Proclaiming your own shallow virtue from the pulpit of social media has become the new religion

Proclaiming your own shallow virtue from the pulpit of social media has become the new religion. By John Carroll.

The return of medieval heresy trials, draconian inquisition and pseudo-religious cults preaching apocalypse demands some inter­pretation. The new wars are over opinion. Belief has been separated from act [as in the opposite to “actions speak louder than words”]. In parallel, status has shifted from property and achievement to attitudes.

Even a summer of catastrophic bushfire … has been co-opted by doomsday politics …

One obvious manifestation of insecure identity is status anxiety. Throughout the modern period, people have compensated for doubts about their worth by showing off their wealth, displayed in large houses, luxury cars, designer clothes and expensive holidays; living in prestigious suburbs; and sending their children to elite schools and universities.

They have indulged in what American economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen dubbed “conspicuous consumption”.

The new snobbery, however, is not over bad taste, crude accents, cheap belongings and the wrong schools; it is over attitudes.

Some boast on Instagram that they personally carbon offset when flying #climatechange, and attract a stream of likes. Others tweet they support gay marriage #loveislove, and are deluged in hearts of approval. …

Seventeenth-century French moralist Francois de La Rochefoucauld argued that self-esteem was the strongest of human motivating forces. Vanity, egoism and fear of embarrassment and failure drive most human behaviour. In the pre-modern world, this was less universally true, for more than 90 per cent of the population had little time or energy left over from the daily grind of basic survival. Concern about identity was a leisure-time luxury they could ill afford. …

German sociologist Max Weber coined the term disenchantment to describe the central threat confronting the modern West. In a secular time that no longer believed in God, or indeed in any transcendental ordering principle, the risk was that the world would lose its magic and be come a dull and prosaic absurdity. Humans were left to pursue pleasure and avoid pain, and little else.

Samuel Beckett highlighted this condition in Waiting for Godot, arguably the most important play of the 20th century. For Beckett’s two tramps, life has become so pointless that they talk of suicide but can’t be bothered carrying it out. Meaning has become the modern problem. …

Identity politics and other ideologies are primitive, crippled religions:

Shaky medieval religion also triggered apocalyptic sects, which we see re-emerging today in an uncanny regression to our most superstitious past.

Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg provides a case study. Her demean­our and mode of declam­ation mimics that of a fundamen­talist Christian preacher ranting about the end of the world. The intense eyes, the raging warnings of apocalypse and the incantatory chant of “How dare you!” pitched against the satanic adult world are reminiscent of some cult spawned in Waco, Texas.

There was a Children’s Crusade in the early Middle Ages: something like 20,000 children, led by two of their number, set out from France to free Jerusalem from unbelievers. The crusade foundered well before its destination, in starvation and disaffection. …

Greta is not in herself of interest. What is alarming is that she has been taken seriously by the worldwide media, listened to devoutly by broad sections of the upper middle class and its cultural elites, given a platform at the UN and celebrated as Time person of the year.

Professional orders that are otherwise sober, serious, hardworking and methodical in their practical lives are turning, in their leisure, to quasi-religious venting, dark paranoid fantasy and wide-eyed righteous indignation. …

The PC mob are a small minority with an outsized media presence and outsized opinions of themselves:

Sociologist Peter Murphy has calculated from Twitter statistics that a mere 2 per cent of the American adult population deal in political opinion. The rest who use Twitter gossip about celebrities and lifestyle …

In last year’s federal election, climate change was proved to be a minority worry, playing a negligible role among mainstream voters, who remained uninterested. …

Identity politics obeys the catchcry: I emote virtuously, there­fore I am. The specific content is often unimportant, as illustrated by a low inclination to mar­shal arguments to back up opinion. …

The mission statements of corporations, universities and sporting bodies proudly boast of inclusiveness, tolerance and diversity. But the more they do so, the more they have practised discrimination, intolerance and politically correct conformism.