The decade's most triggering comedy
Undergirding niceness is kindness — but kindness and niceness are not the same thing.
Being nice to someone means you are inoffensive to them. Being kind means you’re looking out for them. It means you’re going to tell them something that they possibly don’t want to hear. If you have a friend who is a drug abuser and you simply say, “You do you,” that may be nice, but it’s not kind.
If you have a child who regularly does bad things and you let them, that may be nice, but it’s not kind. Kindness is undergirded by a belief in some sort of higher good. Kindness means you have to use your judgment. You have to be judgmental. You have to know that not being a drug addict is actually morally preferable to being a drug addict. You have to say that certain behavior is better than other behavior. It is an act of kindness to chide your fellow man when he goes astray.
But niceness says that’s mean. Niceness says you should not do that.
When you have an entire moral system that is based not on kindness, but on niceness, and when you wipe away the moral framework, all you’re left with is niceness. Of course, niceness is going to fall apart because what ends up happening is that people take advantage of niceness. Niceness lasts only so long as someone’s fist doesn’t touch your face.
That doesn’t last very long. It turns out that when you don’t have a shared moral framework, kindness devolves into niceness, and niceness gets taken advantage of by people who don’t care about you at all. The people who actually don’t abide by niceness are the beneficiaries.
Then you have an actual prisoner’s dilemma.
In game theory, in the prisoner’s dilemma, the person who benefits the most is the person who is not nice and violates all the rules. Because while you’re playing by the nice rules, they’re doing what they want, they’re getting ahead, and they’re winning. So you say, “Well, hold on a second. I don’t want to play by those rules. I’m not going to play by those rules either.” And then it’s just a race to the bottom.
You can see this in the polling data. By the late 1990s, Democrats thought most Republicans were bad people, and Republicans simply thought most Democrats were wrong. But by roughly 2014, Republicans started to echo that maybe Democrats were also bad people.
Both sides now think the other side is made up of bad people. Why? Democrats were relying on the niceness of Republicans while at the same time taking advantage of the lack of kindness in the system.
You can’t build a society on niceness. No society functions well simply on niceness. Niceness is a by-product of kindness.
When you kill kindness, with its attendant responsibilities, niceness will not remain.