Monday, 26 September 2016

Why Your Sensible Friends Go In For Virtue Signalling

Your friend is a Good Person. Like you, he is not one of Donald’s Deplorables, he is not racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic or Islamaphobic.

He has a decent job in a blue-chip company, lives in a nice part of town a mile away from the nearest public housing projects, watches art movies, read more than one book a year, and his friends don’t have football team logos tattooed on their bodies. He doesn’t come into contact with poor people, immigrants or other races. It’s not deliberate, it’s just how his life works out. It’s a function of his interests and cultural choices, which are pretty darn highbrow European.

Catch is… the bigot next door lives the exact same lifestyle as he does. She works in a blue-chip because blue-chips tend not to sacrifice performance for social justice, unlike the public sector, which does. She lives in a nice part of town because the estate agents know to say that a house in "under offer” when the wrong people want to look at it. She likes art movies as much because the audiences are much better behaved and the mainstream cinemas are full of diversities. She does read, but it’s right-wing politics and female pornography fantasy where the hero is always a straight white man. If she keeps her lip buttoned in polite society, nobody will know she really believes that Muslims should go home if they like Sharia law, that white women should not consort with black men, that queers should not parade in public and damn foreigners should not take jobs from decent folk.

There is nothing in the way they live that distinguishes them.

Your friend is wondering if he should like Mia Hansen-Love movies, because she does.

How can your friend distinguish himself from her? How can he show that his is not a well-cultured bigot? Without getting into arguments about Deplorable beliefs, which can rapidly get heated, and are often a clash between bigoted facts and Good wishes for a different world.

Enter a hundred campaigns suggesting he wear a badge, wrist-band or colour, to “show his support” (which might giving money, but rarely means giving time) for some edgy cause. He flashes the hash-tag (#NeverTrump, #giveyourmoneytowomen) or works in a code-word or phrase that other Good People will recognise. No need for any arguments with the oafs, or for actual good works, all he has to do is speak or wear the password.

The problems start when Goodness gets hi-jacked. It used to mean a broadly liberal tolerance for people on the rather large fringes of a rather narrow society - which Anglo countries had in the Good Old Days (aka the 1950’s, which weren't). As tolerance for minor deviance become normal, two things happened: first, the intolerant people who are left are the more extreme ones; and second, that in order to appear more tolerant and hence morally superior to the normal person, one has to champion ever greater deviance.

(That’s where transgender activism came from. As soon as Gay Pride went world-wide and politicians all over the civilised world marched in high heels along with it, the moral elites needed a new cause to shock the now-accepting bourgeoisie. Gay now being non-shocking and hence passe, transgender became the new thing.)

So that’s why your seemingly sensible colleagues make silly remarks about how STEM oppresses women, or donate to Breast Cancer when they are men. They want you to know they are Good People. And they want to be sure that you are a Good Person as well. Because they are leading lives that look indistiguishable to the Bigot Next Door.

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