This comes in response to a few essays I’ve read in the past couple of weeks.
If you can, with a straight face, talk about statewide corporate boycotts, high-profile cancellations, etc—all basically 21st century siege warfare—as legitimate tactics to oppose bigotry, if you can speak of using force to oppose beliefs you find distasteful, then perhaps the definition of the word ‘bigot’ has been lost. Or, perhaps literally everyone on earth is a bigot, but the word only sticks to beliefs and actions that are in the minority, or at least not your own. Either way, regardless of how righteous one may feel, using force in the marketplace and using propagandic labeling of to-you unsavory beliefs looks to me awfully akin to enacting legislation to hem in to-them unsavory beliefs. Self-righteousness blurs a lot of hostility.
Waging a culture war—which it still is, it doesn’t stop being so just because the side you’re on is winning—at an institutional level, be it that of the economy or of the government or even that of social media, is a fertile breeding ground for self-righteousness. Institutions can not be relational; they are by definition anonymizing, abstract fronts that conceal personal action behind the blank face of the institution. Relationships between actual people go a long way to defusing self-righteousness because only people can be so humble.
The most nauseous impulse I see on display is this push for conformity to a side. ‘You must assimilate into our camp wholesale if you agree with us at all, and our enemy is that camp and they can do nothing right.’ This attitude has been festering in our insanely litigious grievance culture for a long time. It puts a serious damper on our ability to disagree and stay friends by breeding, in either side, the fear of what might happen if we happen to be the one who’s out of step with the majority around us. Constantly vying with threat of social and economic violence is just no way for any of us to live, either as the aggressor or the harried.