September 14, 2019

Politicians vs The Rule of Law

In Greek mythology, Pandora received a beautiful jar as a wedding present from the gods. With it came the command not to open it. Driven by curiosity, Pandora disobeyed the command and opened the jar, causing evil to escape and spread across the earth with no hope of containment.

In the modern political version of this story, Pandora is represented by foolish politicians and activists, and her jar is represented by their mouths, which emit mindless utterances that have produced dangerous and in many cases irreparable consequences.

Nowhere in our time is there a better example of mindless and irresponsible utterances than those concerning the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Those utterances came not just from media commentators but also from such influential individuals as New York Mayor Bill DiBlasio, political activist Al Sharpton, President Barack Obama, and Attorney General Eric Holder. Each made statements that at very least implied that police officers in general engage in killing black people for racist motives.

Their statements intensified black communities’ suspicion of police officers and of the entire criminal justice system. Then when grand juries did not deliver indictments in the two cases, the suspicion triggered outrage that exploded into protest marches, the looting and destruction of businesses, and the murder of several police officers around the country.

Whether the mythological Pandora apologized to the world for letting evil loose upon it is not known. But the politicians and activists certainly haven’t apologized, at least not to date. In fact, in some cases they have acted as if they have nothing to apologize for.

This refusal to take responsibility for one’s words is not limited to politicians and activists, of course. It has become epidemic in this country for a number of reasons, most of them related to the Humanistic Psychology that has permeated our culture since the 1960s. Here are some key ideas that psychology’s spokesmen espoused and American culture embraced. (See my book Corrupted Culture for a detailed examination of the impact of that embrace.)

Feelings are a better guide than reason in meeting the challenges and issues of life.

We each create our own truth and reality, so whatever we believe to be true is true, and no contrary evidence has any relevance for us, even evidence found in history, science, philosophy, or religion.

Self-criticism and the criticism of others serve no purpose because our opinions represent our personal wisdom and are not open to question. Moreover, criticism is harmful to our self-esteem.

When things go wrong, the fault never lies with us but with other individuals or society in general.

The behavior of New York Mayor DiBlasio, political activist Sharpton, President Obama, and Attorney General Holder clearly suggests that they have, consciously or unconsciously, embraced these notions.

Instead of analyzing the Brown and Garner incidents to determine if racism had been a factor, the politicians followed their feelings, assumed that it was a factor, and conveyed this assumption publicly. Later, when two grand juries exonerated the police, the politicians offered no support to the juries but instead gave the impression that justice had not been served. Finally, when public outrage led to protest demonstrations, looting, the destruction of property, and violence against the police, the politicians did not acknowledge that their statements had provoked the violence, but instead blamed others, notably the journalists who reported the events.

It is troubling that the patently false notions about self, truth, and reality promoted by Humanistic Psychology became embedded in American culture. But it is even more troubling to see government officials embracing those false notions in a way that undermines the rule of law.

Copyright © 2015 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

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Written by
Vincent Ryan Ruggiero

VINCENT RYAN RUGGIERO, M.A., is Professor of Humanities Emeritus, State University of New York, Delhi College. Prior to his twenty-nine year career in education, he was a social caseworker and an industrial engineer. The author of twenty-one books, his trade books include Warning: Nonsense Is Destroying America and The Practice of Loving Kindness. His textbooks include The Art of Thinking and Beyond Feelings, both in 10th editions and available in Chinese as well as English, Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues, and A Guide to Sociological Thinking. His latest book, Corrupted Culture: Rediscovering America's Enduring Principles, Values, and Common Sense, is available at Amazon and in bookstores. Professor Ruggiero is internationally recognized as one of the pioneers of the Critical Thinking movement in education. Earlier in his career, he published essays in a variety of magazines and journals, including America, Catholic Mind, The Sign, The Lamp, and Catholic World.

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Written by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero
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