Several years ago I worked for a company whose manager would routinely say “Life isn’t fair” whenever he cheated an employee out of a raise or benefits. A few years later, while in law school, I listened in stunned silence as an adjunct professor, who also worked as a prosecuting attorney, nonchalantly remarked “Oh well!” after informing my class that a man she believed was innocent had just been found guilty.
These two examples, and countless others like them, confirm an unfortunate and often dangerous reality: The human mind possesses the capability to rationalize anything, even when the foundations for these rationalizations are built upon specious arguments.
The company manager, for example, was simply regurgitating the debunked theory of Social Darwinism—that the concept of “survival of the fittest” could be adapted to sociological and economic situations. But even Darwin himself emphasized the difference between events caused by uncontrollable natural forces and events caused by the conscious choice of the individual.
The prosecutor’s rationalization, however, was even more egregious, because the issue was not just employment benefits, but liberty itself. So after class I asked her what the difference was, in the moral sense, between her unjustly depriving a person of freedom by using the law as a weapon, and the criminal who unjustly deprives a person of freedom by using a knife or gun. Her answer was, “I only argued the case. The jury returned the guilty verdict.”
But she had no response when I reminded her that, just as a criminal chooses to commit a crime, she chose to place this man in front of a jury. Had she not done so, there would have been no risk of a wrongful conviction.
During the past few years this power of specious rationalization has transformed America into a haven for bigotry, injustice, greed, discrimination, jingoism, violence, hypocrisy, intolerance and fanatical Puritanism deceptively cloaked in the garments of conservatism, religion or “community values.” So while other industrialized nations (with the possible exception of England , whose leader is Bush lapdog Tony Blair) are moving into the twenty-first century, America stagnates in a milieu of regression and repression, courtesy of THE MORALITY SCAM.
Long a weapon of the so-called “Religious Right,” THE MORALITY SCAM is ingenious in its simplicity: By limiting the definition of “morality” to issues involving human sexuality, devotees of this scam treat others as dishonestly, unfairly or cruelly as they want while deluding themselves into believing they are “moral” simply because they have (or at least feign) the capacity to blush at a “dirty” picture.
This is why Bill Clinton’s lying about a sexual affair with a White House intern resulted in impeachment proceedings, while George W. Bush’s lying about the motivations for the war against Iraq has not. This is why concerns over possible price gouging by oil companies, ruthless war profiteering, corrupt elections, or the millions of Americans without health insurance are incessantly diverted by distractions like “gay marriage,” or “wars” against sexually oriented materials.
The truth is the greatest immoralities in the world do not involve issues of human sexuality at all. Here is a list of just some of the immoralities Americans have endured while living under the tyranny of the Bush dictatorship:
- The immorality of those in power placing ethical standards on other people and nations that they callously ignore themselves;
- The immorality of assuming a veneer of haughty superiority even though success is not based upon talent or ability, but upon one’s family, marital or political connections;
- The immorality of hiding behind religion to conceal greed, selfishness, hatred, and hypocrisy;
- The immorality of so-called pundits and politicians basing concepts of right-and-wrong, not upon what is done, but instead upon who is doing it;
- The immorality of the Attorney General of the United States playing the “outrage” game when dealing with sexually oriented materials involving consenting adults, yet defending the illegal surveillance of Americans, clandestine prisons, detention without charge or trial, and torture;
- The immorality of stealing elections, then arrogantly proclaiming that God placed you into power;
- The immorality of denying DNA testing that could prevent the execution of the wrongfully convicted, as Bush did while governor of Texas , while claiming to be “pro-life”;
- The immorality of hiding behind this same “pro-life” rationalization to inhibit medical research that could cure illness or injury, while having the blood of thousands of wounded soldiers, and tens of thousands of wounded civilians, on one’s hands;
- The immorality of condemning affirmative action policies because they allegedly provide “preferential treatment” while benefiting from preferential treatment one’s entire life;
-The immorality of increasing animosity towards American soldiers by daring Iraqi insurgents to “bring it on,” after having used family wealth and influence (or in Dick Cheney’s case the deferment process) to avoid combat duty during the Vietnam era.
Living under such tyranny has corrupted the economic structure as well, leading to the following examples of immorality in that sphere:
- The immorality of the rating-driven televised media wasting primetime hours kissing the posterior of so-called celebrities, while banishing programs dedicated to relevant social issues, like locating missing children, to the wee hours of the morning;
- The immorality of retailers engaging in shameless self-promotion by refusing to carry books, videos or CDs that are allegedly not “family-oriented,” when these retailers don’t give a damn about the families of their employees—working them long hours, paying them sub-poverty wages and providing them with shoddy benefits, or no benefits at all;
- The immorality of massive profits being generated by illegal wars, or from products made in third-world sweatshops, oftentimes by prison or child labor;
- The immorality of promoting the “downsizing” or “outsourcing” of jobs held by others when one would not want his/her own job to be downsized or outsourced;
- The immorality of celebrities and commentators enhancing their careers by hawking patriotism and/or war through television programs, movies, interviews, books or songs when they have never served in the military themselves.
Naturally this list could continue indefinitely, but by now I’m sure readers get the idea. And if you do not agree with some (or all) of my definitions of immorality, then you’ve proven the point of this essay: Morality is a fluid and relative term.
But there is one constant, and ironically it is the constant that far too many members of the so-called “Religious Right” routinely ignore, even though they claim to revere the One who said it—“Treat others as you would wish to be treated.”
Hopefully, if there is truth in the belief that the universe always seeks a balance, then those in the Bush dictatorship, and those responsible for permitting, encouraging, promoting or profiting from its evils, will ultimately face a reckoning, and the tortures, abuses, injustices and exploitations they’ve visited upon others will eventually be visited upon them—for eternity and beyond.
David R. Hoffman, Legal Editor of Pravda.Ru