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July 14, 2017

Do We Need More Tolerance, Or Do We Just Need Less Narcissism?

Jim Geraghty has an interesting piece about intolerance of a certain type -- the "Why can't you be more like me?!" type of intolerance we see from the narcissistic-without-any-good-reason-for-being-so left.

He begins by noting the left's habit of taking anything they don't personally do or enjoy and creating a self-congratulating, preening Cult Dogma about their own choice or preference. Childless people, for example, hectoring those who have kids (especially if they have more than the replacement-rate of 2).

Lunatic Zealot Amanda Marcotte recently exhibited this sort of religion-without-god judginess. Generally you'd hear this crazed cultist screaming that all women's choices must be respected.

Well, not all choices, and not all women.


Anyway, see Geraghty's piece for the beginnings of the instant argument over tolerance and non-tolerance, with special reference to Jill Filopovic's recent claim that if you want to save the world, you should not have children. Saving the earth apparently requires the voluntary self-extinguishment of the human race.

But then he makes the point that seems novel to me: A lot of this intolerance is of a special narcissistic Aren't My Poops Lovely and Well-Formed? variety. (Actually, he's noting Josh Barro making this point, but whatever, I'm crediting Geraghty.)

One reason this type of “your seemingly mundane, apolitical choice is terrible and must be denounced” article is increasingly common is because it is cheap and easy.

You don’t need much specialized knowledge, a lot of research, travel, or anything like that to write a piece like that. Just take something that a lot of people do – particularly people who aren’t like you – and denounce it in logically-shaky-at-best, furious, hyperbolic terms.

...

"I'm a childless adult, telling all of you people out there to stop having children." "I'm a vegan, telling you that you have to stop eating meat." "I'm an urbanite who doesn't own a car, telling you that your automobile is destroying the planet and gas taxes should be higher to support the costs of mass transit."

The not-so-subtle subtext is, "why aren’t you more like me?"

And the simple answer from most people is… "because I don’t want to be more like you."

...

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that progressives are exhibiting all of the traits that they accused the Christian conservatives of embodying: smug judgmental attitudes, harsh denunciation of those who make different choices, lack of respect for others who see things differently, and refusal to recognize individual autonomy, an eagerness to enforce a stifling code of behavior, and a conditional-at-best view toward liberty.

He then makes a point I've been making for years:

I used to think that the most important value for living in a Constitutional Republic like ours was a bit of faith in people to eventually make the right choices for themselves. But I’m starting to wonder if an even more important value is an acceptance of people making what we perceive to be the wrong choices for themselves.

Yes. No matter how hard it is for a parent to do, at some point he must permit his child to make his or her own decisions. Only when he is granted some degree of responsibility over his own life will he begin to exercise, well, responsibility.

The various people who are constantly trying to mind other adults as if they were their children in need of instruction and supervision are not, I think, increasing responsibility, but are often reducing it.

What do teenagers do when they chafe under what they perceive as a too-heavy hand in parental control?

They rebel. They do all the wrong things, either subconsciously or full-on consciously.

At some point you have to just allow people to make their own decisions. Like teenagers, they will often make bad decisions. Or, rather: They make decisions you disapprove of, decisions which may be objectively bad by any reckoning, or which might actually be decent decisions given their own circumstances, preferences, and aspirations. Or, even -- they might be good decisions, and you cannot see they are good decisions, because you yourself are married to your own bad decisions.

But anyway it shakes out, the only way people make good decisions is by first having the capacity to have a (mostly) free choice of actions in the first place.

Enforced morality is not actually morality; it is no more than an amoral rational scheme to avoid punishment.

True morality only arises from a free choice: You could have chosen good, or evil, but you chose good. You could have chosen benevolence or selfishness; you chose benevolence. You could have chosen self-improvement or self-destruction; you chose self-improvement.

A man who does not steal when a cop is standing at the corner is not necessarily a good man. All we can say is that he is a rationally self-interested man who does not wish to be arrested.

A man who does not steal when there is little or no chance of detection -- now that is a man who is guided by the only true morality, which is inner morality, not jail-avoidance-mistaken-for-morality imposed from the outside.

(To those who object that God is an external imposition of moral control: Well, I'm not really fluent in these matters, but my understanding is, at least with respect to Christianity, that accepting Jesus' gift awakens within the receiver an internal desire to do good. This desire may well be animated by an outside force, but the awakening is within, not (primarily) imposed from without. After all, the idea of Christianity is that once Christ's salvation is accepted, you're in the Book of Life: ergo, you no longer have to fear the punishment of damnation. And ergo, any moral choices you make going forward are due to an inner awakening to repay the gift with good deeds, not due to fear of retribution from without for failing to do so.)

I think this scold-the-world-into-behaving-better is wrongheaded and counterproductive.

1, I think it is "cheap and easy," as Geraghty noted about these clickbait "You're a Sinner if you eat bacon" type articles. The judgey/scoldey "Look how moral I am for casting insults at you" mode of "moralizing" is ridiculed, and for good reason. People understand how terribly, terribly easy it is to be "moral" in this mode. And that's largely because of...

2, these sorts of moral condemnations are rarely offered for the good of the "sinner." They are offered because they make the one accusing another of sin feel good and righteous, for no very good reason. (That is, one can and should feel good about doing a good turn -- showing mercy, compassion, strength; one shouldn't feel good about something that is essentially giving yourself a Participation Award in the Public Display of Morality Olympics.)

People understand that when most people go into their righteous fury mode, it's not for the benefit of the sinner, nor for the benefit of the world, nor for the benefit of God or the strange alien gods of Social Justice War: It's done for the personal egotistical benefit of the one crying "Sinner!"

3, this tendency is counterproductive because it makes moral behavior seem like a draggy chore hectored upon you by others, when it really ought to be something that makes you feel (rightly) damn good when you choose it yourself. The judgy/scoldy culture does not increase moral behavior, it retards it.

Anyone who's ever responded to someone lecturing them (without authority to do so) -- even if that lecture was about something you actually agree with is generally a sound moral lodestar to follow -- by saying "fuck you" understands how this works.

Someone who claims authority over you must be shown to have no authority over you -- and that will probably involve an immediate rebellion and even a temporary reversion to objectively bad behavior just to establish one's own autonomy and equality.

But I don't expect the left to understand this or to care even if they did to understand, because like most cultists who are in a religion not for the actual religion or learning or quickening of the spirit, but just for the unearned sense of superiority and a list of new insults to cast upon others, they really do not give a shit whether anyone leads a good life.

They're in this for the narcissism. They're in this for the preening. They are in this to fill the emptiness of their souls with something warm and fulfilling and offering them an easy feeling of superiority -- in short, they're in it precisely for the hatred, so telling them "you'd be better at spreading your Religion-Without-God without all the hatred" is a pointless endeavor.

It's the only reason they're the anti-church in the first place.


BTW: It has long occurred to me that the best way to encourage moral behavior is to praise moral behavior, not to scold immoral behavior.

Praising moral behavior makes people feel less defensive. Oh, it might make them feel a bit defensive. It's hard to think about the courage of the soldiers on the Thalys train without thinking a little bit less of oneself.

But there's only a dollop of defensiveness -- there's a lot more desire for emulation. Okay, so I'm not like those guys -- which I can freely admit so long as someone's not in my face insulting me for not being like them.

And as I can freely admit (without fear of consequence) I don't have the natural instincts for courage those guys do, and can freely admit further I'd like to have that kind of physical (and moral!) courage, then they can serve as a spark to light something inside me.

But you know, it's a lot easier to be against something than for something. Our whole politics is built upon this fact -- we are coalitions against something, not for something, really, because it's much, much easier to argue against something than for something. And because it's a lot easier to kindle someone's against-somethingness than their for-somethingness.

And it's socially less risky. The difference between a child and a teenager is this: children are optimistic and like things and even love things and aren't shy at all about saying so.

Teenagers learn that saying you like (let alone love) anything will quickly get you called a nerd or faggit and so teenagers quickly decide they hate everything, or that everything is beneath them. Teenagers learn to affect the demeanor of a world-weary fifty year old at age 13.

This persists into adulthood -- especially in the sort of arrested development adulthood prevalent in America -- so that it is always a safer default position to find fault with anything -- anything! -- then to say something effusively positive about it.


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posted by Ace at 12:46 PM

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