One of the most obnoxious habits that people have today is a behaviour called “Virtue Signaling.” I want to be sure that you know it for what it is, so that you avoid doing it yourself, and are mindful of people who engage in it.
Virtue Signaling is when someone makes either low-risk, or rude and spiteful actions to show themselves as being supporters of some popular cause or another. They want to make a good impression to people with their appearance of virtue, and make a big show of it, without actually wanting to be virtuous.
Low-risk behaviours include the kind of lame activism people do on social media where they sign petitions that are not legally binding and mean nothing, spam people with ill-thought-out political messages, or get on popular bandwagons of protest, sending messages or snapping selfies in support of a cause that means little to nothing. They are often incredibly gifted an purveying empty platitudes.
This kind of behaviour makes someone appear to have values and morals, but they cost the person nothing. There is no risk for tweeting to a #IStandWithSoAndSo hastag, or posting someone else’s rant on social media. There is practically no effort to be spent on “raising awareness” of a problem, if all you are doing is repeating verbatim what some other person has told you.
When you see people do this, ask yourself, “do they really believe what they are saying, or are they just saying it to be popular?” And the way to tell is to look at their actions. What you may well find is that they are spending no more energy than it takes to say what they want to say, or post what they want to post on the Internet, but they aren’t willing to get up out of their chair and actually put their time or money into it.
And marching in a protest line with a sign alone doesn’t count in my book. Not unless there is some real danger that you are standing in front of.
The world is full of people who want to appear virtuous and be rewarded for it, without actually having to actually practice any virtue at all. There are hundreds of Men who parrot feminist ideas because they think women will sleep with them. There are hundreds more who will happily talk about raising social consciousness and fighting for the rights of gay men who have never so much as shaken a gay man’s hand.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t express support of something that you cannot afford to put energy into, but if something is really a problem that you think needs to be addressed in the world – do something about it. Even if it is just to make a few donations, offer a few hours of volunteer time, or create something new that can help persuade others of the importance of the cause. You have to choose your battles wisely, and if you aren’t willing to prioritize one, why should you ask another to do the same?
What’s far worse though are the people who get on the proverbial bandwagon just to have an in-group that will support and applaud them for bullying.
Some people, when they are really devoted to a cause, are willing to look the other way when an ally of theirs does something unpleasant, destructive, or steps on the rights of others. They might even encourage them out of a misguided attempt to build some solidarity. This means that mean, nasty, spiteful individuals often join noble causes so that they can bully, browbeat, or degrade people not involved in the cause and be not just excused, but encouraged to keep doing so.
If you want a perfect example of this, I will see if I can find you some footage of the Warren Farrell protests at the University of Toronto in 2013. A bunch of students gathered to protest a lecture by doctor Farrell because they thought he was an anti-feminist – without ever bothering to even research who he really was – and tried to prevent people from appreciating the lecture. During their protests they spat on, slapped, and verbally abused people lined up to see the event. They assaulted policemen, and illegally blockaded the doors.
Not one of them knew who Dr. Farrell was beyond lies told by a few radicals, and they didn’t care. All they knew was that they could call people “scum” to their faces and cause a lot of noise and misery – and be seen as champions for the rights of women in the process… complete with credit for their women’s study classes!
A bully is bully. If a cause is really righteous, there is always a way to see it succeed without violence, rudeness, abuse, or bullying. There is always a way to communicate yourself with consideration, decency, and compassion. And smart people will always see through a bully’s actions; they will look at the things they are doing long before they hear the words coming out out of their mouths. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best:
Sadly more people listen to Lenin, Guevara, and Saul Alinsky (author of the manual Rules for Radicals, a book on how to stifle debate and force others to serve your ideology,) than to Emerson, or their own reason…especially when we keep rewarding them with praise for acting like thugs.
Son, remember that Virtue is as Virtue does. It is not enough to just appear as if you have good character, you must actually have it to have the greatest happiness in your life. Virtue Signalers don’t have character, and think they can thrive on shallow friendships based on bullying or deception. Most of them end up alone in the long run.
Seek real virtue. When you find your dragon to slay, don’t just talk, act.