I actually had a sign on my wall before my civilizing influence made me take it down saying:
F u c k N i c e ! Be good!
It was inspired by a conversation I had with someone who ran as an NDP candidate in a federal election in an unwinnable riding. “NDP folks are very nice,” she said. “I’m sure they are” said I. “Thank you” she said, at which point I had to explain to her that this was not a compliment. In my vocabulary, nice is an opposite of good. People are nice when they do not have the honesty, courage or intelligence to be good.
Yes, of course, we have to be compassionate, considerate and polite, but the niceness I wish to talk about is the attitude, not just behaviour.
Being ‘nice’ is a message. Nice is a substitute for goodness. Nice is the display of self-assessed goodness. The problem is that it seldom is. Being good is very seldom nice. Goodness needs some effort, often carries some costs, sometimes needs sacrifices and may require difficult decisions.
Good is cutting your gangrene infected leg off to save your life, nice is comforting you while the gangrene kills you. Nice is the low-cost, low effort substitute of good.
It is their ‘niceness’ that I find the most irritating about the people of the left.
The lack of true compassion, the lack of consideration, the shirking away from truly considering the effects, the costs and the implications of their ‘nice’ ideas. You don’t need to think to be nice. It is the easy answer to everything. If you are nice, you don’t need to be responsible.
NICE is fundamentally selfish. Its point is to make ‘nice’ people feel good for the lowest possible cost to themselves. Nice is forcing somebody else to do good. Nice is doing ‘good’ at somebody else’s expense. Nice is advocating policies that are easy answers to complex questions. Nice is throwing other people’s money at problems instead of solving them.
Nice is trapping the poor in dependence, because it feels good to give them handouts, especially if they didn’t cost anything to the nice folks. The righteous contempt for those whom they coerce into bearing the cost of their niceness is just an added bonus. Not only are they nice to those in need, they also teach the selfish and the greedy a lesson about being nice with their money.
Nice is to say that everybody is a winner.
Nice is to tell the mentally ill that we can turn their delusional fantasies into reality.
Nice is to say that anybody can finish a university, that even retards can have degrees.
Nice is to build culturni doms at the arctic circle for the suicidal youth.
Nice is to say that price fixing (as in the minimum wage) can be done without consequences.
Nice is to believe that we can spend the money of future generations without consequences.
Nice is to believe that we can ignore reality as long as doings so makes us feel good.
Nice is to say that we can get along with anybody therefore everybody will get along with us.
Nice is “….celebrating something amazingly wonderful and happy happening in our lives”.
Being nice is the essence of leftist politics, the foundation of its morality. Leftist/statist policies are invariably harmful but get implemented because they make their advocates feel nice. Pointing out the problems with their ideas make the leftists angry because it disturbs their self image. They have no interest in the consequences. They don’t care about the harm they do. It all ends for them with the good intentions. All they care about is feeling good about themselves for being nice by wishing nice.
So let me say it again:
Fuck Nice! Be good!
……. because it makes me feel good saying it.
from an e-mail:
… Interestingly, I’ve been also thinking about the issue of nice and good before I read your piece. I understand where you are coming from, you are writing against conspicuous displays of compassion aimed at making one appear morally praiseworthy, while, in reality, making the object of compassion actually no better off, or even worse. You are against people who only care about the optics of their social interactions and don’t give a damn about the actual effects.
However, the way you frame this as “nice vs good” can be (and has been for the past 100 years) a source of a huge misunderstanding, especially for the young.
Talking about car engines, imagine someone told you, “fuck lubricants, use good fuel.” But, you would protest, both are important. And so are nice and good. Being nice acts as a lubricant between people. It reduces social friction that otherwise causes cognitive, emotional and physical wear and tear within families, organizations, (real or virtual) public places.
One of the hallmarks of dedicated social justice warriors is their incessant rude manner and condescending tone of voice. Since (they think) they serve humanity on such a grand scale, they say they don’t have time and energy to deal with such trivial, petit bourgeois conventions as greeting, thanking, listening, being patient, and generally paying attention to others. Also there are the fake social justice warriors who try to imitate their heroes using rudeness as a virtue signal of social sophistication and intellectual superiority.
I met plenty of both kinds during my university years especially in the humanities. These people cause enormous harm both on the macro level (destructive social policies) and on the micro level (destruction of civility).
Therefor, my message is different: “make sure you don’t do any harm, but regardless, always be nice.”
Well, András, I do get your point, I even tried to address it in the post pointing out that I am talking about the attitude, not just the behaviour.
Arguing about the dichotomy – meaning contrasting two supposedly positive terms – is largely semantics, but that was the point of my post, exposing the problems with this particular expression. There are very few contexts in which I find the word ‘nice’ positive.
When I say that “…we have to be compassionate, considerate and polite”, none of these fit into my definition of nice. We could have a whole new discussion about the nature of goodness when it comes to human interactions and I could add a dozen expressions to the above three and still be far away from anything that could be termed ‘nice’.
You should also remember, that this post grew out of a discussion I had with one of your namesakes.
He (basically) asked me to be nice, while I insist on being good.
My overall problem is the fact that our culture (meaning Western culture in general) is on a fast track to replace good with nice on an industrial scale.
The first time I saw the Thomas Sowell quote at the end of the post it ended with the word ‘nice’.
This is the full quote:
“Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good. In area after area – crime, education, housing, race relations – the situation has gotten worse after the bright new theories were put into operation. The amazing thing is that this history of failure and disaster has neither discouraged the social engineers nor discredited them.”
Thomas Sowell, Is Reality Optional?, 1993
And a wonderful commentary of Mark Steyn: