Virtue signaling versus healthy disagreement.
The human animal is social by nature (and so, by definition). It has very deep drives to score the security of protection from want and harsh elements through the securing of acceptance in the social club.
Social club status is ultimately worked out in action. That is, there is no faith without works. But, from a distance, and given that initial contact must be made before even being allowed to become an entrenched and valued member, speech is employed.
Speech can be received from a distance. And so, it can be offered prior to the risk of the deep integration of an individual into a community life. We should not underestimate the interest in protecting the community, which is the foundation for the security from want and harsh elements, from he or she who would put that security at risk. It is one of the gravest faults of some of those living in the comfort of successful production that many of them have begun to talk as if the admittance of the scoundrel, the sloth, the thief, the aggressor is to be taken lightly. It is even graver that many of the former take inclusion of he who puts the security against want and harsh elements at risk as a sign of virtue–compassion, mercy, openness, tolerance touted as strengths. “Ask and you shall receive” always applies. Last, it is even graver that those with the power of thuggish coercion sometimes demand such inclusion and punish the exclusion of those who are dangerous to the security of community from want and harsh elements.
Back to speech. Speech is superficial and cheap. But because of this feature it can be easily traded and is efficient in signifying what lies deeper about a person. Since it is ultimately the actions of an individual that secure position in the social club the efficiency of speech allows an early contract that can be used later for affirmation or dismissal based on the consistency or inconsistency of action with speech. This makes speech important…but risky. Its superficiality and efficiency naturally lead to its use when human animals are considering broadening their relations with others that they do not know.
He who says one thing and does another is always universally rejected from the social club. The precise hypocrisy at play will change from club to club. Lying or cheating may be praised and held in esteem when it is carried on outside the club. But it is never accepted for long in the club.
So virtue signaling. So he who is trying to secure employment (the more the employment is valued) will alter his speech (unless there are thugs who demand his employment regardless of how he speaks. Then he shows up slouching, demanding and almost inviting the employer to turn him down). So he who is trying to secure votes will say what his audience wants to hear. So whenever we listen in on talk radio or podcast it is always my team that is glowing with accolades and judging the opposition as full of vice or impurity.
So he who is the gate keeper for a particular community asks for the secret password, the word that allows entrance. And so, the more confident of power and aggressive thugs feel the more they are willing to virtue signal in order to get a rise from the opposition in order to highlight the presence of the opposition and identify its members. He who wishes to be strategic about is club membership is wise to employ concealment and quiet when the thugs are marching and chanting. Confrontation in speech with thugs should not be rash and without calculation.
How do I sound? I wonder. What do I signal, by the above analysis, about what I hope will be my own membership?
What about meaningful disagreement? We must distinguish meaningful disagreement from virtue signaling and the securing of position or status in social club. Can they be distinguished? They can in theory, and they can at least be approximated in practice. But I do not claim authoritative or final insight on what particular instance of speech is one or the other.
The difference in goal. The virtue signaler is looking for a security, a home, shelter, status and is using speech as a way of moving closer. The virtue signaler is looking to establish hegemony. So the lion roars to let all in ear shot know that he is present. The meaningful disagree-er is, in principle looking to not budge unless his mind can be changed freely. The two who meet in meaningful disagreement have decided that the other is worth meeting who they are not in unity with. They have noted impasse and think that an attempt at resolution through free consent would be more suitable than continued impasse.
What is a meaningful disagreement about? It is always about some part of reality–whether it is, how best to understand it, what its value is relative to other stuff, or what to do about it. Meaningful disagreement is about the willingness to test the strength of the version of one’s reality against another’s. Meaningful disagreement presupposes the scarcity of the resource that is disagreed about. This is important. No one takes the time to employ scarce resources in disagreement unless that which is being disagreed about is worth it. Time, attention, energy, body, speech are scarce in the sense that there are way more options for their employment than their are quantities of any of them. So, the profit expected from disagreement has to be greater than the cost of such employment.
Meaningful disagreement presupposes private property rights. This is necessarily true, but rarely taken seriously by the thugs. What I would like to say is not that meaningful disagreement is not possible when property rights are threatened, but that to the degree they are meaningful disagreement is threatened and diminished. An example: two meet to resolve disagreement. One has the authority to take what is the rightful property of the other depending on how the disagreement goes. Is it not obvious that either the one under threat will not show up for the meeting, or if unable to escape will alter what he says as a response to the threat?
Meaningful disagreement presupposes good listening. Meaningful disagreement presupposes patience. Meaningful disagreement presupposes re-weighing that which one has not valued as much as what another has valued and being open to the re-weighing being different than prior weighings.
Meaningful disagreement presupposes a certain amount of trust. If those who will burn at the stake are around meaningful disagreement is not. Virtue signaling will be present. And the final words of he who is about to be burnt sometimes signal a nobility of soul that is profound and dignified even while the words of the burner show deep evil and vice. But the words are certainly not a part of meaningful disagreement.