Shelby Steele:

In this new liberalism, dissociation from America’s characterological evil was not simply a means to a better world; it was an end in itself, a gesture that proved the decency of individuals and the legitimacy of institutions…The point is that America met the great challenge of the 1960s by inventing a faux human virtue — the idea that a vicarious or merely symbolic dissociation from America’s evil past counted as a timeless human virtue like courage or honesty or perseverance, all of which require selflessness and sacrifice.

Dissociation is an artificial virtue because its entire reason for being is to avoid the selflessness, sacrifice and risk that true virtue inevitably involves. It gives us a road to the decency and legitimacy we want while sparing us the difficulty and struggle of true virtue. Dissociation turns virtue into a mask. It gives us the means to construct a “face of The Good.” It counts the mere mouthing of glossy ideas of The Good the same as an honest struggle toward what is actually possible.

For example, how does a people emerging from four centuries of racial oppression actually overcome all the damage done by that oppression and reach a true and self-evident equality with others? Dissociation spares America the need to wrestle with this. It asks us only to identify with public policies contrived around vague effusions of The Good, like multiculturalism, diversity, gender equity, etc.

See also: virtue signaling, the unwelcome burden of agency, social media as a playpen for political posers, and the general worthlessness of online progressives. What a delight it has been to discover Steele’s work. An incisive thinker and an excellent writer.