To be humble is to take specific actions in anticipation of your own errors. To confess your fallibility and then do nothing about it is not humble; it is boasting of your modesty
Humility, the eighth virtue
Twelve Virtues of Rationality
by Eliezer Yudkowsky
Humility is a grossly misused concept, especially in the framework of any religion.
All religions come down to the idea that humans, individually and collectively, are inferior to a myriad of supernatural beings – spirits, demons, angels, cherubs, deities and whatever else humans have invented over the years.
Humility has become almost synonymous with self-doubt, modesty and otherwise being a doormat and not taking or demanding credit or horn blowing when such is due and owing. To demonstrate humility or modesty is to allegedly command a degree of consideration and respect. But this is not actual or meaningful, it is merely being meek and hoping that this will return protective and considerate conduct from others – and this is hardly ever the reality, as the proliferation of bullies at all ages and socio-economic standing attests to.
The idea that the meek will inherit the earth, just means that the meek will be left behind, serves last and with all the dredges not used up or wanted by those who weren’t meek. The meek are bystanders keeping the protective silence that allows aggressive people to operate and behave as they will, and there is no virtue in being a silent bystander and allowing matters to unfold as if the meek did not exist, since they contribute nothing.
To demand humility of others, is to assert dominance, to demand respect, special consideration or, worse, worship, in exchange for some degree of fair treatment that should but is not otherwise be extended. This is why religionists are most upset by New Atheists and any minority group seeking equality in fact – in law and socially – they object to extending the legal equality and fair treatment because the person is being uppity in demanding equality and is not asking politely and hat in hand. As if that would work, equality is not granted, it is assumed and taken. If equality was granted, then there would not have been any need for any social movement to ensure than more than heterosexual white males in the USA could own land, vote and live in a self-determined manner and freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness.
Religionists ignore the reality that groups who politely waited for legal equality, waited a long time. Waited and waited, until they got uppity and demanded it, loud, hard and aggressive enough to eventually obtain legal equality and then waited and waited for the social equality to kick in.
Religionists project false humility and modesty, often by literally wearing clothes to symbolize their humility and modesty – but this is merely bragging about it. There is nothing inherently modest or humble about clothes covering your entire body, face or hair. Clothes made without zippers or buttons or of particular colour or drabness. Dressing in a manner that makes you stand out is not modest and dressing in a manner that conforms to the majority is merely conforming.
A balance of commonality with individual touches to customize one’s appearance to accent their individual self, but not stand out overmuch is humility. Reducing the appearance of flaws and accentuating positive physical attributes, but also dressing in a manner that does not socially isolate you from participating with other people as a person on par with them.
It is argued that woman who wear the magic-modesty garments of their religion are making a statement about how they should be treated by men – that the men should treat the women with respect as they are overtly and clearly modest. The problem with this is that people should be treated with a degree of respect and expectation of being respected regardless of their clothing.
A woman who dresses provocatively is knowingly inviting stares, but no mode of dress is permission to assault or rape or otherwise interfere with the woman’s personal sovereignty and personal integrity.
The fact of being out in public is to accept that you will be looked up, maybe stared at, by another other person. We can dress in ways to invite particular types of gazes, but no manner of dress gives any viewer permission to go beyond the stare. Women should not have to be covered head to toe, with restricted vision through an eye slit, basically, a personal mobile solitary confinement because some men are not capable of sufficient self control and self-mastery to refrain from raping women who are not draped in funereal hefty bags.
Personally, I cannot find it in my mind or heart to believe that there are men of such low-self control, so lacking in rational thought and so disengaged with social norms and callous of causing harm to others, that the sight of a women not fully covered would result in his assaulting and raping her. If there are such men, then the social response must be to remove them – not the women – from society, until such time as they have learned that other people’s persons are off limits unless explicitly invited to engage in good touching.
The problem is that in societies were there are rigid class, caste or socio-economic groupings, people from the highest levels do think and feel and expect to be able to do what they want to people in lower ranks.
Every civilization has, at their heart, a class system which is generally based on wealth and for the most part, the class you are born to, is the class that you die in. There was only really two classes, the wealthy and everyone else who didn’t matter, until the development of the merchant and eventually the middle class in Europe.
The middle class is a modern result of wealth distribution, and, as the newest class, is subject to the last in, first out principle. That collective sense of great, I just got to be middle class in time for the government to eliminate it….
Religionists like to claim their type of humility as a virtue, that we should not expect reward in our lifetime, but in the afterlife, the meek inherit and all that, as if by waiting our turn, eventually that turn will arrive. But this is how religion keeps both the poor and the middle class in their place and not out demanding fairer wealth distribution according to the labour that produced the wealth and dragging the wealthy out of their beds and holding them to account for the disparity and inequality.
Of course, the middle class and poor are also held in check as they hope to join the wealthy class, either through the luck of the lottery or by skill/talent in entertainment and sports. What fun it is to be wealthy unless there’s people who aren’t that you can lord it over? On the balance of creature comforts and life’s stressors – I’d rather risk a harder time getting a positive afterlife and have some of the wealth, than have none of the wealth and no guarantee that there’s an afterlife at all.
Humility and modesty, when it is foisted upon the populace or segments thereof is false and a means of social control and abuse of authority.
Humility and modesty, when it arises from an individual who seeks to preemptively address any knowledge gaps or errors in their work, is a virtue for striving to constantly better oneself. It is not saying that one is not good enough and then wear it as a hairshirt, but rather, it is to say, this is the best I can do with what I have, and these are the back up systems in case there’s a design flaw, to study what they have done to prevent the errors from being repeated, to learn from errors and correct for them in future behaviour or work.
The person who is truly humble and modest does not seek special consideration or treatment because of their modesty – and while actual modesty may change someone’s behaviour – being more willing to help for example – any person who harmfully infers with another, is proclaiming about their own conduct as arrogant, callous and with grievous indifference to their fellow humans, and nothing a person does or the manner they present themselves in, invites this depraved indifference and resulting treatment.
There’s something wrong with a person who cannot understand on their own, why it is not acceptable to strike, beat, rape or kill another person. So let’s stop cloth-bagging and blaming the victims preemptively.