Tuesday, March 24, 2009

US 'in need of a moral bailout'

Narcissism fuels drive and ambition, a desire to be recognized for one's accomplishments, a sense that one's life has meaning and importance. The problem occurs when narcissism becomes the primary principle of someone's personality... Narcissists are stuck with the emotional development of 5-year-olds... Because of narcissist's inability to control their own emotions, they unconsciously experience the world as constantly threatening -- thus the tendency toward wild overreactions to the slightest perception of criticism.

The moral purpose of a man's life is the achievement of his own happiness. This does not mean that... human life is of no value to him and that he has no reason to help others in an emergency. But it does mean that he does not subordinate his life to the welfare of others, that he does not sacrifice himself to their needs, that the relief of their suffering is not his primary concern, that any help he gives is an exception, not a rule, an act of generosity, not of moral duty, that it is marginal and incidental.

The great scholars of capitalism, from Adam Smith to John Maynard Keynes, understood full well that a functioning economic system depends not on greed, but on moral sentiments and an acceptable social contract between the rich and the rest of society. The rich can make money, of course, but they must not flaunt it or consume it frivolously. Instead, they must invest their wealth for social benefit... It is only the dangerously arrogant rich or the servants of the rich who believe that morals don't matter in the great matters of finance.

We have trashed our universities, turning them into vocational factories that produce corporate drones and chase after defense-related grants and funding. The humanities, the discipline that forces us to stand back and ask the broad moral questions of meaning and purpose, that challenges the validity of structures, that trains us to be self-reflective and critical of call cultural assumptions, have withered. Our press, which should promote such intellectual and moral questioning, confuses bread and circus with new and refuses to give a voice to critics who challenge the pernicious superstructure of the corporate state itself. 

We kneel before a cult of the self, elaborately constructed by the architects of our consumer society, which dismisses compassion, sacrifice for the less fortunate, and honesty. The methods used to attain what we want, we are told, are irrelevant. Success, always defined in terms of money and power, it its own justification. The capacity for manipulation is what is most highly prized. And our moral collapse is as terrifying, and as dangerous, as our economic collapse.
Image source here.