Pom in Oz with Derek Goforth: The dangers of virtue signalling without any action to back it up
Virtue signalling has become a popular term in recent years, particularly online and in political discourse.
It refers to the act of expressing opinions or beliefs that are meant to demonstrate one’s moral superiority or goodness, often without taking any significant actions to support the cause.
This behaviour is usually seen as a form of performance that seeks to showcase one’s ethical values without necessarily acting on them in meaningful ways.
Federal Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, for example, has spoken at length about her views on seeking real change for Indigenous people rather than “pointless virtue signalling”. If you get chance to watch and listen to her maiden speech (seven months old now) I would highly recommend it.
While the concept of virtue signalling is not inherently negative, there are instances where it can be seen as disingenuous or self-serving.
For example, some people may publicly express support for a cause simply to gain social capital or appear virtuous, without taking any meaningful actions to support the cause. This kind of behaviour can also be used as a tool for manipulation, where individuals or groups may use virtue signalling to distract from the real issues and actions needed to address them.
Moreover, virtue signalling can create a sense of complacency, where people feel that they have done their part simply by expressing support or solidarity online or in public without taking any meaningful action.
This can be detrimental to the cause, as it may lead to a lack of action and progress towards achieving the desired outcomes. It can also be used as a means of silencing or dismissing opposing viewpoints, by portraying them as immoral or inferior.
However, there are instances where virtue signalling can be a positive force for social change. For example, publicly showing support for a marginalised group or cause can help raise awareness and generate support.
This can be especially useful in situations where there is a lack of awareness or understanding of the issue. In such cases, virtue signalling can be an effective tool for initiating conversations and promoting change. But words without action can lead to any positive effects being quickly wiped out.
The key issue with virtue signalling is that it can distract from the real issues and actions needed to address them. Genuine efforts to promote positive change require more than just words or public displays of support; they require meaningful actions that align with the expressed values. This means that individuals and groups should strive to take concrete actions that are consistent with their stated beliefs and values.
So while virtue signalling can (on rare occasions and when backed with action) have positive effects, it is essential to consider the motivations and actions behind it.
Ultimately, it is through genuine action and sustained effort that positive change can be achieved, not through words expressed merely for political or social gain.
Derek Goforth is an expat of 13 years and father of three living and working in Geraldton
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