We all have compassion for other people. Unless you are a sociopath, you do not want other people to feel bad. Sometimes people do draw pleasure or amusement from inflicting pain and suffering upon others. An immoral person may enjoy causing an individual to depart from their marital vows and engage in an illicit affair. Some may want others to feel pain. But most of us are a little more compassionate. A few months ago, some sort of compassion emerged when a man was made fun of for doing a little jig in public (if indeed that is what we was doing). Placed next to a picture of him with his head down, allegedly a shameful reaction to being caught dancing, this image quickly spread across Los Angeles and went viral. He was named the Dancing Man and people unified under their compassion to find this man. They even hosted a dance party, and the so-called Dancing Man would be the honored guest. While it might just seem like a nice and compassionate gesture, I think that there are deeper implications. It suggests something about our culture. What can we learn about our culture from the Dancing Man?
First of all, before I begin to explore the question, ‘What can we learn about our culture from the Dancing Man?’ I need to preface our discussion. I am not indifferent toward the suffering of other people. Public humiliation can be a taxing event in one’s life. If the Dancing Man really was publicly shamed for being overweight and dancing (as the images seem to narrate), then he deserves a measure of sympathy. Everybody deserves sympathy. Nobody wants to be made fun of in public and nobody wants to feel like they are alone. But, again, there is more latitude to this. So, what can we learn about our culture from the Dancing Man?
Hurt Feels Are Everything To Us
When we consider the issues of the world, one of the central questions that we ask is how it makes people feel. If we neglect that question, there is somebody there to remind us that we are forgetting it. When there is a terrorist attack, the national reaction is not to ask what should be done to stop terrorism. It is to ensure that we are reminded that there are peaceful Muslims in the world. If radicalism comes into the public eye, the public steers its’ sight to the “millions of peaceful Muslim citizens.” We are much more inclined to have compassion for a person than to truly love them. Love means that we tell them hard truths and encourage them to endure something difficult because it is ultimately better for them. That is why so many people advocate for same-sex marriage. Rather than considering the myriad of social and physical consequences, people concern themselves with the emotional impact. The decisions that we make and the things that we allow ourselves to get worked up over are very much based on emotion.
Perhaps that is why relativism has seen such a growth. People are more likely to embrace the philosophy that ‘If it works for you, who am I to object?’ Only when we know what emotions a person is enduring and have experienced those same emotions can we really weigh in. That is why so many pro-abortion advocates will object that men cannot provide any insight into abortion, because they have not experienced the emotional trauma that comes with unwanted pregnancy. Only when you experience this range of emotion and feelings can you truly have insight.
How does this relate to the Dancing Man? What can we learn about our culture from the Dancing Man? Well, the Dancing Man, too, felt bad. He had a few negative emotions. He put is head down because he was ashamed (so the story goes) and there was a wave of sympathy. People became so inflamed with compassion for the Dancing Man because hurt feelings are everything to our culture. Again, I think that people deserve sympathy and I am sure that the Dancing Man is a fine individual. But he is also an adult. He does not need to be coddled. Even if he did feel a little bad, so what? Sometimes negative emotions are a good thing. A few negative emotions can inspire an individual to change their life. Perhaps the Dancing Man began to reflect on his image and decided that he needed to lose weight.
This means that the Dancing Man does not need to be coddled. Maybe he needs those negative emotions. Maybe he needs to face hard truths to motivate him to change his life. (I do not know the Dancing Man, but I just pointing out possibilities). What can we learn about our culture from the Dancing Man? We learn that people are much more likely to pursue an easy solution. We would rather be compassionate than be loving. Compassion has its’ place. But people do not need to be coddled. They need to be told the truth. Unfortunately, truth does not seem to have any place in our culture. Feelings are the ultimate arbiter of truth and the final judge. That is what I learn about our culture from the Dancing Man.
Time And Money
It is interesting how quickly emotional content will go viral and encourage people to waste their money and time. Years ago, several people were shown a few videos of child soldiers in Africa, under the reign of Joseph Kony. They were encouraged to spread awareness. Awareness, they argued, was the key to stopping the tyrant. This process led to millions of dollars in profits. People purchased bracelets, t-shirts, videos, and encouraged others to do likewise. It was all because they watched an emotional video. People are inclined to take action when they are emotional. Emotions are meant to inspired action. Content developers know this and they take advantage of it. So a call to action will complement these videos of the atrocities of Joseph Kony, and people accept that call to action. They spend their money. They are presented with a real problem that inspired emotions and then succumb to a fake solution. This tactic has also been employed by presidential candidates such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
In the case of the Dancing Man, a GoFundMe account was set up. They raised over $34,000 to fund a dance party and satisfy the shamed man. Again, people deserve compassion. But there are much more worthy causes that could use an extra $34,000. That money could have been dedicated to pro-life pregnancy center, given to a homeless shelter or used to fund some other charity. Instead, it was given to a party because the Dancing Man had one passing moment where he felt bad. Of course, I do not blame the Dancing Man for this egregious waste of money and time. I blame everybody who contributed to this pseudo-cause.
What can we learn about our culture from the Dancing Man? We learn that while people have the resources to donate to charity, to make sacrifices for the needy, they do not. They are too busy wasting their money on causes that do not matter. Our culture is more inclined to spend money when they are feeling emotional. Emotions do not mean that you are donating to a righteous cause. Think before you give your money. Stop wasting your resources. Give to causes that actually matter. You are putting bandaids on boo-boos when there are critical injuries.
What Can We Learn About Our Culture From The Dancing Man?
There are enough people who have good intentions out there. There are a lot of people who want to do the right thing. But they have no idea what the right thing is. They have no idea how to discern what the right thing is and they do not even want to. They are willing to follow their unguided emotions. When they feel offended, the offender is wrong by default. Hard truths are not truths at all. We learn from the Dancing Man that people have good intentions (the intention to help somebody) but they are totally misdirected and guided by their emotions. Look, it is not enough to have good intentions. If you want to help people, do not go looking for the guy who put his head down. He is an adult. Look for people who are truly struggling. Donate or volunteer for the women’s center Care Net. Help somebody who is hungry or cold or widowed or orphaned.
If you enjoyed this article and want to read similar content, check out my series on Moral Questions And Social Issues.