered to be ultimately, even indirectly, altruistic is argued to be “kind”. When pressed, people will exploit the word’s vagueness to paint themselves in a much better light than they deserve to be painted in. Which is why I prefer the more nuanced ethics like the system of virtue, deontological, and utilitarian ethics that I use and that I allude to in the bio section of this website. Furthermore, and more depressingly, kindness is a word too often uttered under the influence of oxytocin or serotonin rather than by people objectively analyzing a situation.
Who was kinder? Mother Teresa or Eugene Debs? Only the former will usually be labelled as “kind” because she elicited fuzzier emotions while the latter fought for social justice and while that may be equally altruistic and charitable, he doesn’t get the reputation of a saint that he deserves. Therefore, kindness is both anything somebody wants it to be and anything someone irrationally feels that it is. It is a term in great need of a less plastic definition. Which s not to say that there are not commonalities between the warped usages of the term. There are. In the culture, kindness and morality, generally, are considered to be correlated with age. That once one loses the supposed innocence of childhood, everything becomes jaded, pornographic, and corrupted. It’s best expressed in the movie Forest Gump where having an intellectual disability made him morally superior to the morally depraved hippie.
It has been asked whether the world needs Mister Rodgers, now? No, it doesn’t. It needs Carl Sagan, it needs Andy Dufrene, it needs Bertrand Russell. Adults who tried to make adults better. I have a religion but the morals taught in the regular service should be more nuanced and deeper than those taught in the Sunday School. I’m a manchild, myself, and there is nothing wrong with being one. It means you do kid things but better. Instead of “playing pretend”, it’s improv. Preschoolers dress up like princesses but adults put on Renaissance Fairs. Adults have imaginary friends, they’re characters in novels they write. Everything about adulthood is better than childhood except the physiological ageing and telomere shortening, that and people being afraid of you. As a “man”, if I get emotional or panic, people either think it’s pathetic or, worse, they’ll get afraid.
The conception of “kindness” as the fuzziness of childhood makes it both an unattainable echelon of sainthood that the average adult, unable to return to childhood without a lobotomy, is unable to attain thus morally excusing them due to the inability to be kind and contributes to the vagueness by associating it with a sentimentalist nostalgia for a misremembered innocence rather than a moral and ethical system. Indeed, the fawning over the moral superiority of childhood is akin to nationalist revanchism for a misremembered glorious past. It is offensive for many reasons but especially because the oxytocin behind nationalist fervor also fosters hatred toward perceived outsiders.
The Today show said it best when doing their segment on how Iceland has aborted Down Syndrome out of existence. Instead of using feminism, they went the demographic purity route at which the pro-life movement had a collective orgasm. Gayle King, in her wisdom, did mention that it looked like eugenics but said it was okay because, and I’m paraphrasing, “The retarded cripples may look cute, now, but when they stop being kids, they stop being cute and so don’t let their cuteness dupe you. Do you want uncute people for society to take care of? I didn’t think so.” She literally said the that their adult lack-of-sympathetic-aesthetics outweighed whatever other factors justified their existence. The fawning over childhood’s moral superiority makes adults the enemy.
When children cry, it is sympathized with and when adults cry, especially adult men, the police are often called because they look “psychotic”. It’s unfair to live in a world where I have to suppress my emotions lest men with guns come to stop me. The double standard speaks volumes about the concept of kindness. Its ethical and moral roots are absconded from for a vague feeling applied to the worthy victims of society. Kindness is, of course, among the more beautiful of human concepts yet it should not be soiled by the amoral neurochemicals and shameless rationalizations of humans. A kindness that cruelly alienates one group because another is closer to us or that is a cheap label we place on something to rationalize its undeserved moral place is not kindness. Kindness should be ascribed the gravity, the depth, and the truth of itself and not be abused or cheapened.