Few subjects, in any civil society, rival the importance of identifying those whom one can actually trust. All political, economic & social, institutions depend upon the trustworthiness of those who play determinative roles in the conduct & working of those institutions. This may seem so obvious that the reader will wonder why we even make the point; but the pursuit of protection against the untrustworthy has been a principal pursuit of the more benevolent leaders & philosophers, throughout history. It was the motivation for the unique structures of our Federal Constitution; for the careful delineations of function within that Constitution, as for the checks, balances & specific limitations provided.
Our purpose, here, is to inquire as to how one may determine whom to trust in America's public affairs; in her educational institutions; in her news media & written commentary? Our conclusion is that the best approach must start with an effort to identify the attributes of the untrustworthy--by a process of elimination--by deductive rather than inductive reason. While not perfect, this approach will at least greatly narrow the field from which selection may be considered. How, then, do we identify attributes of the untrustworthy?
While many attributes of the untrustworthy--as of the less trustworthy--are obvious, those which may come to mind first, if one has never thought too deeply about the nature & needs of an ongoing civil society, may not be those most relevant to America--or other Western nations--in this first decade of the new Millennium. Disciplines vital to the public trust will parallel those sought in a private employee, business partner, spouse or confidant; but such parallels can also mislead. Our point requires a very particularly focused analysis.
The primary duties of one, offering leadership in an ongoing civil society, involve both multi-generational interests & pursuits; the needs of a people, growing out of a context of varied interests, challenges, beliefs & events, on a scale almost incomprehensively more complicated than the immediate (single generation) needs of any business partnership; vastly more complex than the multi-generational challenges facing any family--even without acknowledging the present, tragic but real, deterioration in the recognized multi-generational needs & function of the American family.
To demonstrate the dilemma, in identifying more significant attributes of the untrustworthy, consider the fascination--both of the media & competing politicians--with any evidence of personal scandal or corruption. This may distract & amuse. Yet history would suggest that the most serious damage to our institutions has come, not from personal weakness or general character flaws, but from a propensity to rationalize destructive policy for purposes claimed to be idealistic. Someone stealing even relatively large amounts, from a public treasury, does far less damage than one who undermines the multi-generational birthright of a nation by sabotaging its legal, cultural & moral institutions--in fact its heritage--however cleverly such miscreant may seek to make that betrayal sound altruistic. (Tolerating a "Boss Tweed" may be scandalous; tolerating a Vidkun Quisling, John Maynard Keynes, or one of the others discussed in our Chapter on "Myths & Myth Makers" in the Debate Handbook, or in our essay on the "A & Q Personality," may be suicidal.)
Guile, intellectual dishonesty or stupidity, when reflected in rationalizations for the corruption of a nation's fundamental principles & heritage, are far greater threats to a people's future than the more overt & obvious character flaws that make men lie or steal. As we seldom elect known criminals to office, or even award them with Academic tenure, the principal threat is manifest. If America is to survive in any recognizable form, we must identify the rationalizers; those who--whether for fear of other malefactors, envy of those who succeed in traditional society, personal greed, or simply (as the Courtiers in the Hans Christian Andersen classic) praise the "Emperor's New Clothes," because they have been so corrupted by the intellectually naked (in America, Marxist influenced pseudo-intellectual poseurs ["Mipips"]) that they believe such adulation necessary to demonstrate "intellectual enlightenment"--find verbal "reason" to embrace Leftist fantasy.
The less trustworthy, then, are those who manage not to understand that the Constitution was written--tightly written in most particulars--precisely that it not be altered, via verbal gamesmanship, by those who seek to change our institutions for factional gains or ideological pursuits. It matters not whether the rationalizer has become so conditioned to the process, has so degenerated, that he consciously believes his own rationalizations. A self-hypnotized idiot may be no better than a "Manchurian candidate."
Still less trustworthy--little better than the totally psychopathic--are those who rationalize a belief in the equality of human potential. That, for whatever reason, they embrace fantasy, is easily demonstrated. No person ever sat in a classroom, where any two children had the same mental aptitudes--save in cases involving identical twins. No child ever competed on the play ground, in any athletic contest, where all players had the same physical aptitudes, save perhaps in that situation with identical twins. At least in the subconscious data bank of each of us, is clear recognition of the inequality of man or woman; of the unique nature of each acquaintance. We may see similar patterns, to be sure--a multitude of distinct types--but closer examination reveals that, even within each pattern of attributes, each acquaintance is unique.
For decades, it was convenient to pseudo-Conservatives--often "Mipips" pretending to be patriots--who never challenged the absurd egalitarian mantra, nor looked too closely at a Constitution they claimed to defend--to attack the trustworthiness of a drunken Teddy Kennedy, driving a young girl home. Bill Clinton's personal behavior, where young women were concerned, became fair game for those of like ilk. But what of George W. Bush's pretense of moral rectitude, when he pushed through Ted Kennedy's Federal educational agenda under the guise of "no child being left behind?" Certainly Bush's own experience would have taught him the impossibility. Either he paid attention to that experience, yet deliberately sought to waste money, raising utterly absurd hopes, or he did not. In either alternative--whether fool or rationalizer--he was unfit to be trusted with the office he abused.
With respect to the Constitution, George W. Bush claimed to be a "strict constructionist." Yet there is nothing in the carefully drafted language of the Constitution that authorized any Federal role in local education, outside Federal territories. Did Bush even feel a need to explain a claimed Constitutional basis for his program? Did it really matter whether he simply chose to look the other way, rather than seek Constitutional authority, or deliberately sought to usurp power? He obviously dishonored a sworn duty.
Did it really matter, whether the Courtiers praising the The Emperor's New Clothes, had simply lied in order to impress their associates, or were totally convinced that they saw what was not there? Whether deliberately bearing false witness or totally delusional, there is no way that such flawed judgment deserved the continued trust of anyone. Of course, the story is fiction. But American politics--American higher education--the American media--have all become totally immersed in a fantasy as ludicrous as that which Andersen captured so well in his allegory. The pretense of human equality, as a political goal, is no more rational than the pretense of raiment. All it has accomplished has been to make individuals ignore traditional pursuits--what they do well--in favor of resentment, envy & looking to others to relieve them of responsibility. We ignore entrenched delusion to our destruction.
The reason--whether the guile of demagogues, the intellectual dishonesty of poseurs, those seeking special advantage from the abuse of power, pure, old fashioned, stupidity that cannot question the rationalizations of demagogues & poseurs, or total indifference to truth--that so many have trusted the rationalizers, is not so important as recognition that they are, in fact, untrustworthy. It is time--indeed a century past time--we understood the concept of Trust: Whom we can, and whom we dare not Trust!
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