Discover more from Culturcidal by John Hawkins
America’s Cultural “Race-to-the-Bottom”
Social media is a societal anchor
On occasion, you’ll run across someone saying something that makes you think. These tweets from Wilfred X. Reilly? They fit the bill.
Barbara Oakley has talked about that concept before from a slightly different angle. She called it, “pathological altruism.” She said this about it in an interview I did with her back in 2011:
People normally think of altruism as something that benefits someone else, maybe at some cost to yourself. But pathological altruism is altruism that you may think is benefitting someone else, but it doesn’t benefit him. In fact, it can make the situation even worse and not just for the person you’re trying to help, but even for yourself.
I had a student in one of my classes on pathological altruism and she was just not doing very well. Finally, one day, I got a note from her and it said, “I can’t be in class today. My brother tried to commit suicide.” I took a risk, wrote a note, and said, “Maybe you want to apply some of the ideas from this class and set some emotional boundaries because you think you’re reaching out to try and help your brother, but it doesn’t look like that’s happening. Instead, it’s hurting you.” She told me, “That changed my life.” She had indeed become very depressed herself. She was planning on dropping out of school and so this helped her take a step back and start realizing that, no, she wasn’t really helping her brother.
I think sometimes people hear this and they have a knee-jerk reaction, “You can’t say this, and they get very upset.” I think they really get upset because if everybody knew this kind of thing, they wouldn’t be able to manipulate them quite as easily.
Of course, pathological altruism was certainly a thing back then, but since then, it has become one of the defining hallmarks of modern liberalism. The incredibly destructive “help” the Left provides to people erodes society while often hurting the people they’re supposedly aiding.
How many people are there that have been recruited into the trans lifestyle that later killed themselves? Is it really compassionate to do everything possible to make it easier for homeless people to live on the streets and get access to drugs? Does creating a world where petty criminals feel like they can break the law and disrespect the police at will, help them straighten out or help lock them into a life of crime? Is overhyping the tiny number of black Americans killed by police good for black Americans or has it just led to more crime in black communities? Does telling black Americans that they are victims make life better for them or does it encourage black and white Americans to be at each other’s throats? This incessant drive to destroy all standards of behavior to excuse groups liberals like is doing tremendous damage to our society, including to the people they’re ostensibly trying to “help.”
Of course, influencer culture has also been much more of a disaster than most people realize. In a world where everyone is a brand competing for attention in a desperately overcrowded market, it leads to ever more outrageous comments, tactics, attacks, and attention grabs. Blasphemy, getting naked, making up conspiracy theories, and drumming up bitter personal feuds that turn friends into ex-friends are all just considered “marketing” these days and no matter how far you go, someone will go further:
The deeper people go into the gutter to get you to look at them, the more pressure there is on everyone else to figure out how to go even lower to get attention.
The general public hasn’t been exempt from this whole race to the bottom either. Believe it or not, fifteen years ago when social media was in its infancy, people were regularly having intelligent, intellectual conversations online with strangers if they wanted to. They were meeting new friends. People weren’t perpetually outraged or addicted, they just often found talking to strangers online to be PLEASANT. Online behavior was far from perfect, but it was several orders of magnitude healthier than it is today.
What happened? Social media happened. Suddenly, instead of dealing with relatively small groups of people on forums who, even if they were anonymous, cared about their reputations in that place, the whole world was essentially invited to comment on every conversation. That was a godsend for every maladjusted troll, snarky teenage boy, sociopath, and foreign intelligence agent, but not so great for the rest of us.
Every comment people made suddenly became a food fight. Person A says something. Twenty people tell him to go screw himself. Twenty more people insult those people. Twenty more people tell those people they deserve to die. Soon, hatred is being spewed everywhere and most of the people doing it feel justified because some anonymous random person on “the other side” said something horrible to them. The whole process ends up creating an angry, outraged, toxic cesspool that makes even non-anonymous people tribal and hostile while spiking engagement, which is why social media companies love it despite the damage it does to society.
Meanwhile, many of the most bizarre cultural trends in our society like furries, MAPS, transsexuals, flat earthers, conspiracy theorists, and incels are largely a product of basket cases, weirdos, and village idiots who were once isolated in wider society congregating online and convincing themselves that it’s actually the “normies” that are off base. Once these oddballs would have been surrounded by more normal people that may have helped them pull back from the brink, but good luck bringing them back to reality now when they spend all day on the Internet talking to other broken people who reinforce their warped beliefs.
There are a variety of reasons why all of these factors are becoming so prevalent now, but one of the biggest is that there was a time not so long ago when people didn’t consider what happened online to be “the real world.” However today, when the average American spends a mind-blowing 8+ hours per day online, what happens online is very much the “real world.” There are lots of wildly popular “online” celebrities. Trump’s tweeting was a core part of his election victory in 2016. “Real world” news is made on social media every day of the week. The more that toxic online world merges with the “real world,” the worse off our culture becomes.
We can all see the degeneration in our culture, but the reality is that decline is a cultural choice. Is it too late to shake our country loose from this dysfunction? Theoretically, no. Practically? That’s harder to say because it would not only take a large cultural shift, it would also take a shift in the opposite direction. A shift towards what has worked before. Towards morality. Towards universal standards. It would mean that we would need to put what works and the good of the country ahead of virtue-signaling support for the latest supposed “victim group” in America. Yes, women would need to be put ahead of trans men. Taxpayers ahead of non-taxpayers. Sane people ahead of the insane. Police ahead of the criminals. Taxpayers ahead of the homeless.
To turn it around, we’d need to prioritize becoming better and encouraging everyone to improve themselves, not coddling the people who are doing the wrong things in life and failing because of it. Our principles would need to start mattering again. We’d need to start copying success, not resenting it. We’d need to choose what has been proven to work over what sounds good. Facts would have to be ahead of feelings.
How does this happen? It happens one person at a time. So, if you’re reading this, you’ve seen what would have to happen. Are you willing to commit to those ideas in your own life? If so and enough people in our society join you, we’ll start the long, hard cultural road back in the other direction. If not? Well, then we’ll have made our choice and will have to live with the consequences.