If you weren’t convinced about my previous post, I think this one will offer greater insight into SJW’s and the ground that grows them. Akinokure has several blog posts about the psychological and economical effects that lead to status striving.
Out of the whole population, you’re going to have status strivers and non-status strivers. The former see life as a status competition and want to get over on their peers is some capacity, the latter prefer to avoid striving altogether and live a humble life. I don’t fault the former for that desire. As a species and society, we need some handful people to be driven to pursue something more. However, the strivers aren’t always good, or produce beneficial results for the rest of us.
For the people who want to engage in a status competition, there are only a few avenues open to them: striving in your career, striving in your lifestyle, and striving in your persona.
Career Striving is pretty standard and tame compared to the others. If you’re a career striver then you want to grow your business. You want to move up in the company. You want to be a top scientist in the field, or the greatest musician you can be. You want to make more money and get a bigger home and a fancier car to show off to others.
When the economy is in good health, there are many opportunities for strivers to choose their particular career path. There might still be competition against other career strivers, but the many open seats and opportunities keep that competition from becoming too cut-throat. When the pie is growing, it is easier for you to try for a bigger slice.
However, if the economy is crap then the competition gets harder. The pie gets smaller. Suddenly career striving takes exponentially more energy for less output and with greater risk. For many of the strivers, they realize that there is no opportunity for a career or a new business. They know they’d be wasting their time trying to find a way in.
That is where we find ourselves now. We’re in a recession, where opportunities to create a thriving business are small. We’re also in the economic climate of globalism, megacorporations, and franchises, which favor the already established businesses who got their foot in the door during better times.
If you’re interested in that promotion, you’d better forget it. The Baby Boomers are entrenched in upper management, and they’re not intending on retiring anytime soon. If they don’t retire, then the Gen X’ers don’t replace them, and so the Millennials don’t replace the X’ers. If you want a great job, or start a new business, then you’re facing not just an uphill battle but a sheer vertical climb.
This has turned people off from career striving, however that doesn’t stop people from striving altogether. So you can’t get a promotion at your job? Whatever. They’re just a bunch of stuck up fat-cats. You can show them how it’s done by living life to the fullest!
Lifestyle Striving is a secondary choice, in which you don’t put in sweat at your job, but you instead compete in leisure activities. While the fat-cats are slaving away with an 80 hour work week, you can go hiking in the mountains, meditating at your yoga gym, creating a new Asian-Mex fusion recipe, or eating at the fancy new sushi place. Don’t forget to post pictures on Facebook and Instagram; that’s the whole point. It’s not your paycheck that gives you validation, but the status updates that portray you as trendy and hip, and superior to the lame squares stuck at their jobs.
It’s the same premise of displaying status, but done in a cheaper way. It takes work to be a lifestyle striver in that you have to go out and spend your time/money in these places but, compared to the cost of a Porsche and a 2 million dollar house next to a golf course, it is magnitudes cheaper and more accessible than career striving.
However, one thing to remember is that lifestyle strivers would prefer to be career strivers, since wealth is a greater display of status than a post on Facebook. The reason why lifestyle strivers resort to such is because they have no real alternatives. They can’t start a new business, not with their college debt. They can’t get that promotion because none are available. So they’re stuck spending $100 a week going out to an expensive ramen place, hitting up the craft brewery and writing a review on yelp to summarize their night. Next week will be a different place, a different bill, and a different review.
The vast majority of my coworkers and people my age are lifestyle strivers. When my company asked us what changes we’d like to see in the following year, there were multiple answers along the lines of lifestyle perks: taco Tuesdays, free breakfast on Fridays, karaoke nights (for “team building” of course). All of that is lifestyle based, and truly for the company it’s cheaper to give out free stuff than to pay employees more. For contrast, my request was for stock options, not free food. Still waiting on that one…
Nevertheless, lifestyle striving takes at least some effort and money. What if you have no money, at all, whatsoever? Well, you take another step down.
Persona Striving is the option of last resort for strivers. They have no career prospects, no money to show how trendy they are, and so they instead have to focus primarily on their online persona.
They don’t buy trendy things, or go out and do trendy things, but instead work on displaying to others some deep, esoteric (and sometimes entirely fictional) character traits. Social Justice Warriors embody this to a T, as their twitters and tumblrs are looking more and more like character sheets of some strange board-game than the short autobiographies of actual people. Granted, not every persona striver is a SJW, because you can wrap your online persona around video games, or anime, or philosophy, or elves, or conservative politics, or whatever; but in my experience SJW’s are more involved in persona striving.
Political Correctness, anti-sexism, anti-racism, etc. are more often than not the result of persona striving, because how else are you going to be better than others if you can’t compete with them with money or by your trendy leisure activities? It is far easier to beat someone over the head with a political agenda (or your gamer-score, or your atheism) than it is to leave your house and do actual things.
You don’t need to go out and do yoga, like the lifestyle strivers, but you can portray yourself as a holier persona for pointing out how problematic it is to engage in cultural appropriation.This is by far the lowest strategy of the strivers. These online personas don’t need to reflect any real-world person and they don’t need to contain genuine beliefs. They can be entirely fictional – a front used to get over on others.
It’s very difficult to fake a good job and a nice car without actually having one. It’s less difficult, but difficult enough, to portray yourself as a foodie without going out to eat, or a health nut without eating those healthy nuts. But on the internet, you can make yourself out to be whatever you want. Persona strivers are basically LARPers in the digital realm who don’t put away the costumes unless they’re alone or have to step outside.
Special thanks to akinokure and his blog for the inspiration for this and the following post. If you like the content here then be sure to check him out.
Up Next: The Social Impact of Striving and How to Fix It.
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