Tag Archives: liberalism

Using Nihilism To Make Sense Of Politics

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I don’t consider myself that huge philosophy buff, but in general, I’m a fan of anything that helps me make sense of mind-bending complexities of the universe. In an era where mass media and the internet have made it easier than ever to see the breadth of that complexity, I think such tools are more valuable than ever.

Lately, I’ve found myself more frustrated than usual with the news media, the politics surrounding it, and the never-ending crisis/outrage cycle that it seems to perpetuate. I’ve written articles before where I’ve mused over the absurdities surrounding the media and outrage culture in general, but I’ve tried to be apolitical about it.

It hasn’t been easy, to say the least.

Well, given the ongoing trends of politically-driven divides in recent years, I don’t think that approach is entirely tenable in the long run. At some point, I’m going to have to get somewhat political on certain issues, more so than I already have. For that reason, I want to take a certain kind of philosophy and use it to cut through the layers of political bullshit that are sure to obscure any issue, present and future alike.

That philosophy is nihilism, which should come to no surprise of those who regularly follows this site. Whether it involves the tendencies of future generations or my favorite cartoon show, I’ve made my fondness of nihilism fairly clear. I also think that, as a philosophy, it’s a more useful tool than most with respect to filtering hyper-partisan politics.

In my experience, Nihilism is useful because its premise and principles are relatively simple. There’s nothing too convoluted or esoteric about it. As a baseline philosophy, nihilism posits that life, the universe, and everything in it has no inherent meaning. Human life isn’t special. Life, in general, isn’t special. The entire universe isn’t special. It’s just random clumps of matter floating around aimlessly.

It’s simple, albeit depressing. There’s a good reason why it’s popular among goths, punk music, and Rick Sanchez from “Rick and Morty.” It makes no promises and guarantees nothing. It acknowledges that all the meaning we ascribe to our lives and our world, be it through religion, ideology, or our favorite football teams, is entirely arbitrary.

Naturally, this does not sit well with those whose religion preaches faith in a higher power or whose ideology requires adherents to accept some greater, intangible meaning to it all. The basic implications of nihilism can leave many feeling uneasy. The idea that our universe is so purposeless can trigger an existential crisis, especially among those who’ve been led to believe there’s something special about them.

However, it’s that same cold, callous element to nihilism that makes it so useful. It immediately casts doubt on anything that someone or a group of people deem meaningful. It forces both observers and participants to take a step back and ask some metaphysical questions about why they deem something so meaningful.

To illustrate, here’s a painfully recent example. There have been two school shootings in 2018, thus far, that have garnered major media attention, followed significant political upheaval. One occurred in Parkland and the other occurred at Sante Fe High School in Texas. In both cases, the political upheaval involved gun control. One even led to a major, nationwide protest.

For one side of the political spectrum, these incidents motivate politically minded individuals to fight for stricter gun control. That’s the common position of liberal politics. For the other side of the political spectrum, such incidents motivate other politically minded individuals to protect the rights of gun ownership against government intrusion. That’s the common position of conservative politics.

Which side is right? Which side is wrong? Which side’s policies are more supported by verifiable scientific research? Which side’s position is statistically shown to result in less suffering?

These are all questions that both sides of the political spectrum argue about endlessly and to the point of absurdity. They’re questions that are impossible to answer. However, when you apply a little nihilism to the debate, the context suddenly changes. Instead of asking all these specific, unanswerable questions. Nihilism asks only one major question.

Why does it even matter?

More specifically, why does it matter what the liberals say? What does it matter what the conservatives say? Why does all the outrage and protest surrounding gun control, abortion rights, or convoluted campaign finance laws matter at all?

It’s not a question meant to trigger or troll an audience. The purpose, in this instance, is to get people to take a step back and understand that the meaning behind the current debate requires that the meaning behind this current point in time be exceedingly inflated.

With gun control, the primary catalyst for the debate that rages today began with the Columbine shooting in 1999. Many of the passions surrounding gun control began with that event. I’m old enough to remember how big a deal it was when it first happened. My school underwent a great deal of melodrama during that time.

As horrific as that event was, why is it any more meaningful than the deadly shooting that occurred in 1966 at the University of Texas in Austin? Going back even further than that, what about the deadly massacre that occurred without guns at Enoch Brown that occurred in 1764 and left 10 people dead, 9 of which were children?

Most people don’t even remember or know of those atrocities. Do they matter any less? Sure, there aren’t as many people alive today who are affected by them. In fact, for most atrocities committed before the 20th century, nobody is alive to ascribe meaning to those events.

That makes sense through the lens of nihilism because, given enough time and entropy, nothing matters in the long run. The outrage of those events and all those effected passed as soon as the people involved passed. When they died, they took the meaning with them. Even though the records of those events still exist to anyone willing to look them up, they are devoid of meaning.

Now, with that in mind, think about how meaningful the recent school shootings will be 200 years from now. It’s a given that they won’t be nearly as relevant, but will they carry the same meaning? Will anything that happened as a result really matter in the long run? Will all those political debates mean anything in the grand scheme of things?

If history is any indication, and history itself is subject to arbitrary meaning with nihilism, then chances are it won’t. There’s a high possibility that the current uproar surrounding gun control, as well as the uproar surrounding every political issue we deem important today, will eventually be rendered pointless.

That’s not to say they become pointless in an instant. Time has a way of skewing and twisting hot-button issues that don’t always make much sense in the decades that followed. Before the 1980s, abortion was largely considered a Catholic issue and didn’t become really touchy until the rise of the religious right.

The same thing happened with issues of censorship. Back in the mid-1960s, campuses like UC Berkeley were the central hub of the free speech movement that championed the right of people to say controversial things. These days, those same campuses have promoted censorship of controversial speakers, sometimes to the point of violence.

To most, that comes off as an act of hypocrisy. In a nihilistic context, though, it makes sense because both positions are similarly flawed. They were deemed meaningful during a particular time, but once that time passes, that meaning faded once the people who gave it that meaning moved on.

That, more than anything, is the ultimate message nihilism conveys to political discourse. What people consider politically charged is only relevant because the people currently alive are making it so. When those people die, move on, or get bored, the political upheaval fades and loses meaning.

The fact that such a heated issue can lose meaning further implies that the meaning ascribed to it in the first place was entirely arbitrary. It only meant something because people subjectively believed it. There was no larger force at work in the grand scheme of things. It’s just individuals in a certain time at a particular place collectively deciding that this is worth their emotional energy.

It may seem callous. It may even seem to undercut suffering and injustice. However, I would argue that nihilism actually helps by putting an issue into a proper context. Whether it’s gun control, abortion, or the right of a person to marry a squirrel, the meaning of both the issue and the passions behind it is contingent on those experiencing it. There’s nothing else beyond that and pretending there is only obscures the situation.

Nihilism, and its propensity to strip away inflated meaning, reduces every issue back to temporary, finite beings concerned with their current condition in a fleeting, uncaring, unguided universe. It doesn’t matter if life is ultimately meaningless in the long run. It doesn’t matter that life in the past has been rendered pointless or that life in the future will eventually be pointless. What matters is what we’re experiencing now.

Anything beyond that context within a political issue is just false meaning. Anything that attributes more meaning to the events in the past and future is just as arbitrary. Ultimately, the individuals alive today are responsible for ascribing meaning to an issue, whatever it may be.

I believe that harsh truth actually puts every political issue in a proper perspective, one that shows just how responsible we are as a society for giving meaning to an issue. It doesn’t mean we should all just give up and lament at the meaninglessness of our lives. It means we should be mindful of the things to which we ascribe meaning because, in a nihilistic universe, nothing else will do it for us.

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The Boredom Filter: How To Know If Your Agenda/Politics/Ideology Is Doomed

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Whenever I talk about boredom, I make it a point to emphasize that it’s a powerful force that’s easy to overlook. In a society that’s full of distractions and ongoing outrage, it’s easy to shrug at the effects of boredom because it’s so easy to find something that keeps you from remembering just how agonizing it can be. I would argue that only makes us more vulnerable to boredom and it’s corrosive effects.

That said, I don’t intend to belabor the power of boredom more than I already have. I feel like I’ve made my case in calling it a potential plague of the future and a force with the ability to subvert the entire concept of Hell. Instead, I’d like to use the power of boredom as a critical tool of sorts, one that might prove useful for those seeking to avoid or exploit its influence.

I call it the Boredom Filter. It’s not unlike the Simpsons Filter that I’ve referenced before in that it’s a method of assessing a message or ideology in terms of how it’ll appeal to the masses. In that context, the Boredom Filter is kind of what it sounds like, but runs so much deeper.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a liberal, a conservative, a communist, a reactionary, a theocrat, or an anarchist. It doesn’t even have to be a political ideology either. It can be a philosophical underpinning like Marxism or a social movement like feminism. The Boredom Filter applies to it and, if used properly, can reveal just how viable that ideology is in the long term.

That is, after all, one of the most important measures of an ideology. Any idea, be it a social movement or a new philosophy, can enjoy a brief wave of success. It’s a matter of how well it endures over time that shows just how valuable or useful it is. From fad diets to one-hit wonders in music, the Boredom Filter help reveal whether an idea has what it needs to really last.

Applying the filter is actually fairly simple. It does require some speculation, a few quick thought experiments, and even a touch of brutal honesty. That might be difficult to contemplate for those immersed in extreme ideology. As I’ve noted before, people clinging to those ideologies will make any excuse to justify them.

With that in mind, here’s the process for the Boredom Filter. To ensure the best results, I urge those using it to be extra thorough.

Step 1: Assess the ultimate goals of the ideology and identify which elements may be prone to boredom.

Step 2: Imagine, for a moment, that all the goals of an ideology were achieved and integrated into a society.

Step 3: Within that ideologically pure society, assess how much conformity is required for it to work and contemplate the mentality of the common people residing within it who have no political power.

Step 4: Ask and honestly answer the question as to whether the lives those people are allowed to live, under the ideology, will get boring over an extended period of time.

Step 5: If the answer to the question in Step 4 is no, then the ideology passes the filter. If, however, the answer to the question in Step 4 is yes or even a probably, ask and honestly answer the question as to whether the ideology is flexible enough to adapt over time.

Step 6: If the answer to Step 5 is yes, then ideology passes the filter, but only to a point. If the answer to Step 4 is still yes and the answer to Step 5 is no or even probably not, then the ideology is doomed.

I understand that part of that process involves contemplating the boredom threshold for other people. That can be somewhat subjective. Everybody is wired differently. Some people can crunch numbers on spreadsheets all day and never feel bored. Others will get bored if it involves spending more than five minutes of reading. For some, it can get so bad that it requires medication.

That said, you don’t have to know or assume everyone’s threshold for boredom. When it comes to speculating on applying an ideology on a large scale, though, it helps to assume a fairly low threshold. That’s because, if history is any guide, people tend to get frustrated with any system that requires a significant level of conformity.

It may not seem like conformity to those who champion the ideology. It definitely won’t seem that way to those the ideology empowers to enforce it, be it a dictator, a religious zealot, or revolutionary. That makes applying the Boredom Filter for those contemplating the ideology all the more critical.

As an example, let’s use the Boredom Filter to examine the two most common political ideologies, liberalism and conservatism. Now, I know these ideologies mean different things to different people in different regions of the world. For the sake of this exercise, I’m going to try and keep things general.

For conservatism, I’m referring to the kind of conservatism espoused by right-wing, religiously-driven ideology that emphasizes traditional morality, gender roles, and free market economics. For liberalism, I’m referring to a brand of ideology that emphasizes secularism, evolving social norms, and economic systems that emphasize regulated management over free enterprise.

I know there are a lot of other intricacies to both ideologies, but it’s not necessary to account for every one of them. The most important aspect, with respect to the Boredom Filter, is knowing enough to speculate how it would function if implemented on a large scale. By that, I don’t just mean a small community or tribe. I mean on a scale of at least 100,000 people that is not totally isolated and has contact with the outside world.

With that in mind, let’s picture a society that’s a perfect model of conservatism. It’s basically the utopian world envisioned by Ben Shapiro, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity. Everyone goes to the same church, loves the same historical icons, favors the same social policies, condemns the same media messages, and lives in the same family structure. It’s basically “Pleasantville” for Republicans.

Does that world pass the boredom filter? If we’re applying it honestly, the answer is no. It doesn’t. Remember, that world involves a society in which monogamy is the only acceptable relationship, non-procreative sex is condemned, and scandalous media content is censored in the name of protecting children. It’s a world that does not lend itself to a diverse range of activities that alleviate boredom.

Eventually, a world where you have only a certain kind of sex, consume only a certain kind of media, and live a certain kind of lifestyle will get boring at some point. Some people might be able to cope, but others won’t. Even if they still manage, their kids and their grand-kids won’t stand for it. At some point, they’ll be so bored that they demand change, if only to offer a different kind of stimulation.

I’ll give a few conservatives a moment to fume on that assessment, but bear with me because I’m going to do the same to liberalism. You might think that liberalism would be more adept at passing the boredom filter. It’s ideology, at least the classic version, is built on freedom and individual rights. How can boredom possibly infect that?

Well, and I’m sure self-identified liberals will be just as upset, but this ideology doesn’t pass the Boredom Filter either. It’s more flexible in some areas, namely those involving social norms. Liberalism accommodates different family structures, artistic expressions, and social expressions. That certainly provides some of the flexibility necessary to alleviate boredom.

Where liberalism fails, at least in the context of modern liberalism, is how it tends to promote micromanaging of life, economics, and feelings. It may not favor censorship, but like conservatism, it does play favorites. The rise and growth of political correctness has really strained liberalism’s ability to pass the Boredom Filter and it may be getting worse.

In that liberal utopia that Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi, and Rachel Maddow envision, there’s not just equality. There’s enforced equality. That equality is done in the name of fairness, but in trying to be so fair, it’s much harder for any person or idea to stand out. If nothing stands out, then everything becomes more monotone and monotone becomes boring.

Liberalism’s association with belaboring oppression and victimhood don’t help either. It’s not that fighting against oppression and protecting victims is a bad thing. Conservatives are against that too, albeit from a different angle. With liberalism, though, that effort has become clouded with endless virtue signaling that comes off as a never-ending struggle.

Even if it’s a struggle worth fighting, it’s going to get boring if there’s no nuance to it. Taken to an extreme, everything becomes too fair and too bland. Media isn’t offensive anymore. History, debates, and discourse are watered down. Add micromanaging the economy to some extent, even if it’s in the name of preventing exploitation, and you end up with the same economy in fifty years that you have today.

In the long run, the Boredom Filter undercuts pure liberalism just as hard as undercuts pure conservatism. I say pure because, contrary to what Fox News and the Huffington Post may claim, few societies in America or any other country not run by Dr. Doom are ideologically pure. Even in the most repressive regimes, there are some moderating forces.

Technically speaking, every political party in every country is moderate to some degree. The key is understanding the extent of that degree and using that as the basis for the Boredom Filter. From that, you can make a fairly accurate assessment of their goals. Some will even state them outright.

Use that as a guide when both applying the filter and contemplating the world this ideology is trying to create. A conservative world that has no porn, only one acceptable family structure, and one moral code that never changes is going to get boring. A liberal world where nothing offensive is allowed, the economy rarely changes, and life is micromanaged by government gets boring too.

It’s rare, if not impossible, for an ideology to ever get to the point where it can implement every policy it seeks and achieve every goal it pursues. That’s why boredom hasn’t destroyed conservatism or liberalism yet. However, the failure of extreme systems like communism and repressive right-wing dictatorships shows that such ideologically pure societies tend to be unstable, at best.

That instability may not always be related to boredom. However, the documented effects of boredom combined with extreme efforts to engineer that utopian society every ideology seeks make for some significant obstacles. For most, if not all, boredom presents an insurmountable obstacle that no ideology can overcome. By applying the Boredom Filter, it helps to uncover which ideology is more vulnerable to it.

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Generation Z, The March For Our Lives, And The Nihilism Turning Point

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Last year, I wrote a couple of posts about the mentality of Millennials and the possible quirks they may inspire in Generation Z, which are just starting to emerge. While I’m neither the spokesperson for Millennials, nor am I an expert on the generation they’re creating. Being a Millennial myself, though, I like to think I have more insight than most. I’ve watched their story play out and I’ve even lived part of it.

However, this particular topic isn’t about Millennials. This is about the emerging generation after them, Generation Z. While Millennials are still subject to any number of trends and criticisms, Generation Z hasn’t had much time to establish themselves or have a defining moment. That may be changing in wake of the Parkland shooting.

To understand why, it’s important to provide a bit of context about Generation Z. First and foremost, we need to identify just who they are, relative to Millennials, Generation X, and the Baby Boomers. While there’s no official cut-off point, most reputable sources identify anyone born after the year 2000 as members of Generation Z.

Those who lived through the Parkland shooting are mostly in their mid-to-late teens so they fit into this category. That matters a great deal because it’s happening at a point where Generation Z is on the cusp of adulthood. To understand why that matters, it’s important to note the context of this generation.

These kids, and they are still kids for the most part, were born into a world where they didn’t witness the horrors of Columbine or the experience the collective trauma of the September 11th attacks. Generation Z has always lived in a world where school shootings are a thing and the War on Terror has always been ongoing.

Beyond that, they’re also a generation that has been even more well-connected than their Millennial predecessors. Most never had to endure the hardships of dial-up internet or cell phones that did not have a camera. Their entire lives have been connected, so to speak. That’s part of what has fueled their reaction to the Parkland shooting.

The kids in Generation Z have been watching all their lives as horrible mass shootings from Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and Las Vegas happen with distressing regularity. At the same time, they’ve watched as efforts by Millennials, Generation X, and the Baby Boomers amount to very little change. The fact that the internet and social media documents all these failures leaves quite an impression.

Being young, idealistic, and not totally jaded, the members of Generation Z are finally at an age where they have a chance to make an effort of their own. They’re still not old enough to drink or vote in many instances, but they’re now in a position to make their voices heard. That was the idea behind the March For Our Lives that occurred last week.

It marks a potentially defining moment for Generation Z, one that may have far-reaching consequences for years to come. They’ve seen how many have tried and failed to use the horrors of mass shootings to promote gun control reforms. They’re also informed and educated enough to know how egregious the gun violence disparity is in the United States compared to other developed countries.

While I applaud the passion of these remarkable young people, I also worry that this event may become a turning point, of sorts. By that, I mean these noble and sincere efforts of these kids could be the catalyst that instills a sense of nihilism that may very well define their generation.

This is something I speculated on when I made my predictions on the collective mindset of Generation Z last year, going so far as to identify Rick Sanchez from “Rick And Morty” as their first icon. I stated that Generation Z would likely be the most nihilistic generation of all time. Now, the success or failure of the March For Our Lives could be the turning point that cements that nihilism within Generation Z.

As I said before, it won’t be the same kind of nihilism we associate with the Friedrich Nietzsches of the world. It’s the kind of nihilism that is the byproduct of being surrounded by so much information and seeing how little it truly matters in the long run.

Like Millennials, Generation Z is very educated. They’ve grown up in a world where they have access to nearly all the world’s relevant information through their smartphones. They’re smart enough and tech-savvy enough to see world events unfolding before their eyes. They’re also informed enough to know how hard it is for any event to make for meaningful change.

Now, here they are, having experienced one of their first traumas as an up-and-coming generation. They’ve seen all those terrible mass shootings inspire nothing but empty thoughts and prayers. They feel inspired enough and bold enough to make an effort, hoping they’ll succeed where so many others have failed.

While many are rooting for them, the odds are stacked against them. Even major news outlets are starting to spoil the outcome, applauding the kids while brushing off their ideals as youthful day-dreaming. I don’t think they realize just what kind of impression they’ll have on their generation as a whole.

Let’s say, for a moment, that the most likely scenario happens and the March For Our Lives leads to no meaningful change in gun control laws or in efforts to curb mass shootings. What kind of message does that send to the survivors of Parkland and the entire generation emerging behind it?

Firstly, it establishes that their lives, their pain, and their ideals don’t matter. It doesn’t matter how passionate they are. It doesn’t matter how traumatized they are. What they went through and how they reacted in response doesn’t matter. In such a crowded, diverse, and complicated world, their lives are trivial.

That’s almost a textbook definition of existential nihilism. Their hopes, their dreams, and their very place in the universe is insignificant. It wouldn’t have mattered if ten times more kids died at Parkland. It still wouldn’t have changed anything. There would still be no gun control. There would still be more mass shootings. All that time, effort, energy, and pain amounted to nothing.

In previous generations, it was almost beneficial to live in a world that wasn’t so connected. They could see horrible events on the news, but find a way to compartmentalize it in their minds so they could go on with their lives. With Generation Z, being so connected and informed, that’s just not feasible anymore.

They don’t just see that their efforts at Parkland were meaningless. They also see how many other mass shootings have occurred throughout history and how utterly inane such violence is in the grand scheme of things. In a sense, their ability to connect and inform themselves could render them numb to any greater sense of purpose.

That’s not to say that the kids behind March For Our Lives or the whole of Generation Z will be a bunch of dispassionate, misanthropic naysayers who are so emotionally flat that they don’t respond to stories of human suffering anymore. It just means that they’ll be a lot more calculated with their perspective.

Keep in mind, a world of regular school shootings and a never-ending war on terrorism is not some major upheaval to Generation Z. That’s their concept of normal. They’ve always lived in a world where terror attacks can happen at any time, when mass shootings can happen just as frequently, and no meaningful change ever comes of it.

For them, all the yelling, protesting, and outrage that generations of the past have voiced will just seem like background noise. If all the suffering and trauma led to nothing, then why should they bother? That may very well be a question that the Parkland survivors start asking themselves after the March For Our Lives accomplishes nothing.

Now, that’s not to say Generation Z won’t react differently. That’s not even to say that the March For Our Lives won’t accomplish something meaningful in the end. It’s impossible to predict major trends that go onto define an entire generation, but it’s still possible to note the vulnerabilities.

For Generation Z, nihilism might end up being less a reaction and more a necessity. They’re coming into a world where all the news is fake, facts battle alternative facts, and dead kids only evoke empty thoughts and prayers. Once this fact settles in, it’ll be interesting to see how they seek to define themselves moving forward.

Being the optimist I am, I believe that the kind of nihilism that Generation Z embraces could help inoculate them from some of the detrimental effects of identity politics, fake news, and outrage culture. I think that’s critical, given how these forces have corrupted debates and empowered professional trolls.

In any case, Generation Z faces an uphill battle in an effort to set themselves apart from their Millennial peers. A greater sense of nihilism may make them difficult to deal, but that’s exactly what will help define them as they seek purpose within a seemingly purposeless world.

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How To Resist A Fascist Government (And Survive)

There’s been a lot of talk about fascism lately and I don’t deny that I’ve contributed to it. I tried to make that contribution meaningful and even sexy, but I know I’m facing some pretty strong headwinds that have managed to undermine far more relevant voices, like CNN.

Even if it is an uphill, fruitless discussion to have in the long run, it’s still worth having, if only to understand the forces behind it. It’s only when we understand something so daunting and dire that we can better deal with it. Like divorce, a death in the family, or a slow internet connection, it helps to maintain some sense of perspective.

With that in mind, I want to shift the discussion somewhat to something more practical. No, that doesn’t mean I’m about to trivialize the horrors of fascist regimes or make light of their victims. I like to inject sex appeal into everything I talk about, including fascism, but even I can’t make those topics sexy.

To that end, I’d like to focus on what people can do to actually resist a fascist regime. The topic of “resistance” has been a major issue lately, especially after what happened in the 2016 Presidential Election. There have been major protests, some of which I’ve discussed and some of which have become talking points for major media figures.

There’s plenty of angry rhetoric. There’s plenty more whining, yelling, and personal insults. I’m pretty sure that everyone’s mother has been called a whore at least once since January 2017. None of it is very productive, though. Most of it is just fodder for cable news and cheap laughs for those in power.

The truth of the matter is that there’s a right way to do a resistance movement, even against a fascist regime. Even the most authoritarian governments in history are vulnerable to collapse. It’s worth pointing out that nearly every major empire in history has collapsed, including the repressive ones. It may seem like a fascist regime can never fall. History, to date, says otherwise.

So with that in mind, I’d like to make another contribution to the discussion about fascism and the best ways to resist it. Moreover, I want to list the ways people can resist and have a good chance of surviving.

History shows that the kind of violent uprisings glorified in movies like “Red Dawn” may get people excited, and even horny in some cases, but it also shows that such violence tends to breed more violence. You need only look at the French Revolution or the Tiananmen Square protests for proof of that.

To bring down a fascist regime requires patience, foresight, and perseverance. Most importantly, the resistance needs to have easy tactics that everyone can do. That’s why I’ve compiled a quick list of easy tips on how to resist a fascist regime the smart way. It’s easy to do. It requires no violence. It just requires patience, perseverance, and a little luck. If done right, you’re much more likely to survive.

Please keep in mind, though, these tips only apply to fascist regimes that are run by humans, administered by humans, and populated by humans. That means subjects of advanced alien overlords like the Borg or superhuman despots like Dr. Doom need not apply.


Tip #1: Leave If You Can, But Survive If You Can’t

This is the simplest, most obvious tip to anyone unlucky enough to be living under a fascist government. I understand it isn’t always possible. I also understand that dealing with refugees are a complex hot-button issue. However, when it comes to bringing down a repressive government, it can’t be avoided.

One of the ways a fascist regime is inherently unstable is how it deals with it’s smart, highly skilled population. Fascist leaders tend to not like anyone smarter than them. That usually means brilliant, highly skilled people end up leaving the country, taking their knowledge and expertise with them. Nazi Germany found that out the hard way.

Countries like Iran are finding out too. When your country is a repressive, uptight society that won’t let well-paid, well-educated people have a beer or go to a strip club in peace, they tend to take their talents elsewhere. Without that professional class of people, a fascist regime can’t really accomplish much. It’s hard to make weapons of doom when you scare all the mad scientists away.

For those who aren’t highly skilled individuals and are unable to leave, the best thing you can do is survive. I know that’s much easier said than done, especially in the inherent poverty of fascist countries. However, being alive is important because it means the state still needs you. Without you, who’s going to provide the slave labor and constant adulation that a fascist leader demands?

Brutal or not, a fascist regime still has to care for its citizens to some extent. It needs to spend time, money, and resources ensuring that its people are actually capable of providing the labor and human resources to make the system work.

They may not provide much, especially if you end up in prison or a work camp, but the mere act of being alive still undermines the regime. So long as your existence forces the regime to spend time and money making you a productive member of their agenda, you’ve got the edge to some extent. Letting yourself die would only do them a favor. So in a sense, the best resistance anyone can do in such a horrible situation is just survive.


Tip #2: Tell Rulers Exactly What They Want To Hear (But Don’t Mean It)

This is another one of those inescapable pitfalls of living in a fascist regime. On paper, it may sound like you’re just emboldening the regime. That’s true, if you’re only looking at it in the short-term. If you’re willing to play a little three-dimensional chess, though, you can turn the tables.

There’s no doubt that living in a fascist regime will require you to glorify some despotic leader. You may hate their guts. You may pleasure yourself to the idea of them dying a violent death. That’s fine. Keep that hatred and kink strong within you, but keep it within you. If ever you have to put on a fake smile and tell the ruler how big their dick is, just grit your teeth and do it.

You’ll hate it in the short-term, but you’ll see the benefits in the long run. It’s one of those few times when the harshness of reality is on your side. If people only ever tell a dictator what they want to hear, they’ll avoid telling them about serious issues that need to be addressed. They won’t give the full story. They’ll avoid the hard facts, but those facts won’t avoid them.

As a result, fascist rulers will have a poor understanding of a situation or crisis. They’ll be incapable of making the kinds of decisions that strengthen their hold on power. Eventually, those decisions will erode the regime’s ability to function. They’ll leave their society in such a poor state that no amount of adulation will change it. At that point, the regime is as good as gone.


Tip #3: Conform In Public, Defy In Private

This ties directly into the previous tip. If you’re going to survive a fascist regime, you’re going to have to put on a public face you hate and do everything the regime demands that you to do in order to be a good citizen. You’ll hate it inside, but you’ll still do it because that’ll help you survive.

In private, however, you can afford to let yourself go. In fact, doing so will help inoculate you from the propaganda that all fascist regimes depend on to keep their population in line. Even repressive places like Iran are finding out the hard way that while some people show the necessary piety in public, they tend to get really freaky in private.

Now, I understand this would be even harder in a regime like the one described by George Orwell in “1984.” However, keep in mind that the kind of surveillance described in that book is pretty much impossible in the real world. Even North Korea has a hard time preventing smuggling.

If anything, more intensive surveillance means that your actually winning. All that surveillance, costing the regime time and money that it would rather spend strengthening its power. Having to micromanage its citizens is a huge drain on any regime, fascist or otherwise.

Welcome that kind of micromanaging whenever you can. In the long run, the regime will run out of money before you run out of things for them to manage. That way, when the regime starts to collapse, it’ll be easier for you and others dissatisfied with the regime to help it collapse. All you had to do was be deviant in private. Most people do that anyway so it’s something everybody can do.


Tip #4: Create Impossible Issues For Rulers To Deal With

This is a bit harder, but still fairly critical. By creating impossible issues, I don’t mean protest and complain to the fascist government. That’s usually a quick way to end up dead, in prison, or in a forced labor camp. You can still frustrate the regime, but you can do it indirectly.

The easiest way to do this is to just not do your job very well. Channel your inner Wally from “Dilbert” and do just enough to avoid getting into trouble, but nothing more than that. Don’t do your best. Don’t go the extra mile. That forces the regime to commit more resources to doing something that shouldn’t take so many to begin with.

Beyond just being a marginal worker, go out of your way to make day-to-day issues complex and tedious for the authorities. Think of it as a form of trolling, minus the insults to other peoples’ mothers. The key is to get the government to deal with multiple issues on multiple fronts. They don’t need to be big issues. In fact, the smaller the issue, the better.

Small issues frustrate governments far more than larger issues. Government, and its assorted bureaucracy, is a blunt instrument by nature. It can’t deal with smaller issues for the same reason a doctor can’t perform brain surgery with a baseball bat. It just doesn’t have the tools. That won’t stop it from trying. It’ll just made a mess of things and that works to your advantage.


Tip #5: Weaponize The Power of Apathy, Boredom, And Dispassion

This goes along with the previous tip in that it takes being lousy at your job a step further. One of the most important tools that fascist rulers use is their ability to rally up the passions of the public. They use their gift for rhetoric and giving fancy speeches to work people into a frenzy so that they’ll ditch all forms of critical thinking and follow them into battle.

While it helps fascist governments come to power, it’s not very useful when it comes to maintaining power. Sure, fascist governments will hold military parades and create these big, gaudy monuments to their glory. However, it amounts to an oversized toilet for pigeons if it can’t generate the same solidary.

That solidarity is the glue that holds a fascist society together. Apathy, Boredom, and utter dispassion is the solvent that breaks up that glue. If a government spends all that time and money blaring their glorious message to the populous, only to have them look back with blank and tired stares, they’re screwed.

If the people aren’t united and in an orgasmic frenzy of support, they’re less likely to sacrifice or aid the regime. Sure, they’ll follow the rules. They’ll march in the parades. They’ll even put on happy faces. They just won’t put much energy or effort into helping the regime stay together. That’s why the greatest tool any citizen in the resistance can have is their apathy. Without that, a fascist society just falls apart.


Tip #6: Let The Rulers Frustrate Themselves (And Stay Out Of Their Way)

This is probably the most enjoyable tip on this list and not just because it doesn’t require much effort. Technically, you really don’t have to do anything to make this happen, so long as you follow the other tips I’ve listed.

That’s because government and bureaucracy, at least those run by humans, are inherently flawed. That’s because people are inherently flawed. No matter how dedicated or passionate they may be, they’re going to make mistakes. They’re going to fall flat on their faces. All you have to do is let them.

This is especially true of dictators, who everybody is afraid to restrain. Eventually, they’ll get back up, blame everyone but themselves, and try to correct it. Chances are, they’ll fall flat on their face again. They’ll get even angrier. That kick-starts a brutal cycle that the dictator can’t escape. Eventually, they’ll frustrate themselves to the point of utter failure. Once they fail, the regime fails.

When this happens, the best thing anyone can do is stay out of its way. Every fascist regime has inherent flaws. You just have to be patient enough and tough enough to let them happen. It can be grueling and downright dangerous. In the long run, though, human nature and inept dictators will be on your side.

That, in essence, is the greatest and most fitting irony of fascism.

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George Orwell, 1984, And The Perfect Totalitarian State

There were a lot of reasons I hated high school. I’ve listed more than a few of them on this blog. Somewhere on that list, but nowhere near the top, involved the books I had to read. To say they weren’t very sexy would be like saying a baseball bat to the head isn’t a very good massage.

However, every now and then, my English and social studies teachers managed to assign a book that didn’t make me want to make me stick my head in a deep fryer. One of my favorite non-sexy books of all time, which also happened to be a homework assignment, is George Orwell’s “1984.” It’s a book that always seems relevant and insightful, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

When I read Orwell’s depiction of the ultimate dystopian future, I see it as the ultimate thought experiment, of sorts. Orwell wrote this book in the 1940s, a time when there were actual, dystopian totalitarian regimes operating in the world. Sadly, one of them was a chief ally during World War II.

He had a lot to reference in his time, much more so than we have today. Other than North Korea, most people today aren’t as familiar with rigid, totalitarian governments. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, there’s an entire generation of people whose idea of a totalitarian regime is relegated to detention at a high school. They can’t even begin to fathom the kind of world that “1984” described.

That’s a good thing in some respects. In a sense, those governments are almost impossible these days. The rise of the internet, modern technology, and complex geopolitics makes it next to impossible for a regime to be as totalitarian as “1984.” North Korea comes close, but even that regime is wholly inept compared to Big Brother.

However, I believe there’s a unique value, of sorts, when it comes to understanding what makes a totalitarian regime work. I also think there’s value in knowing the tenets behind it, the ways in which it operates, and why it takes hold in the first place. Even in an age of people protesting the removal of the McRib from McDonald’s menu, we’re not immune from the threat of a totalitarian regime.

With that in mind, let’s dig a little deeper into Orwell’s extreme thought experiment that played out in “1984.” If you haven’t read the book or had even worse English teachers than I did, you might not be familiar with Big Brother, how it operates, what what it represents. You might have heard the term, but you might not be familiar with what it is.

For the sake of providing context, here’s a quick video from the Alternate History Hub channel on YouTube. It’s a channel that focuses primarily on alternate history scenarios, which I’ve touched on before, but it also provides remarkable insight onto other subjects. Given how many totalitarian regimes are involved in alternate history, it makes sense to explore the ultimate extreme, as it played out in “1984.”

It’s hard for most people in the industrialized world to imagine a system like this. The idea that facts, history, and the very thoughts we think are all controlled by this all-encompassing, all-powerful government seems insane. It’s hard to imagine living in a world like that. It almost seems impossible. In a sense, it is.

No government in history has ever come close to wielding the kind of power that Big Brother does in “1984.” Some have tried. There’s the first emperor of China, the sun king in France, and our old frenemy, Joseph Stalin. They only ever succeeded in part and often failed in the long run.

That’s because, as we’re seeing with the ongoing health care debate in America, human beings are impossibly chaotic creatures. We all have so many different needs and wants. We’re all petty about different things and apathetic towards others. No two people are completely wired the same. We all think different thoughts for different reasons, sometimes with downright kinky undertones.

It’s because of all that chaos/diversity within the human condition that no government can hope to achieve what Big Brother achieved in “1984.” It would require so much power, so much micromanaging, and so much information that it just wouldn’t be practical for any one human or party of humans.

Again, that won’t stop some from trying and that’s where Orwell’s thought experiment becomes relevant. In looking at the structure of Big Brother, we can observe the nuts and bolts of the perfect totalitarian regime. We can see what the ultimate fascist is seeking when they want to create an all-power, completely centralized government.

Impossible or not, the features of this government reveal some common themes that have a basis in the real world. Those are themes worth understanding because they help us know when someone is trying too hard to emulate Big Brother. Without getting too deep into the book, here are the key features of a perfect totalitarian regime.

  • There’s a single, unambiguous ruling party and no opposition of any kind

  • The ruling party makes up a small percentage of the population, never more than one or two percent

  • The members of the ruling party rarely, if ever, interact with the public directly

  • The public consists of two classes, a professional middle class that never makes up more than a quarter of the population and a working lower class that usually makes up over two-thirds of the population

  • The middle class is educated to some degree, but wholly controlled by the ruling party and is completely dependent on them for their livelihood

  • The lower class is uneducated, under-informed, and easily manipulated

  • All economic activity is controlled or guided by the party, ensuring the middle class has just enough to do their job and the lower class has just enough to propagate

  • The ideals for family structure and social structure are imposed by the party with any variations being deemed deviant

  • The lower classes are allowed to be more deviant and decadent in order to keep them content with their state

  • The middle class is held to a higher standard of conduct to ensure their loyalty and submission to the party

  • The flow of information, the accepted knowledge of the world, and the entire history of the state is dictated by the party and accepted by the masses

There are probably more features I could list, but these are the core elements of Big Brother and the society we see in “1984.” Now, some people will attempt to apply these features to whatever state, country, or office environment they’re in at the moment. Some might actually apply, but never to the same degree as Orwell depicted.

The biggest takeaway from these traits, as well as the themes in “1984,” is how a society structures itself in the face of such overwhelming control. At the top, there’s always a ruling class. That class has only one primary purpose, which is to preserve its power. From the Galactic Empire in “Star Wars” to the battle for the iron throne in “Game of Thrones,” preservation is always the top concern of a totalitarian regime.

Part of preserving that power means relying on a professional middle class, of sorts, to deal with the bureaucracy and administration of the state. It’s in this area where totalitarian regimes tend to be most vulnerable. History has shown that authoritarian states like Nazi Germany were anything but efficient, which in turn undermined the ruling party’s primary goal.

It seems like a paradox, but it’s more a matter of pragmatism. A state needs people to run these massive, complex machinations to maintain so much control. To not impose such control would mean granting people freedom and that’s dangerous to any ruling party that wants to preserve control.

This is why those in these middle class professions are subject to such greater scrutiny. A poor, unemployed man taking a piss on a street corner creates no controversy. However, if a highly educated professional did that, it would be a major scandal. We often see this in how major corporate scandals play out.

In a sense, the lower classes have more freedom in this system than the professional middle class. That’s because the ruling party doesn’t really care about them. They don’t have to because they’re not a threat.

Uneducated, lower class people are too stupid and gullible to really pose a threat. So long as they work and breed, the ruling party has no reason to micromanage them. They don’t care if they have orgies in the streets, drink paint thinner for breakfast, or wear horse masks to work. Their only purpose is to work and breed. If they do that, then the ruling party couldn’t care less.

In a sense, the ruling party will always be at odds with a certain segment of the population. In order to exercise control in an authoritarian regime, there needs to be a sizable number of loyal, competent underlings to carry out the functions of the state. Finding people who can act as such underlings with perfect loyalty is difficult, if not impossible.

It’s hard to say whether Orwell knew this on some level. Keep in mind, he was heavily influenced by what he saw around him, a massive world war and the rise of communist states. Perhaps he had studied how powerful, repressive governments had operated in the ancient past and saw parallels in the present. Perhaps he saw that as an inevitable recourse for humanity.

I choose to have a more optimistic, albeit cynical view of human affairs. I don’t believe a system like Big Brother could ever take hold in a world where people can’t even agree on pizza toppings, let alone a singular vision for human civilization. I also don’t believe any government is equipped to exercise the kind of control that Big Brother did in “1984.”

However, that still won’t stop some from trying and the very process of trying can be very dangerous. Seeking order within the chaos is a very human trait, but one that can easily get derailed by pettiness and corruption. That’s why Orwell’s lessons in “1984” are more relevant than ever and may always be relevant to some extent.

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Virtue Signaling: Why We Are NOT The Hero Of Our Own Story

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Think back to any movie that ever involved a lovable underdog. For anyone who has been to a movie theater more than once since 1978, this shouldn’t be that hard. Hell, think about a popular TV show involving a lovable underdog, going all the way back to the “Leave It To Beaver” days. What do they all have in common?

The similarities aren’t exactly subtle. The lovable underdog isn’t someone who is big, strong, handsome, cocky, arrogant, or dumb. They’re often unremarkable, so much so that others don’t acknowledge their existence. They do little to stand out and even less to distinguish themselves, but the same story usually plays out for them.

Whether they’re John McClane from “Die Hard,” Peter Parker from “Spider-Man,” or the entire cast of “The Big Bang Theory,” they embody the traits of all that is good and right with the world. They overcome obstacles, bullies, and a world where pretty girls aren’t lining up to touch their dicks to become heroes in their own right.

In the end, everything works out for them. In the end, they get what they want. The world comes to love them. Everybody, male and female alike, loves them. They are respected and admired for their thoughts, actions, and ideas at every turn. They have every reason to feel good about themselves.

What I just described is both the standard narrative for no less than 95 percent of every underdog story ever told and the primary reason why virtue signaling is getting out of hand. If that sounds like a bit of a stretch, then please bear with me. There is a logic behind it and, unlike my previous post on virtue signaling, it has a major implications.

As with other topics, like sex robots and body shaming, it’s impossible to cover every aspect of a certain topic. Virtue signaling, having only recently become a major buzzword, definitely qualifies. It is very much an emerging trend that is finding its way into politics, gender issues, media, and even erotica/romance. Since I’m trying to make a living writing erotica/romance, that deeply concerns me.

For this particular post, I want to highlight the more direct impacts of virtue signaling that I’ve observed in recent years. Specifically, I want to focus on how it affects the way people see themselves and the way they relate to one another. There’s a lot of material to cover and I can only handle so much coffee before my brain starts to short out.

I’ll table my concerns about brain function for the moment because this is something that I haven’t just observed. I’ve experienced it as well. As a man, trends that affect how men and women relate to one another don’t just affect the kinds of sexy stories I tell. They effect me personally and how I conduct myself in my day-to-day life. They effect all of us, often in ways we don’t see or acknowledge.

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With respect to virtue signaling, these effects have only recently become more pronounced to the growth of social media. Unlike every other point in human history, we no longer need a million people to march through a capital city or a massive rebellion to send a message. We just need a smartphone, an internet connection, and a willingness to castigate ourselves in a public sphere.

As a result, virtue signaling has become a popular pastime of sorts. Political leaders, media figures, and ordinary people with too much free time on their hands go out of their way to make these elaborate gestures to prove that they’re virtuous or pious or tolerant or not a Nazi.

More often than not, these gestures just aren’t enough and people end up doing more and more, thus creating a brutal cycle of sorts. Sometimes the gesture is misinterpreted, as often happens with poorly-worded Tweets. Sometimes it’s just part of a larger agenda, one that requires constant reaffirmation in light of incessant criticism. Video game critics found out just how bad this could get back in August 2014.

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It’s a stressful endeavor, trying to loudly proclaim to the masses that you’re as virtuous, heroic, and understanding as any protagonist from a John Hughes movie. It’s also tearing us apart and making us despise one another.

So how exactly does it work and why is it so toxic? Well, to answer that, think back to lovable underdogs that I mentioned earlier. We, as a culture, love those characters for a reason. They live in a world where they do what they do, but come out on top. They win in every way they want to win, becoming the heroes of their own stories.

The problem with that world is that it’s a total fantasy and too many people try to make that fantasy fit into their reality. Unfortunately, reality is notoriously uncompromising. Just ask anyone who tried to make a romantic gesture that backfired horribly.

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It’s not that they’re insincere or inept, though. They’re just part of an entire generation that has grown up seeing this narrative of the lovable underdog overcoming the odds and they’ve been led to believe that this is how you succeed. This is how you become the hero of your own story.

We, being the egotistical creatures we are, want to be that hero. We want to be the lovable underdog we see in the movies who can say they overcame the odds, succeeded, and got laid in the process. However, the tactics we see in movies and TV shows just don’t work in the real world or require an obscene amount of luck.

Since all the success, adulation, and sex doesn’t just immediately happen like it does over the course of a two-hour movie, those wanting to be the hero try to force it. That’s where virtue signaling comes in.

Since being a hero often requires hard work, sacrifice, talent, training, and the ability to be in the right place at the right time, virtue signaling offers a much easier alternative. It’s not solely about laziness. It’s just often the path of least resistance and the most readily available path. Can you blame anyone for taking it?

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Rather than actually doing something meaningful, virtue signaling allows people to feel like they’re the hero of their own story, even if they accomplish nothing heroic. To their caveman brain, it doesn’t matter. It already has a hard time processing what gets it aroused. How the hell is it going to determine whether someone qualifies as a hero?

The short answer is that it can’t. The longer answer is that our caveman brains still urge us to seek validation from our tribe and security in our identity. Virtue signaling allows us to do both, even when there’s nothing of substance behind it.

This can lead to a real identity crisis for some people. There are people who define themselves as members of a particular tribe, be they radical feminists, conservative Christians, or Twilight fans. When they feel as though they aren’t slaying the necessary dragons, s to speak, they become distressed and look for any way to alleviate it. Virtue signaling allows them to at least feel it’s alleviate, which is close enough.

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That laughably low standard ensures that virtue signaling is almost always an empty, shallow gesture at most. It only ever functions as a means to help certain individuals feel better about themselves, alleviate the mental stresses that come with seeking validation, and ensure they can be the hero of their own story, even if they do nothing heroic.

In a real world full of unflinching, unyielding circumstances that keep most people from ever doing anything remotely heroic, virtue signaling offers empty promises that only feel real enough to keep our brains and tribes functioning. Even when there’s no substance whatsoever, it gives people an illusion to buy into and that can be dangerous because it gives people an excuse to not do something greater.

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As I’ve pointed out before, people will cling to any excuse that allows them to justify their actions or lack thereof. Now that doesn’t make those who virtue signal bad. If anything, their desire to be the lovable underdog hero of their own story proves to me that such people are good at heart. They’re just misguided, clinging to the feelings and validation that virtue signaling earns them.

Since I like to be a bit more optimistic about people in general, I believe that the lack of substance that inherently comes with virtue signaling will eventually catch up with most people. There will be those who can never escape it. For most people, though, I believe they’ll learn that there are better ways to be the lovable underdog hero of your own story.

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Virtue Signaling: What It Is, Why It Matters, And Why You Should Hate It

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There are certain topics and issues that I generally avoid talking about on this blog, but know I can’t entirely avoid. Given the sheer multitudes things I discuss, from sex robots to Wonder Woman’s BDSM origins, it’s only a matter of time before a few particular concepts enter the conversation.

In general, I try not to be too divisive and dogmatic, but when you talk about issues like feminism, abortion, and religious extremism, you’re bound to rub a few people in ways that won’t make them horny. One such concept can apply to many of the social issues I’ve discussed on this blog, some more directly than others.

That concept has become somewhat of a buzzword among discussions of hot-button issues and not always for the right reasons. It’s especially popular among discussions surrounding political correctness and religious extremism, two topics that turn people off faster than a bucket of dead kittens. It’s called virtue signaling and it is, by far, one of the most frustrating manifestations of our faulty caveman brain.

Our brains might be remarkable marvels of nature, but they have a lot of flaws. Why else would Elon Musk be looking to upgrade it with his latest billion-dollar venture? Some of its features had practical uses in the old days before social media made everyone a wannabe guru on current affairs. Virtue signaling exploits nearly every one of those flaws and does it with a goddamn smile.

Unlike some of the other concepts I’ve explored, the definition of virtue signaling is still evolving. It’s a relatively new concept in terms of being something that people mention in a conversation, but the idea isn’t new. According to Wikipedia, which is usually fairly up-to-date, the definition is as follows:

The conspicuous expression of moral values by an individual done primarily with the intent of enhancing that person’s social standing within a social group.

There are other dynamics to virtue signaling, but this definition covers the basics. It is, essentially, a method people use to save face or prove their loyalty to their respective tribe.

Think back to movies like “Animal House.” Remember those initiation rituals that fraternity pledges had to do? They have been known to seriously hurt and kill people, which is why they’ve become more infamous in recent years.

Now, imaging always having to do these rituals to continually prove your allegiance to whatever group or tribe you’re part of. Anyone who ever survived college hazing should be shuddering violently right now. I’ll give you a minute to recover. For those who haven’t, it’s actually worse than it sounds.

Sometimes it’s subtle. Sometimes it’s so minor that it’s not even a factor in how we see ourselves or the groups we belong to. However, in the era of social media and professional trolls, it has become increasingly egregious. To illustrate how insidious virtue signaling can get, here’s a quick scenario.

Picture, for a moment, that you’re walking down the street in a typical city or town. There are a lot of people moving in different directions. Some are heading to parts of the neighborhood you prefer to avoid. Others are heading towards parts you like. You stick with them, for the most part, and are content keep it that way.

Then, as you’re walking towards your preferred destination, you come up alongside someone whose walking the same direction as you. However, they’re not content. They are very agitated.

They keep looking at the people going towards parts of the neighborhood they don’t like. They then start yelling at them with remarks like:

“HOW DARE YOU GO THERE!”

“HOW DARE YOU DO THAT!”

“YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED!”

“YOU DESERVE NOTHING BUT SCORN AND HATE UNTIL THE DAY YOU DIE AND BEYOND!”

Their yelling is unnerving to some, but others show their approval. Some even join in. They create a flash mob of sorts, going out of their way to find the people going in the direction they don’t like and berate them at the top of their lungs.

You choose not to join in. If anything, you’re someone embarrassed by someone heading in the direction you prefer acting so obnoxious. You’re content to keep walking in that direction and just ignore the loud, confrontational flash mobs.

Then, without warning, that same agitated person turns their attention back towards you. They actually walk up alongside you, try to get your attention, and start yelling at you with remarks like:

“LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT HOW VIRTUOUS I’M BEING!”

“I’M DOING GOOD! I’M MAKING A DIFFERENCE WITH MINIMAL EFFORT!”

“I AM A MORAL PERSON! I’M MORE MORAL THAN YOU!”

“ACKNOWLEDGE MY MORAL SUPERIORITY! IF YOU DON’T, THEN YOU’RE A GODDAMN NAZI!”

The scenario I described is a gross exaggeration, but one that highlights the major components of virtue signaling. It’s both a method for seeking validation from a group and alleviating mental stress. In that sense, it hijacks some of the wiring in our brains that’s meant to help us cooperate and survive.

The past few years, however, have gone beyond merely hijacking our collective psyche. They’ve effectively attached rockets to the plane and flown it into the side of a mountain. Some of this has to do with social media and professional trolling, but a lot more of it has to do with that painfully divisive and innately infuriating concept of identity politics.

These days, it’s too easy to be labeled a bully, a tyrant, a fascist, or whatever other word you want to use to describe Kanye West. Unlike past years, that label is much harder to avoid. Social media, smartphones, and the 24/7 news cycle that will make way too big a deal about the latest Kardashian drama ensure that once you have that label, it follows you like a festering rectal wart.

As a result, more and more people are resorting to virtue signaling to escape or avoid these negative labels. They’ll go to great lengths, yelling at random strangers and being exceedingly obnoxious, to be anything else. Naturally, that means things like facts, reason, and understanding often get lost in the mix. You just can’t be that particular when you’re trying so hard to avoid being labeled a Nazi.

It happens in gender issues. Feminists, especially the male variety, will go to great lengths to prove they’re not misogynistic, even if it means saying demonstrably stupid things.

It happens in religion. A certain adherent, especially in religions that demand a lot of sacrifice, will make any excuse and fight any battle in order to maintain their allegiance and prove they’re a better adherent. There’s little, if any, sincere belief. There’s just a desire to be part of the community. That can often lead to some truly horrific extremes, from suicide bombings to televangelism.

It happens in race issues. A certain race, especially the ones with a nasty legacy that the internet has preserved forever, will say and do anything to avoid being called a racist. They’ll even resort to favoring other kinds of racism to balance out past racist crimes. It’s as inane as it sounds.

At the end of the day, however, the problem remains. Virtue signaling is, by definition, a selfish endeavor that’s meant to make someone feel better. Either they want to feel more moral than those they consider bullies or they want to cling to a certain group affiliation, be it a particular race or a My Little Pony fan club.

There’s never any actual substance behind virtue signaling. In fact, substance cannot be part of virtue signaling in any meaningful capacity because its goals are entirely personal. Unless it makes someone feel better about themselves or keeps them in good standing with a group, it doesn’t matter in the slightest how true, honest, or valid the actions are.

It is a very troubling, if not tragic manifestation of our caveman brains. We’re a social species. We’re also a species that tries to keep itself balanced amidst a chaotic, ever-changing world that tries to kill us in so many ways. We’re wired to form groups, cooperate, and do whatever we can to alleviate the everyday stresses of life. Virtue signaling is the emptiest form of this effort and is ultimately counterproductive.

If someone needs that kind of validation, either for themselves or others, then there are likely other factors at play. I cannot begin to speculate what those factors might be, but the growing prevalence of such efforts says to me that the world is becoming more stressful and we, as a society, aren’t doing a good job of handling it.

In the end, I see virtue signaling the same way I see an empty gesture. It’s a poor attempt to force a desired reaction without actually going through the process of earning that reaction. Those who don’t end up earning something often end up neglecting it as well.

Think of it in terms of a lover. If someone just pretended to feel a certain way so that you would love them, what would that say about his view of love in general? It wouldn’t bode well for the honesty of your lover and the depths of your love.

There’s a lot more to virtue signaling. I know I’m painting a pretty bleak picture right now, but it’s an increasingly-relevant concept that’s sure to show up in many different forms in the coming years. I’ll definitely mention it again in future posts. I’ll make a concerted effort not to bash my head on my desk.

For now, the best advice I can give those who are just as frustrated with virtue signaling is twofold. Be cynical, but be understanding. Those seeking validation are human, like you and me. Understand that, but try and help them understand that as well.

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