If you are mugged on a midnight stroll through the park, some people will feel compassion for you, while others will admonish you for being there in the first place. If you are raped by an acquaintance after getting drunk at a party, some will be moved by your misfortune, while others will ask why you put yourself in such a situation.If you think it is very important not to step outside the lines of acceptable behavior, then you tend to see bad thing that happen to transgressors as only what they should have expected. Criminals or other dangerous outsiders serve in this model a positive role, helping to keep people on the straight and narrow.
What determines whether someone feels sympathy or scorn for the victim of a crime? Is it a function of political affiliation? Of gender? Of the nature of the crime?
In a recent series of studies, we found that the critical factor lies in a particular set of moral values. Our findings show that the more strongly you privilege loyalty, obedience and purity — as opposed to values such as care and fairness — the more likely you are to blame the victim.
If on the other hand you tend to admire people who bravely live as they wish, traditional rules be damned, then such arguments are likely to make you angry.
"If you think it is very important not to step outside the lines of acceptable behavior, then you tend to see bad thing that happen to transgressors as only what they should have expected. Criminals or other dangerous outsiders serve in this model a positive role, helping to keep people on the straight and narrow."
This sounds terribly "Christian" to my mind - which is an awful irony, as the original message of the movement that would become Christianity was one of flagrant transgression against the extant notions of "acceptable behavior".
Jesus upended the social order of ancient Judea at every turn: disowning his own family; associating with the vilest segments of society such as lepers, criminals, prostitutes, tax collectors, and centurions; challenging the jewish religious authorities and decrying their corruption and hypocrisy; promoting the breaking of the Sabbath and other holy customs; decentralized faith by worshipping in nature instead of restricting it to designated holy sites; renounced worldly possessions and championed the notion of communal property; preached non-violence, generosity, and unconditional love and forgiveness in everything, up to and including death at the hands of oppressors.
Two millenia later, we're still acting like the militant, imperial Romans who co-opted his vision and twisted it into a shallow mockery of its original intent - making it nearly indestructable in the process, protected by an unshakeable aura of self-perptuating self-righteousness.
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