I’ve worked as a mental health specialist for a while now. Some long time readers of 4th Wavers will remember an analysis on the perspective that 3rd Wavers have in dating. As it turns out, some of the same psychology, along with a search for purpose and meaning, appear to be what drives people towards joining such mass movements.
This moment really clicked for me the other day when I was talking with a philosophy friend of mine. We’re both survivors of rape and homelessness, and were having a discussion in her car. After hearing me talk for a while on how some people take shared subjective truths and insist that they are an objective reality, she replied by making the point that creating an objective reality out of subjective truth most probably serves a kind of psychological need.
This post is going to involve a lot psychology combined with existentialism and nihilism, so if that last sentence was complicated, sorry. I’ll try to keep it simple, but that’s pretty much the flavor of what we’re dealing with here. We are, after all, discussion why people become SJWs, and getting to the bottom of that much crazy isn’t going to be easy – but it is possible.
So first, lets take a look at what those two things mean.
Existentialism – Kept Simple:
In a word, existentialism is the idea that life is meaningless – however, this is a good thing! (At least according to the first existentialist, Kierkegaard, in the 1800s.) If there were an objective of meaning to life (a meaning set in stone, independent of who I am or what I think), it would mean I would ultimately have to bow down to *that* meaning, and would lose the freedom to create my own meaning based on what’s important to me. Kierkegaard had it that people undergo a sense of “dread” – you may more readily relate to this as a “mid-life crisis”, where a person suddenly becomes aware that they have had, this whole while, the freedom to make whatever choices they wanted, but simply made the choices society mandated upon them (go to college, get a job, buy a house, etc) without ever truly examining the choices they made.
Kierkegaard also held that our choices are ultimately the only things we have control over. You can choose your actions, but you can’t choose the consequences of your actions. Hence, he said we must have faith that being a good person, and doing the right thing, will eventually take us to some place greater, even if it doesn’t seem like it will at the moment. The fact that we can’t know all information about reality is precisely what mandates that we have faith. Faith, when done right, still allows for a person to change their mind on position, while keeping their conviction on principle.
Nihilism – Kept Simple:
Basically, same thing as above; life is meaningless. The real difference is that Nihilism takes a closer look at what happens to people when they come to this realization, and what they tend to do about it (and from a more pessimistic view, as opposed to Kierkegaard’s more hopeful view). In his book, “Redemption by War”, Ronald Strumberg points out that this attitude of life being pointless is what motivated many people in the European nations (in particular, the intellectuals) to be pro-war in the years just prior to World War I. They were pro war because in conflict, people regain some sense of meaning. Being at war gives people a closer sense of community and belonging with other people on their own side of the boarder. Psychologist and existentialist Victor Frankle famously said, referring to our modern lives: “The truth is that as the struggle for survival has subsided, the question has emerged: survival for what? Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for”. Victor also said that people often come to Nihilism when they sense some sort of lack in their own lives. To avoid reaching the view that life has no meaning, people create meaning out of social causes.
Imagine the life of a privileged young 20 something millennial, growing up in a modern day suburb, with air conditioning, heating, hot and cold running water, food whenever they wanted, who complained when they didn’t see their favorite snacks in the fridge, who grew up playing video games with their best friends every weekend, who are now going off to college to drink, party, and continue living off daddy’s money. Privilege of that nature can get old after a while. What’s it all for? What’s the meaning of it all? It can get boring. You get what you want, day in, and day out. Yawn.
That’s where we get: “You know what would be exciting? If we could also be *oppressed*! Look at this vintage news footage of Martin Luther King Jr, giving his speech, and fighting for civil rights. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that? Hey, we CAN do that!! A man said hello to me earlier today, and I didn’t feel safe. Holy hell, I’m practically Rosie the Riveter!!” – Now the young college millennial, who would otherwise be subject to a boring life of having all their needs met anytime they wanted, can experience all the imagined dangers that make life exciting and give life meaning.
Friedrich Nietzsche pointed out humans have an inherent desire to be part of some larger objective truth (hence the creation of religion).
Lets take a person who’s house was burned down. As you might imagine, this would cause the loss of a lot of personal items, and would be terribly traumatic. This fire was a result of natural causes.
They later meet another person, who suffered the same tragedy. However, in their case, the fire was a result of arson.
Later, they both meet a third person, who also experienced a loss through fire. This time, the person had lost their car in a fire, after another individual crashed into their car while it was parked, sparking the fuel tank, which gradually had their car engulfed in flames.
All three people have a shared subjective experience (what it felt like to experience loss through similar means), which also shares some objective truth (namely: fire). Distinguishing between the subjective (reality as you see it) and the objective (reality as it exists, independent of how you see it) from here on are going to be critically important. The individuals could, at that point, allow themselves to heal by sharing their stories with one another, and attempting to move forward in the recovery process.
What my friend in the car was saying – and she absolutely hit the nail on the head – was that these people may try to find objective meaning in their experiences, not settling for mere subjective meaning. Humans have always wanted some larger, objective purpose, that they could be answerable to. The three women in our example may set the experience of personal loss through fire as part of their identity, because again, this brings a higher meaning behind what happened to them. They are no longer individuals who have merely experience loss that anyone else could possibly one day experience. Their loss is now part of an ultimate reality, transcending anything that could be merely labeled as subjective (and thus be at risk for invalidation or dismissal). It is now an irrefutable and ever present danger that has affected them, and now threatens everyone else, all at once making them the survivors, the messengers, and the activists!
From there, the only work remaining is to assign a pseudo-academic label to anyone who disagrees with you. Someone doesn’t agree with Arson Culture? They can’t see that fire can happen anywhere? To anyone? – Especially women / minorities? Clearly, this is just “internalized arson“, undoubtedly put there by the Arsonarchy (rich arsonist who control the mainstream media and socially program all other men to commit arson). The purpose of dreaming up intellectualized terminology is only to legitimize the claims being said. “I believe everyone wants to set me on fire” is patently ridiculous. “Arson Culture is a serious problem” sounds like something that needs to be taken seriously.
I could reply by creating a 5 page guide on a similar topic, with each page filled to the brim with independent and peer reviewed sources stacked one on top of the other, presenting an entire body of corroborating evidence from a variety of sources, and the response I would get (and have typically always gotten) is that SJWs simply cover their eyes, refuse to look, and then use their continued lack of knowledge as evidence enough to refute everything I just presented.
These facts simply do not matter, and no amount of statistics, data, facts, evidence, proof, or peer review will make any difference. The entire purpose of the trio’s belief was not to inform others of a previously unknown danger. It was to provide objective meaning and purpose behind what they experienced, because understanding and acknowledging subjective meaning just isn’t enough. As Nietzsche pointed out, people historically have not been satisfied identifying just with subjective experience, and have often sought out objective truths that they can adhere to, as it seems to satisfy the connection with something greater than oneself and provide meaning.
Wishing to connect with something greater than ourselves to enhance our life’s meaning is not, on it’s own, good or bad. It’s the reason why people wish to feel patriotic towards their country, find a sense of identity through their membership with a church or political party, or are willing to provide time and energy towards a given social cause. Your patriotism could inspire you to do good works in the name of freedom, or send millions of your own people to the gulags. The point here is, that the desire for greater meaning, identity, and community, is often sought, and found, in social and political causes, just as much as it’s found in the idea of an afterlife. And the ideas dreamed up in your social cause can be just as fictitious as elements in any given holy book.
Make sense now why some people call feminism a religion?
Moreover, Nietzsche rightly pointed out in his book, Beyond Good and Evil, that it seems the overall disposition and mental state of the person is what guides them to a particular philosophical position, not the other way around. I’ve also noted this very strongly in the demeanor between republicans and democrats (the side to which SJWs belong). Transactional Analysis is a field of psychological therapy that studies human interactions, and categorizes them as belonging to one of three ego states: “Parent” (wishing to exert control over others), “Adult” (respecting agency between yourself and others), and “Child” (abandoning responsibility, or rebelling against exertion by others). In my own observation, it appears that SJWs and the left in general, are composed of people who lean towards the Child ego state. They see themselves and others as victims, and see the world as a big, mean, nasty place which oppresses them (and the act of being oppressed by a nation-wide conspiracies makes them all the more important, and brings meaning to what would otherwise be a boring and privileged life). This is what makes a person gravitate towards the left and SJW positions. A person who was at first attracted to the left through some legitimate social or political concern, but also recognizes their own agency, and the agency of others, will almost certainly find themselves be directly conflicting with the foundational principles of SJWs and the left. This is why we are now seeing a new rise of the political right in the U.S.
Christianity is lauded as nonsensical by those who did not then think of a replacement. People have since created replacements through ideology, as this provides community and a sense of meaning, which are indeed human needs. It may also be why some republicans and democrats act the way they do towards their political identity, where facts and reason don’t matter, as the purpose of their flag waving is really just to feel as though they have a connection with some objective truth (yes, even the right can be guilty of this).
Science chips away at religion, which gave people meaning. Nietzsche gave the example of music:
There are those who profess that we should embrace only scientific truth. However, If music were reduced to scientific formula, it might also lose it’s meaning. It would be only a series of mathematical notes, and no longer be taken as an almost magical sound that can bring soothing and comfort. This indicates that we appreciate it because we *aren’t* interpreting it through pure science, and that a purely scientific world view really would make life something that couldn’t be appreciated or have meaning. The implication here is that any appreciation we have, or meaning we hold, towards anything, comes from deluding ourselves into thinking so (since a purely scientific view would remove such things) – hence, life is meaningless.
It was this method by which science reveals meaningless truth that Nietzsche was referring to when he said “God is dead. And we killed him.”
What many ideologies attempt to do is take a group of subjective experiences and try to turn them into something “objective” for the reasons explained: that humans desire community and meaning in an otherwise meaningless universe. The problem here is that such meaning does not *need* to be objective. I can understand the scientific process of music – but I can still enjoy it subjectively without being ignorant of the process! There’s nothing at all wrong with finding subjective purposes. You don’t need anything objective. For example, I work in a mental health facility and provide services to others.
Because I enjoy it. I like listening, empathizing, and facilitating the emotional recovery and development of others. Helping others heal gives me a strong sense of importance and community. It doesn’t objectively do any of these things – I just feel like it does. That’s all I need.
Just an aside, as I often get accused of attacking victims on social media – I also work with rape victims, and survivors of domestic violence. One of the absolute *worst* things I could do is validate their fear that all men are inherently dangerous, or in some other way reinforce their victim identity. Refuting such nonsense is partly why this site exists. It’s also why contacting my employers and telling them I run this site is not going to get me fired (and yes, people have actually tried that).
Suffering can be experienced by different individuals without there needing to be an objective, all-encompassing cause. The experience of that suffering can be shared as part of the healing process. It’s possible 2 women may have both felt social anxiety when speaking to men in public, especially if those men were expressing interest in them. These 2 women meet one another, and find community in their shared subjective experience. This is perfectly fine. But it’s another thing entirely to then say we live in a system where all men are conspiring, through some type of elaborate social programming, to devalue and attack women, by deliberately making them feel anxious in public. This only allows the two women to put their feelings of social anxiety at the center of some enormous grand scheme, and hence making it seem objectively meaningful and supremely important (creating an SJW). A better alternative might be to simply acknowledge how important that anxiety felt to them, and then take steps to address it.
Even though as a trans woman, I have been blocked by nearly everyone in the LGBT community on social media, and am no longer welcomed in their social circles, the remnants that have yet to completely disavow me still inform me that I’m a victim for being transgender.
No, a person who has any crime happen to them for being trans, is a victim. And they aren’t a victim for being trans – they’re a victim because they were attacked for being trans. This is the objective definition of the word “victim”, and being trans, by itself, does not make someone a victim. SJWs want you to believe that’s the case – their victimhood simply brings meaning into what would otherwise be a comfortable but boring life.
Now, do you *feel* as though you’ve been threatened with violence, or some other crime? Then your subjective truth is that you were threatened. Did that objectively happen? Doesn’t matter. You felt it, you know it, and that’s what matters.
That’s fine, because subjective truth doesn’t have to be – and isn’t – less important than objective truth.
But this does not mean that same reality extends to anyone other than yourself. Finding other people who share your subjective truth still does not make it objective. Maybe you feel that men coming on to you is unbearable. That doesn’t mean I’m a victim when a man comes on to me. I teach social skills in the facility where I work, and one of the specific situations I often demonstrate is how to handle a man who’s hitting on you or asking for your number when you’re not interested. I’ve done this plenty of times in real life, using the same psychological techniques I teach in class. It’s extremely easy. And no, men typically do not explode into violence and start killing everyone just because you didn’t give him your number. That’s an imagined fear coming from your own anxiety, which is subjectively very real – but is not objectively real at all. And while the thought of talking to a man might be paralyzing for you (a fear expressed in such ludicrous things as “teach men not to rape”), it literally takes almost nothing for me. I’ve even offered to teach SJWs exactly how to speak to men and alleviate their fears. I’ve never been taken up on the offer, as the fear and anxiety from the imagined danger is part of what brings them meaning in the first place.
Someone who does not share my subjective truth does not cheapen it, nor do they invalidate it. This is partly the motivation behind opposition towards gay marriage; if you don’t get married the way I got married, then the way I got married is somehow less meaningful. As with the earlier example, someone may have lost their belongings in a fire, and have made peace with it and moved on. Their way of handling it does not minimize the importance of what I felt. The fact that they’re no longer grieving doesn’t affect whether or not I should still be grieving. Their refusal to agree on my objective truth is largely due to my truth not being objective in the first place – it’s subjective, which is not less important than objective truth, and doesn’t need to be conflated as such. Creating additional objective statements to explain why this person disagrees with me very quickly creates an ideology, and very often becomes toxic.
It can feel empowering – though it’s terribly maladaptive – to view oneself as the center of a vast system that somehow gave rise to a traumatic event. Explaining facts may not have any impact on such a person. I also mentioned this in the first version of my book, regarding anti-vaxxers, and what seems like the impossible task of somehow circumventing the emotional defenses they’ve constructed to protect their view that their child didn’t just develop autism – this disorder was deliberately caused by a vast systemic conspiracy, targeted just them, with some malicious purpose, just to bring them suffering.
Replace that same exact system with Hell, Satan, and traditional religious concepts, and you’ll see that they’re both designed to create the exact same degree of meaning and explanation for suffering.
TL;DR – people become SJWs because their lives are so privileged and comfortable that they’d be bored if they didn’t imagine themselves oppressed.
Maybe this entire post was just an excuse to talk about existentialism.