We are trying to accommodate two fundamentally incompatible and opposite moral codes: a Judeo-Christian code and a Marxist-Progressive code. We on the Judeo-Christian side of the equation make the mistaken assumption, when we appeal to terms such as “good”, “evil”, “right”, “wrong”, that these words mean the same thing to our audience. For many (most?), they don’t. Unfortunately, the Marxist-Progressive code has been ascendant in the U.S. since the late 19th Century (even among conservatives), whereas the Judeo-Christian code has been in decline. Most people today flounder to resolve their world perceptions in the penumbra between these two completely different and opposite moral codes: hence, the confusion. So we need to understand the “why” of this divide.
The Judeo-Christian code, buttressed by deep roots into Ancient Greek moral philosophy, is an ethos that emphasizes the singular worth of every individual and accountability to a higher power (God). This person-centered moral code views each individual as an agent of their own destiny with the capacity and responsibility to choose between right and wrong and to suffer consequences of their actions. We may or may not buy into this individually, but this ethos still defines much of our national character.
The Marxist-Progressive code, which began in the 1700s, rejects Judeo-Christian definitions of “good” or “evil”, “right” and “wrong”, “virtue” and “character”: in the Marxist-Progressive world view, such term are largely meaningless. Instead, their moral code breaks down as follows:
Materialism: there is a militant emphasis on wealth and power. Right and wrong, despair and happiness are usually defined by the degree of people’s access to “stuff”. What matters not is how much stuff one has, but how much one has relative to others. Witness their approach to poverty: whereas Judeo-Christians emphasize the virtues of thrift and industry and decry materialism, Marxist-Progressive solutions to society’s ills (think social justice) inevitably revolve around reapportioning stuff from disfavored groups to others. Ditto for foreign affairs.
Collectivism: Their code defines humanity not as individuals but in terms of group memberships. Individuals are no longer held responsible for their individual decisions but are forever fated by their group identities. These groups are arranged hierarchically of easy-to-apply labels, such as religion, race, ethnicity and wealth. For example, if you are black, you are by definition poor and oppressed by white people. Thus does the Ivy League-degreed daughter of a wealthy black dentist in Washington, DC trump victimhood status over the GRE-holding son of an out-of-work, Appalachian coal miner. Heck, even Oprah Winfrey can still claim victimhood status. But not if you are a white cop trying to preserve law and order in a black community. Collectivist labels don’t work, of course. When labels overlap and conflict, great confusion: witness the hilarious force-fit of terms like “white Hispanic” in the Trayvon Martin affair.
Power structure: Finally, this code arranges society into three different umbrella classes: the oppressed, the oppressors and (wait for it…tad da!) The Champions of the Oppressed…let’s call them COOPs. The COOPs represent a self-anointed Brahmin class that encompasses the Liberal-Progressive elites. Membership in the COOP class is cheap: whereas oppressors and the oppressed easily fit under the collectivist labels described above, all one needs to do to qualify as a COOP is to publicly espouse the Marxist-Progressive Creed and donate to the right party. Understand, one doesn’t have to live the Creed or actually sacrifice any thing…one needs only to talk the talk. COOP membership serves as a writ of absolution for all individual actions and consequences. Thus, one can be filthy rich, drug-addicted, slum lording, environment polluting, capitalist, vicious, immoral, exploitative or otherwise parasitical, but it doesn’t matter. Being a COOP gets you a free pass and (bonus!) a self-anointed moral plane among your peers, well above the rest of us social riff-raff. We Judeo-Christians may wish to refer to all this as cheap-Grace hypocrisy, but that’s irrelevant. They don’t care. It’s not within their moral lexicon or world vision to comprehend.
Most Americans, I suggest, don’t fall on one side or the other, but flounder within the confused middle trying to accommodate both value systems. This floundering affects our worldviews. On a domestic level, this confusion is bad enough…as, for example, believing that the solutions to social ills involve throwing money at them. On an international level, it could prove fatal. I recall after the 9/11 attacks, one of my parish priests tried to convince me that the solution to Islamic terrorists (collective label) was to send them aid (materialism) to show that we, the West (oppressor), could resolved their (oppressed) needs in a peaceful manner. So, the solution was to send material aid to Saudi Arabian islamists. Really!
Putative conservatives are also subject to such confusion. I recall the moment when I relinquished my hope that Colin Powell could ever qualify to be our first black President. It was during the aftermath of the Iraqi evacuation of Kuwait, when our A-10s and choppers were wreaking havoc on the retreating elements of the Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard. In the minds of Powell and President Bush-I (COOPS), the evacuees were transformed by our air power from evil incarnate (oppressors, to be destroyed, like the SS in WWII) into the oppressed (victims), so the attacks were halted. As the Talmud advises us, “kindness to the cruel is cruelty to the kind”. The Republican Guard went on to slaughter 100,000-plus Shiites, when they rose in rebellion against Hussein…thereby setting the stage for the next conflict and all of its sad, bloody consequences today. Bush and Powell’s decision showed me that their moral confusion would cause them to choke when asked to make hard moral and strategic decisions between “bad” and “worse”.
But, of course, that’s a Judeo-Christian value judgment.
So, try it…apply this Marxist-Progressive model world view to the news and opinions we share and debate in the Bookworm Room. See how well it helps you to the “other”.