Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Loyal, but why?

If the saccharine-sound of Dave Dobbyn singing Loyal makes your teeth grind, there might be more to your loathing than just the awful nasal whine. It might be that loyalty, in the way he whines about it, is not the value it could be, or – given how popular the sappy song is – people think it is, or would like it to be.

Loyalty is a sub-species of integrity – a reflection of consistency between your principles and your actions. Psychologist Michael Hurd reckons however that, very often, we choose sports teams, friends, even lovers on the basis only of vague or unidentified feelings.  Feelings we never examine any further.  That’s fine when it comes to sports teams (unless you find yourself supporting Collingwood, or England), but not for higher values.

“When it comes time to be loyal — or disloyal — to friends or associates, we’re unclear on what we’re actually being loyal to. As a result we’re left with nothing else but feelings.
    If someone annoys you for a trivial reason, you’ll reject or back away from them without really knowing why, and you might later come to regret it. If someone betrays you for a very big reason, you’re lost without a set of conscious convictions to guide you

Your “loyalty” is based on little more than habit, which offers no guidance on what to do next. Just nagging doubt. On the other hand…

If you live your life consciously, by a set of conscious convictions and principles, then you deliberately select your friends and loved ones accordingly. If you value integrity and honesty, for example, then you not only seek to practice it, but to  find people who do the same. Ditto for any other virtue you consciously hold near and dear to your heart and mind: intelligence, intellectual honesty, productivity, and rationality.
    If you value your ideals consciously, and you seek to uphold them in daily life, then your friends and spouse will be very important to you. They’re important to you because they embody and actualize — in your eyes, and hopefully in reality — your most cherished values. Loyalty in that context is “easy,” in that betraying people who embody what’s important to you would go against everything  you think and most deeply feel.

This is obviously part of a bigger point about holding, developing, and testing your convictions and principles consciously.

It’s generally considered more cool, normal or socially acceptable not to hold any conscious convictions — or, if you do hold them, not to hold them “too strongly.” Or, if you must hold deep, intense or conscious convictions, then at least don’t let anybody know it.
    Not only is this boring and shallow; it makes something most of us do consider virtuous — loyalty — impossible. I suspect this is one reason why so many get attached to their dogs (or cats). These animals possess a consistency and integrity (on a nonconceptual level) of which humans are more brilliantly capable, but rarely display.

Here’s Dave Dobbyn.

Hell no. Just joking.

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