Why do people engage in self-defeating behaviors?
Why, for instance, do people ugly themselves up with blue hair dye, unflattering clothes, and irreversible fashion mistakes like tattoos and piercings? Why do they behave in rude and obnoxious manners: speaking loudly, swearing like sailors, invading other people’s physical and psychological space?
Why do people sabotage personal, political, and business relationships by picking fights? Regardless of whether these fights are over trivial or serious matters, they are usually disputed with an intensity far above what is warranted by the pretext.
Why do White Nationalists take a doctrine that is grounded in philosophy, science, and common sense; verified by empirical studies, world history, and the daily news; and universally true and good—and insist on linking it to esoteric and extraneous ideas, for instance: National Socialism, holocaust revisionism, pseudo-history and myth, religions of all sorts, dubious conspiracies, etc.? I can grant that many of these topics are legitimate and interesting in their own right, but the question is whether they are essential to creating white ethnostates. I think not.
I would like to offer a theory. My first premise is that people like to think well of themselves. My second premise is that losing makes people feel bad about themselves. Therefore, people try to avoid defeat, and when that is impossible, they try to salvage their self-respect by telling themselves a story, e.g., that they were cheated, that how you play the game is more important than winning, that they will finally win under Communism or in heaven, and the like.
On these premises, it is hard to explain self-defeating behavior, because defeat feels bad, and we try to avoid feeling bad. There is, however, an important difference between defeating yourself and being defeated by others. When others defeat you, you not only lose, you lose control. When you defeat yourself, you may lose, but you remain in control. Self-defeat, therefore, feels better than simple defeat, because it preserves our sense of agency and efficacy, which are part of our self-esteem.
But victory still feels better than self-defeat, so why choose self-defeat rather than victory? Of course, victory cannot be assured, but self-defeat can. Is the self-defeatist so intolerant of uncertainty that he prefers certain disaster to possible victory? This seems utterly perverse, but still within the realm of possibility.
There is, however, a far more plausible explanation. I think people engage in self-defeating behavior because they have already accepted the inevitability of defeat, so they are simply trying to salvage their self-worth by taking control of the process, thus preserving their sense of agency and power. Having already pronounced themselves losers, they resolve to be beautiful losers. Thus they seize upon virtuous-seeming hills to die on.
For instance, unattractive people can maximize their chances in the sexual and economic marketplaces by developing skills, staying fit, dressing nicely, and comporting themselves with dignity. But if they feel that they are doomed to lose, they will ugly themselves up—telling themselves that this makes them “rebels” and “non-conformists” fighting against oppressive and merely arbitrary and conventional notions of beauty and decorum.
People who are convinced that their relationships are doomed to failure will sabotage them by picking fights over virtuous-seeming pretexts.
White Nationalists who believe that our cause is lost will try to crash the movement with no survivors by insisting that their esoteric, extraneous, and marginalizing fixations are of essential importance, or by demanding levels of ideological, moral, and racial purity that repulse normal people and consume vast energies in infighting and “purity spiraling.”
Now I am perfectly willing to grant that there are people with the purest of motives who rebel against convention, demolish relationships, and declare that they would rather lose with their principles intact. But speaking for myself, I am afraid that for a very long stretch of my life, such behavior was rooted in the conviction that failure was inevitable and the only way to salvage my self-respect was to go down with band playing and flag flying. And the only way that I discovered and extirpated this pattern of thinking was to start doubting my motives and my moralism. Most of you could do with a bit of self-doubt as well.
White Nationalists love to mock conservatives as “beautiful losers,” but it makes sense that we have many of the same self-defeating behaviors. First, many of us come from the conservative world and still carry that baggage. Second, White Nationalism is a much more radical viewpoint than conservatism, so to us things look much worse and victory seems much farther way. Thus it is natural to be pessimistic. But the root of most of our movement’s dysfunction is the conviction that defeat is inevitable. White Nationalists will be a lot more civil, serious, and effective when we start imagining winning for a change.
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Tonight’s Livestream: Greg Johnson & Fróði Midjord on Network
Counter-Currents Radio Podcast No. 337 Greg Johnson, Millennial Woes, & Fróði Midjord
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(April 16, 1935 – May 21, 2013)