Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Virtue

It seems that acting morally counts for very little, but saying the right things, and in the right way, is now the signature of virtue. Or rather, saying wrongthings wrongly is proof of evil.  Witness, for example, the number of decent people who have had their careers ruined by expressing improper sentiments. Some of the comments were mild, some vile, but still...comments.

This used to be an attribute of fundamentalism, but is now more common on the social justice side. I think inquisitors generally focus on one having the proper public sentiments, with much personal behavior overlooked.

I suggest quick communication/social media/24-7 news cycle drives the change.  It is a step toward a world in which impression matters more than reality. While it is certainly true that modern crowdsourcing of news can provide quick correction to false information, it remains true that some myths persist anyway. People develop an impression of you, and that remains.

11 comments:

james said...

The 24/7 novelty engine does tend to inflate the dramatic and “The simplification of anything is always sensational.”

“Modern man is staggering and losing his balance because he is being pelted with little pieces of alleged fact which are native to the newspapers; and, if they turn out not to be facts, that is still more native to newspapers.”



But it has also made a niche for a group you can reasonably call harpies: those who take every opportunity to use their grievances to tear at you and crap all over your feast. Think of the Matt Taylor shirt affair.

james said...

On reflection, it does seem as though simple agreement is never quite good enough when you organize around an ideology. Pakistan is "unified" on the premise of being the land of the pure Islam; and the obvious way to compete is to be more Muslim than the next guy (unless it is in something that crimps, like almsgiving). So a competition of majoring on the minors ensues. Orthodoxy, orthopraxy--either way a competition. My beard is longer than yours; I know the details of the Chalcedonian claim and you got them wrong.

Edith Hook said...

This is what a bougeois mob looks like, nasty ankle biters, everyone.

Luke Lea said...

And then there is Mattress Girl, who can do and say anything (including Ceci N'est Pas Un Viol) without being called out.

http://goo.gl/ipRsal

Luke Lea said...

BTW I am just rereading early Emerson, who though men had an inherent moral sense of virtue, of right and wrong. He seems so innocoent -- and yet I would give anything to go back and live in that world.

Grim said...

Virtue for Aristotle is an excellence of human capacity, an ability to excel at something important. The new virtue is the virtue of not giving offense. Not, at least, to the wrong people.

bs king said...

Maybe I'm just having a cynical day, but when has it ever been otherwise? Is there really a point in history where an inarticulate gaff-prone person did better than an articulate smooth one, even if the former was a better person?

There has been a change of course...both in the methods of shaming and thus who wields them best. To me though, it's like hypothesis testing. We traded type 1 errors for type 2 errors, but the underlying accuracy hasn't budged.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

The verbally clumsy certainly didn't do better than the smooth, but I think in face-to-face communities people overlook words more and actions less. That may be reasonable in both instances. A blowhard on the village square may not change the culture much. But people worry that on the internet a blowhard has access to many people, at least in theory, and might have influence. And thus, must be stopped in his tracks and consequated severely. OTOH, an actual prejudiced person in the village, who won't hire your daughter because she's a girl, affects your life. Someone far away who doesn't hire females doesn't really affect you.

The perception of how much harm they can do may be an influence here.

David Foster said...

Part of it, I think, is that an increasing % of the population consists of "word people" and "image people," professionally-speaking.

If you are a farmer or a machinist or even an electrical engineer, the difference between Speech and Action is pretty clear. But if you are a lawyer or an advertising person or a journalist or a professor (outside the pure sciences), not so much.

Texan99 said...

Hasn't heresy been an awfully hot issue, though, for thousands of years? Ideas are extremely threatening. These days the worst we do is shun heretics, maybe try to cost them their jobs. At least we don't burn them.

bs king said...

I wonder though if public internet shamings are like social plane crashes. They certainly are more dramatic and more fatal than regular old face to face judging, but they're certainly less common than car crashes.

I don't personally know anyone who has been internet shamed. OTOH, I could name at least half a dozen people you and I both know whose bad behavior was glossed over/allowed to continue because they were "a valuable member of the community" or otherwise spoke better than they acted. Those people have left varying number of victims - most not as dramatic as the internet shamings, but certainly more numerous.