“Honest politician” these days serves to illustrate the meaning of “oxynoron.” Recalling that the ancient Greek Diogenes was said to carry a lantern around to aid his search for an honest man, we suppose that condition will not surprise. Noting further that the level of national wealth in the world appears to coincide with the degree of political corruption shouldn’t surprise either.
Jews and Christians consider lying sinful; such folk are shamed at being caught in such acts. And the United States was founded as a Christian country, if one with a nondenominational government. And its wealth has been manifest. Generations of its children were raised with the story of a young George Washington and his cherry tree. Our first President was honored for his probity.
Our current President Obama, not so much. “You can keep your doctor” has become nearly as well known as the cherry tree, but with an opposite meaning. That seems a significant difference in the qualities demonstrated by an American chief executive. But considering that America is now post Christian, the difference seems unsurprising enough.
It also seems indicative: The gaggle of wanna-be’s now chasing the Presidency for themselves are all regularly accused of lying, by each other as well as observers. The job of “fact checker” has sprung up among the media and on the internet, a place or person who functions only to confirm or deny the assertions of candidates. The need is so great that it has resulted in job creation.
The flexibility of the truth is not limited to political candidates; media news sources are replete with similar displays. And a philosophy of moral relativism has sprung up to ‘justify’ the practice. If you abandon your original Christian morality, you must expect to see its accompanying probity, a result of that morality, vanishing too.
One of the characteristics of such changes is a sort of compartmentalization; we mostly realize that the politicians who run government are dishonest, but we stop at that point, going forward with a retained belief in the honesty of say, government statistics and reports. We accept politically sensitive unemployment, inflation and cost of living data as honest, when in fact, they no longer resemble their original products.
Shoppers and those who pay bills see the ever rising costs of familiar items without thinking too much about it, so long as the rise in prices is slow enough. The increasing insufficiency of their earnings is periodically offset by raises in the minimum wage, pushing up the wage level. (The pattern that has created Chinese, Indian and other competitors for U.S. jobs in the newly world wide economy.) We have been frogs in a slowly heating cookpot …
Once, we revered the truth and we revered human life. Now, neither has much value unless it is our own, and then the value is more perceived by us than by others. That has been the normal human condition outside of Judeo-Christian times and places; we are returning to the historic norm. Another part of that norm is mass poverty and little individual freedom; those too are obvious on the horizon, if one looks.
The curse of the liar is of course, that he can trust no one else. And when that becomes general in a society, that society becomes dysfunctional and thereby, impoverished. Such are the Hope and Change toward which our present leaders, that we have selected, are conducting us. Or so it seems to us. If we are missing something, feel free to point to it. We recall a time when Boy Scouts were respected, not a joke. Perhaps we are past our “sell by” date?