Dear E & V,
#zebrasaresuffering #lionsaremurderers #boycottlions
I hope for your sake and the sake of society, no one uses hashtags by the time you’re old enough to understand their use. The use of hashtags is the modern manifestation of today’s behavior-to-be-avoided-if-you-are-a-virtuous-person: virtue signalling.
Virtue signalling — like its sibling wealth signaling — is a way for people to attempt to show their superiority over others. With the former it is morale superiority, with the latter it is economic superiority. Both make me throw up in my mouth and are signs of someone you never ever want to be friends with. Both are often attempts at making up for personality or emotional deficits: cowardness, fear, meaninglessness, discomfort with boredom, lack of creativity, conformity, etc.
Wealth signaling is easy to spot and easy to loathe — there are enough people out there struggling with money that wealth signallers have trouble not coming off as out-of-touch, callous, and all-out braggers. Virtue signalling is harder to spot because they come across as wanting to be good people. It’s hard to fault someone who talks about wanting to help homeless squirrels in Canada or fighting cancer by passing along a thoughtful message.
So what’s the big deal then? Nothing, as long as your words are backed up by action. Social media makes it easier to support a cause without actually supporting it. I can talk all I want about helping the environment or other people, but if I’m not out there actually helping the environment or other people, then I am a hypocrite. If you’re preaching to people about the evils of pollution but you go out and eat fast food and use single-use plastic, then you are a charlatan.
It’s all about skin in the game (thanks Nassim Taleb!). It’s all about taking risks to back up your talk and your beliefs. Talk is cheap. Talk costs you very little and exposes you to no risk. Talk is convenient and the perveyance of bullshitters. It might make you feel alive for the 15 minutes it takes to type it up and respond to all the “likes”, but it’s a superficial way to express your virtue. It’s nothing new, social media has just made it more prolific.
Taking action is harder. It involves risk and critical thinking to carry it out. It takes courage. But it is meaningful. It’s meaningful precisely because it is more difficult and takes more effort, because you are sacrificing — time, health, wellbeing, safety, money, CONVENIENCE.
Do you want to be a good person? Then do good actions. If you want to be a mediocre person, say good words.
The best thing about doing is that when you do, other people often do as well. They trust your beliefs in what is good for the world because you are willing to put yourself and your beliefs on the line for them. Then they start doing good. And then you ignite a causal chain that’s more effective than any social media comment will ever be.
So get out there and act. The world will be better place if you do.
I am a Father, Husband, Cowboy Philosopher, Volunteer Firefighter, and Professional Dilettante. I am nothing and I am everything. But when it comes to our relationship: I only wish you wonder and happiness.