In the justly-famous “All Debates Are Bravery Debates” Scott starts with the story of a friend who was helped by reading Atlas Shrugged because “he’d been raised in a really strict family that had told him that ever enjoying himself was selfish and made him a bad person, that he had to be working at every moment to make his family and other people happy or else let them shame him to pieces. And the revelation that it was sometimes okay to consider your own happiness gave him the strength to stand up to them and turn his life around.” I am not that friend. I’ve never met Scott IRL, though I really hope to some day. But I have a very similar story.
Since then I’ve become suspicious of moral codes that can only be upheld by gods. They will break men, I’ve watched it happen at least once, and I narrowly escaped it myself. The system is vast and terrible, and to fight more than a human-sized piece of it requires more strength than any mortal has. That’s the domain of fiction, not reality. I will try to focus on the parts I’m most concerned about, and admire and say nice things about others who are fixing other parts of it. But I can’t take responsibility for the whole damned thing.
When people look back on the past and say “OK, those guys were fixing one thing, but if they were so great why did they still have slaves, which we all know is the most awful thing ever?” they are saying that from within a system which already strongly supports their abolitionist views, and has come down on slavery like a ton of shit. It’s EASY AS HELL to be anti-slavery in this system. That part of the system is (finally!) already fixed. Back then, fighting slavery was as hard (or harder) than trying to ensure you never use any products created in sweatshops. People who internalize that sort of shame and hatred will not end up making even a small piece of the world better, they’ll end up paralyzed with self-loathing and possibly dead. Those past people had a lot going on already, what with fighting a war, forging a loose union of bickering states, and trying to implement a new form of largely untested government. If they left some parts of the social fixing to other people, by monkey, cut them some slack! I’d rather have a group working on democracy and ignoring slavery, and a group working on slavery but ignoring democracy, than two groups in existential torment deciding only purging the world in fire can have any effect.
In short, stop demanding moralities that destroy those who adopt them.