You know who perpetually sucks? Those jerks in the out-group. They’ll never be as cool as us in our in-group. They’ll always be the Other, and as such, we will literally never care about them. At worst, we’ll go out of our way to kill every God damned one of them. Remember, it’s not because we’re jerks; it’s because they’re jerks.

Us and them have always been at odds, and that conflict has resulted in quite a lot of really tragic things, in hindsight. However, it’s a mentality that’s difficult to escape. Jonathan Haidt posits that there are five moral frameworks with which every human is imbued: harm, fairness, in-group, authority, and purity. The last three are often rejected by liberal-minded individuals, or at least not given as much weight, while all five are embraced by the conservative-minded, though the first two are generally less weighted than for liberals. Haidt suggests that while a focus on the in-group, authority, and purity can lead to terrible outcomes, they are needed for social cooperation in the long term. Cohesion requires solidarity, and solidarity requires some degree of enforceable rigidity.

We need union. We need to be a part of a group. We are social creatures. The nature of that group is important, however. Conformity within the in-group is problematic. Conformity means that abnormal behaviour, even benign abnormal behaviour, becomes stigmatized. Michael Warner describes a modern reality where gays are becoming part of a sterile “normal”, where they will be accepted so long as they blend in to the sexual status quo. Marriage is encouraged because it offers a legitimacy to a gay relationship, even if by doing so it still delegitimizes other, non-state recognized relationships such as polyamory, casual encounters, or cohabitation. Deviance is still deviant, and gays are only accepted so long as they conform to the generally puritanical sexual standards of the West. This is obviously despite the fact that homosexuality itself was once considered inherently deviant, and seeking conformity to a shaming culture belittles the underlying goals of the movement.

The shame of deviance is problematic for more than just sexual minorities. New ideas are quashed because they do not fit with the current paradigm. Information that is in conflict with the accepted group ideology is swept under the rug which means that any output generated can only be considered propaganda. Consider a political party; are they going to champion new research that disagrees with their values? Is the backbencher going to have a say if they aren’t going to toe the party line? Of course not. Social conformity on the macro level is just the expansion of partisanship to a larger ideology.

Can we have union without the perils of conformity? In truth, we cannot. There will always need to be a thread that interweaves throughout society that binds everyone together. However, the perils can be mitigated. Celebrating deviance from the norm is in fact a form of conformity. If everyone is called upon to support diversity, that is in itself a structure of conformity. Consider this quotation from Karl Popper:

Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.

Relativism fails because it simply becomes an argument for nihilism, but absolute relativism, where relativism is itself something that is demanded, creates an ideology that can be successfully promulgated. There are of course other factors to be taken into account (universal tolerance could potentially lead to the acceptance of child molestation, for example), and to go through a full list isn’t something that I’d like to get into just now, but the basic foundation that Warner suggests is focused on personal autonomy. We decide how we behave, and society as a whole fights for our right to do so.

However, as with the paradox of tolerance, freedom is something that cannot be universal. There are two types of freedom: freedom from oppression, and freedom to oppress. I’m sure you can come up with contemporary examples of each on your own as people aren’t very subtle when they are describing the type of freedom that they are after.  The two are mutually exclusive, and society can only fight for one. Given the nature of Popper’s tolerant society, the choice ought to be fairly straight forward.

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Do people know what is meant when it’s said that ‘race’ is a social construct? I mean, I hope they do, since it’s something important to know. Given the increasing frequency of certain news items I keep seeing, the answer is probably not. Race being a social construct means that what people see as ‘race’ is ascribed by society, and does not reflect anything real. To be black in America is to possess ‘blackness’ which is defined by the history and contemporary reality of race relations in America. Blackness is laziness tinged with amoral greed, as defined by Reagan’s “Welfare Queen” rhetoric. Blackness is criminality, as personified by the ‘black culture‘ of the commercialized violence of hip hop, gangsters on TV, and then overtly legislated in the criminal justice system that pegs them as super-predators. In Canada, much of this carries over to our Native population, who must also endure the caricature of the Dead Indian, the feather-wearing Brave that no longer exists outside of its representation of our forlorn past. Most importantly, it is irrelevant to modern society. The more we perceive our Indians to be a thing of the past, the less likely we are to take them seriously today. Whiteness in turn has its own social construction: white people are more civilized (Modernization Theory posits that societies outside of Europe and its descendants are struggling toward a European model of civilization, since it allegedly has already reached the societal peak), and with that gift of civilization, whiteness is generous as it loves to impart that gift onto others (commonly called the white saviour complex). Despite those who seek scientific research delineating innate racial differences, the answer is that we’re all basically the same, and it is only public perception that defines what we call ‘race.’

Which leads to ethnicity. Ethnicity is seen to be the ‘real’ race, since it is linked to a shared culture and nationality. People have an essence of Polish to them, for example, if their grandparents were born in Poland, and they eat lots of pierogi. However, ethnicity runs into its own problems. What happens if someone who is of third generation Polish descent lives in North America and is fully assimilated into North American culture? Do they maintain their Polish ethnicity? Would the same be said of a fully assimilated person of Korean descent? Alternatively, what if that Korean American really loved pierogi and ate just as much as our original Polish family? What if that Korean lived in Poland and participated exclusively in Polish culture? Can there be a Canadian or American ethnicity?

There are two factors that are at play in answering these questions. First of all, outward appearance: someone of Korean descent will never be considered as ethnically Polish simply because they look different. The second is blood: those who declared the assimilated Pole as still ethnically Polish will likely look to ancestry as the chief determinate. In Métis culture, there are those who demand that a bloodline to the original Red River Settlement is necessary in order to be a ‘true’ Métis. So ethnicity boils down to innate qualities derived from genetics, and what a person looks like, irrespective of how much or how little of their assumed culture they participate in. It’s gussied-up race, is what I’m getting at here. It’s the difference between saying black people smoke pot, which is an offensive generalization, and Jamaicans smoke pot, which alludes to Rastafarian culture, but in reality is simply refining a stereotype. Claiming an American or Canadian ethnicity is absurd because of the diversity within those nations, but that diversity apparently does not apply anywhere else.

People have different reactions to ethnicity. It’s almost a trope to ask Asians where they are really from, as if their ethnicity will determine every future interaction with them (Vietnamese people drive like this whereas Chinese people drive like this). Others are proud to be a part of a tradition passed on through the generations. However, participating in rituals, venerating symbols, and basking in the comfort of a common community are the markers of religion, not race. Believing in an insoluble bloodline that creates a human essence is a matter of faith, with all the spiritual significance and potential for destruction that that implies. And just as with religion, someone’s heritage can mean as much or as little to them as they choose. That is always up to them. If you find yourself assuming the importance of someone’s heritage, or making blanket statements about someone’s “culture”, then remember how ethnicity and race are interchangeable, and how this then would make you a racist.

Don’t be a racist.

Why would anyone ever want to volunteer? There are absolutely no tangible benefits; you’re lucky if you get a gift card to The Keg after years of service, if that. There’s no pay, no money, no financial incentives, no personal economic benefit whatsoever. A Joker once said, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” Our whole culture is built on the principle of selling our labour at admittedly below-cost wages, and who would stray from that? For something with even less pecuniary value! Makes absolutely no sense.

When you consider that money is actually garbage at motivating people beyond completing basic tasks, it makes perfect sense, and it turns out there are quite a few reasons why people give away their labour for free. Some reasons adhere to the ‘giving’ nature of volunteering: altruism, paying it forward, fighting for those with special needs (youth, the elderly, the disabled, etc.), and developing a helping culture. Others follow the ‘getting’ path: emotional rewards, meaningfulness and self-fulfillment, personal well-being, and a place in society. Some relate to both: gaining by giving (eg. I might need this kind of help later) and personal growth. And completely irrelevantly to the previous methods, people volunteer as an expression of their values, to follow their role models, to fill up spare time, to overcome personal matters, and most importantly, as a continuation of a lifetime of volunteerism. This is going to come back later, so remember that: a continuation of a lifetime of volunteerism.

The benefits of volunteering are most felt among seniors. Compared to the equivalent non-volunteer, elder volunteers have better physical and mental health, they have better life satisfaction, a longer life expectancy, fewer bouts of depression, and they have greater access to pertinent health information such as exercise techniques and preventative medical care. If you’re old and you volunteer, you are literally less likely to die. The more volunteering you do, the better your chances, as there is a 63% greater increase in perceived health between those who volunteer at multiple organizations compared to those who volunteer at just one. The benefits go on: volunteering can prolong an independent lifestyle, extend participation in the labour force and community, prevent memory loss, and it can even help manage chronic illness. Perhaps you might associate healthy people with volunteering, rather than volunteering with healthy people, but luckily science has already stepped in and said, nah, volunteering does all this. It’s pretty great. In fact, it’s pretty dumb not to.

And, as with everything, we seem to be getting dumber, and shockingly, it’s not the Millennials’ fault this time. Everyone knows about Canada’s aging population, right? Well, more than just single payer healthcare is at risk. Retirees have all this free time, no family commitments, and our seniors today are way healthier and more educated than any group of seniors have ever been before, ever. Ideal conditions for becoming volunteers. However, the enthusiasm isn’t there anymore. It was: even though young people volunteer the most out of any demographic, seniors have traditionally devoted the most hours. On average, seniors devote about 223 hours to volunteering, compared to the next highest group (ages 15 to 24) who clocked in at 130 hours. Seniors make up most of what is called the group of Super-Volunteers, the 10% of all volunteers who make up about 53% of all volunteer hours. These Super-Volunteers aren’t going to live forever, and unfortunately the next group in line to take their position are Boomers.

The Report of the National Seniors Council On Volunteering Among Seniors And Positive Active Aging predicts a “void” which these Boomers are unlikely to fill. Considering that volunteering is estimated to contribute more than $14 billion to the Canadian economy annually (estimated because nobody gets paid, remember), it’s probably pretty important to figure out why Boomers are dropping the ball. There are two lines of thinking on the matter.

The first is that Boomers are such delicate snowflakes that they put the worst libtard SJW to shame. Just listen to this directive from Volunteer Canada to organizations seeking to lure in prospective Boomer volunteers:

Effectively engaging baby boomers requires careful consideration of the life circumstances of each volunteer. Taking the time to listen to the interests and motivations of a potential volunteer can serve to benefit an organization in designing a meaningful assignment that also meets the needs of the organization.

That Seniors Council report from earlier explains that Boomers need “stimulating volunteer experiences that respond to personal needs and interests.” Boomers need a sense of ownership over their work, and need to see its impact on society. They fear that organizations are simply dumping busywork on volunteers, and want volunteering opportunities that matches their skill set. Organizations that rely on volunteers are usually smaller, which typically require a more generalist approach, but Boomers don’t want to deal with any of that boring shit. Boomers want to change the world, but they don’t want to actually do grunt work in order to get it done. Dirt under the fingernails is for peasants, I suppose. There is also less religious incentive, as this incoming generation of seniors is less religiously inclined. Volunteer Canada says that churches, which used to serve as a formal and informal recruitment centre for volunteers, will no longer be effective with Boomers. Shame too, given that almost all of those Super-Volunteers identify as people of faith, even if they don’t cite religious motivation as their driving force.

The other line of thinking for the volunteering decline is the reason the Boomers give themselves: they simply don’t have the time, both in their day to day lives and in their inability to make a year long commitment. Now, that’s a safe answer to give and perhaps the real answer is one that Boomers simply aren’t willing to divulge in a survey, but it’s worth looking into. Boomers do seek casual commitments, swiping left more often than right, testing out organizations before making real commitments. Our oft cited report defines their volunteering as “episodic,” with a greater emphasis on specific projects rather than committing to a single organization for any significant period of time.

Boomers are the first to endure being nicknamed a Sandwich Generation: a generation that must care for its aging parents as well as its stay-at-home children. Obviously this isn’t a new phenomenon, and it is quite common in certain cultures, but it is of growing concern due to the work commitments that households face today that they didn’t before, on top of these additional caring obligations. People are working more hours than ever, and wages are not keeping up with worker productivity, which means people are working harder for less money. With that less money, Canadians owe $1.67 for every dollar they make, with the total Canadian personal debt burden topping over 2 trillion dollars. For reference, from that same year (2016), the Canadian federal debt was 1.3 trillion. Remember that bank employees are pressured to deceive their customers in order to up-sell credit spending, even if you want to forget the practices of credit card companies that target those in poverty with high interest, high penalty rate offers sold under the guise of solving their financial woes. So it’s no wonder that folks are working more. Seniors especially need to put off retirement or continue to work part-time just to survive! Who can volunteer when you’ve got to work essentially forever and take care of kids who can’t move out because they’re even worse off than the Boomers?

In all honesty, the answer probably lies somewhere in between. Boomers don’t want to drudge through the muck in order to help others, they want to be the champion that saves the day with their unique talents. Those are the lucky ones, while the rest are stuck in an increasingly exploitative economy that doesn’t allow time for community work in the first place. Hmm. A community that is failing to take care of itself in any meaningful way due to a cult of individualism and structural economic inequities… hmmmmmmm….

There is a way out. When looking at seniors transitioning into retirement, the greatest factor in them becoming volunteers isn’t religion, altruism, or any ‘giving’ or ‘getting’ motivating factor. The increase of new volunteers upon retirement does not even come close to those who simply continue to volunteer. Those who have been volunteering throughout their entire lives. We shouldn’t be trying to convert Boomers as they stumble into retirement; they’re already a lost cause. Start people volunteering at an earlier age, and those will be the ones who become the next Super-Volunteers when they discover all that free time you’re supposed to get at retirement.

We need to create a culture of volunteering. Remind people that there are better ways to find fulfillment than just earning a paycheck. Try to avoid falling into the trap that an individual can save the world on their own. Superman is a fiction. The reality is that groups of people are the ones who make change. We need to reconnect people with their communities. Rebuild the idea of neighbours. This idea of community rebuilding is quite prominent in progressive circles, and perhaps a culture of volunteering is the path to its fruition.