I’ve been thinking about this PewDiePie situation and the right-wing response to it a bit, and I think it pretty well demonstrates the social rot at the heart of capitalist socialization.
Whenever somebody gets called out for using blatantly offensive and discriminatory language, the far right always thinks that the response is entirely performative. Everybody that is offended isn’t REALLY offended, we are just performing offense in order to play nice with “respectable” society. In other words, we are all just playing a game, and the end goal is getting ahead. Everything is a competition. Social justice is just another element in the game, and some people choose to take that route in their quest for power and social capital.
You can call this out as childish and selfish, because it is, but it also points to a much deeper problem in the way capitalism teaches us to think about morality. We are taught from a young age two conflicting narratives - that we should be kind and respectful to other people, but also that everything is a competition and you should do everything you can to be the absolute best. Those two ideas are incompatible with each other. You can’t simultaneously respect other people while viewing them as your competition in the game of life. So people normally end up predominantly recognizing one side or the other - we either decide to be especially kind and respectful to each other, or we decide to view everything as a competition.
For the people who choose the second option, morality becomes part of the game. Nothing anybody does is actually genuine - it’s all just a ruse to push other people out of the way. That’s why they can’t believe that there is anybody that actually doesn’t want to be offensive. That there are people who aren’t offensive when nobody is watching. The only reason you would ever be respectful in the first place is because other people are watching - because you’re trying to get ahead. It’s all a competition.
Some prominent parenting strategies exacerbate the problem. “You can’t do that because I say so.” If no reason is ever given, why are people doing anything? Because it’s a game. Just like school, just like work.
And the truth is, we all play that side from time to time. Everybody lies on their job application. Everybody acts way too happy to be at work. Everybody pretends to like their boss more than they do. Everybody plays nice to the horrible customers that you would otherwise strangle. Even people who choose to be genuinely kind are forced to play the game on occasion as well. And the people who chose the competitive view of the world recognize that.
So we can certainly mock and laugh at the people who can’t figure out that there are actually good people in the world who do good things out of genuine compassion. It is a laughable position. But it’s also baked into all of us from a young age in capitalist society. And that’s the real tragedy.
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