THERE ARE NO MORALS IN PROGRESSIVISM
December 2, 2013
As I have said on more than a dozen occasions, the term "progressive", in today's understanding, comes from the same thought that all ideas, actions and the culture at-large, betters itself and the human condition through evolution. In fact, evolution and progress mean virtually the same thing.
Since the time of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), "progressivism" has meant the betterment of all categories of reality through the dialectical process of merging a thesis with a new or incoming counter view (antithesis) to form a synthesis. The synthesis is always to be seen as being better than what proceeded it.
To a make-believe Constitutional Scholar like President Obama, the thesis is (was) the Constitution, the Antithesis is statism through regulation and tyranny and the synthesis is a piece of paper the president swear he will uphold all the while ignoring it. This, the President believes, is PROGRESS.
Another word for "Progressive" today is Socialism and, one step beyond that, Communism. For it was Karl Marx who used Hegel's dialect to create his Communist Manifesto. To Marx, as well as Obama, the way to ultimate progress is the tearing down of the old order to bring the New World Order into existence. And there can be no new order with any vestiges left over from the old.
Let's take morality, for instance. Progressivism sees morality as part of the old order and a Progressive believes morality should be replaced. In fact, progressivism is the feat that someone, somewhere is living morally and "we can't have that."
Once upon a time, American life gave individuals the chance to make two kinds of personal choices. The first kind is structural choices. These are the big decisions that configure the course of life and involve significant risk and responsibility -- when to marry, how to support oneself and dependents, where to live. They tend to be made after conscious consideration of alternatives.
Then there are functional choices. These are the everyday decisions such as what words to speak, how to behave towards others, what to eat, and wear. Functional choices tend to be made more or less unconsciously, according to tastes and preferences, without deep consideration of alternatives.
Since the founding of America, personal choice has been organized around the teachings of Judeo-Christian morality. But this psychology of personal choice has been upended by a vast reaction against the idea of morality itself. Today in America the psychological process of personal choice is influenced by anti-moral experimentalism, the end stage of which is socialism.
A consensual moral code is an integrated body of knowledge taught to children and used by adults as a guide to personal choice. The purpose of morality is to curb selfishness in choice. The American moral code is founded upon the common teachings of the Judeo-Christian religions and comprises three sets of teachings: 1) God-given directives that either require or forbid certain behaviors; 2) psychological attributes called vices; and 3) psychological attributes called virtues.
First, morality encompasses religious statutes and commandments. Second, it concerns aspects of selfishness called vice: pride, lust, anger, greed, jealousy, hatred, and envy. It teaches recognizing and suppressing these tendencies in oneself. Morality teaches that even biological reactions necessary for survival, like anger and sexual lust, create moral vulnerabilities that are to be transcended. Third, the moral code includes virtues, or psychological attributes of selflessness, which are taught by all the Judeo-Christian religions. For example, from the Catholic catechism: chastity; temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, humility. (For some reason, vices and virtues are enumerated in sets of seven.) Morality is the expression of these attributes through virtuous choices.
Prior to the mid-twentieth century, American law, literature, social convention, and popular culture tended to inculcate the tripartite moral code. Moral structural choices tended to be made consciously in light of religion, and moral functional choices were influenced by an ingrained awareness of vice and virtue.
A consensual moral code involves penalty and loss for transgression. While punishment has lightened -- scarlet letters and stocks in the public square went out with those funny collars -- in the early 20th century people whose structural choices violated the moral code might still be shunned or socially restricted. On the level of functional choice, people who behaved in an aggressive, lazy, vulgar or lewd manner were liable to be censured by family and society, and lose their chances for a good life.
Because of the multicultural nature of American society, a consensual moral code has been the glue holding America together and has been indispensable for the functioning and defense of the Republic. Without a moral framework, the only force in society which restrains harmfulness is the law. The weakening of the moral code is why people today call the police for everything. The "greatest generation" was really only the last generation of Americans who were taught the same moral code; and as the unifying power of consensual morality diminishes, America declines.
The rise of anti-morality has been the most transformational psychological shift in American history, but it is not recognized as such. Anti-morality should not be confused with amorality or immorality. It is the affirmative belief that an enforced moral code diminishes individual potential and power. Anti-morality is a reaction against the belief that selfishness is the primary cause of suffering. According to anti-moral beliefs, suffering arises not from selfish choices, but when a person is blocked from "self-actualization" by restrictive and oppressive social conditions. Anti-morality is the belief that morally based discrimination and penalty are narrow-minded, bigoted, and thwart freedom.
What caused anti-morality to take hold in America? Some call these the "end of days" when cruelty and vice reign. Also, immorality historically increases in wealthy societies as affluence makes moral regulation less necessary for survival. The shift away from personal choice based on morality was also abetted when electronic mass media became the dominant source of cultural conditioning. Morality cannot be enforced through television or computers.
Anti-morality is an unintended consequence of 20th-century humanism. The central tenet of humanism is that personal choice be directed toward the goal of self-actualization. Abraham Maslow and the humanistic psychology movement put forth the ideal of life as a permanent process of finding and becoming oneself. Humanism offers no basis for a consensual moral code. Personal choice is made through a process of experimentalism. Structural choices are made by posing questions: What will work for me? What will actualize my identity? What am I ready for? Functional choices are made according to what feels good and asserts the personality.
There is no shame, guilt, or personal responsibility in humanist experimentalism. If a choice appears to work out badly the experimenter says, "I learned a lot," and moves on. Wreckage left behind is part of the journey of self-discovery.
An unintended consequence of anti-moral humanism has been the unleashing of selfishness. Freedom in all its forms is dependent on the moral integrity of a society. The ascendency of anti-morality is why the family, the free market, and the military are all in decline, and opiates are the religion of the masses.
Humanist experimentalism is not threatened by belief in God, but it can't abide morality. Anti-morality can include a belief in a deity who is like a personal coach, helpful in choosing experiments, but not a God of law and judgement. Many experimentalists believe they are very moral, and pride themselves on following a less judgmental morality. This is self-delusion. No matter how much angst one brings to the question, "What will work for me?" humanist experimentalism remains a process of following your own lights, a lantern carried by a blind man.
As I noted earlier, progressivism is the fear that someone, somewhere is behaving morally. As anti-morality flourishes, its mouthpieces become more abusive to anyone they believe typifies morality, as it becomes more difficult for them to repress their own sense of shame.
Anti-morality is why the education of children no longer focuses on examples of virtue but emphasizes self-esteem. A strong sense of self is necessary to make self-actualizing personal choices. It doesn't matter if George Washington told the truth when he chopped down the cherry tree. The question is how did he feel about chopping down the tree? Would he chop it down again? It doesn't matter that the tree is dead, as long as he learned something from the experience.
Socialism is the endgame of anti-morality. When Abraham Maslow introduced the term "self-actualization" in 1943, he did not foresee the paradox that the ideal of freedom from stifling convention would undermine moral responsibility and pave the way for socialist tyranny in America. Socialism obviates morality in personal choice and replaces it with the pathetic fallacy of virtuous government. Governments cannot be virtuous, only people and dogs can.
Socialism encourages venality and corruption because it operates on the level of law, not morality. American socialism encourages people to contribute as little as possible while taking everything they can get -- inevitably less than what virtuous effort can earn in a free-market economy. In Soviet socialism everybody had to work, but American socialism rewards people for the structural choices not to work, not to marry, not to raise and educate their own children.
During the ObamaCare enslavement, Speaker Pelosi made a statement of utmost dopiness, which captures the essence of humanist anti-morality. She said to the effect that if young people had government healthcare they would be freed to be artists and musicians. It expresses the delusion that self-actualization means being an artist, and implicitly denigrates most work and the virtue of diligence. If everyone is to be a government-supported artist, who is left to make things, to raise children, to pay the bills?
In other words, socialism works until you run out of other people's morality. And economically, it works until you run out of everyone else's money. This, according to Marx is called Communism. We are almost there.
We believe that the Constitution of the United States speaks for itself. There is no need to rewrite, change or reinterpret it to suit the fancies of special interest groups or protected classes.