Continuing the discussion from On the fundamental tensions around money and its place in society:
I share this view, this inclination to want harmful behavior to be socially unacceptable and embarrassing — whatever discourages the behavior… and I recognize the argument from many angles, including Kwame Anthony Appiah’s focus on honor (in his telling, the ends of dueling, slavery, and foot-binding and so on all came when they become dishonorable targets of ridicule instead of seen as honorable).
But more recently, I was struck by the deeper compassionate example of Fred Rogers validating the inner-strength of an aggressive young boy:
“…I just knew that whenever you see a little boy carrying something like that, it means that he wants to show people that he’s strong on the outside. I just wanted to let him know that he was strong on the inside, too. And so that’s what I told him. I said, ‘Do you know that you’re strong on the inside, too?’ Maybe it was something he needed to hear.”
This is such a flip of the ridicule-the-braggart approach. Instead of going from “you’re driving a big SUV” (or to make more Snowdrift-relevant: “you’re hoarding money” or “you’re being restrictive around your code or art etc in order to gain profit and power over others and refuse to share ideas”) and then wanting to ridicule, belittle, mock that behavior, the Fred Rogers model is to see the strength and concerns and fears and honor them in a sense. If people do these behaviors out of fear (of inadequacy, of not being accepted or successful, or whatever), are we going to get them to stop the harmful behavior by make them feel worse and more scared or by showing them acceptance (in terms of deep-down humanity) and reassure them that they are okay?
I suppose it varies by different situations. Some people aren’t compensating for something, they are just being careless or are doing something to amplify their standing because it really is true that the harmful activity gets them honor and rewards. We certainly need consciousness-raising and to change norms about what activities are acceptable and which are honored rather than shamed. Yet for cases where it’s a matter of someone compensating for something, helping them feel better and accepted is probably the best approach. We certainly see a lot of disaffected people today who might channel their feelings in counterproductive ways, and if they are just shamed, they are liable to get more dangerous and harmful.
To bring this back to Snowdrift specifically, we should consider reframing any negative, critical judgments about proprietary software or other club goods and see if it can be as or more effective to focus on how great it can be to have public goods effectively supported.