According to Pragmatism, a philosophy embraced by many modern public figures, from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton, the standard of truth and goodness is what is practical. William James and Charles Pearce, who developed Pragmatism, meant something much subtler, more precise and deep than this simplistic statement, but Social Liberals have adopted the philosophy of Pragmatism as an excuse for whatever behavior they choose to engage in and have foisted their lower standards on American culture and society.
When asked what philosophy they follow, most Social Liberals will say Pragmatism. Even people who have never heard of William James or Pragmatism and who have never read a book on philosophy will use the lingo. “Let’s be pragmatic” is common currency for “Let’s be practical.” In this way, Pragmatism has become the knee-jerk American philosophy, because it is an easy catch-all excuse for objectionable behavior. Indeed, the standards of ethics and morality have sunk so low that we as a culture seem numb to the words and deeds of nefarious politicians.
The best guidelines for civilized human behavior are embodied in the last five of the Ten Commandments. I say the last five, because the first through the fourth deal specifically with religion and God, and, whether or not one believes in God, the norms set by commandments five through ten are recognized by intelligent people as the indisputable requirement of every civilized society. Who will dispute that telling the truth is good, lying, stealing, envy and murder are bad and that adultery is certainly objectionable. This is attested to by the fact that adulterers hide their spousal betrayal until they are cornered and denial is no longer possible. Bill Clinton is a prime example of this, a serial adulterer whose denials even caused him to violate the law, yet whose exploits with women other than his wife are the stuff of thigh-slapping legend.
When the scandal broke that Monica Lewinsky had dropped to her knees to give oral sex to Bill Clinton in the White House, there was an outcry from his political foes, but the vast majority of the general public giggled behind their hands. “Everybody does it,” they said, and “We all have skeletons in the closet,” as though the truth of these statements somehow mitigated the actions. Clinton was impeached, but the proceedings were condemned and ridiculed in the liberal press. On his then popular TV show, Geraldo Rivera declaimed, “Ken Starr! What have you done to us?”
Clinton’s crime, that he lied to a Grand Jury under oath, was punishable by imprisonment and eviction from the White House. Yet this seemed to be overlooked. Instead of Clinton being justifiably run out of office on a rail and having the equivalent of political anathema pronounced upon him, he was laughingly defended as a naughty boy whose exploits in infidelity were so commonly known that nobody bothered to pay much attention to them.
Thus the standard of behavior, even for a US President, dropped to such deplorable levels that Barack Obama can arrogantly flaunt his extravagance with other people’s money, while he and his wife close the White House. Presumably, he is not President but king and does not want commoners to enter his private palace. Yet most people do not protest or even utter a disapproving word at the disgrace represented by this man’s behavior. That is because political corruption and disgusting behavior among public officials are too common to alarm anyone. Add to this the fact that Obama casts himself as a celebrity and the general culture is now at such a low point that bad behavior is expected of celebrities. I would like to make a point here, that the term “celebrity” is supposed to be reserved for people whose merits and achievements deserve celebrating. The absurd reversal of standards could not have been clearer when a community organizer with little or no talent, with nothing to offer and nothing achieved, and who had lied frequently in order to get into office, should be awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Obama is nothing more than an entertainer, albeit a dangerous one for his arrogant incompetence. But that this does not seem to bother anyone is no longer hard to believe, when you consider that lowlife popular entertainers can obtain celebrity from selling work that is disgraceful and even disgusting.
Since the gradual Social Liberal takeover of American culture over the past half-century, cultural, moral and ethical standards have fallen and objectionable or downright bad behavior has become alarmingly common. During the post-Woodstock era the phrase “If it feels good, do it” took on the popularity of a bumper sticker. This simplistic corruption of philosophic Pragmatism endures today. “Everybody does it” is used to explain and excuse a wide range of actions, from employees pilfering office paperclips to politicians scamming taxpayers out of their hard earned cash. It is also an excuse for people taking welfare money they do not deserve and which, under the obsolete social standard of personal pride, they would not have accepted in the saner and more rational culture of the past when individuals proudly claimed that they had made it on their own and never been on the dole. But this standard has been turned on its head. Nowadays, some people openly brag about how they beat the system and some single mothers have been known to encourage their daughters to bear illegitimate children because it will potentially guarantee a workless income for life. Thus welfare and not pride becomes generational.
Just listening to much of what passes for popular music is a shocking experience for many of us who were brought up in the relatively stable culture of the 50s and early 60s, wherein words like “bitch” and “shit” or even more explicit language was simply unheard of on the radio. Now these words are hardly the worst thing heard and seen in movies, television or popular songs. The popular culture has slid into the gutter, not merely morally, but aesthetically, as well, with serious thought gone and car crashes, explosions, and grisly gore, taking their place. This is not, as is commonly asserted, merely a matter of preference. Standards are lower. Sinatra was better than Lil’ Wayne, unquestionably so, not merely because he actually sang, but because he was keenly aware that there was a standard of the quality to which he had to live up if he were to retain his well-earned celebrity. He cared about what he sang. Lil’ Wayne is a disgrace, culturally and aesthetically. To begin with, there is no music in Rap, per se. It is nothing more than primitive rhythms spoken in ill-conceived language that verges on total illiteracy, and the ideas they express, if one can even call them ideas, are often incalculably stupid by any intelligent standard. Moreover, to call Rap music is to ignore the definition of music.
Putting all of that aside, the level to which some Rappers, Lil’ Wayne included, descend to extoll the sewer virtues is unexcelled. There is no art in what he does. But he is only one. Miley Cyrus recently demonstrated how low the common standard now is for public performance. At the very least, she should have been ridiculed for her lowlife actions, and should never have obtained fame or celebrity for it. Yet for weeks, she was an item on the news, thus illustrating another modern maxim “It doesn’t matter what they say about you, just so they keep talking about you.” For Miley Cyrus it probably paid off richly. I’m sure that her albums will sell in great numbers to teenagers who think what she did was “sassy,” thus, whose standards are made even lower by accepting her permissive behavior.
Shall we blame William James and Charles Pearce for giving us Pragmatism? Of course we can’t. It is modern social Liberals, for whom Pragmatism is just a convenient excuse. Somehow it seems poetically just that, as the Occupy Wall Street scum were chanting about having sex with animals, Nancy Pelosi gave a press conference claiming that she agreed with everything they were saying. We should take her at her word.
FJ Rocca is an independent, conservative writer/blogger of fiction and non-fiction, most interested in the philosophy of American Conservatism. Clarity is more important than eloquence, but truth is vital in human discourse.