OUR NATION IS FOUNDERING–HOW DID WE GET HERE?: A BRIEF HISTORY of POLITICAL ETHICS (OR NOT…)
The high principles upon which our nation was founded reached a peak during the years during and immediately following World War II. The war effort had united Americans in a common patriotism that was key to an Allied victory over the fascist and imperial powers threatening world peace in both Europe and the Far East. A period of prosperity and progress followed as the military returned to contribute to the growing economy. Life was good. I know. I was there.
The generation coming of age during the 1960s (many of them children of those who fought the war) benefited in a big way from that period of growth, to the point where they felt free to live the life they wished for themselves and to make their feelings public to those who had grown it. When aggression threatened the Far East, America was again drawn into war, but our common patriotism had deteriorated from an attitude of pulling together to the ‘60s Generation’s general feeling of ‘me first.’ Flag-burning and anti-war demonstrations were commonplace; the war effort was diluted (along with the quality of college education), political correctness was creeping into the system, and America failed to achieve victory. This had a devastating effort on our nation’s solidarity that continues today. Life was not quite so good (I was there, too).
The following discussion dealing with Political Ethics can be corroborated by even cursory research:
Our domestic solidarity had already been threatened beginning in the 1920s by a movement started in Europe by a group of German Jews following the humanistic socialist theories of Karl Marx that directly challenged traditional aristocratic authority. Marxist ideas spawned the Institute for Social Research (the Frankfurt School) in Germany in the early 20th Century in response to a perceived need to spread communism. (Whereas Western thought supports the individual, in communism all valid ideas are professed to come from The State.) The Frankfurt School came to New York in the 1930s and California in the ’40s, finding a convivial home at the University of Wisconsin-Madison along the way. It initially employed Sigmund Freud’s psychological conditioning methods in an attempt to dislodge the structures of traditional Western society by promoting the idea that certain of its beliefs are disrespectful of others and must be tempered to atone for past inequities and injustices. The immediate result was the birth of Political Correctness, a cancer which has grown ever since.
PC’s foundation lies in the Frankfurt School’s Critical Theory, a term not embodying critical thought so much as criticism itself. Based on Marx’s underlying thesis that “all history is about which groups have power over which other groups,” its goal was to combine social theory, philosophy, economics and cultural criticism in its behalf. Its framework includes Deconstructionism, an outgrowth of the “philosophy of language” born of the 18th Century Enlightenment that removes meaning from existing text, reinserting another meaning of current choice. (It amounts to one’s being told by the ‘enlightened’ elite what one thinks, a simplistic but correct description of the work of Jacques Derrida). Eventually critical theory abandoned its German idealistic roots and morphed into American pragmatism, a line of thought appealing to the 60s Generation.
This modern political thought was manifested in an increased development of the liberal ethic into Progressivism, an ideology claiming that knowledge is only achieved with empirical evidence—that reason alone is not the criterion. That reason had survived at least 2500-years of human development resulting in the modern world was of no matter—feelings would replace fact as the criterion for progress. Social organization and technology alone could improve the human condition—individual freedom is not required—and the Constitution could be re-interpreted at will. Big changes were in the making.