An Essay on the Death of Idealism and the Rise of Pragmatism

An Essay on the Death of Idealism and the Rise of Pragmatism

Is there a definite right, or wrong, to every question involving human law and morality? If there is, the people of any particular society embracing this philosophy, called idealism, come to realize over time that there are things permitted by statutory and natural law (man-made rules and rules of nature), and things not permitted by those same constraints. They possess a clear understanding of the society’s behavioral expectations. If not, any human society becomes lost in a turbulent sea of ambiguity and indecision, which ultimately leads to a pragmatic disintegration of order and societal purpose. For example, is it proper for one to lie and to deceive other human beings by lying? Most people will, right off the bat, say no, that lying is consummately bad. Every human civilization that has endured over time has eschewed lying. Isn’t it also clearly stated in one of the Ten Commandments that one should not bear false witness? Yet, if placed in current situations where telling the truth will, either, result in dire punishment or lucrative reward, most of those same people will, if they are not true blue idealists, have second and, possibly, third thoughts about being totally honest. Say, perchance, you and two others (Americans) are sitting in a room in Juaraz, Mexico, when angry men in police uniforms and guns burst-in and demand to know who in the room is American, because anyone American is going to be executed. Are you going to be honest and proudly stand-up? Most people in that situation will lie through their teeth to keep from dying. Or take another situation where you are in a store paying for an item and hand the cashier a five dollar bill for a two-dollar purchase. A moment later she hands back change to you for a twenty dollar bill. When she hands you the improper change, she asks you if that is correct, and you say, either, yes, take the change, and leave the store, or inform her that she’s given you too much money.

Sadly, most Americans will, given those options, choose the former, which entails both lying and stealing. What is that I hear you saying? Is it, not me, I’m honest? Well, currently there’s a better chance for the average ten-year old to do the right thing than the average adult. But let’s put it in another different context. Let’s say that you are an American tourist in Kuwait, sitting in a cafe, when fundamentalist Islamists rush in with guns wanting to know if you are Christian, because if you are you will die. Will the average Christian deny Jesus to save his skin? I will just say that it is much more difficult for a true Christian to deny Jesus than to deny being American, or lie about the change a cashier gives back; but, in the 21st Century, pragmatism, instead of idealism, has become the philosophy of choice for most American citizens regardless of religious belief. This simply means that, despite what you say you believe and hold dear to your heart, you will ultimately behave according to the rule that the desired end-result of any action, (legal or illegal, moral or immoral) justifies the means used to achieve it.

Going a bit further, to the substance of a socially legalized moral rule such as "thou shalt not steal," you find that pragmatism still, today, rules the ultimate behaviors of normal human beings. Stealing happens in nuclear families all of the time. Sons and daughters steal from fathers and mothers. Brothers steal from sisters, and visa versa, and most familial theft is done with impunity. That is, the police aren’t usually called, and no one is arrested, convicted, and sentenced to jail. Stealing in most families is considered an offense, but not a crime. On the other hand, it takes much more temerity to walk into a store and, ignoring the shoplifting signs, stick items in your pocket and walk out without paying for them. Why is this? Why would a brother, desperately needing some money to pay-off a gambling debt, not be afraid to take five dollars from his sister’s wallet with no intention of returning it, but have a fear of shoplifting a two-dollar can of Coke from the nearby Safeway? Could it be a prevailing fear of punishment, if caught? Most normal people in the American society, since around 1920, have been ruled by the notion that ideals no longer exist or really matter, and that situational ethics, or moral compromise, generally rule life’s many diverse situations. That is, the exigent needs of the person dictate that the working philosophy of pragmatism, not hard and fast rules of morality or law, will guide the individual to obtaining satisfying end results. Even the most seemingly devout religionist in today’s American society may be, secretly, the most heinous violator of moral rules. A good example of this is Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. In the same fashion, the most affluent men and women pretending to be the bastions of civility, law, and justice may be the worst criminals who just haven’t yet been caught in their lies and deceit. Remember Richard Nixon, Spiro T. Agnew, Bill Clinton, and John Edwards. They thought that they wouldn’t be caught in their pragmatic immoral acts. Or, what about the little black book of DC madam, Deborah Jean Palfrey’s clients? Where is it now, and how many names of, supposedly, respectable men and women of power in the nation’s capital were listed on its many pages? Moreover, was her hanging death in Florida really a suicide? Was her death really investigated by law enforcement, or was it conveniently ruled a suicide for carefully designed pragmatic reasons by the same people who were listed in Palfrey’s book?

History has sadly revealed that pragmatism, by design, has subdued constitutional idealism in America. Over the past nine decades, the underhanded lies and deceit of those few men and women of the federal government, banking organizations, and the wealthy seven percent of the nation, who have sold their souls to the devil for power and money, have fueled the awful changes that have systematically occurred. Call them controlling plutocratic oligarchies within an apparent republic if you will. In 1958, J. Edgar Hoover wrote a book entitled "Masters of Deceit," in which he said that Americans should worry most about the designs of Soviet communism, and its threat to the American way of life. The widely-read book, and many others like it, were successful, from 1945 until 1990, in distracting American citizens away from the real menace to their way of life, Keynesian economic theory (Fabian socialism) and its application by the federal government for the subversion of the American Constitution in the ultimate formation of a nation geared to a global economy and an eventual one-world government. While the masses were looking for communists behind every bush during what was called the Cold War, presuming that their representatives and senators were doing the best for them in DC, the federal government was working overtime to create an eco-political system with greater tyranny than that which was imposed on the American colonies by King George III. Alas, this perpetual cycle of governmental change seems to be the way of all humanity, and has nearly run its course in the United States of America. Before long, a "new world order" will be enforced for an indefinite period of time, which will completely replace constitutional government with an eco-political regime that will be as far from the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States as heaven is from hell. There, in the depths of despotism, the people will remain until a bloody counter-revolution is fomented, despotism decried, and freedom, liberty, and natural law reclaimed. And how old is the American republic? It is only 231 years old, but comprised of a sheepishly duped citizenry, the majority of which are being led with smiles on their faces to eco-political oblivion and slavery by those they trust, who have hypocritically sworn fidelity to constitutional ideals. The words of Taylor Caldwell, in her book, "Ceremony of the Innocent," are very appropriate in this context. "The sweet smell of money has driven millions of good men to the most appalling heights of treachery, madness, betrayal, and greed. It has turned potential saints into devils, and has more crucifixions in its name than have ever been recorded." One would do well to remember the old aphorism coined by Samuel Johnson, which describes human behavior very well, and take stock of it. "The road to hell is paved with grand delusions that are generally, and incorrectly, construed as good intentions."

Related video: Pragmatism – A truly American philosophy


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