“Pity would be no more
If we did not make somebody Poor;
And Mercy no more could be
If all were as happy as we.”
I could never quite decide whether there is something merely risible or faintly sinister in a spectacular display of pity.
It is risible, in the way it must to enable the soft-hearted and servile to bask in the self-congratulatory glory of Good Deeds.
But it is sinister still, in the way the cult of pity is parasitic upon one’s misery. It predicates his value on suffering—and, let us be clear, philanthropy demands that he suffer—such that the singular reason for their love is that the boy sufficiently suffered. (Implying, of course, that the suffering of other boys and girls wasn’t satisfactory.)
It is sublimely condescending to have one’s worth reduced to the achievement of misery: to have the highlight of one’s life amount to a consolation prize.