Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Philosophy Reading Response #1; John Dewey and 'Individualism'

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Ventriloquist’s Sermon

There is an odd bifurcation in American society between what we state as our beliefs and what we actually practice. We have constructed around us a monied society, where “to the victor belong the spoils”. In America, usually the more brutal and cunning a businessperson is, the more rewarded they are. Thus, from a Darwinian perspective, we should (in theory) be praising greed and ruthlessness as our highest virtues. Instead though, we loudly claim to hold the religious precepts of selflessness and kindness as our ultimate principles. And, while the difference between what we say and what we do is very interesting, the more important aspect to contemplate is why there is a separation at all. While scientific progress has advanced our industrial capabilities rapidly, it would appear that our moral schemas have become calcified in response, ingraining themselves even deeper within our collective mentality.

We are currently experiencing this uniquely American cognitive dissonance while debating universal healthcare. On one hand, as a primarily Christian society, we claim that we should help those who cannot help themselves, by taking care of the poor, the elderly and sick. In truth though, we resist any changes to the current system, citing arguments that a change would not only take away from the bottom line of major (and highly profitable) corporations, but that any modification would also allow unemployed freeloaders (or worse yet, illegal immigrants) to have an advantage that gainfully employed Americans should be privy to alone.



Selflessness, kindness, compassion, justice all evolved because in social animals they are often more effective than greed etc.. The stereotype of the individualist, unscrupulous businessman is actually far less dangerous than the more realistic idea of the cooperative elite who consider themselves as different and above the rabble and cooperate with each other to maintain their status.

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