Factio Effrenata, Anarchic Entity (effrenata) wrote in applied_liberty,
Factio Effrenata, Anarchic Entity

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Quality of Life Feminism, Sense of Life, and the Power of Reinforcement.

Some musings of mine, inspired by something from feminist (this post actually makes sense):

The gist of it is that making small changes on an individual level can have a cumulative impact on society; the OP compares it to the idea that when people make "cosmetic" changes like fixing broken windows and cleaning up litter, the crime rate in the neighborhood goes down since the neighborhood is perceived of being of higher quality.

I like this idea, as a general concept. It fits in well with systems theory, the view of society as a complex, chaotic system in which ground-level inputs propagate spontaneous order (Hayek, anyone?) Too, it emphasizes the significance of individuals and individual actions.

I have a couple of disagreements, however. First, I think that quality of life should be promoted by voluntary effort, not government edict. Second, the OP's approach -- in this case, to sexist language and imagery -- is exclusively negative and critical. She considers it important to "call" people on the slightest displays of "offensive" expression. This practice can easily lead to a paranoid, nitpicky atmosphere of constant surveillance (similar to that in certain colleges).

Instead, why not substitute small, positive actions -- little ways of showing praise and appreciation for things that are right? I've done some study of Cognitive-Behavioral psychology, and one of the main principles of CB is that positive reinforcement is generally more effective than negative reinforcement, or punishment, which works in the short term but creates resistance and resentment. Reading the liberal/leftist social-issues blogs here on LJ, I've been struck by the extreme aversion to positive reinforcement. People are repeatedly warned that they should not "pat themselves on the back" or expect "cookies" for learning, trying to change, or doing what is right. I recall that on feminist, for instance, a woman was told that feminists should not offer men "incentives" for improving their behavior toward women. "Morality should not be rewarded."

As Ayn Rand points out, this anti-positive-reinforcement bias was prominently stated, in Western philosophy, as Immanuel Kant's concept of Duty. I've always been rather skeptical of her construction of Kant as the "Ultimate Evil", but I can't help agreeing with her in this case. The Left/Liberal approach to the individual change necessary for social change is to use almost exclusively punishment and self-punishment. Consider what debunkingwhite, in its user info, calls its "confrontational" and "tough-love" approach. This involves, basically, insulting white people and then labeling them as "defensive" if they dare to object. I've taken to lurking in that comm and no longer posting because, quite frankly, I don't want their "tough love".

Such a methodology will appeal to only the most masochistic people. (And I don't mean masochism in the sense of "consensual alternative sexual practice". Don't arrest me for Vanilla Privilege, please.) Yet, there are a large number of people in these communities, even after the recent purge of feminist. It seems that this mindset is endemical among liberal white people, both male and female, who sincerely want to help but believe, equally sincerely, that virtue should never be rewarded and good intentions never respected. It strikes me as a major sense-of-life problem (to use Rand's term), arising from the altruist-collectivist worldview, and the intense anti-self and anti-individual bias of left-liberalism.

Of course, I do not mean that one should make a point of conspicuously congratulating oneself in public, but there is certainly room for a mental "pat on the back" or praising the actions of others in a supportive community. I'd like to ask what folks here, as philosophical individualists, think of these psychological and sense-of-life issues. Can the "blame-shame-guilt" mentality be replaced with a positive one, in which working for change is something to proud of?
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