Tag Archives: virtue signaling

Why I Believe In Climate Change, But Doubt Environmentalists

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There aren’t a lot of hot button issues that genuinely affect everyone. The environment is one of those issues. We all live in it. We’re all impacted by it. Whenever it changes significantly, we all feel it. That’s why, regardless of your politics or personal leanings, we should take environmental issues seriously.

Given that preface, I’d like to make my own sentiments clear. The environment, like other sensitive topics I’ve discussed, is prone to all sorts of secondary agendas. Some who claim to take environmental issues seriously often do so because it serves their interest in other, often indirect ways. In the interest of transparency, this is where I stand on the environment.

I do believe that climate change is real, human activity is contributing to it, and we should pursue policies to improve the environment and promote cleaner industry.

However, I don’t entirely trust the rhetoric, sincerity, and positions of those who identify as environmentalists.

I know that sounds like someone trying to have their cake and eat it too, but there is a context here. It’s one that I’ve developed over a number of years, some of which I’ve been on the side hardcore environmentalists. As I’ve gotten older, however, I see more and more complications with this issue and not just in terms of the absurd conspiracy theories it attracts.

While I know this will put me at odds certain parts of the political spectrum, I generally accept that the existing science surrounding climate change. The Earth is getting warmer and human activity is a major cause. There have been real, tangible impacts attributed to climate change and I believe those links are real.

The point where I often deviate from environmentalists is when issues of feasible solutions emerge. I’m happy to support efforts that raise awareness and educates the public on the existential dangers of climate change. However, just sounding the alarm is only half the battle. The other half involves doing something about it and this is where environmentalists have a problem.

It’s not that they outright avoid talking about solutions, which sets them apart from other agenda-driven politics. Some of their solutions do have merit and some are even making headway into the economy. However, there’s an over-arching theme of those solutions that leads me to question just how much the environment actually matters to certain environmentalists.

Talk to any self-identified environmentalist and, usually after they’re done talking about melted ice caps and dying polar bears, they’ll single out greedy corporations as the enemy. They tend to lump oil companies, coal producers, and any corporation that doesn’t sound eco-friendly as part of some international consortium of billionaires intent on maintaining their pollution-loving ways for the sake of profit.

Now, I don’t like defending big corporations, especially when their track record in protecting the environment has plenty of room for improvement. At the same time, I have a hard time believing that the solution to such an enormous problem involves battling big, industrial polluters as though it were an episode of “Captain Planet.”

As much as I love cheesy cartoons in the 1990s, the problems of the real world are far more complicated. Environmentalists, like many other vocal politically-driven groups, try to simplify the issue. Through their protests and the rhetoric surrounding it, they give the impression that to save the world, they need only defeat the evil polluters.

This is where I don’t just question the veracity of environmentalists. I genuinely doubt that the environment is their primary concern. If it were, then protesting polluters would only be a small part of their efforts. If they’re serious about making the world cleaner and more efficient, they would dedicate more time and energy into improving clean energy technology, which itself is prone to corporate greed.

This disconnect is most apparent whenever the topic of nuclear power comes up. Unlike other green energy technologies, nuclear energy is a mature technology that has been providing energy for decades. Compared to other forms of energy, it has very low emissions, but provides abundant energy, regardless of whether the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.

Despite those benefits, the same environmentalists who favor shutting down coal power plants won’t support the construction or further refinement of nuclear power planets. They’ll even outright oppose it and for reasons every bit as irrational as those championed by climate change deniers.

While there are legitimate disadvantages to utilizing nuclear power, I rarely hear environmentalists promote efforts to mitigate those issues. They won’t champion the development of advanced nuclear power, including versions that produce far less waste and are less prone to meltdowns. Many won’t even concede it as an option.

This is akin to anti-abortion advocates who support making abortion illegal in all cases, but also oppose contraception, despite the fact it significantly reduces abortions. It also parallels other environmentalists who protest the usage of genetically modified foods, but overlook the distressing fact that billions would starve without this technology.

It’s not just a case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. It’s environmentalists favoring a particular narrative over actual solutions to the problems they protest. As I’ve noted before, people like to believe that they’re the heroes of their own story. When they take a particular position, they see themselves as the underdogs in an epic struggle against good and evil.

While that makes for great superhero comics and Tolkien novels, it rarely aligns with reality. Environmentalists think they’re protesting a greedy corporation run by an army of Lex Luthors who enjoy bathing in the tears of starving orphans, but the truth is more complicated and more mundane.

A key part of that truth that environmentalists tend to overlook is the fact that, no matter how greedy or evil a corporation may be, they have a vested interest in the world remaining intact. Corporations, be they greedy or virtuous, are driven to make profits. They can’t make profits, nor enjoy the fruits of their wealth, in a world where the planet is a toxic wasteland.

That’s why even oil companies, the boogeyman of many environmentalists, are actively researching more environmentally friendly products. It’s also why oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia, which has harmed the environment in ways beyond pollution, is also investing in a post-oil economy.

It’s very likely that the advances in green energy that will improve the environment won’t come from some dedicated environmentalist who protests outside of coal plants. Chances are it will be some greedy, profit-seeking business person trying to make money in a world where the demand for energy is rapidly increasing.

Beyond just generating energy, those same greedy billionaires have just as much incentive to create clean, lush landscapes that attract other billionaires and customers. In general, people don’t like being in polluted communities. Aside from the illness and misery it generates, it also means there are fewer people buying goods and producing for the economy. Even the most devious billionaire is hurt by that.

The incentives for improving the environment are already there. That’s not to say there aren’t some who are truly malicious in how they treat the environment, but in terms of an investment that helps greedy people get richer, it’s one of the worst investments anyone can make and not just because of the bad PR it generates.

Environmentalists will gladly single out those exceedingly malicious corporations, but ignore the bigger picture. They, ironically, don’t see the forest from the trees when it comes to action that genuinely improves the environment. They cling to that epic war raging in their minds of them battling evil corporations that are out to destroy the planet, as though that would somehow benefit any business.

I get the appeal of wanting to feel like a hero in an epic struggle. My love of superhero comics should be proof enough of that. However, when that same struggle both ignores and undermines real solutions that could alleviate a serious issue, then it’s hard to take environmentalist rhetoric seriously.

There’s having genuine concern for the environment and then there’s just being against greedy corporations. Those who are unable to discern between the two can call themselves a lot of things, but they certainly aren’t helping the environment.

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Filed under Environment, human nature, outrage culture, political correctness, technology

How Excessive Guilt Inspires Regressive Attitudes (And Ugly Politics)

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Have you ever done something that made you feel so guilty that it messed with your head? Have you ever felt so much guilt heaped upon you that it made you feel sick in ways that combine the nausea of a hangover with the delirium of a bad flu? If you haven’t been in that situation, then consider yourself lucky because guilt really is that powerful.

Like anger and hatred, guilt is one of those powerful feelings that can circumvent reason, reality, and everything in between. It can be like a rat gnawing at your brain stem, a stabbing pain in the most vulnerable part of your psyche. It doesn’t matter what the facts of the situation might be. Like any other pain, you’ll do anything to alleviate it.

As bad as it is, guilt is a critical component of the human condition. Guilt is a major aspect of being a social species. When we do something wrong within a functioning society, we should feel guilty. In the absence of laws and governments, guilt is part of what binds us together as a people and helps guide us in doing right by one another.

It’s because guilt is so powerful, though, that it can easily be weaponized to pursue an agenda. I would even argue it’s too easy because in recent years, efforts to channel and pile on guilt have become more overt. It’s becoming so overt that it’s not even subtle anymore. The effects aren’t just damaging. They’re counterproductive.

Last year, I wrote a lengthy post about how certain people use virtue signaling to make them feel like the heroes in their own story. In some respects, that effort is partially fueled by feelings of guilt that just happen to supplement the inherent desire to feel like John McClane in a “Die Hard” movie. That inherent desire to feel virtuous can sometimes coincide with feelings of guilt, real or imagined.

However, it’s the imagined, contrived guilt that’s becoming a problem. It’s guilt belabored by those seeking vindication that’s subverting the actual guilt that’s healthy and necessary for a functioning society. In an era where it’s easy to shame and condemn others through social media, it has never been easier to channel the power of guilt.

In some cases, that might be a good thing, being able to use our inter-connected world to lump guilt upon those who might otherwise get away with serious misdeeds. One could even argue it’s because of mass media that we, as a global society, have become more tolerant over the past century. Unlike most of human history, we can see the suffering of our fellow humans and rightly feel guilt about it.

The problem, however, comes when that same media is used to evoke excessive guilt in people who may not have any real stake in an issue. It usually has nothing to do with any direct action or decision that these people made. It’s often more vague, involving anything from the crimes of our ancestors to social status to physical appearance.

Whatever the method, the end results are fairly predictable. It usually goes something like this.

“You’re a [Insert Race/Religion/Gender/Ethnic Group/Social Class Here]! Just look at how great your life is compared to all the poor [Insert Oppressed Class/Group/Opposing Political Affiliation Here]! You should feel ashamed of yourself! You should sacrifice your comforts, your time, and your money to pay for all that suffering! If you don’t, then you’re a horrible person and deserve no respect!”

Whether it’s race, religion, gender, or some other label, it really doesn’t take much. It just needs to single out a certain contingent of people who identify a certain way. It doesn’t even have to be a physical trait. Sub-cultures like gaming, sports, and general hobbies are prone to it. Gaming, especially, has been subjected to a lot of scrutiny in recent years.

If it’s possible to judge a group for not being inclusive, understanding, or generous enough, then guilt can be leveraged against it. On paper, it almost seems fair, using guilt to level the playing field. In practice, however, it has one exceedingly nasty side-effect that derails any effort at justice.

To illustrate how, it’s necessary to scrutinize the basics of guilt in terms of how it actually works compared to how some people think it works. To highlight that difference, here are two scenarios that focus on basic reactions to guilt. See if you can find where those nasty side-effects I mentioned manifest.

Scenario One: That person just made me feel really guilty about something. I had better sit down, listen, and calmly discuss this matter with them in a reasonable, rational way so I can address this feeling.

Scenario Two: That person just made me feel guilty. This feels awful! I hate this person for making me feel this way. Now, I need to find a way to alleviate this feeling. What’s the quickest, easiest way to do that?

I hope it’s obvious which one is more consistent with the real world. While I like to think I have more faith in humanity than most these days, I don’t deny there are some bugs in our collective operating system. When it comes to guilt, though, some will use those bugs against others in hopes of shaping their opinions. However, when guilt is the primary ingredient, those opinions are far more likely to be regressive.

Whether it’s extreme political correctness, extreme religious dogma, or extreme identity politics, guilt is effectively targeted to put people in a state of anxiety. You’re guilty for committing egregious sins against a deity. You’re guilty for being too offensive to a particular group. You’re guilty of not being inclusive enough to a particular minority.

That guilt doesn’t even have to involve a direct action or choice. It can be entirely wrong, built on myths, lies, or debunked science. It just has to evoke a reaction. Our brains, being the crude products of nature that they are, cannot tell the difference between the guilt we feel for stealing our mother’s purse or just being the same race as one that owned slaves 200 years ago.

As a result, our first instinct isn’t calm, reasoned debate. It’s to alleviate the guilt in the quickest way possible. That often means becoming defensive, angry, and aggressive. That kind of reaction is not going to make someone more understanding or tolerant. It’s going to make them hostile or upset towards the source of the guilt.

Guilt is pain on some levels, which is why many see heaping guilt on others as an outright attack. It’s why those attempting to evoke the guilt are vilified or despised. It doesn’t even matter if they make valid arguments. Their use of guilt renders their every word inherently toxic, a word I don’t use lightly.

When messages become toxic, attitudes become combative. When people become combative, their politics become regressive. Think about the guilt-obsessed Puritans or the loudest voices in the social justice crowd. They not just intolerant of the source of the guilt. They go out of their way to overreact, like attacking a fly with a shotgun.

In the name of alleviating the pains of guilt, that almost seems justified. It’s a big reason why the politics of those consumed by guilt tend to be extreme. It’s not enough to address a simple injustice in the present. Everything in the past related to that guilt needs to be a factor. That’s how you get people who condemn their own race, hate on their own gender, and favor politics that are antithetical to basic concepts of liberty.

It’s why radical feminists who say men are guilty of all the world’s ills actually make anti-feminism seem appealing to some.

It’s why race-baiting tactics by those attempting to promote racial equality tend to incur a major backlash.

It’s why attacking popular culture and sub-cultures who aren’t “inclusive” enough to become even less inclusive.

In that context, using excessive guilt only inspires a greater backlash than the one that usually comes from major social movements. If used carefully, it can subdue people into a state of desperation, longing for a way to alleviate the feeling. Some religion have managed this to great effect.

It doesn’t take much, though, in our interconnected world for guilt to become excessive. In a sense, it helps to see using guilt as using torture. Sure, the torture will usually get someone to say what you want to hear, but unless they’re a sociopath or exceedingly masochistic, they’re not going to share the attitudes or sentiments of their torturer.

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Filed under Current Events, gender issues, human nature, Reasons and Excuses

When “Thoughts And Prayers” Becomes A Lousy Excuse

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Whenever there’s a major tragedy in the world, there’s only so much you can do. Unless you’re a rescue worker, a doctor, an EMT, a solider, a police officer, or someone who actively participates in providing aid and resources to those effected, all you can really do is mourn for those who suffered.

It’s not just sad. It’s heart-wrenching. Most people have a sense of empathy to their fellow human. When we see or hear about somebody suffering, a part of us feels it too. It’s one of those critical elements of our humanity that often brings out the best in us. It’s part of why I believe that most people are inherently good.

Then, a mass shooting happens and my faith in humanity gets tested/strained. As I write this, the story surrounding the Parkland mass shooting in Florida is still unfolding. So far, 17 people are confirmed dead and the shooter has been identified. However, I refuse to write or say his name. Assholes like him don’t deserve the attention and recognition.

This is a horrific event and it’s not the first one I’ve talked about on this blog. Usually, I make an effort to highlight the more hopeful elements hidden within these events. This latest shooting has them too. The heroic actions of Aaron Feis, who sacrificed his life to save others, are certainly worth noting.

However, there is one element to these mass shootings that is as predictable as it is frustrating. It seems to come moments after the news breaks of the carnage. As people are suffering and dying from these horrific crimes, there’s an outpouring of “thoughts and prayers” from the public. I put that in quotes because at this point, it’s less a sentiment and more an overplayed meme.

The Parkland shooting was no exception. Media figures and policymakers alike are already getting in line to send their “thoughts and prayers” to the community and the victims. I don’t doubt that some of that sentiment is sincere. However, when the response is that predictable, it just becomes empty rhetoric. It’s so empty, at this point, that even shows like “Bojack Horseman” joke about it.

I understand, to some extent, why people express these sentiments. The world is a big, chaotic place and there are 7.6 billion people living on it. When something terrible happens, there’s only so much anyone can do. In fact, most people aren’t really in a position to do anything and that’s a terrible feeling.

As I said earlier, human beings are empathetic creatures. Most people aren’t sociopaths who feel nothing when their fellow human suffers. They see someone suffering and that natural empathy that all social creatures feel compels us to do something. Not doing something is just untenable.

That leads us to resort to things like “thoughts and prayers.” It offers the same shallow sentiment as virtue signaling. Instead of actually doing something meaningful in the face of tragedy, it just gives us the illusion of contributing. “Thoughts and payers” don’t make for any meaningful effort. It’s just a quick and easy recourse that alleviates that untenable feeling.

Again, I don’t blame people for taking that recourse. Someone who uses that approach isn’t inherently a bad person. They’re just exercising their empathetic sentiment in the most convenient form possible. That’s understandable, even if it’s still empty.

There are, after all, more meaningful ways to show support. That includes donating to the Red Cross, who are usually first on the scene in such tragedies. It can also include donating to relief programs, like the one J. J. Watt created to help victims of Hurricane Harvey last year. Those efforts are small, but they do provide tangible help.

However, the whole “thoughts and prayers” mantra becomes a lot less genuine when people use it as an excuse to avoid more complicated issues. This often happens whenever political figures send their “thoughts and prayers” to victims of mass shootings.

Now, I don’t want to get into a protracted debate about gun control. That’s a debate that nobody wins in the long run. However, when people sending “thoughts and prayers” to shooting victims also happen to be getting huge contributions from the National Rifle Association, that really undermines the sentiment.

In that situation, “thoughts and prayers” aren’t just empty. It’s somewhat insulting. People in those positions, be they in government or in pop culture, are in a position to do much more than just offer meaningless gestures. It doesn’t have to involve gun control laws or condemning everyone who has ever owned a gun.

It can be something akin to promoting greater awareness of mental health for youth, which is a thing. It can involve paying off all the medical expenses of the victims. It can even involve something symbolic, like helping create a monument to the victims, as has been done with other mass shootings. Symbolic or not, a monument is more tangible than any amount of “thoughts and prayers.”

At a certain point, when someone has a level of power and influence that the vast majority of people don’t, the use of “thoughts and prayers” to respond to a tragedy becomes more of an excuse than a sentiment. It’s not just the least amount of effort anyone can do to create the impression that they’re doing something meaningful. It’s a means of avoiding actual, tangible effort.

That’s where the concept of “thoughts and prayers” really loses credibility. It’s a sentiment that seems to be losing favor with the public, who are less and less inclined to accept this tired excuse from those who are actually capable of doing more. It may not lead to gun control laws, but it may send the message that “thoughts and prayers” just aren’t going to cut it anymore.

At the end of the day, most people aren’t in a position to do much of anything about a horrific tragedy like the one in Parkland. They couldn’t have prevented it, predicted it, or fixed the situation completely after it happened. Most people can only take in the tragedy, process it in their own way, and hopefully learn from it to prevent future tragedies.

For others, especially those in positions of power and influence, “thoughts and prayers” can’t be an excuse. There’s still a place for that kind of sentiment, but only if there’s something tangible attached to it. We don’t know if the incident at Parkland will lead to meaningful change, but one thing is clear. That change will require much more than mere thoughts and prayers.

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Filed under Current Events, human nature, Reasons and Excuses

Being A Good Person In The Age Of Social Media (And Why We Obsess Over It)

Whenever there’s an argument on the internet, and there are no fewer than 1,029,296,198 going on at any one moment, they tend to fall into a fairly standard pattern. Whether it’s politics, religion, video games, comic books, Harry Potter, or the series finale of “Lost,” the crux of every outraged outburst usually boils down to this.

“I believe that [insert crazy idea/opinion/theory here] and that’s that.”

“You’re a horrible person for believing [insert crazy idea/opinion theory here] and should be a ashamed of it! I demand that everyone shun, scorn, and marginalize you and everyone like you from now until the end of time!”

I want to say that’s an extreme example, but I’ve been navigating comic book message boards, Reddit fan theories, and the comments section of every major news site for too long. I can pretty much set my watch to when, how, and to what extent the argument with devolve.

Follow any thread on politics and within five minutes, someone will accuse someone else of being a Nazi. Spend more than a day on any message board, be it Harry Potter or the Walking Dead, and you’ll find entire sub-groups of fans that have tacitly declared war on another.

Some of it is a product of the passion people have for certain issues and ideas. Some of it is just plain tribalism, a factor I’ve highlighted before as the underlying source of a great many problems in our world. However, recent trends in social media, along people just being more able to anonymously share every crazy thought and feeling on a whim, have created a new source of conflict that more and more people stress over every day.

Think back to that generic argument I mentioned earlier. There’s one more component to it that doesn’t always play out on any message board, comment section, or video chat. It’s something that most people are reluctant to acknowledge, but on the inside, we’re all telling ourselves the same thing.

“I’m NOT evil! I’m a good person! I know it! Why can’t these people see that? For them to feel that way about me, THEY must be the bad ones!”

Again, that’s a very generalized summation. I doubt this mentality has played out anyone’s mind, word for word. However, I think it’s a near certainty that everybody is concerned with how they’re perceived by others, to some extent. Unless you’re a sociopath or playing a villain in a movie, you want others to see you as a good person.

It’s not just because being a dick rarely does anything to improve your life or those around you. We kind of need people to think we’re good on some levels. Otherwise, we have problems functioning.

Even if you are a sociopath, you need to at least give the impression of decency so you can live a functional life in between torturing small animals for fun. If not, then the Dexter Morgans of the world would get weeded out fast and characters in sitcoms would be a lot less interesting.

While society has always had some pretty nasty people, the growth of the internet and social media is changing the rules. It used to be that you could get away with being a terrible person because news of your terrible deeds rarely went beyond the small town or city you lived in. For most of human history, you only ever moved along with your tribe or community.

Now, there are entire generations of people in this world who have grown up in a society of unprecedented mobility and connection. The generation being born now will likely continue that trend, so much so that they’ll never have to know how an old 56k modem sounds. In that world, being perceived as a good person, even if you’re an asshole, will be that much more vital.

It’ll be impossible to hide. In a world where everyone has a smartphone and those phones can broadcast crimes in real time, it’ll be much harder to hide our more rotten tendencies. While it might be helpful to know who the real assholes are out there, it comes at a price. It means the margin for error is that much smaller.

That’s because in this hyper-connected world, it’s a lot easier for someone to call us out on being a lousy person. Even if we’re not, someone can effectively create that perception and, as I’ve said before, perception beats reality 99 times out of 100.

When someone is accused or accosted of being a bad person, it can be pretty traumatic. It’s like being a kid on a playground and everyone ganging up on you all at once. With the internet, though, it’s like legions of other kids from every other playground on the planet joining the battle. It can get pretty damn harsh, so much so that it can seriously undermine our sense of identity.

For a clear example, I don’t even need a thought experiment. Seth MacFarlane already did that for me. In one of the harshest scenes in the history of “Family Guy,” Glenn Quagmire basically lays into Brian, pointing out every harsh truths about his phony, pseudo-intellectual douche-baggery. For Brian, it’s pretty soul-crushing.

What Quagmire does to Brian is basically a microcosm of what people face today whenever they create a presence online. Whether it’s on social media or in the anonymous comments section in digital sewers like 4chan, there are legions of faceless strangers out there who are not afraid to lay into you, even if you are the nicest person it’s possible to be in real life.

Therein lies the problem, though. The identities we create online are so fluid and prone to corruption. One misplaced tweet, one viral video, and one ill-conceived comment on FaceBook is all it takes to ruin a life now. Even if it’s unintentional or misconstrued, it doesn’t matter. It will still be used to make you a bad person in the eyes of the world.

In a sense, we have to obsess over whether we’re a nice person, both in real life and online. It’s just a lot harder online because once something bad or embarrassing is out there, it’s almost impossible to remove. If you don’t think that matters, keep one thing in mind. When you’re out there looking for a job, employers are looking you up. They can and will use the crap you put online to decide whether or not to hire you.

When you consider the stakes that come with having be perceived as a good person, it makes perfect sense that people might get unreasonably defensive with their positions. I’ve noticed this in any discussion online about politics.

Everyone in the debate thinks they’re the good person. They think they’re on the side of everything that is good and pure. They may or may not be right, but that’s the narrative they craft in their minds. For them to lose an argument doesn’t just mean admitting that they’re wrong, which is extremely distressing, in and of itself. Losing means conceding you might be a bad person and that’s just untenable.

Being the optimistic person I am, I tend to believe that most people are inherently good. My own life experiences have convinced me of that. I recognize that some have very different experiences and I cannot blame them for thinking otherwise. However, our very identity and sense of self requires us to believe that we’re a good person at heart.

It can sometimes twist our perceptions and make us cling to irrational, immoral, and downright weird believes. In many ways, it’s an extension of excuse banking and virtue signaling. In the past, we didn’t have to work so hard to maintain that narrative of ourselves that has us believe that we’re the heroes of our own story. Now, thanks to the internet and social media, it’s harder than ever to escape it.

I suspect that our collective obsession with winning arguments and being the good guy will escalate as we become more connected, as a world. I don’t doubt that our obsession will get downright unhealthy at times. However, the mere fact that we obsess that much over being good also convinces me that we want to be good.

That should offer some comfort to those who feel as though the world is filled with angry internet trolls who exist only to make good, decent people feel miserable. Granted, there are some very mean trolls out there. Most people, though, don’t see themselves that way. They think they’re the good guys, just like you and me.

The more we recognize that shared effort, the less inclined we’ll be to call each other a Nazi. Given recent events, I think that should count as progress to everyone.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, Current Events, gender issues, Marriage and Relationships

Virtue Signaling: How It Creates Beta Males And Bitchy Girls

They’re weak, pathetic, gullible, whiny, sullen, and boring. They lack confidence, charisma, and any meaningful personality trait that might help them stand out and accomplish something of value. They do nothing to excite the opposite sex and make only the most asinine of efforts to do so. They are the beta males, an inane segment of the male population that I’ve protested before.

Now, allow me to describe a different crop of annoying people whose presence pollutes the collective gene pool. They’re loud, obnoxious, arrogant, impolite, dense, unreasonable, vindictive, and crass. They are unflinching, unfeeling, and utterly devoid of empathy to anyone who isn’t like them. Their disdain of others and perpetual victimhood complex is the only thing that gets them up in the morning.

I’m talking, of course, about bitchy girls. If beta males are a bane to all those with a Y-chromosome, then bitchy girls are repugnant stain on the feminine mystique. I call them girls because there’s a difference between women and girls. Being a woman, just like being a man, requires some measure of maturity. Girls, like their beta male boys, have none of that. As such, they don’t deserve to be called women.

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I bring up these two case studies of festering warts within the human condition to help make another point about virtue signaling. I know some people are probably tired of this topic. Believe me, I feel your pain. However, this last point is more relevant because it affects our personal lives, as well as my efforts as an erotica/romance writer.

Beta males and bitchy girls are sometimes a necessary component of a story, especially one that relies on major antagonistic characters. You need a male or female character that is easy to hate and easy to root against. That’s why we have characters like Biff Tannen and Regina George from “Mean Girls.”

It used to be that we needed those characters to be alpha males or alpha females. They had to be tough, mean-spirited jocks or cruel, cold-hearted bitches that nobody rooted for when they got gutted by a crazed killer in a hockey mask. It’s crude, but it did the trick. Unfortunately, new trends in character development, as well as real life, are tweaking that script and not for the better.

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Beta males and bitchy girls may not be natural allies on paper, but they occupy the same space in terms of being utterly contemptible on multiple levels. They just take different routes and virtue signaling is how they get there.

The best contemporary example are certain breeds of those who call themselves “male feminists.” By the way, anyone who actually has to preface feminism like that should raise a few red flags. That’s usually a sign that they’re already retreating into beta male mode and there’s nothing you can do to stop them.

These types of men are habitual virtue signalers, routinely bashing their own gender and agreeing with the bitchy girls about everything involving some “cisgendered white male patriarchy” conspiracy. They essentially emasculate themselves, shunning any male traits, and associating every masculine trait with being Biff Tannen.

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It’s a form of self-flagellation, an effort to alleviate the sheer guilt they feel with being male and trying to earn attention and/or pity from others. That’s how they seek their validation and when they interact in groups, they can’t help but reinforce those efforts. Virtue signaling is just the proverbial gasoline they use to keep the fire going.

For bitchy women, the virtue signaling is much more overt. Unlike the beta males, they’re exceedingly vocal with their efforts. They don’t discuss, debate, or rationalize. They just yell, whine, and groan. Virtue signaling is just how they stay on topic.

Bitchy women don’t care about anyone’s voices, except their own. They loudly whine and bemoan about everyone who doesn’t buy into their view of the world. They will yell about the oppressive white male patriarchy at the top of their lungs. Then, when someone calls them out on their bullshit, they dare to play the victim.

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In the mind of a beta male and a bitchy girl, they are the underdog hero of their own story and everyone else is an evil demon-possessed Nazi working on behalf of reincarnated slave-holders from the 1850s. Virtue signaling allows them to prop up this inner narrative, as though they have to keep it going in order to ensure they get the same ending they’ve seen in every Rocky movie.

It isn’t just that this inner narrative is utterly false and devoid of substance. It isn’t just that it gives them too many excuses to cling to these annoying tendencies, which constitutes excuse banking of the worst kind. The biggest tragedy here, beyond the people they annoy, is that with their virtue signaling, they champion traits that naturally drive people apart.

Beta males and bitchy women do not conduct themselves in ways that inspires intimacy, progression, and growth. They present themselves as heroes of their own story, an ideal for what a man and woman should be, but they cannot and will not realize that the picture they’re paintings is both flawed and repugnant.

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A beta male, in his meek ineptitude, barely qualifies as a pet to a bitchy girl. A bitchy girl, in her immature arrogance, is just another bully that a beta male tolerates. Together, they reinforce a brutal cycle of bitterness, self-loathing, and arrogance that ensures isolation, apathy, and loneliness.

For an aspiring erotica/romance writer, that’s a triple dose of narrative kryptonite. For characters like the ones in “Passion Relapse” or “Skin Deep,” it’s important I strike a particular balance. I can’t have characters being too much like Biff Tannen or Regina George. I can’t have them be like the entire cast of the “Big Bang Theory” either. If I want those characters to be more than mere foils, they need to have some complexity.

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for characters like this. Someone needs to be Freddy Kruger’s first victim in a horror story. However, virtue signaling and those who abuse send a toxic message about what makes a man or a woman moral within the context of a story.

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Beta males and bitchy girls don’t deserve to be heroes, ideals, or examples. More than anything else, they are cautionary tales of what happens when virtue signaling goes too far and infects someone’s mind. They should not be encouraged, nor should they be ignored either.

There are many different dynamics that go into making a character, real or fictional, into who they are. If they need something like virtue signaling to function, then that’s a sign there’s something inherently flawed. People have enough excuses to be mean to one another, some of which they can’t do a damn thing about. It’s better for society, our live lives, and erotica/romance novels if we don’t provide them with more.

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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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