Yesterday I flew back to Melbourne from Perth. It was a good flight due to planning and luck. The planning aspect was that I selected a seat in the middle tier with a bulkhead behind it. If you don’t want people jabbing that little video screen into your back the entire trip then pick a spot with nobody behind you. The luck part was that the two middle seats in the middle row were empty. So there was me, two empty seats, and some random hipster dude who slept the entire trip.
The only potential problem was a really tall and broad guy who was in the seat in front of me. He squirmed and shifted a bit during the four hour flight but he never put his seat back. We landed and I got up and retrieved my bag from the overhead locker. The guy in front of me needed to get his stuff first so we had a polite and pleasant exchange while we sorted out the details. Then I said to him:
“Thanks for not putting your seat back during the flight.”
And then he said to me, “No worries, it’s such a small space anyway.”
And then he noticed the two empty seats and around about the same moment I realised that I could have tapped him on the shoulder at any point during the flight and told him to put his seat back as I could have moved over, and I went from good guy to douchebag in a split second. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t even change his facial expression, but I would have thought that he was a douche if the situation was reversed and so I had no problem assuming the same from him.
What’s the point? People want to be seen to be good. It’s a natural aspect of living in a society. We don’t live on deserted islands or caves. We’re not hermits. We do have to get on with everyone around us. I didn’t mind that he probably thought less of me in that moment, but I was annoyed with myself for not being considerate of his situation. That’s how our society manages to go along without everyone turning into zombies and killing each other in a sudden maddened frenzy on an escalator.
Consideration and restraint.
He showed restraint but I failed to show consideration. I broke a societal pact. Yes, it was small, but the small things all add up. I made it even worse by bringing attention to his upholding of the bargain while rubbing his face in the fact that I had failed to uphold my end.
Oh wells. I got off the plane and that was that.
There are many moments like these in every day for each and every one of us. They add up. The hardest part for people is when they are not reciprocated, like the guy that sat in front of me. Maybe next time he’ll hesitate in putting his seat back, but then he’ll remember our little exchange, and a mean little thought will go through his mind and he’ll think, ‘Fuck it’, and he’ll put his seat back.
Many writers on the alt-right ponder just why the masses of progs believe in ridiculous concepts such as climate change, blacks being special people who need special help from whites, the mystical unrealties of multiculturalism, the self hatred that manifests itself as white privilege, the enthusiastic public support for sodomites being given the sacraments of marriage, and so on and so on.
But these are simply their way of being good. The term virtue signaling is a wonderful summation of this, but the truth is that humans have always virtue signaled in place of actually doing good and living a good life. In previous generations it was the act of going to church. You gave up the greater part of your Sunday and you went on a public display of ‘look at me, I am good.’
When I lived in a little Italian mountain village I used to occasionally observe the column of locals going to worship each Sunday morning, and it was a source of wry amusement as the greater part of the worshipers were the nastier elements of the local society. They would gossip, and undermine, and cheat in business, and backstab you without a moment’s hesitation, but then they would go to church and their sins would be absolved and all would be well. They were pious, in their own minds.
I used to think that this was rank hypocrisy but I now I understand the wisdom of the ancients. Because a public display of collective worship in this way is effective at containing the act of virtue signaling. People believe in climate change not because they understand the science, but because they want to be seen to be good, and because the greater numbers are with climate change believers then that is where they are going to stay.
And because they have their public virtuousness on display then that frees them to be the sort of nasty pieces of work that members of the left tend on average to be. I don’t mind this, as long as it is contained. It is often somewhat of an advantage. If I am about to do business with someone and I am unsure of their general trustworthiness then I may mention something supportive of gay marriage or the like in order to gauge their reaction. An enthusiastic response tells me that I may need to be a little more careful.
In Italy in 2003 when the second Iraq war broke out the big public virtue display was to have a rainbow peace flag hanging from your balcony. Sure enough those who were eager participants were more often than not your average untrustworthy piece of shit. One guy I knew kept his flag on his balcony for years after the craze had disappeared. It was faded and tattered but there it was for all to see: I am a good person, behold my virtuousness.
In other words, an attempted distraction from the fact that he was the biggest crook in the valley.
But this virtue signaling is no longer contained. The proclivity to palm off social responsibilities in public manifestations of virtue is now intruding on society itself. It is consuming it from within, much like the snake eating its own tail.
The truth is that none of us are perfect. We all make mistakes on a daily basis. It is this continuing series of mistakes that gives us the opportunity to do better next time. To grow and improve. But that takes honest self reflection and many people can not or will not face up to themselves in this way. It is far easier to go around proclaiming your erstwhile goodness by the groups to which you belong and the ideologies in which you believe. But most of all by attacking those who do not succumb to this abdication of their personal virtuousness.
Next time I will endeavor to tap the person on the shoulder and let them know that they can recline their seat if the spot next to me is free. It would be nice if the beneficiary of my gesture was the man who sat in front of me yesterday.
But the world doesn’t work that way.