Why I Don’t Go to Protests
I am not a good person. It is not just a truth that I am comfortable with, it is a truth that I cling to. I never forget it. I avoid being good, even at the cost of people thinking ill of me. I think only about myself, almost all the time. I rarely do things for others, and if I do, it is usually out of decorum or so I can get something in return. I am quick to judge others and scornful in my judgement. I don’t care much for the suffering of others. And when I can help, with charity, I don’t, because I don’t really care.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a bad person. Although I have my sins, I’m not violent, I don’t steal, I have a conscience. But I am not a good person. And I don’t care about George Floyd. I never met him, he meant nothing to me. His death has changed nothing about my life. I had no concern for the life of George Floyd.
Nevertheless, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the people protesting his death don’t care about George Floyd either. They too have never met him, and don’t really know anything about him.
Geogre Floyd, as depicted at his third nationally-televised funeral, in Houston (YouTube screen grab, cropped)
They, like me, are also human beings; we have the same motivations. Their only concern beyond mine, is that his death supports their political narrative. This is precisely why I don’t go to protests. When you start caring about somebody because they support your political worldview, you never admit it to yourself. What a shameful thing to admit, that you use a man, who only concerns you in death, to push an agenda. No, it is much nicer, to instead tell yourself that you are protesting because you care about George Floyd. Better to be caring than callous and opportunistic. This leads you to consider yourself a good and caring person. And it is this belief has terrible consequences.
If you are good, you begin to reason that your political opponents must therefore be evil. This tends to hold true of most people on the political left and some on the right who are too deep in their echo chamber. I am a conservative. I don’t think leftists are evil, I just think they see the whole world exactly opposite of how it is. They are well-meaning, but absolutely blind and would ruin everything, yet they seek power. The natural political solution to this problem is to limit the power that the government can have, so that if they get power, they can only ruin a few things. Hence you get a relatively free society where citizens are mostly unmolested by their government. Additionally, since I don’t care about the lives of other people, I have no reason to bother them.
However, if you believe yourself to be good and your opponents to be evil people, seeking to do evil things, the natural political solution is to use political power to destroy your opponents and then legislate what you believe to be good. After all, you are good, so all you do is for the good. The outcome is a society where government is all-powerful, always messing up, and always oppressive. This all starts when people start to think of themselves as good.
There is a stereotype that conservatives hate people in general, but love individuals, while leftists love people in general, but hate individuals. Conservatives are seen to be tough on criminals and unsympathetic to the poor, but when you meet them, they tend to be tender, and generous. Leftists are very forgiving and caring towards the poor, but when you meet them, they are often nasty and narrowminded. There is a truth in this stereotype. People who see themselves as good, tend to be on the left, because it is the side that represents care and generosity. A problem of seeing yourself as a good person is that you start to view people in the abstract. To support a worldview where you are good and your opponents are evil, you begin to create abstract categories to separate the two.
The left is the source of the labels that are often thrown around in society, today and throughout history. Proletariat, bourgeoisie, kulak, peasants, capitalists, counter-revolutionary, 1%, racists, LGBTQ, person of color, white-supremacist, Nazi. These labels have never contained a definitive group of people, but rather an abstract stereotype to distinguish the good people, themselves, from the evil people, their political opponents. When you believe that you are good, anybody who opposes you politically, becomes evil, and it becomes very easy to place them into an evil category. Hence, you may notice that some of the above categories housed millions of human beings who were murdered.
We see the same disregard for the individual today. They already throw around their abstract categories. In videos from these protests, opponents are routinely called Nazis and white supremacists, as pejoratives, without evidence. These protests often turn violent, becoming riots or mobs, with civilians being assaulted and having their property destroyed. This doesn’t apply to all, or even most of those protesting, yet even the more moderate protesters aren’t friendly to people of opposite political persuasions. They’re quick to throw around phrases like, “white silence is complicity,” and anyone can see that the next step in that logic is, “white silence is white-supremacy.”
It often comes across in simplistic strawmen, including “climate-denier,” or “you want children to die, so you can keep your guns,” or “you care more about the economy than peoples’ lives.” These aren’t political arguments, they are indictments. They are accusations that you are a bad person. After an accusation comes a trial, but a fair trial starts with the presumption of innocence. If the accusers are sure of their goodness, what use is a trial? That’s how you get the show trial or the Maoist struggle session. The person is already guilty. Then comes the punishment, which is where it all gets very ugly. The laws of human behavior don’t change. The reign of people who are sure of their own goodness will only ever end one way.
This is why I don’t go to protests, sign petitions, go on charity fundraising trips, or virtue-signal outrage on social media. It would only serve to inflate my ego and go to my head, and re-kindle the dangerous idea that I’m a good person. We would all be better people if we didn’t spend so much of our lives trying to prove our goodness to ourselves and other people. We are all sinners. No person is all good or all bad. The world isn’t a Quixotic battle between oppressors and oppressed.
Those who see themselves as good cannot see the world in truth, because they cannot see themselves in truth. They become divorced from reality and start tilting at windmills. We would all do well to be a little less certain in our own righteousness and the purity of our motivations which will lead us to see our opponents as well-meaning, instead of evil. So, next time you are thinking of going to a protest, put your placard down, call a friend who disagrees with you, offer a drink and listen.