Thursday, 9 March 2017

Why Virtue Signalling Largely Infects the Left

The Liberal left define themselves by a belief in progressivism otherwise known as the Whig version of history. For them history is about societies moving in a progressive direction. Some modern philosophers call this a belief in ‘meliorism.’ The progress is moral and is often seen as moving towards greater ‘equality’, a term which can, of course, be defined in many ways. Because of this belief in a narrative of progress Whigs, socialists and liberals consider that one has a choice as to whether one should espouse or reject the progressive direction in which history is inevitably moving. If history is truly moving in the suspected direction, the choice to espouse this vision places one on the side of the angels and makes one 'part of the solution.' The obverse of this is that if one is not part of the solution because one doesn’t subscribe to the moral progress narrative, one must be part of the problem. One is, effectively, obstructing the positive direction of history and, therefore, unvirtuous or even vicious in the sense of embracing vice over virtue. If this is true the narrative gives its believers license to characterise the unbelievers as evil or to demonise them. Conservatives are not a collection of normal people, some good, some bad and most a mixture of the two – they are all wicked. One sees this in the way in which reasonably normal people, certainly with their flaws, in the conservative political hierarchy are characterised as pantomime villains with the blackest of motives unrecognizable from the people they would appear to be were one to meet them on a train, say. Thus license is given to denigrate those perceived to be obstructing the onward march of virtue and also to advertise one’s own espousal of the ‘right’ values, those consonant with the march to the heavenly city. People who believe in this march find it almost unimaginable that some people don’t buy this vision. It’s because they can’t even imagine what such people are like that they turn them into villains and demons. Of course such people, those who don’t believe in moral progress, simply see life as a field in which various problems arise from day to day and have to be dealt with. They don’t feel they are going anywhere in particular. In saying this I am speaking of moral rather than of technological progress which, of course, always goes on apace.

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