Activism Addiction and the Four Virtues

The first section of this post mirrors an essay [with some editing for emphases that aren’t in the original] by one our readers who is also a commenter and email correspondent.

As often happens, others’ ideas push us on to consider alignments of our own that agree with or build on the original hypotheses. Thus the second half of this post will examine further considerations of my own as they pertain to Bill’s novel conjunction of activism with addiction.

Bill adroitly fisks a common problem that began in the 1960s and has flourished in the new decade(s) of the 21st century. What he describes may be inevitable, i.e., the eventual metamorphosis of good-intentions group actions into their ugly eventualities: either a government-bloated bureaucracy that has long since lost its original moorings, or a fraudulent grease machine operated by snake-oil salesmen.

Ann Corcoran has covered particular iterations of the former phenomenon in her accounts of faith-based organizations that were originally designed to help American families through bad times but now exist as grease machines, i.e., searching for ways to remain extant, though they have long since lost their initial genius for charitable acts. Thus have Catholics, Lutherans, Jewish Services, and a whole lot of new groups formed in the wake of State Department initiatives to bring in Third World primitive groups into the U.S. and dump them on unsuspecting communities… with the complicit contracts going to these once-maligned “Faith-Based” groups of GW Bush’s time. You don’t hear Obama calling for their closure any more, do you?

Some of the money goes toward engorgement the growth and development of middle class quasi-government jobs which arrive via this “resettlement” cash cow. Go here to see her listing for Fiscal Year 2014 recipients of grant money…all to worthy groups dedicated to “social justice”… and SJ is merely another term for activism addiction in this field — the Great U.S. Immigrant Influx & Fraud, Inc.

Bill offers some guidelines for spotting the activism addiction phenomenon in general terms; Ann offers the particulars. See if your state is among the ten most active in recruiting and settling immigrants on her page.

Now, on to Bill’s post (emphasis added, and the square-bracket interpolations are my comments).

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Activism as Addiction

We are all familiar with the general progress of addiction — taking something like alcohol or drugs for a simple pleasure, wanting a more intense experience so increasing the amount of alcohol or drugs, coming to where the high is the only thing desired, and at the same time needing more and more alcohol or drugs to achieve that high, until finally the only thing in life is the pursuit of alcohol or drugs at any price — to one’s job, loved ones, and health.

For alcohol, the end result is the wino, who drinks the cheapest of wine [or lethal grain alcohol] to maintain the high. For drugs, because of their higher cost, the end result is crime or prostitution to obtain the money. [One could do a riff on this with respect to the war on drugs.] Gambling follows a similar pattern, the high being composed of a combination of fear of losing, anticipation of winning, and the suspense during the play. The characteristic of the high in all cases is the intensity of the feelings—the addict only feels alive when high.

Activism at both the personal and the group level is just as addicting as alcohol, drugs, or gambling. In this case it is most similar to gambling; the high is a complex mixture of fear, anticipation, suspense, and the payoff is even more powerful than that from gambling.

Like any of the above, there is nothing wrong with social activism per se, in the sense of trying to correct an injustice. When it is confined to raising awareness of injustice and campaigning for correction, it serves a valuable function in our society. However, it can become pathological quite easily and become an addiction for the participants.

Here is the process:

Social activism starts with a moral stance, one in which the holder considers themselves more correct in their position than anyone else. Kept in bounds this is useful, left to grow, it becomes self-righteousness. The early stages of social activism are accompanied by uncertainty as to the reception, hope for a positive outcome, and feelings of accomplishment just by participating. The real payoff is when the activism accomplishes its goal. Then there is a real feeling of having done something, and underneath it the beginnings of feelings of power. Compared to the routine world, social activism provides an intensified sense of life, with a letdown after it is over.

As long as there is a particular injustice, this process provides a source of intense emotion and feelings of worth. But what happens when the goal is accomplished?

Conservative commentators have noted that the original goals of the civil rights movement have long been accomplished, as well as those of feminism. Having been part of the movements that accomplished those goals, and now no longer having [them as] a source of feelings of self-worth and power, activists will feel bereft [and empty], similar to a hangover or a let-down from a drug high. Activists start looking for any cause they can join in order to feel ‘good’ again and are less selective each time they join. Eventually there is no selectivity at all, just any chance to protest. When an activist reaches this state, he/she is also subject to believing that non-peaceful protest is perfectly valid and is readily led to such behavior.

To provide causes, more and more situations that are simply due to demographics or human nature become objects of protest, simply to provide the opportunity to feel good, where good consists of a mixture of self-righteousness, aggression, and power. These feelings all develop over time with continued success of prior activism. The ultimate form this takes is the attempts at mob rule we have seen in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland.
Justice or injustice is no longer based on facts
of the situation but on who was involved in what roles.

The preceding description applies primarily to activism as a group activity.There have been observations of the same protesters appearing at gatherings that were many miles apart, even most of the country apart. Some of these have to be agents of organizers, and many are the useful idiots of protest movements, college kids. I have heard and seen accounts by college students of participating at demonstrations, and to them it is almost like a transcendent event. Fortunately most of them grow out of it, just as they grow out of their abuse of alcohol, but some don’t, and [it is these, the ones who fail to mature], who become professional protesters.

Analogs: Professional Agitators and Drug Lords

Behind all of this are the analogs of the drug lords, the professional agitators, the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons. They find and/or create the situations that they can rouse a protest around. They don’t do it for justice, they do it for power and money just as drug lords do it for power and money. Riots have to be cultivated, in the sense that the people have to be congregated in order for a mob to form. The Jacksons and Sharptons call for the mobs to form. There also has to be a trigger for the rioting to start. It is the nature of mobs that behavior moves through the mob faster than communication. Even in peaceful gatherings it is frightening how fast it can turn into a mob in its behavior, even if the behavior is non-violent.

Unfortunately, just as drug lords will always have customers for their product, so too will the agitators find stooges to carry out their plans, and for the same reason, the stooges, like the customers, are addicted to the resultant feelings.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Dymphna’s Addendum:

In former centuries, the great reformers in Christianity were charismatic leaders who saw justice in spiritual terms. They knew it was but one part of a framework of the four essential virtues/habits necessary for any leader to be able to do well by his people. For that matter, “leaders” could be heads of families (husband and wives), village councils, regional administrators, and the heads of religious institutions and orders.

This framework was a template by which any self-proclaimed leader could be measured and judged (despite the Progressive aversion to “judgement” by anyone but themselves using their own limited and politically correct world view).

The four “virtues” necessary for successful leaders were these, below, though they’ve gone out of fashion now, except for the over-used “sense” (as opposed to its actual practice) of justice. In today’s terms, “social justice” has come to stand for a resentful entitlement. Divorced from its other three habits of mind, justice is unthinkingly oppressive, and “social justice” is not something you practice yourself, but a sullen demand of others.

Here is Justice in its proper framework:

  • Prudence: Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle’s counsel, saw prudence as the leading virtue which guided the others. By dint of practice and observation, a prudent person was one who could see ahead to measure the most likely outcome of any number of actions.
  • Justice: Often, justice is hard to measure precisely. But even as infants we experience the angry pangs of a perceived injustice. That inborn desire to see justice done abides in every person’s DNA. It does not belong solely to those who march and carry signs, but belongs even more so to those who refuse to cave in to mob behavior.
  • Fortitude: Today we might label this as “true grit”. It is the aspect of a leader standing firm in the face of the rabble; a willingness to renounce the perks of office in order to lead by example. leadership even in the face of the rabble enables one to conquer fear and to face trials and persecutions. The habit of fortitude may lead one to sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause.
  • Temperance: This habit of mind is so outmoded that in public life we seem only to demand it of our professional athletes and even with them, only during their season. Consumerism has taken the place of temperance. Instead we have grandiose promises by our political leaders and huge, glitzy, tasteless “mega” churches and mosques built for their own greater glory by our so-called religious leaders. Oversized mansions are a measure of success for entertainers who are treated as though they were sages, and for politicians who rent themselves out to the highest bidder. Of all four virtues we would wish for our leaders, this one is the most lacking in all areas of public life. If you can bear it, just listen to the talking heads yelling over one another to be heard and you’ll see the intemperance that has become our public habit. Temperance is for wusses.

A real leader knows there are worse things than dying… and lives with that knowledge in mind every single day. If you are searching for a way by which to judge those who seek your vote, these four habits would be a useful template. For any candidate, ask yourself whether his record, demeanor, and conduct could pass this test.

18 thoughts on “Activism Addiction and the Four Virtues

  1. One could describe the activities of the Socialist Workers Party in the UK as addictive activism. Every week there is a different leftist cause.

  2. That is a good insight into the inner workings of the commie/sodomite/mohomed religions.

  3. “Then there is a real feeling of having done something, and underneath it the beginnings of feelings of power. Compared to the routine world, social activism provides an intensified sense of life, with a letdown after it is over.”

    This is the key, and the signifier which separates sincere and useful activism from narcissistic self-aggrandizement. To the person who has been called away from the normal patterns of life by the need to respond to a genuine threat to that life, something that required actual fortitude to face and fight, there is nothing more desirable at the end of the conflict than to return home and bury the memories of war under the routines of a peaceful existence. This can be difficult, particularly for those suffering injuries which make a return to the patterns of prior days simply impossible, or for those whose defense of their way of life is irrevocably defeated.

    One does not become addicted to real threats to sane and happy existence. The veteran of one such conflict does not eagerly seek another. Indeed, in the midst of a great war, with the outcome still in the balance, the man of ordinary courage will be hard pressed to see it through to the end.

    Still, the fault is not entirely in the triviality of the cause, but in the kind of person who takes it up. The cause of abolishing slavery was a great cause once, which required the sacrifice of livelihood and life. But once slavery was abolished, and being opposed to ‘slavery’ cost nothing because it was just a name for something that had already been abolished, those of self-invented ‘courage’ came to claim credit for their ‘victories’ over it. Of course that is a simplification, if one really wants to fight actual slavery, there are places in the world where it really exists and where the fight against it requires genuine courage. No evil is really obliterated, just driven away from the present concerns of people trying to live their own lives.

    And away from the present concerns of those trying to live everyone else’s lives. Because that’s the sort of person who calls a crusade against the choir. They only fight against imaginary foes, even when a real threat that matches the description of their supposed enemy draws so near as to rouse those seeking to defend their way of life to oppose it in actuality, while the pretended heroes of ‘justice’ demand that everyone ignore the real threat, which they do not want to fight, and watch their imaginative escapades against paper-mâché dragons wrought in the image of real dangers.

    Prudence, in a sense, may be named the virtue which encompasses and defines all other virtues. To look at the future consequences of one’s actions, or inactions, and choose according to the entire course of events, rather than be swayed by the pleasure or pain of the present moment, is the purpose of every other virtue. Justice is the recognition that what goes around must come around, that men reap what they sow, that what we do to others, others will inevitably do to us in return. This may be instinct, but it reflects the simple reality that other people are as real as anything else around us, and there are consequences for how we treat them. Consequences that, in prudence, we should consider then choosing the actions which will bring them to pass. Fortitude is not reckless disregard for danger but prudent consideration of whether a little improvement in our immediate risks is worth the resulting future risk. At it’s height, it requires us to believe that the sacrifice of even our present lives are better than the greater loss of some future life (whether resurrection or posterity). Temperance is a natural fruit of prudence, a function of the desire to defer excess enjoyments from the lavish present to the potentially scarce future. A man with a billion dollars of net worth who prudently saves and invests whatever he will not notice consuming immediately is temperate, a man living from hand to mouth who uses a found twenty to binge on useless or actively self-destructive pleasures is intemperate. The reverse case is quite as possible…in a society so utterly lacking in virtue as to entrust billions to those without any prudence.

    There are, however, two radically different kinds of prudence. One kinds believes in a fixed horizon of personal existence, after which no gain or loss can affect men, for an unmarked grave or even a beast’s belly are no different from a monumental sepulchre to those who rest within. This form of prudence believes in ‘means’ and ‘ends’, and the game is to time the employment of your means so as to achieve the ends you desire before the grave takes you. A consequence that does not occur within your life-span (and while some may be disposed to consider their biological life as extending through their grand-children, the blood eventually must run too thin to matter, or the race go extinct altogether), is not an ‘end’ of whatever ‘means’ you have chosen in life.

    The other kind of prudence recognizes that the grave is no final escape from the consequences of one’s actions. There is no separation between ‘means’ and ‘ends’ when one has an eternal perspective, no horizon beyond which the intrinsic consequences of any action may be pushed, no possible division between the consequences with a short enough term to mature in this life and those which will come due only in the resurrection. To acknowledge this is to believe Him who said:

    “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

    “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

    This radical difference notwithstanding, the temporally and eternally prudent may well make common cause for a season in life, because the temporal world is patterned to teach us about the eternal world. The scant decades of a human life are enough to witness the workings of cause and effect, action and reaction, and learn something of the good and evil that comes of our choices. It does not take eons to make apparent the effects which will characterize the eternal consequences of a decision. We can see the good and evil we have enacted, whether or not we live long enough for it to return upon us personally before entering the grave.

    Or we can choose to close our eyes and reject what reality could teach us about the total nature of our actions. And the imprudent do.

    • It’s difficult to find a truly prudent man, for example, one who plants oak tree seedlings in his old age.

      If you have not read the novels of Anthony Trollope, I recommend them – especially “The Warden”…

      • It’s not that hard to find them.

        It’s just hard to recognize them unless you have been instructed in the ways of prudence.

      • Quite. But how many modern champions against ‘slavery’ address Islam?

        Or even actual slavery rather ‘the legacy of slavery’?

        • To answer your first question–only a small handful. (Wilders, Geller, Weston et al)

          The second; In a way it could be said most westerners (tax payers) are now slaves who work to support the ‘superior’ muslims who are fast achieving their goal as present day slavemasters with hundreds of millions paying jizya.

          For the legacy of slavery, perhaps the USA? Not any Islamic country, where the practice persists and as you know will as long as islam exists.

  4. I think there are also other etiologies (for protest behavior). We know there are other Alinsky’s and Gramsci’s out there who icily plan chaos and disorder because they know that governments become volatile and unstable when you fill streets with rioters. They work quiety and theoretically behind the scenes for revolution and overthrow of governments; and their thrills are deferred for years. They do their work with small meetings and pamphlets and privately published books and could care less about being on the streets themselves. I worry as much about these guys because they ultimately want only power and their ideas are always highly damaging and illogical and cause social psychosis (not social justice ) if actually followed.

  5. For drugs, because of their higher cost, the end result is crime or prostitution to obtain the money. [One could do a riff on this with respect to the war on drugs.]

    Not this [disgusting substance] again!

    The price of drugs is not the problem! The problem is that drugs destroy a person’s ability to reason, to have judgment and to hold onto a moral code.

    In the ’80s we had an explosion in drug use and a major problem in urban areas because of crack… because it was easy to get and affordable!

    Look, drugs are always going to have to be illegal in one way or another. There’s always going to be a need to contain/regulate and that’s going to lead to a black market (as it currently is with prescription drugs) and arrests and shootings.

    The main problem with the war on drugs is that “war” is only a slang term. Make it real, damn it! Treat turncoat cops as traitors and hang them! They are the biggest problem!

    • The “war” on poverty, the “war” on drugs, the “war” on guns – instead of examining what is going on in the behavioral sink we call Western culture, the U.S. simply declares war on problems. With Obama, we have – or had, since the word seems to have faded – “czars” for all our problems…

      With drugs, because of the enormous amounts of money to be made I think it is impossible to avoid corruption among law enforcement in the many and various small towns where the distributions take place. If a man making 40K a year is told they will give him ten times that to look away…in our consumer-based culture that is very hard to turn down. Especially when you know that should you turn it down, they’ll come after your family as a means of persuasion. The drug lords are barbarians; they are formed from the same evil as ISIS and they both bow to the same god: absolute and absolutely corrupting power.

      I understand the desire to put users behind bars to break the cycle but it doesn’t work – though it does provide thousands of jobs for the enforcer culture. It’s akin to raising taxes on cigarettes; that doesn’t reduce tobacco use – it simply creates a black market for cigarettes. The 18 wheelers start rolling up I-95 every time NYC or Albany raises the cigarette tax again. And the Russians, Albanians, Pakistanis, etc., rake in the money.

      The middle class was successfully weaned from tobacco via social pressure but you can’t use the same tactics on people who have no investment in the larger culture. OTOH, the m.c. gets away with its recreational drug use. You seldom see their kids get anything outside of a month in a local jail and lots of “community service”.

      • I’m not in favor of criminalization of simple possession. The problem with drugs comes down to holding people irresponsible for their criminal acts under the influence on the one hand and failing to hold distributors accountable for their role in the criminal behavior (or directly adverse health consequences) of their clients.

        Criminalization of possession addresses neither of these problems, in fact it vastly exacerbates both. When we make simply having a controlled substance a crime we necessarily lose focus on the criminal behaviors which actually should concern us. And when we punish people for revealing that they have received substances from an irregular source, we only make it more difficult to track down the dealers and hold them accountable for the effects.

        Of course, the reliance on uniformed police forces rather than the militia (being the armed and trained body of the people) is inconsistent with the survival of any republic, particularly one that Constitutionally specifies reliance on the Militia for enforcement of its laws. But that is a tangential issue.

      • “With drugs, because of the enormous amounts of money to be made I think it is impossible to avoid corruption among law enforcement….”

        Why is it, may I ask (somewhat but not entirely in a rhetorical manner), that there *is* an “enormous amount of money to be made” in drugs? Could it be the same reason that rum-runners and bathtub-gin makers made money during Prohibition? Or that–SHOCK!–the price of a valued commodity goes up as the supply goes down?

        Anyone here priced Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee beans lately? or true Kona coffee? $$$, definitely, because both locations are quite small, and the amount of coffee beans that can be grown per year is likewise small. Therefore, the price goes up because demand is willing to chase that price.

        Yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it’s the Economic Law of Supply and Demand. In this case, not only is there a fairly consistent Demand, but the Supply is somewhat constrained by Danger/Risk from competitors as well as the Law. That constraint on Supply is what drives the Price of drugs–or any other substance made illegal or prohibited–through the roof.

        We don’t yet have long-term statistics on organized crime in those jurisdictions where marijuana has been completely legalized (i.e., not just made legal for medical use, but for *all* uses by adults), but many believe that such statistics will show that (1) the Demand for illegal marijuana in those states/jurisdictions to be falling through the floor and, therefore, (2) the price is also falling, to try and tempt the residual Demand into buying what Supply there is. Fat chance!!!

        My recommendation–and that of those who have actually put in the time to study the statistics–is that, for adults of the 21-years-of-age-and-older variety, marijuana, hash, and related plant products be decriminalized, regarding their use, growing, and sale.

        These drugs/plant products also need to be made available for sale in regularly licensed shops, a la liquor stores, so the drugs can be taxed. Also, banks need to be protected from criminal liability w/regard to cash deposits so that the recognized shops can do business with banks rather than having to keep all their assets in liquid cash, as most sellers in Colorado are having to do.

        BUT–before everyone bursts an artery or three, let me continue my explanation of this “nefarious” plan:

        –Anyone found selling to minors (in this case, that’s anyone who isn’t yet 21 years old, vs. the usual teenager or middle-schooler) will be subject to felony counts regardless of the amount involved or the plant product involved. Even giving it away to a minor will be a criminal act.

        –Anyone operating a vehicle (car, truck, bicycle) on the public roads while under the influence of these plant products will be charged exactly as if s/he had committed this offense while under the influence of alcohol and/or prescribed substances, whichever applies in the state in which s/he violated the law. “Driving under the influence” is DUI, no matter what the “influence” has been due to.

        Trying to legislate morals doesn’t work. The U.S. government and state governments have poured billions (at least) down that drug rat-hole since Anslinger perpetrated “Reefer Madness” on our government and they bought it hook, line, and sinker in the ’30s.

        Let’s keep our cops honest and organized crime broke: legalize drugs.

  6. There is a fifth virtue that is to be expected of a leader just as it is expected of the parents in the home, to wit: Service. He also said, “he who would be the greatest of you must be the servant of all.” You want a test of heart and character? Serve when called upon to do so without any hope of reward and then find yourself being used as a doormat. When all you see is a daily grind of service ask yourself the same question Jimmy Stewart asked in “It’s a wonderful life.” He was shown the answer by a reality that would have been in his absence. Of course, you could always ask Jesus, and He would say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant, come and enter into My rest.”
    Unless someone who is standing for office has a servant’s heart they are not to be trusted for they do not seek the welfare of those who would place them into office, rather they are seeking their own at the expense of those whose trust they have received with their vote.

    • BTW, Jimmy Stewart’s dramatis personae was George Bailey. I only remembered it after I posted.

  7. There’s an even more obvious aspect here that I don’t think has been mentioned:

    Moral credentialing and moral licensing.

    Cheap activism like showing up for some protests provides cheap moral credentials. There’s no real risk or sacrifice involved especially when showing up for a protest for some vague and uncontroversial thing like denouncing racism.

    Moral credentials tend to involve moral licensing. For this reason it really isn’t surprising when you see “anti racist” or “anti fascist” protestors rioting and looting.

    • Moral credentialing was implied in my mention of self-righteousness, but I like your specifying it clearly, and the extension of moral licensing, which I did not discuss.

Comments are closed.