Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sex and the shitty

By Carl

I think it's about time to weigh in on a topic that's troubled me all of my adult life, but has been crystalized this week with the scandal surrounding soon-to-be former
New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.

The topic is morality.

I think we can all agree, left and right, that the fundamental struggle for humanity is the balance between individual rights versus society's betterment.

I think we can all agree, as well, that no one gets it right. Or wrong, for that matter.

We liberals are often accused of situational ethos: what's good for the goose is not always good for the gander, depending on the circumstances.

In other words, we strive to protect the individual against the "tyranny of the majority," to use Mill's phrase.

The right wing would claim that they uphold society's rule over the "tyranny of the minority".

Well, neither side has either a lock on morality or a lock on consistency, which is where the "details devil" lies.

For example, the right wing hasn't eaten its own when it comes to Senators David Vitter or Larry Craig, two men who also committed adultery and committed crimes in executing those adulteries (Craig's was not a felony, to be sure). Yet the right wing sure was quick to level calls for Spitzer's resignation.

Similarly, rather than admit that the campaign Hillary Clinton has run is a
winning strategy, liberals have painted her as a "Republican lite," as if there was some moral good to come out of running a clean campaign in the primaries, and then gearing up for the general election in a defensive shell.

Myriad other examples abound, of course, and I'll probably include them as this piece goes on, but let me jump ahead a bit.

The fundamental flaw in American society is this: the economic system and the "morality" system are nearly diametrically opposed.

America was created in a Judeo-Christian form, where fair play and compassion for one's neighbors was tantamount.

The American economy was founded in a morally disinterested theory that the individual, striving for his self-betterment, would contribute to society's overall welfare. Yesterday, I wrote how that evolved into a society where
government had to step in to fix deeply entrenched social problems, despite the supposed counterbalance of America's moral code.

See, the thing is, money talks. It is objective, easy to measure, has great utility for everyone, thus makes the perfect vehicle for measuring the progress of a nation.

We talk often about the
Gross Domestic Product.

When was the last time you heard someone talk about the Gross Moral Product of the country?

It is against this backdrop that morality plays out: my morality and your morality and the right wing morality all must compete head-to-head in an environment where winners are easily found.

You know the bumper sticker: "He who dies with the most toys, wins."

In truth, whatever moral code we have is pretty arbitrary, despite the facade that it is strict, Christian, and widely enforced by society.

It's an extension of the dichotomy you raised in Sunday School: Thou shalt not kill, but people fight wars in God's name, or kill abortion doctors, or bomb Federal offices in Oklahoma City.

There's always a loophole.

This "loopholic morality" becomes magnified the closer you come to real power: it's moral for George Bush to lie us into war, some would say, but not moral for Eliot Spitzer to pay to get laid.

(I'm disregarding the legal aspect of the case: a bad, immoral law should not be obeyed anyway.)

I've even heard liberals make the claim that it was OK for Bill Clinton to have a mistress but for Eliot Spitzer to pay for sex was wrong.

Actually, I thought of a rationale for Spitzer that made pretty good sense to me: by not getting involved with "that (generic) woman," Spitzer avoided dragging another person into his sordid psyche, but also he could portray this as a business decision to have sex for relaxation or release or because he was kinky and his wife wouldn't do whatever it was he needed, like, say diapering.

Getting caught with either a mistress or a hooker would be a bombshell, true, but there's an implied contract, I think, in hiring a hooker. It may not be enforceable like attorney-client privilege, but a hooker who blabs about her (or his) clients will soon find he has no clients at all.

All this leads to the point of this post: sexual mores.

If Bill Clinton made the rest of the world, particularly Europe, embarassed for us, what do you think the reaction is about this story in, say, England, which 50 years ago had it's own
"showgirl" scandal, complete with Soviet espionage thrown in as a bonus?

Not surprisingly, they focus on
Sptizer's hypocrisy, being known as a straight-arrow, no nonsense prosecutor. There is something to be said about applying one standard of behavior for yourself and then a different one for others. It's not about sex, it's about standards.

Trouble is, those standards, in this instance, wouldn't exist if it wasn't about the sex. There's the rub.

America has a pretty repressed attitude about nearly all things sexual. Most people find something someone else does abhorrent, deviant, and therefore immoral behavior.

Me, I'm pretty tolerant. I don't care if you're an athletic handsome Lothario who travels the country on business getting laid in every town by frustrated housewives, or a fat ugly bisexual domme wannabe who swaps partners like I'd swap baseball cards, that's OK.

I'd like to think that's the way most people are, but I have a sneaking suspicion, based on how sex gets manipulated and perverted by people for other advantages, that I'm in a minority.

Take the woman who gets pregnant, marries the father, then a few years later kicks him out and demands alimony and child support. Sex was a weapon.

Take the guy who demeans his rival by saying to a potential date that he's a womanizer because he has a lot of female friends who find him attractive. "Fear of sex" as a weapon: "Look at all those chicks around him! Look at how he flirts with them!"

Or just look at the gay marriage struggle. Or the abortion fight. Or the persecution of any politician who has even the slightest hint of impropriety in his demeanor.

In this atmosphere, does it surprise anyone that there are women and men, mostly women, who make a pretty good living by indulging sexual fantasies? We're terrified to ask for anything in a relationship that doesn't involve a man, a woman, and a horizontal space.

And does it surprise anyone that, in a society where normal sexual urges are repressed, channeled, and put into boxes like "marriage", "commitment", "romance", and "fidelity", that people will not only stray, but having strayed and found it exciting and good, stray even further? To the point of self-destruction in "polite" society?

I wonder when America is going to grow up?

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

5 Comments:

  • "America was created in a Judeo-Christian form, where fair play and compassion for one's neighbors was tantamount."

    Not that I in any way disagree with your post, but I think that the people who wrote our laws were neither Jews nor particularly Christian and in fact many of them expressed a particular antipathy toward Christianity. Of course compassion and fair play are more fundamental to Confucianism and Buddhism and perhaps even Taoism than they are to Western traditions.

    If I'm touchy on this subject, it's only because, as you know, enemies of secularism seek to threaten our experiment in democracy by substituting Christian dogma and the alleged Judeo-Christian basis for our laws is the fallacious excuse. In fact the entire notion that Jewish and Christian concepts of law are not mutually inimical is wrong in my opinion, but I'll save that for another place and time.

    Good post!

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 12:09 PM  

  • Capt,

    Most of the FFs would cop to being Deists.

    By Blogger Carl, at 12:18 PM  

  • "The current administration's record of torture, lying, law-breaking, fiscal profligacy, and subversion of world community institutions."

    I agree whole-heartedly, but my more centrist friends (not Repubs, but just not as progressive as I) will challenge me for specific examples when I say similar things.

    Could you perhaps lead me to a site which really has the specifics? Some of these people are my good friends despite political differences, so I don't want to offend them by getting into a shouting match. Sometimes, something just well-written by a reputable source, and not filled with conclusory statements, is the most helpful tool to persuade others.

    By Blogger For Obama '08, at 2:47 PM  

  • Excellent post, Carl. You put into words what many of us have been thinking throughout this whole messy, media-driven affair.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 4:28 PM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:42 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home