You’re not “Nice”.

Everyone wants to be “nice”. Some people go as far as to say “I’m a nice person”, “be nice” and will affirm they are “nice” if you ask them whether they think they are. But it can be hard to pinpoint what they mean.

“Nice”, as per the dictionary, means “giving pleasure or satisfaction; pleasant or attractive”. There is no popular definition that denies this, there is no requirement to being “nice”, it is just “something pleasant”. This gives us a problem: you can’t decide whether you are nice. Only other people can decide whether or not you are nice.

If you call yourself “nice” you can mean only two things:

  1. You are pleasing to yourself, you approve of yourself. Which means nothing as all healthy humans, and many unhealthy ones, enjoy themselves and approve of their own behaviour.
  2. You seek to please others and be approved of, and believe your behaviour is pleasing and worthy of approval. Which means nothing as you don’t get to decide what other people enjoy.

And there are two motivations behind calling yourself “nice”, both of which can result in either of the two meanings.

  1. You are ignorant of what you are saying and responding to how you were educated. Your parents told you “be nice”, meaning “appease and please” and you did so. All you mean is “I want to make others happy” or “I’m doing what I think is right”.
  2. You know that niceness comes from others and you are demanding their approval or, in the case of “be nice”, that they should act as you want them to. What you mean is “you should agree with my morals” or “you should appreciate that I’m not actively hostile”.

Quite simply: you can aim to please others and garner approval, but you cannot make yourself “nice”. How nice you are is not up to you.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

As a side note, Twitter really has improved my succintness.

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How To… avoid toxic ideologies.

In a world where we live fairly easily and happily, ideologies quickly take hold and spread and soon everyone has an opinion on everything and everyone has labeled themselves as something.

But many past ideologies were based around suffering, strife and a need for change. And when there isn’t strife, what happens to all the people selling books, skimming off the top of their charity organization and using strife as an excuse for their own inadequacy? Well, they either leave the cause and find a new one to leech off. Or they remain, causing their ideology to stagnate and turning a once favourable beliefset based on questioning and investigating into a thin veil for their opportunism: a toxic ideology.

A toxic ideology is one that needs you more than you need it. Without learning to cross the street, many children each year would die. Without God, many religious people would find their life meaningless and empty. Without anarchy, many anti-establishment people could put themselves at danger by acting independently against authority.

Don’t get me wrong: these groups don’t represent an ideology in the same way and none are without their leeches. Wherever people congregate and follow they can be exploited. But generally people turn to them because they need the ideology or the product that comes from the ideology.

However certain ideologies emerge, either independently or from an expired ideology, that are the other way around. Without the ideology, the people would find their own perspective and not run riot. But without the people, the ideology and its leeches will die. Here are some warning signs that you have found a toxic ideology.

1: No shared mission.

All ideologies share beliefs and statements. “To further the wellbeing of mankind,” “we must erase poverty” and “nobody deserves torture” are all very reasonable statements that are believed by many humans. But they aren’t a mission, a direction everyone is headed in.

If an ideology’s only mission is something as abstract as that and nobody agrees on the mission beside that one point, then it doesn’t really have a shared mission. Think of it as an organization. If you had a charity “to fight cancer”, but one manager thought only herbal remedies would work, another was pro-chemo and another believed in spiritual healing, would you donate to them? Like a charity, if there’s no shared mission an ideology can’t move forwards toward its goal.

2: Complete adherence required.

Ideologies are supposed to serve you. Yes, you can be in it to serve other people, but if you’re being evicted or attacked for small slights, then the ideology is frail. It can’t have a shared mission if everyone doesn’t agree on the mission, but it also can’t have a shared mission if every follower and supporter must adhere to every single rule. If the end goal is to stop something, then every single step towards stopping it is valuable. If the end goal is to create something, then every penny and minute of time towards creating it is valuable.

If you’re being continually berated for not doing enough, guilt-tripped for your contributions and insulted for breaking a few minor rules or disagreeing with an orbital opinion, then this ideology isn’t trying to complete its mission.

3: Infighting and segregation.

A result of complete adherence rules is that the ideology becomes very divided. It’s perfectly natural for an ideology to split after a long period of time has passed and new evidence has divided the community. But when the community and its leaders disagree and fight among themselves daily, evict individuals regularly for minor offenses and split up every few years, then there is no central cohesiveness. This is a symptom of not having a mission or of leeches at the top not wanting their mission exposed or completed.

If the ideology is continually fighting over matters they’ve always known about, repeatedly bringing up past debates that were once concluded and never stops splitting and attacking the splitters, then it is headed nowhere.

4: Continual demands for money.

The more overt forms of money demands are easily picked up on by newcomers, but people who are committed to an ideology won’t notice even an overt demand. But covert demands also happen. Guilt tripping about donation levels, complaining about salaries or going to twitter to bemoan their poverty are a variety of ways that the leeches in toxic ideologies demand their money. Some may even get creative and come up with false charities and schemes to get you to “invest” in.

It’s fine to put money towards a charitable cause or maintaining a community. Even ongoing payments are fine as long as the issue is ongoing. But if you’re regularly being asked for random or undetermined amounts of money and you can’t see where it’s going, then that is a leech.

5: Insistence on finding illness.

Many ideologies are born of the need of the people. All good ideologies are. When someone needs support, faith, answers or defense, then an ideology is born. To a human, a social animal, rejection, discrimination, lack of basic resources and lack of freedom of thought are all illness, as they limit our ability to be social with out community. So when someone is discriminated against, alienated or has their access to basic resources and education restricted, an ideology is born to ask why and to fix that problem.

But what if there is no illness? Well, this is where the Munchhausen effect comes in. A toxic ideology is like a mother with Munchhausen by proxy. It can’t stand to be ignored, to be left, to not be needed. So the ideology will approach various people and insist that they are ill. Even if you are perfectly happy, freely making your own choices, physically and mentally healthy and provided for, a toxic ideology will tell you that you are unhappy, oppressed, ill and denied. And it will repeat this again and again until new followers are convinced that they are ill.

Worst of all, toxic ideologies encourage their followers to make themselves unhappy, to restrict themselves, to make themselves ill and to deny themselves, just so that they can become “proof” that the ideology is right. Toxic ideologies make their followers want to be ill to justify the ideology.

6: Bitterness and anger.

Because of all the above, toxic ideologies and their followers are full of bitterness and anger. This is because they are continually walking the tightrope. They have no shared mission, so their legitimacy is just a thin veil, always at risk of exposure. They require complete adherence and dogmatism and are continually angry at and afraid of anyone who rejects their dogma. They are always fighting among themselves about petty matters and splitting up into small sects, denying having anything in common with other sects and defending their sect above the others. They are always thinking of new ways to make money for themselves or for the ideology. And they are always sacrificing their own wellbeing to make a point. If, worst of all, they are in the majority who actually believe it, then they end up angry and bitter because they believe they have intelligently found “the truth” and that everyone else is blind. Because there are so few of them that believe exactly the same thing and because they argue so much (read 2 and 3), they feel very isolated.

And that is how you identify a toxic ideology. Any ideology that meets those six requirements is dangerous. Any that meets even a few of them is unhealthy and not going in a good direction. And if you’re finding yourself looking for excuses as to why your ideology is exempt from toxicity despite meeting these criteria, then you may have been deceived.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.