Many ancient philosophical and religious traditions speak to the importance of virtue. The ancient Cynics said it was all that was required to live "the good life." The Stoics said it was "sufficient." As a kid, I learned the Catechism of the Catholic Church which instructed that a firm disposition to do "the good" by practicing the seven virtues was required to get to heaven.
My experience is that the Stoics got it right. Virtue is its own reward and sufficient for a life lived well. Your mileage may vary.
Whatever your relationship with virtue, virtue matters. It matters a lot. Pursuing excellence as a human being means cultivating the content of your character for its own sake.
Of course, nurturing virtue also means extending compassion and justice to others. In fact, you enhance yourself most when you elevate the lives of others.
But is there a downside to virtue? The current display of "virtue signaling" by politicians, social justice warriors, and social media users seems to indicate that the answer to that question is a loud and clear, "Yes!"
In the hands of these "virtue vampires," expressing their "goodness" is simply a tool for unearned status gain. Whether raising themselves by shaming others or simply grandstanding, the virtue vampires are doing immense harm.
It's most visible at elite academic institutions, but it's everywhere. You can find saintly imposters in the office, on the athletic field, and right next store. Media outlets of all types are infested with them.
The rise of the virtue vampire is not an apocalypse or even an epidemic. But it's a serious problem. Virtue vampires are causing harm not only to the "innocents" they shame and attack but to the public dialogue. They are on obstacle to cultural progress.
Here's the thing about vampires though, they flee or turn to dust when exposed to sunlight. Want to help end the rise of the virtue vampires? Don't hide from them, stand up and call them out.
Keep flying higher!
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