August 9, 2007

Competitive Moralism

From the Joy of Curmudgeonry:


"Competitive moralism, of which we see too much, is driven by something amoral and animalistic: it is the age-old struggle for supremacy, the competition of rivals, placed in more respectable terms. The struggle becomes absurd — not in its underlying aims which are ever natural — but in the ever greater distance between high claims and base motives, wherewith the only point is in outdoing one’s rivals in “goodness” whilst not actually caring a damn whether anything good will come of it. Intellectual life — that supposedly higher sphere and haven from beastly struggle — becomes diseased with it, even such that, in terrible and political times, there is a delirium of the senses, and a dulling of the faculties, except for the primitive and still acute instincts for success."


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

19 comments:

Luke said...

I wonder if the competition for honor and military glory functioned the same way among the old aristocratic class before democracy? Guys like Churchhill and Washington seem as though they were determined to be either heroes, or dead.

Steve Sailer said...

Oh, yes. Among a certain type of officer, assignment to the tropics was desirable because the death rate from disease was so great that you could move up the ranks rapidly. You'd either come home a general/admiral or not come home at all.

Anonymous said...

"To a bloody war or a sickly season"


"Guys like Churchhill and Washington seem as though they were determined to be either heroes, or dead."

Which Churchill?

Anonymous said...

Competitive Moralism makes me think of some of the self-righteous comments I've heard:

I'm a better Christian than you.

I'm more humble than you.

And, notably on this blog I've read something like:

I'm the true conservative and you are a misguided liberal loon who only thinks you're a conservative.

You don't smoke the right cigars to be a true conservative.

You don't wear the plaid hi-waters that are the hallmark of nerdiness, therefore you can't be a nerd.

Genius nerds are superior because they are non-aggressive...

lowly earthling said...

Disclaimer:

Above comment about non-aggressive nerds is not an endorsement for war. Just had to take one more swipe at nerdiness before topic is archived. I feel safe knowing that left-brained Steve will not be motivated by the base urge for revenge therefore will take one more nerd jibe with the aplomb of a superior being (possibly an alien/human hybrid). : )

Steve Sailer said...

* Half the harm that is done in this world
Is due to people who want to feel important.
They don't mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them.
Or they do not see it, or they justify it
Because they are absorbed in the endless struggle
To think well of themselves.

T.S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party

Mark said...

I have a feeling that the change in the modern work environment has played no small role in the increase in this behavior. Visit a modern office - especially a law office or software/internet company - and then visit a machine shop or small manufacturer and notice the difference. The machine shop will be smelly, noisy and hot; the floors will be cement and the walls will be pretty barren. The software company, on the other hand, will be no hotter than 72 degrees and it will look like they spent a mint on the decor. A rapidly growing number of Americans work in just such an environment.

People who spend their whole working lives in such delicate, pretty environments can't even begin to imagine life in a factory or on a farm, toiling with your hands, connected intimately with the environment and with the struggle for life and death.

Modern liberals - bobos - equate aesthetics with morals. I have a friend who runs a fairly successful quasi-religious oriented blog, with a fair amount of left-wing politics thrown into the mix. In spite of the quasi-Christian nature of his blog, all of his politics (and much of his religion) relates to aesthetic liberalism - concern for "oppressed" people who are quite capable of defending themselves (gays, blacks, women.)He has never once expressed any actual concern for any actual poor people.

Anonymous said...

Mark,

I'm reminded of a song from the 70s...how can people be so heartless, how can they ignore their friends? Especially those who care about evil, who care about strangers, and social injustice? Most liberals simply don't know themselves. In my experience, they delude themselves that they are more complicated than they really are. And forget about having an intellectual debate with one of them. They go ballistic when coolly presented with unpleasant facts or rational arguments that contradict their religion (liberalism).

Svigor said...

Anon: to be fair, humans in general can't handle rational argument, not even a little bit. People who can are the exception, and this is true of any demographically significant group.

Of course, the proportions vary by group, but my point is they're always low.

Anonymous said...

We all know what a chicken-hawk is: Somebody willing to fight to the last drop of OTHER PEOPLE'S blood as long as he, his family, and his friends aren't affected. The liberal equivalent of this is a saint elsewhere: Somebody eager to do good works and thus appear saintly while making sure that the results of those good works - often quite bad - fall ELSEWHERE, that is in SOMEBODY ELSE'S neighborhood, local school, hospital, place of employment, etc.

Ever notice that the open borders lobbyists can usually afford to live well away from the results of their policies? Ever notice that they tend to call those who can't afford to live away from these results and so are likely to oppose open borders xenophobic racists? Superior morality on the cheap......

Anonymous said...

Steve --

I've fixed a garbled comment that I posted a moment ago. (Can we have a delete key? Thanks.)

**

The locus of status struggles was for centuries the courts of kings. Courtiers buzzed around the source of political power like flies.

Part of their activity was one-upmanship in swearing fealty to the official state religion, or to the king himself, or to his various interests and that of his favorites.

The situation is no different today, except political power is no longer vested in a monarchy. Our kings push open borders, "diversity" (God, what a loaded term), and other leftish schemes of varied stripe whether Republicrat or Demopublican. Our unofficial but official religion is cultural Marxism, i.e. the replacement of whites (aka Nazis) with non-whites (aka real, warm, malleable people), lorded over by a middle of status-strivers and topped with a sliver of borderless billionaires. To join or at least to curry the favor of the sliver is the deepest object of every party-line partisan. The system hack will swallow anything, say anything, to demonstrate fealty; he will deny (with appropriate outcries of "moral outrage") every fact, he will report to the authorities every "thought crime" of his fellows (who are all too prone to "hate"), he will manouver, he will preen about it. He will lick every spittle and stab every back. Why? Only so that he beats out his competitors for that awesome pat on the head from above: "Mazev tov! You are less racist than the others! You may keep your job (for now)."

What happened to the royality of old will happen to the royality of new. We're only anon. philosophes. But a revolutionary cadre will (speculative prediction only) arise to debate our sorry Antoinettes. "Let them eat burritos"? Indeed.

Hal K said...

Here is a link to a related article:
Competitive Altruism

Here is an interesting quote from the article, which relates to the "dulling of the faculties" mentioned previously:

"Theories about altruism do not require that people understand their own motives any better than a hen understand why she sits on her eggs."

Anonymous said...

"Most liberals simply don't know themselves. In my experience, they delude themselves that they are more complicated than they really are. And forget about having an intellectual debate with one of them. They go ballistic when coolly presented with unpleasant facts or rational arguments that contradict their religion (liberalism)."

Being conservative, Republican, moderate, Christian, or anything else other than liberal doesn't magically give you personal insight. And presenting your view in a low voice or monotone doesn't necessarily make you correct or smarter than somebody that is excitable. There are plenty of self-congratulating, deluded "conservatives". I think one is running the country actually. Where you find truth is not always where you expect to find it or want to find it.

Anonymous said...

"they (liberals) delude themselves that they are more complicated than they really are"

Truer words were never spoken...

Anonymous said...

Competitive moralism, of which we see too much, is driven by something amoral and animalistic: it is the age-old struggle for supremacy, the competition of rivals, placed in more respectable terms.

What an outstanding description of the modern Western predicament. And it seems that this dynamic goes into overdrive in a matriarchal society.

Question: Do Bill Clinton fans admirer him for his victories in the Competitive Moralism wars, or do they actually believe he's a guy who cares deeply about the oppressed ___________ (fill in the blank).

It is hard to respect the first view due to the level of cynicism. It is hard to respect the second view due to the level of naivete.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve, this is great stuff. The concept of Competitive Moralism must be studied in the schools. It's possible that the act of doing so, on its own, would bring down the current PC regime. Or at least put a big dent in it.

Imagine that if every time some bastard pulled the high status morally superior self-hating routine like the Dilbert cartoonist did recently:

Scott Adams blog link on immigration

...that his audience would point fingers and deride his resorting to Competitive Moralism. Instead of nodding in admiration.

Fantastic!

mepo said...

Thomas Sowell wrote a whole book (at least one) about this, _The Vision of the Annointed_.

This gives you a sometimes-useful model of peoples' behavior, but I find that it's too easy to just assume that someone claims belief X to position themselves as morally superior, and thus avoid having to deal with any of their (maybe very strong) arguments for belief X.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of self-congratulating, deluded "conservatives". I think one is running the country actually.

George Bush is a conservative? Let's see... George Bush has 1) introduced the "No child left behind" act, which rests on the Marxist assumption of racial equality 2) Insists that people everywhere in the world want liberal democracy replete with women's rights etc. 3) Conspicuously does nothing about illegal immigration (not to mention legal immigration), 4) Undermined Solicitor Olson's case against affirmative action by having the legal briefs revised by *Alberto Gonzales* to "laud diversity and emphasize government’s compelling interest in achieving it, excising any call to eliminate preferences other than explicit quotas."[1] 4) Commutes the sentences of traitors (i.e. Libby). I'm sure there's a lot of items that could be added to this list. Even Bush's cabinet and advisory-staff is notably conservative-free. Condaliza rice his "Republican big tent", affirmative action hire. once told everyone that those opposed to the war were "racists". "Big tent" is a actually a well-chosen term because the Bush administration really is a clown circus.

Speaking as a real conservative, I view the choice between the Republican party and the Democratic one to be merely a choice between out and out Marxism and Marxism with a decorative layer of vaguely conservative sprinkles.

[1]On The Home Front, Bush Caves On Quotas by Howard Sutherland

Anonymous said...

Anon 8/10/07 8:57 --

GWB is no conservative. True conservative-libertarians such as myself despise him.