An amoral country
Published: Monday, July 2, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 30, 2012 19:08
The Merriam Webster definition of 'amoral' is: "being neither moral nor immoral; specifically: lying outside the sphere to which moral judgments apply." It then gives an example from W.S. Thompson, 'science as such is completely amoral.'
Science and nature may be above and beyond moral reproach but human beings are not. As the most religious nation in the industrialized world, one would think that America is a beacon of morals, but religion as we know it does not so much espouse an ethical framework for society as make its believers feel good about themselves.
Modern religion, at least Christianity, asks little of its adherents. Have you ever heard a pastor or a priest tell you to stop eating meat or buying new jeans because of the environmental consequences? To stop driving your car and take the bus instead? To forgo having a family to help the acutely poor in a foreign country?
The morals of religion are trumped in every way by a more powerful belief system: Capitalism, that which sits above God and man and sheds no tears over the fate of humanity. I use the term ‘religion’ broadly, but all monotheistic belief systems believe, at least on paper, in a classless, egalitarian, just society, and are buoyed by the idea of morality.
Capitalism by its very nature is amoral. The free market has created its own sphere of values that lie outside any moral judgments, and this has infected how we look at everything. People in this country often say, 'It’s the way it is" or "That’s just business,” justifying everything from crooked college coaches to executive pay. I recently heard someone defend Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari - and the trail of malfeasance he leaves behind at every school he is affiliated with - by saying it's just the system. As if people aren't responsible for their choices.
The minute you justify immoral acts by saying "it’s the system" then you are playing into the hands of the faceless, abnormality that is capitalism.
I imagine the men of ancient Greece and Rome settling moral disputes with words in forums, but we have no such public discourse. Moral issues have been relegated to the philosophers in the ivory tower. Our forum is now the internet – another amoral creature. Google cited with pride its vigorous fidelity to free speech when China told them to take a hike. But free speech in itself represents our dilemma well: what we say, and the language we accept in our society is beyond any realm of moral judgment. The Supreme Court makes sure of this.
Hate speech can flow unimpeded, and whatever sick, demented human activity you can think of is available (quickly) to view thanks to Google. Women in stilettos film themselves stomping the life out of animals. Only an amoral court of judges would deem this free speech, or would rule that corporations have personhood with free speech rights.
A moral society would not condone the circus that has become presidential politics. Politics in America is worse than a farce (at least a farce can be funny). The march of Mitt Romney and the credibility he is given is another example of our amoral standards. He was one man for his constituents in Massachusetts, another for his Deep South and mid-western voters during the Republican primary, and now yet another man for the general election.
The nation knows he is disingenuous but this is excused because that is what you have to do to get elected. Money is flowing from the pockets of capitalists into the hands of our candidates and no one in the amoral media seems to mind. The fact that we justify and rationalize cheating in sports, swindling in business, bombing other countries and lying in politics, proves that Americans need little moral clarity to get on with their lives, we are simply 'outside the sphere.'