Polioudakis: Religious Stances
08 Decent and Indecent People
Lucy Brown from “Peanuts”: “I love humanity, its people I hate”.
This chapter defends decent people and attacks the glamorizing of indecent people. It does not support a return to prudery. It supports a natural non-dogmatic sense of decency. Decency is not the property of the Left or Right. Both the Left and Right extol their versions of indecent people while denigrating simple decent people. This mistake hurts everyone in general and hurts particular groups such as ethnic groups. Do not confuse my idea of “decent” with the Christian-Muslim “saved” or Hindu-Buddhist “enlightened”, and do not confuse “indecent” with “damned” or “unenlightened”. Indecent people are “lost”.
In his novel “Darkness at Noon”, about a disgraced Soviet official, Arthur Koestler looks at decency and indecency. He sees that indecency makes us demonic and makes the world hell. Adopting any dogma uncritically is a broad road to indecency. The author Charles “Bucky” Bukowski believed the dogma that goodness hides below a scruffy surface while outer politeness means inner badness, so he staggered through a long quest to find decency in broken characters, naughtiness, bad decisions, drink, sex, and the underbelly of society. He did write well. The movie “Bar Fly” is roughly about him. Most detective fiction is about outsiders who are superficially indecent but inwardly deeply decent; they work in an immoral world cursed with big secrets; in it, hypocritical superficially upright people are all really indecent. The singer Jimmy Cliff went from romanticizing bad boys to appreciating simple decency. Listen to “The Harder They Come” and compare to later work. At first, the character “Rudy” seems like a kick-ass “stick it to the man” hero until we see that Rudy does more harm than good. Listen to the 1970s post-Ska band “The Specials” for a satire of stereotypes and for appreciation of the decent man Nelson Mandela. In their own silly ways, the movies “Enchanted” and “Clueless” are about the right mix of simple decency with reality. The movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is a prayer for the triumph of decency.
Is and Is Not.
Decency is not prudery, prissiness, slavishly following arbitrary conventions, and being shocked by even a small misstep. Decency does not defend hurtful hypocrisy and hurtful social conventions. Decency is not the same as defending social order against all enemies. Indecency is not the same as freedom, honesty, getting in touch with deep Life, seeing through bad hurtful conventions, and struggling for justice in an unjust world.
I do not want to return to prudery. I dislike prudery. Not much has changed since the so-called prudish 1950s except we elevated some former “low life” types into dogmatic chicness. I am not a grumpy old man who sees the world “going to hell in a hand basket”. I try to look at facts without dogma blinders.
I know all this already: We all have a little badness and naughtiness, and that can be a good thing. We need both good Kirk and bad Kirk and both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. “To make an omelet, you have to break some eggs”. The poor fight the rich through small acts that seem like indecency. Some rebellion is justified due to unfairness and to the demise of nature; this rebellion can seem indecent; and indecent people use it to justify themselves. Social powers use the idea of decency for control, so sometimes we have to scuttle simplistic ideas of decency to get free. The American revolutionaries were rebel “bad boys”. Rule breaking, naughtiness, and badness have roles in art. Sometimes we need tough people to fight bad people. We need strong emotions, they can be useful, and strong emotions cannot always be good. Intoxication can be fun and useful. At times, you have to be cruel to be kind. The Golden Rule is not all sweetness. Indecency can be like creative irrationality. Fun is good in itself. The world is boring much of the time. Decency can be boring. A bit of naughtiness or badness can alleviate boredom for a while.
I am not against “all this”. I don’t want to put “all this” under another layer of prudery and hypocrisy. But we can’t live by inversions and half-truths. In this case, half-truths are lies worse than lies. We go too far the other way. We indulge. We glamorize indecency to cover our frustration and justify our indulgence. We enable indecency and indecent people. We denigrate decency.
We romanticize indecency because we don’t know what else better to do. We have no good ideas about how to run a society and save nature. We don’t see how decency can point down a better path, and we don’t see how to fight our way down the better path using energy from decency alone. If you can’t make the world better through decency, you can have fun with naughtiness, denigrate simple decency, and find rationalizations for your indecency.
I am sorry we can’t save the world with simple decency but that is still not an excuse to enable indecency and hurt decency. We can do better. We can blend decency, social order, personal expression, social critique, rebellion, and activism better.
The obvious answer is to be your self and respect decency, unless your self is an indecent asshole or a criminal. If it were that simple, I would not have to write. We need to look at what is indecent and decent, and then practice doing what we should have been able to do naturally in the first place, until we can do it as if it were natural.
I urge people to be as simply decent as they can with as little reliance on dogma as possible. Don’t try to be perfect. Don’t look down on simple decent people. Don’t romanticize, imitate, enable, or tolerate indecent people and indecent groups. Don’t try to prove yourself to glamorized chic indecent people. Be brave enough to be simply decent as best you can. Use your energy to understand real problems and work on them. If you do that, you don’t have to worry about making a few mistakes, you will do good, you will feel good, and, sometimes, accidentally you will be naturally decent.
I focus on: (A) simple decent people; (B) passably decent normal common people; (C1) indecent people who are indecent by nature; (C2) indecent people who make indecency a stance by invoking excuses of social injustice and a hard life; and (C3) indecent people who milk the system while looking polite. I do not dwell on C3 because space prohibits and because they do not affect daily life as much as C1 and C2. I do not dwell on fake prudish hyper-decent people because we already see through them. I overlook some egregious indecency such as sexual harassment and crime.
When I told this story simply before, people took the story to extol themselves as truly decent people and to condemn their un-friends as immorally indecent or as prudish-hyper-decent-moral-fake indecent. We are doubly good; they are doubly bad. So I now tell a longer story and give some history. The chapter comes in three parts. Part One is the main message. It stands alone. Part Two is historical and mythical background. Part Three is examples. You should read Part One. You can skip, or read, Parts Two and Three as you will.
The Ideology (Dogma) of Indecency.
Part Two explains the Ideology of Indecency but it helps to have a synopsis here. Americans think of rebels as the vanguard of truth and social justice, as the force of creative chaos now in our world. Rebels are Life. We think of all established order as hyper-prudish hypocritical stultifying Death, and as working to maintain unjust power and wealth. The common people are the unwitting dupes of power, wealth, and Death. We wrongly put decency on the side of Death. Life seems indecent outside but is decent inside no matter how indecent it seems outside. Death seems decent outside but really is indecent inside. The more indecent you seem outside, the more decent you are inside. The more decent you seem outside, the more indecent you are inside. To make yourself decent inside, act indecently outside. The more indecently you act outside, the more decent you are inside. To be a really good decent person inside, you have to be a rebel and externally indecent. Externally indecent people embody all the good traits that we really need, and only they do.
This is all dogma. While this dogma seems like mere extended teen rebellion, it is more than that. Now it is a widespread stance in American culture; a system of values; of presenting yourself in everyday social life; of what we expect of other people; and of how we assess people.
Most of this dogma is half-right, so mostly wrong. The dogma would be mostly harmless, and sometimes do some good, except that indecent people have seized on it as a tool. Indecent people fool otherwise moderately decent people because we are susceptible to bad dogma. So the dogma of indecency is bad. I don’t explain why we are susceptible to bad dogma.
Indecent people use the dogma of indecency and use guilt about social injustice to act out, get legitimacy, get stuff, benefits, power, protection, and state programs, and avoid punishment. They claim they are deeply decent inside by being indecent outside through clothes, music, art, and behavior. They add fear when guilt and legitimacy alone are not enough. We wrongly think obnoxious indecent people have a right to act that way because they might have been the victims of social injustice (C1) or might have had a hard life (C3). Indecent people put on the face of rebels advancing Life, creative chaos, and art, so as to cover their own deep indecency. They use bad dogma, guilt, and fear to cover being indecent. Normal people “buy” this excuse and accept being taken.
Some indecent people are adept at milking the system while looking good such as some professionals, business people, politicians, religious leaders, and activists (C3). These people are genuinely indecent but this chapter is not much concerned with them.
Before about 1980, using dogma to cover indecency was a tactic mostly of the Left and of ethnic, gender, and religious groups associated with the Left. Since 1980, the Right has vigorously adopted this strategy. Now we get fantasies of dominant stultifying Death-dealing Leftist Socialist hegemony, Conservative Rebels, and thuggish louts of the Right. We get dogma of the free market as the creative chaos of Life and of business people as the creative rebels of the market.
In reality, usually what you see is what you get. The large majority of people who seem indecent outside really are indecent inside too. You are not more decent inside because you put on a pose of indecency, rebel, tough guy who sees through the bullshit, or artist. The big majority of indecent people of Left and Right are simply loutish, inconsiderate, rude, loud, dirty, pushy, greedy, irresponsible, and liars. They are agents of Death. They are not creative chaos, not fun, and do not aid social justice. We excuse and thus enable indecent people. We have to stop letting guilt lead us to enable indecent people of either the Left or Right. To enable indecent people stands in the way of real social justice and real Life.
PART 1: DECENT AND INDECENT PEOPLE
(A) Decent People.
Decency is good. Decency is not a mistake or a mask for something sinister. Decency is not prudery. Decency is not social rigidity and Death. Decency is a big source of Life. Decency is nothing to be ashamed of.
There is no point in giving examples of decent people. A reader would not know the people in my life who are simply decent, and it would take too long to give their account. I do not know personally any public figures, so I have nobody in common with readers that I can be sure is simply decent. Think back on your own life to recall simply decent people. I cannot get across the feel for simple decent people by writing more. If you can develop a feel for them, that feel is the best guide for this chapter.
True simple naturally decent people see persons in all people and life in all animals. They value people, dignity, and nature. They are considerate by habit and on purpose. They follow the Golden Rule and “applies equally”. They see when a little gain for themselves causes a greater loss to the community, and forego their gain. They see when a little loss to themselves might cause greater gain to the community, and willingly take the loss. They don’t try to get away with much. They don’t think they are above rules. When they have to break rules, they expect to take the punishment. They have fun. They understand working hard to make the world better, and see that people with ability should use their ability. They do what they can. Decent people live by simple decency in the same way that a real soldier lives by honor without making a big deal of it. Decent people often are interesting. Simple decent people are a small minority.
Decent people are not superficial hypocritical moralists. Decent people see when bad acts cause hurt but decent people act more to help than to condemn. They don’t like immoral or indecent behavior but they aim their reaction more toward the effects rather than the instigator. They assess acts morally but, rather than condemn, they lead people to see the practical value or harm. Decent people are not judgmental, they just judge and they are just decent. They do not make a point of their own decency; often enough, they don’t even know they are decent. They lead by example.
Decent people usually are not too assertive but they are not wimps. Most decent people are tough both physically and mentally. They can “take it”. They have to be tough to be decent and still survive.
Some simple decent people are boring like plain applesauce, housewives in a 1950s sitcom, or a cartoon character – but few. Most decent people are like everybody else. They have ups and downs, foibles, temper fits, interests, passions, and stupidities. For a while, they can be fooled by ideologies. They do not have a direct line to God or the one true theology. The difference is that, when fooled, simple decent people revert back into decency as the default. They always return to decency, usually quickly. They have a center, the center holds, and they go back to the center naturally, gracefully, and without pretense. They might take a mulligan on a golf course but they don’t embezzle. They might drink too much at a party but they don’t persistently chase a neighbor’s spouse. They might gossip briefly but they don’t slander, and they make sure the truth is out there.
I have met simple decent people everywhere in every religion. They are among the best people in the world and are a jewel of God’s creation. The best people I have ever met were decent people working hard to make a better world. Many decent people are simple believers in their traditional fairth. Not all are religious. None are perfect. They are more interesting than average. Some are fascinating.
Simple decent people, and simple decency, can be ruined by bad dogma, bad society, bad upbringing, and bad laws. I wish this were not so, that God had made decency was impervious, but it is so. To hurt simple decent people and simple decency is one of the greatest crimes that can be done. The strangling of simple decency is one of the greatest tragedies of modern life.
(B) Normal Common Passably Decent People.
Most people are normal-common-passably decent. Normal people see decency, and usually follow it, but they don’t live by it in the sense that a real soldier lives by honor. Mostly, passable people are decent because it is easy enough and because human nature, including their own, overall is more moral than immoral. Those are good reasons. Passable people behave well enough to get along most of the time. They don’t like to let go of gains, they rationalize too much, try to get away with stuff sometimes but don’t make getting away with stuff a way of life, are lax about working hard to make a better world, but get the idea and do little bits for it now and again. They use their abilities for their own advantage rather than to make the world better. They understand rules, such as “do not cheat”, and know the common good, such as parks, clean air, and quiet; but they are easily tempted to break rules, and easily tempted to use up the common good.
Some people on the good end of normal feel the duty to defend decency, like the soldiers in the movie “A Few Good Men” or “Saving Private Ryan”. People on the good end of normal understand working hard to make a better world, and understand using their particular talents wisely. I cannot say if accepting these ideals moves a normal person into the category “simply decent” – I doubt it -- but accepting these ideals does make him-her special beyond other common people. Sometimes common people do extraordinary things, such as give a kidney or pull a dog out of a burning car, but that is not how they run daily life. I cannot say if doing some big extraordinary act makes you special but I doubt that too. It is still something to be proud of and happy about.
We cannot make ourselves into simple decent people. I am not a simple decent person. I am only normal partly decent passable. The best we can do is work hard to rise up to the good end of normal, help simple decent people, help decency everywhere in everyone, work to make the world better, not stupidly glamorize indecency, and fight indecency when it threatens good people and good society. That is a lot, more than enough for most of us. This chapter aims to help in that goal.
Normal common passably decent people need principles but they also need dogma, and therein arises a big part of the trouble. We are susceptible to stupid ideas such as chic indecency, Rebel Conservative, Postmodern Irony, bi-polar politics, voodoo economics, and nasty religion. Even smart normal common passable people, professionals and business people, are susceptible. That is part of real evolved human nature.
Normal people fear they will be taken for an insipid un-chic old-fashioned decent person, so they avoid appearing as a half-way decent person. They over-compensate. They value being chic and being clever above decency, and so pretend to be worldly wise. They need to imitate indecent people so they are not branded with the stigma of traditional prudery and so they can participate in the cool of naughtiness. Most people who think they are a little indecent, a little naughty, a little “bad boy” or “bad girl”, really are normal common passable people acting out for a while, as in the movie “Hall Pass”. All this is too bad not because it is bad but because it so silly. Their lives would be easier if they knew better.
When common people want to have some fun, they turn to naughtiness like booze, drugs, sex, cars and clothes. Common people (used to) feel they need an excuse to have fun, and feeling a bit naughty and indecent is the excuse. There is nothing too wrong with all this except, to excuse fun and naughtiness, common people buy into the dogma of indecency. Naughtiness is their way of being Alive. Life excuses fun, naughtiness, and indecency. When common people see the implications of their naughtiness for supporting the dogma of indecency, rather than back off, re-assess, and find better reasons for fun and even for naughtiness, they double down. “We are alive because we are naughty and we are naughty because we are alive.” They are trapped. To not feel trapped, they excuse and enable indecent people. “If they can do it, then so can I; if I can do it, so can they; and if I feel right about doing it, so can they.” Indecent people seize the opening, and we are off.
Common people need to feel justified. Rather than dig in, research issues, fight for good causes, and volunteer to help needy people, common people would rather be naughty rebels. Even if they do adopt a cause, they want a cause that helps them be naughty rebels. There is not much wrong with that stance except it leaves them ignorant about how the world really works, leaves good work undone, and leads common people to buy the dogma of indecency. Again, rather than back off and re-assess, they double down. They are trapped. To feel less trapped, they excuse and enable indecent people. “If I am a bit indecent as part of rebellion against injustice, then the indecency of indecent people also must be rebellion against injustice; if their indecency is rebellion against injustice, then my naughty rebellion must be against injustice too, and so justified.” Again, indecent people seize the opening.
I love fun, naughtiness, and a little rebellion. I wish I could buy nice clothes and a nice house. If I were young, I would chase some crazy women for a while. Sometimes I have worked on causes that made me feel good as a rebel. But none of this is any reason to excuse and enable real indecency. Stop thinking of indecency as chic rebellion and chic justification. You don’t need an excuse to have fun. If you want to get stoned, get stoned. If you want to feel justified, do your homework. If you want to help yourself and other people, give up seeking justification and simply act decently.
Even though normal common passable people are susceptible to bad dogma, they also usually shuck it off eventually. They don’t live according to bad dogma for too long. Unless bad dogma gives them a big consistent edge in daily competition with neighbors, normal common passable usually end up paying only lip service to bad dogma while acting passably decent and being all-around good neighbors, as Roman Catholics and Muslims have adopted birth control and abortion despite formal teaching. Normal common passably decent people usually don’t want to kill people of the wrong religion, race, or class for very long. Sometime in their twenties, they give up wanting to be a kick-ass biker or the glamorous star of their own reality show. They fall back into normal common passable decency eventually.
By falling back into normal common passable decency, normal people are an insurance policy for overall decency. They get us back to passable decency even if they don’t get us back to simple natural decency. If, like me, you are a common passable person, don’t get a big ego over the fact that your tendency to go back to happy ignorance saves the world from some grief. I don’t know if God planned it this way.
Even the limited extent and limited time that normal common passably decent people support the dogma of indecency is enough to keep the dogma going. It is enough to keep the cycle of self-delusion going. It is enough so children pick up the bad dogma from their parents. It is enough to enable indecency and indecent people. Because we don’t have a good acceptable alternative to the dogma of indecency, this is likely to be the case for the foreseeable future.
Normal common passable people help make the world interesting. They are not the only source of fun in the world but they are a big source. That idea is behind movies like “The Goonies”, “The ‘Burbs”, “E.T.”, “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, “Meet the Parents”, “Couples’ Retreat”, and “Knocked Up”. Normal common passably decent people do not usually interfere with other sources of interest such as pop culture, art, politics, science, and nature. Often they support them. If the world consisted entirely of normal common passably decent people it would be interesting enough but not as interesting as a world that had simple naturally decent people too. If we add indecent people, the world might be more interesting at times, but the added thrill is not often worth the pain.
(C) Indecent People in General.
Simply put, indecent people are the opposite of decent people. Indecent people are selfish, annoying, rude, immoral, obscene, tasteless, loud, louts, inconsiderate except when they are considerate to serve their own selfish ends, and make the world dirty. They are thugs, bullies, and “orcs”. Usually they are only aggravating minor thugs but sometimes they make it to the level of dangerous thugs. Indecency is not creative benevolent chaos. Indecency causes bad chaos. Goodness does not often come because of indecency but despite indecency. Indecency is almost always bad.
There are many kinds of indecency and indecent people. This chapter looks at only three.
This chapter does not describe people who are indecent through prudery, that is, through feigned hyper-decency, such as moralistic churchy people. This chapter does not describe the indecency that comes from “political correctness” (PC) of either the Left or Right. This chapter does not describe the indecency of power and wealth; you can go to the Tanakh and New Testament for that. Politics and religion abound in indecency; there is no use dwelling on it. I skip obvious criminals. Sexual harassment is indecent; I can only mention it. I don’t care about people of all genders who act slutty. Sluttiness is more symptom than cause, and is more an offense to taste than to decency; I find it silly. I don’t write about people who seduce a neighbor’s spouse. I don’t write about people who are harsh only to themselves or to other consenting adults but cause no harm in general. Nobody is hurt by the local drunk except the drunk, as on the old Andy Griffith Show; nobody is hurt by a “Goth” who extends the act into his-her twenties; and nobody is hurt by the neighbor’s kinky boots. I know people are hurt by drugs, including alcohol, and by violence, and that the hurting is often indecent, but I don’t go into it here.
The first kind of indecent people are indecent by habit or natural character. They are rude, loutish, and make bad neighbors.
The second kind of indecent people make indecency a stance. They get satisfaction from it. They use dogma as a cover for indecency. The most common covers are “rebellion as social critique” and “I have a hard life that makes me angry, lash out, and take”.
The third kind of indecent people are adept at politely milking the system. The tactic of politely milking the system is a big topic, so I mention these indecent people only briefly.
The three kinds of indecent people overlap. People who have a tendency toward indecency are good at using dogmas as tools. Thugs with an excuse, type two, make bad neighbors. Thugs with an excuse use their abilities to milk the system. Anybody who milks the system for long takes on the character of a thug even if he-she is polite on the outside. I don’t sort out the overlap.
Indecent people don’t see persons in people, don’t see life in animals, and don’t care about public good. They never sacrifice their gain for public good. They know that rules lead to greater good for everybody, and, indirectly, for themselves, but they don’t care. They are above rules except when they get caught. They are special and can do what they want.
Maybe the best short way to say it is that indecency is a kind of rude selfish betrayal. It betrays what we could be as people. It betrays our duty to self, others, society, and nature. It betrays how we should feel about people in general, people who need our help, and people who cannot fend entirely for themselves. It betrays the rules, values, and institutions that we set up to realize our best goals.
Loutish behavior betrays what it means to be simply human. Using the dogma of indecency betrays true ideas about chaos, society, creativity, life, and death. Using dogma as a tool betrays the ideas that lie behind the dogma and that intend to help everybody such as freedoms, rights, and responsibilities. Using dogma as a tool prevents people from looking at real problems such as unemployment and race. The people who deal in ideas do the same as people who use dogma but they push actions off onto other people so the people who deal in ideas don’t have to feel directly guilty. Half-truths are big lies, lies are bad, and lies are bad in an indecent way. The system should work for us, and especially it should work for people who don’t have their own power and wealth. People who milk the system for themselves destroy the idea that institutions work for us. They betray the idea that institutions guard and embody our values. They betray democracy, the church including non-Christian churches, schools, charities, and communities.
We should not fool ourselves. Indecent people are bad even when we can see their underlying humanity, their common bonds to other people and nature, their good points, and that they are useful in some ways. At some point, you are what you do. When we can, we should expose and resist them. If we can, we should get the authorities to help us control them. We should never excuse or enable them.
(C1) Indecent: Bad Character.
In daily life, the first group of indecent people usually causes the most harm. Bad neighbors, people who trash the local park, stay up late blasting an action movie, let their dog shit on your lawn or the apartment lawn, tell lies easily, dent your car, throw trash, cause havoc at the public pool, dress like cheap hookers of any gender, scare old people at the mall, jump lines, people who cause you grief so they can indulge the full extent of their tiny official power as bureaucrats, threaten to “get all up in your face”, and who pick fights, are all truly indecent and cause grief. Most people who are indecent by character think they are normal common passably decent people but they are not. They are indecent.
I wish I could get across how obnoxious and painful these people are but I can’t. I am sorry most of us have had enough experience with them so I don’t have to. I am sorry most of us, me too, are one of them sometimes. I am happy most of us are not like this by habit or character. Because most of us are not like this, we don’t have to feel guilty about disliking these people and about not putting up with them.
You cannot easily change their character but you can limit the damage. When you can, call them out. Shaming them won’t do much good but calling them out will get across to bystanders that there really is decency and indecency, and it matters. Don’t act like a prude but simply speak from the decency in your heart. Don’t call them out if you are afraid. When you can, get authorities to pass rules and get them to actually enforce the rules.
(C2) Indecent: Always an Excuse.
The second group of indecent people is thugs with an excuse. They use dogma to excuse themselves, manipulate others, and get others to enable them. These people do all the same indecent things as the first group, and more, but they have an excuse. Usually their indecency is obvious through bad manners and dress but not always. Even when they are polite on the surface, middle class, professional, or go to church on Sunday with their mommas, they are thugs with an excuse. This indecency has no particular political affiliation and comes out of no particular ethnic group. But, from about 1900 until now, most of these indecent people used ideas of the Left as the basis for their excuses, and we are more familiar with these people and that stance. After about 1980, they used ideas of the Right. These people sometimes act criminally. I don’t talk about criminality, so think of your own examples.
The two biggest excuses are (A) social injustice and (B) hard life. As with the Soviet officials in Koestler’s novel, these turn into dogmas that make people demonic. Any excuse will do. The real reasons these people are indecent is they “get off” on it and it gets them rewards. Usually the two excuses of “social injustice” and “hard life” go together. To paraphrase “West Side Story” they are “depraved on account of they are deprived”. If you “get off” on being indecent, it is easy to find some excuse, and the two excuses above are accepted by society. Indecent people with an excuse don’t really get the ideas behind social criticism but they learn quickly that they can use the ideas to manipulate, so they learn the right phrases and the right people to go to. They know their rights and they know everyone else’s responsibilities but they know nothing of the rights of other people or of their own responsibilities.
(C2A) Indecent: Social Injustice
The particular social injustice includes all the standard discriminations: age, gender, religion, ethnicity, economic, social class, geographic origin, etc. The indecency is similar despite the particular claim and the group using the claim so I don’t point out how a particular bias affects the kind of indecency common in any particular group.
The stance based on social injustice leans heavily on “us and them”. There are versions for people who think of themselves as on the bottom or the top. The two versions hardly differ except for who is in the group. I present the bottom version because it is the one that most Americans likely face and because the top version has been massively discredited for decades, in art and in the media, as the excuse of snotty fascist rich people. Even so, the top version is not dead, and people who milk the system while looking good (C3 below), and Rebel Conservatives, use it. I leave it to you to make up the top version with proper substitutions. The bottom version goes like this:
“Society is corrupt. We are victims of society. Really we are big benefactors of society behind the scenes because we work hard to clear the land, make it safe, build railroads, build cities, create art, tend the sick and old, make jobs for the poor; hold families together; give sexual and emotional gratification; run shops; run small business; we do all the shit hard work such as care for the old in homes and run offices; but we get no recognition or reward. We get paid less than we are worth. We have little security. We have no recognition for anything. We are cheated. Everyone else benefits from what we do but we do not benefit from what we do or from what they do either. We are the banished in Babylon.
The basic situation is “us the victims” versus “them the oppressors”. We are the outsiders and so we are the righteous rebels seeking justice, social justice, good social order, and LIFE. We are the people that God really loves. We have God’s grace inside. We know how to enjoy life and have fun as God wished. They are the dry, dead, unjust oppressors.
As victims of injustice, we cannot be biased in terms of race, gender, age, religion, etc. We see clearly what is going on. We are more than fair to others. ALL other groups are TOTALLY biased and never see clearly. All other groups, and everyone in them, is always unfair.
Advances in society come only out of creative chaos. Life comes only out of creative chaos. We often act disorderly, true, but we are the chaos that brings advances and goodness. We are the vanguard of Life. We are the only people who are the true vanguard of Life. We are Life. Whatever opposes us is hyper-rigid, hyper-decent, prudish, and Death.
All other groups, and all the people in other groups, disrespect us, secretly or openly. Half of what they say is open disrespect and the other half is secret disrespect. They disrespect us as persons and as members of our group. They disrespect what we do, say, our music, cars, fun, etc. The only reason they don’t openly disrespect us all the time is that they are afraid of us.
So, we have a right to an attitude. We have a right to be “bad ass”. We can (may) do what other people may not do. We can get back at oppressors in any way by any means. We are entitled to act out and to take advantage. We are entitled. We may take. We should take. We deserve it all. We deserve. The only reason we don’t have what we deserve is because other groups unfairly stops us – Jews, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, elitist intellectuals, socialist politicians, or big business. They are getting more than their share so we deserve what they have.
If we wish anything, including material good such as a TV or a service such as concerts in the street, then we have a right to that thing, and other people have a responsibility to give it to us. We have no duties to do anything for any other group. They cannot expect anything from us.
Half of what any person in our own group tells us is hand-me-down-lies from the people in power. All of what any person in any other group says is a trick to boss us around and keep us down. We can’t listen to what others say. We can’t listen to ideas about how the economy, society, or the world works unless those ideas get us what we want. Those ideas are all lies to talk us out of what we deserve. Ideas are lies. We have to trust our feelings. We have to trust our feelings of being screwed and needing to get back.
We are not like other groups and they are not like us. We can know them enough but they can’t know us at all. We have our culture and ways. We have our “thing”. We have our walk, talk, clothes, places, hair, and tats; they all show the power that we saved out of our oppression. We are entitled to our ways even if our ways are at odds with the mainstream of our own ethnic, gender, religious, or political group. You can’t impose your standards of sexism, racism, religious bias, or any other bias.
All groups have art that lets them express what it means to be human. But their art is limited by their bias and their need to protect vested interests. It is fake art, outmoded art, like seventy-year old people who still worship Elvis. Our art is the real expression of what it means to be human in our times for real living people like us. Even if our art seems obnoxious, startling, and loud, it is the true art. We have a right to our art no matter how offensive at any time and any place. Other people do not have a right to their art within our area. The same is true of our fun and their fun.
All other groups are prejudiced against us but we see reality clearly, see the other groups clearly, and see ourselves clearly. What looks like prejudice against others by us is our right response to the reality forced on us. We cannot be prejudiced.
We make other people feel guilt and fear so other people will enable us, excuse us, give us benefits, give us things, and do things for us. We know how to scare other people. Scaring other people is fun and it makes them do what we want. We carry a big chip on our shoulder. We make sure nobody else, in our group or out, disrespects us (“disses us”). We take half of what everybody says as insult. We use what people say as an excuse to get them as in the movies “Cab Driver” and “Goodfellas”.
Any attempt to shape what we do is really an attempt to dominate us even when other people cite public peace, order, decency, or the ultimate benefit of our group. We have a right to fight back and do what we want. We go against whatever other people tell us just because they tell us.”
Some specific acts these indecent people do are: They wear their pants with their butts hanging out. They wear skirts with half their butt crack showing. They wear clothes that are half-gangster but not gangster enough to there is no question or so they will get rousted by the cops. They blast loud non-music out of cars. They blast loud movies out of home brain-death entertainment systems. They throw cans, bottles, wrappers, boxes, and trash around. They “trash” on purpose. They do not clean up after using public parks and pools. They take as much as they can get at public events such as civic dinners, company parties, picnics, and distributions of school supplies even when they are employed and have a good salary. They drink too much, drink in public, use drugs too much, and use the wrong drugs. They race cars and motorcycles on the streets. They date rape and just plain rape. The men coerce women into sex even if it is not out-and-out rape. The men impregnate women without caring about the baby. The girls get knocked up at age fifteen for a lot of bad reasons that I don’t go into here. Both men and women beat up women to control women. The men don’t take care of their children. They threaten people when people don’t look scared enough. They bully people at work and in public places. They mug people. They steal. They get in fights with their friends. They get in fights period. They fight dogs and cocks. They torture dogs. They beat up queers (“gay bashing”) or “hippies” or “yuppies”. They get in fights with people from other ethnic, religious, or gender groups. They ruin the scene at bars and clubs. They carry guns and get in shootouts at bars and clubs. They shoot people in parking lots. They gang up on people. They gang up on people to beat them up. They extort money from small businesses and from vulnerable people such as vendors, prostitutes, and strippers. They are gangster wannabes, and they sometimes graduate to real gangster. A person doesn’t have to do all, or even many, of these things to be indecent. All it takes is the attitude and to do a few.
When indecent people use “social critique and rebellion” as a cover for selfish indecency, in addition to betraying humanity and good ideals, they betray all the good causes that are trying for something better and they betray the part of us that wants to tell the difference between a good-cause-with-truth versus a lie. When eco-activists put spikes in trees, that act is not social protest but indecency. When men say that bullying women “is in our culture, and you cannot judge us from the outside” that is not political correctness, it is selfish manipulative indecency. When young people start fights in shopping malls, that is not social protest over indulgent consumerism, social critique about what poor people cannot afford, or free speech, it is selfish indecency.
(C2B) Indecent: Hard Life
I cannot draw the line between what is a hard life and what is not. I cannot draw the line between a hard family life and an easy family life. I don’t know what it takes to make a person justifiably bitter. I do know that nearly all people have had enough hardship in their lives, even people who look sunny, clean, and at ease. Many people who might have the right to be bitter rise above it and try hard to be good to all the people around them. See the movies “Happyness” and “John Q”. I focus on people who blame everyone but themselves and who take their bitterness out on other people. They use hardship, especially a hard family life, as an excuse. It is easy to mix the excuses of a hard life and social injustice because social injustice leads to a harder-than-average life. I don’t try to untangle the two excuses. I do not critique the “culture of victim” that grew in America after 1970.
People who slip into bitterness also make themselves bullies and thugs. I have seen bitter people pick hard on other people at work. I have seen bitter people pick on other people to the point where it drives other people almost really crazy and drives them out of a job. I have seen bitter people attack people at work, push them down, and break arms. I have seen bitter people pick on an apparently happy person and gossip about that person until they have turned other people against that person. I have seen bitter people pick a scapegoat who has done nothing to anybody, and then work against that person until he-she breaks down. I saw a bitter supervisor at work pick on a talented diabetic old man until the old man had to quit and then died a few months later. Bitter people claim “I have six kids and twelve cousins to support so I have a right to not pay my share in social events at work, take more than my share, steal, and make other people do my work.“ Bitter people never see the big part the play in their own hardship. They never see how much everybody makes his-her own bed. They never see what they might do to make things better for themselves and other people. Bitter people think they are entitled and deserve more than anybody else to make up for their hardship. They are entitled to the breaks at work and in life. Every gain by every other person is a slight against them, and they take that other person as an enemy to hurt and to bring down. They build themselves up by bringing down people who don’t whine and who don’t share stories of hardship.
In taking out their bitterness on other people, bitter conniving people undermine the idea that we should feel for other people and help other people. They undercut normal human empathy and sympathy, and so undermine what is human. They destroy our ability to tell normal hardship that we all have to endure from extra hardship that we all need help for. They undermine the Golden Rule and the idea that rules apply equally to everybody.
Before the late 1980s, we saw bitter conniving indecent “culture of victim” people as coming entirely from the poor and the Left. Since then, I have seen middle class, upper middle class, and wealthy people adopt the culture of indecent bitter conniving. They blame the poor and the working class because they are not wealthy enough. They see tax laws as aimed at hurting them personally, John Smith and Joan Jones. They think every law about taxes and the economy is aimed at killing off their particular business or undermining their position as a house owner. They know that the poor and working class pay more proportionately in taxes than they do, yet they find excuses to further reduce their own taxes and further hurt the poor and the working class. Doctors and dentists overcharge working people because “now all working people are in unions and have health insurance, health insurance companies are unfair to us, we have to provide everything for ourselves, and so working people are actually over-privileged compared to us”. I have also seen some decent doctors and dentists undercharge working people because they knew their families were having a hard time.
(C2A and C2B)
Both kinds of indecent people abuse programs such as welfare, food stamps, Social Security Disability, Aid to Dependent Children, Affirmative Action, anti-discrimination rules, tax breaks, aid to small business, aid to research, aid to farms, and aid to big business. They know all the right phrases to get programs to work for them. They know all the right phrases to attack some person or some agency with a charge of racial or gender discrimination. They know how to get a job and keep a job using Affirmative Action, even when they are not as qualified as other applicants, are not really qualified, or don’t work after being hired. They know all the rules that they can use to advantage. They know how to attack a fellow employee who is not “one of them” by charging bias. They know how to attack administrators, teachers, TAs, fellow students, fellow employees, and bosses with charges of bias. They know how to milk the system from their position.
Constantly they pout, whine, connive, connive to get around somebody, connive to get ahead, connive to put somebody else down, chew on grudges, complain about “the women” and “the men”, complain about other ethnic and gender groups, “those people”, point out faults, and justify themselves. This is not just the grumbling that all humans do.
Indecent thugs with an excuse are not limited to any ethnic or gender group but show up in all groups with adjusted dogma to fit the group. There is not much difference between a Black minor thug and a White minor thug except the cars they drive, music they blast, and some of the imagined insults for which they hit. It takes no more excuses to enable a White skinhead than it does a Black “gangsta”.
Indecent thugs with an excuse know they don’t really get the issues that their dogmas intend to explain or get the dogma. They don’t care. They want an excuse to act out harshly and to promote “us” against any convenient “them”. That is all that the dogma, or any ideas, really mean to them.
(C3) Indecent: Milking the System While Looking Good.
Indecent people of type 2 (social injustice and hard life) milk the system because, first, they find excuses that work, and, second, they manipulate programs such as welfare, ADC, and the courts. That is not who I am after here. I focus on people who look good while they milk the system. I am not after rich people as such. I don’t care about people with toys. I don’t care about people who “flaunt it”. They might be low class at heart, uncouth, annoying, and clutter the airwaves, but they really cause little harm. I don’t care about people who cause little harm.
Many indecent people who milk the system while looking good are the slick rich and powerful people that the Bible warned us against, and that I said I am not concerned about here. Even so, I have to mention them because they cause damage, to leave them out enables other indecent people, and there are some type 3 people that the Bible did not warn us about. I say only as much as needed here.
I have in mind bad professionals such as some professors, lawyers, doctors, and teachers, school board members, school trustees, business people, politicians, and bureaucrats. Dentists who charge $50 for a five minute consultation to validate what the hygienist already saw are indecent no matter how much they tell themselves it is part of the profession, and they are entitled because of their education and the needs of an expensive office. Professors who get grant money, and finagle a high salary, are just as adept at milking the system as welfare mothers with six kids or spoiled athletes. I have in mind business people who know how to get grants for their own business, grants that were originally intended for small firms or to help nature. They are worse than greedy dentists and professors. Business people who know how to donate to campaigns to get tax breaks and reduced liability, even as they whine about big government and benefit programs for the poor, are as bad as drug dealers. Farmers who know that support for farms is outmoded, promotes corporations more than families, and is overall hurtful, are as bad as people who ride on unemployment insurance. In the housing debacle of 2000 through 2012, the finance industry in the United States severely hurt the overall economy of both this country and the world, for its selfish gain. People that invested in houses to flip rather than in homes to live in, and people that took mortgages that were just too good to be true, are as much at fault as the finance industry. Middle class people who pay less in overall taxes than the poor pay, get benefits from mortgage relief, get benefits from services such as police, schools, fire protection, recreation, and government-back insurance, and yet refuse to honestly evaluate the tax system, are indecent. Business people who distort an industry (in economics jargon, add to “structuring”) such as farming, banking, oil, or natural gas, distort the economy for their benefit and hurt everybody. Too often, indecent people get privileges by giving to legislators.
Three kinds of person who milk the system I find particularly disgusting.
First, I dislike people of one race, religion, gender, or any group, who wait for their declared enemies to misstep, pounce on it as if the world were at stake, persecute the mistaken person, thus gain greater praise from fellows, gain a feeling of justification for him-herself, never go beyond this event to see the true problems, and thereby betray his-her own group and all society. Black people who wait for a White person to screw up so they can pounce on him-her, without really getting to underlying problems, are indecent. White people who pounce on all Black people when one Black person lives down to a stereotype are indecent. Women who wait for men to “act out as pigs”, without trying to know human nature and the root of gender roles, are pigs too.
As bad as it was, the incident of Trevon Martin and George Zimmerman did not deserve the spin it got. Every year, far more Blacks kill far more Black people than Whites kill Black people. As I finished this chapter, a White policeman outside Saint Louis, Missouri shot and killed an unarmed young Black man, Michael Brown. The details of the shooting had not been released as I wrote this. Michael Brown had earlier beaten up the proprietor of a convenience store, a man half his size, and robbed the store of a pack of small cigars. For at least five days after the shooting, Blacks rioted and looted. Al Sharpton rushed to the scene to condemn the shooting. As bad as it might be, the shooting of Michael Brown is not much worse than the rioting and looting. The shooting is less a crime than the bad education that is acceptable to Black parents. Every year, about 100 Black people are shot and killed by Police officers. Every year, Blacks kill far more Blacks than police officers kill Black people. Blacks cause far more fear among Blacks than Whites do. Black people spend little time protesting Black schools and Black crime, far less than they spent on Martin and Brown.
Second: I dislike people who use rules (laws) that are supposed to promote racial, religious, gender and other equality for their own narrow benefit, especially if they hurt others. This is the same as a business person in a big firm exploiting laws that were intended to benefit small firms, as when a big firm starts a subsidiary company to get funds for research that were originally intended for small firms. When a person uses Affirmative Action to get into school, stay in, get a job, hold a job, or to get a promotion, regardless of qualification, that person is indecent. Affirmative Action should apply only when people are otherwise equally qualified, and then only in limited doses. Affirmative Action was intended to help mostly Black people. I think the biggest beneficiaries of Affirmative Action have been White women while Black men have benefitted little. This does not mean Black people do not abuse Affirmative Action or White women have not done a good job, but it does show distortion, distortion that amounts to indecency. The same applies when a person abuses a charge of sexual misconduct. A bad charge hurts not only one person but all people who might have benefitted from the system if it worked properly. The same applies when a group of one race or gender inside a workplace “gang up” to control the workplace environment to harm other people and the gang uses laws that were intended to protect victims as a cover.
Third: I dislike people who abuse programs that were designed to help poor and sick people in unusual distress even if the abusers themselves are poor, sick, and otherwise good people but are not in unusual distress. Welfare was originally designed to help poor people, for a while, who faced sudden intense hardship. I find indecent the people who have more children than they can directly support and count on the state to act as a surrogate parent. A mother who has even one child, but she cannot support that one child, and instead counts on the state to act as the father, is indecent even if she is poor and otherwise a good person. The more children a woman has that she cannot expect to support herself but counts on the state to act as daddy, the worse she is. To abuse programs like welfare undermines the program and abuses people that the program was originally designed to help. People who get a doctor to certify that they are unhappy and therefore deserve Social Security Disability are indecent even if otherwise they are good people who want to stay in their home towns and who go to church regularly.
These type 3 people cause harm both directly to society as a whole and indirectly through bad example. They know it. It doesn’t matter whether indecent people of types 2 or 3 cause the most harm. What does matter is that they both cause considerable harm. They are both thugs with excuses.
One of the biggest harms done by indecent people of type 3 is to provide an excuse for indecent people of type 2. As long as everybody can see that some people milk the system, get away with it, are helped by the law, and look morally good doing it, it is hard to tell other people to stop feeling angry and to stop being indecent in type 2 ways.
If we stopped all people of type 3, that doesn’t mean we would also stop type 2. Thugs find an excuse. If we take away one excuse, they find another. The point of stopping type 3 is not to stop type 2. The point is that type 3 is indecent and bad itself. We need to go after it for the damage that it does. We can never completely stop people from milking the system any more than we can stop all thugs with an excuse. But we can minimize milking the system. We can get across the message that we know what is going on, we don’t like it, and we intend to take realistic steps to stop abuses. This we have not done in America for a long time.
Purveyors of Bad Ideas.
Where do indecent people get the ideas behind the excuses? They pick up excuses from anywhere, and have been doing so since childhood. The actual formal ideas come from ideologues, rebels, pop culture, the entertainment industry, activists, and purveyors of half-true ideas such as politicians, TV and radio commentators, TV and radio talk shows, comedians, and so-called news shows on cable TV – all on both the Left and Right. Sometimes indecent people get excuses from bad decisions of the Supreme Court. Ideologues, rebels, comedians, commentators, etc. purvey half-truths that are n worse than lies. I cannot be more specific for fear of being sued.
Where do the purveyors of half-truths get their ideas to hand down to truly indecent people? Mostly they inherit ideas from past economists, philosophers, artists, jurists, and good politicians without knowing where the ideas first came from. Almost always the ideas that are handed down are not the full ideas but are only distorted abused bad half-true versions of better ideas. The idea that capitalism works well when left alone is true if seen properly but that is not how it is used in propaganda. The idea that America is rich and should take care of under-privileged people is basically true but it has to be combined with reality so we see that America cannot take care of everybody comfortably; and that realism is just what does not happen when the idea excuses clients of the state.
A Warning to People Who Fool Themselves.
Everybody acts indecently every so often. If I do only two indecent acts per week, I am happy. Most of these indecencies are small, and I am not worried about them for this chapter.
Nearly everybody thinks he-she lies on the good end of normally decent. Few of us really lie on the good end of the scale. Most of us are more indecent than we admit. Some of us are indecent but think we are normally decent or better. Most of us fool ourselves. Remember: eventually you are what you do. If you are rude, a bad neighbor, bad co-worker, shirk work, are noisy, dirty, not considerate, cause grief, abuse power, lie, milk the system, find excuses, have attitude, or wait to get up into people’s faces, then you are an indecent person even if most of what you do otherwise is passable, even if you also do some decent things, and even if you carry many family members and fellow church people on your back.
Even if they do not cross the line into being an indecent person in general, many normal passably decent people skate by consistently on the low end of the scale, or cross the line into indecency much too often, even if they later cross back with a “good deed”; and they fool themselves about it too. You can do better than that. The people around you deserve better.
Indecent people are good at fooling themselves, probably so they can live with themselves and can better use other people. Nearly all indecent people see themselves as passably decent people who might live a tougher life than average. Some see themselves as heroes who must do tough things in a tough world, like John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Clint Eastwood, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Shaft (Richard Roundtree), or Machete (Danny Trejo). This is all crap. You are what you do. Someday, with God, you will have to look at yourself, and you will see you are not a tough guy entitled hero. You are just rude and selfish, and cause other people trouble. I doubt many indecent people will read this book, but, if you are indecent and do, use it to wake up.
People have had hard lives since forever. Everybody thinks his-her life is tough but, if you ask other people, even people who look calm and happy, you will find that everybody has faced his-her share of divorce, cancer, unemployment, bad schools, arrests, and no money. Social injustice is real and has been real in horticultural, agricultural, and industrial societies, including the states that we all now live in, for ten thousand years. If you are a poor powerless person in such societies, your position can excuse some bad feelings. If you have been a middle class person in America since the 1970s, then you have been hurt by unfair entitlement programs and the world economy. You are entitled to some grumbling but that is all. I know about social injustice as much as most Lefties or Righties. Social injustice is not a general excuse for everything. It does not excuse indecency and it does not excuse milking the system. You do not deserve anything extra because you have been a victim or have had some hardship. Acting badly does not make up for anything. The only thing that does make up is finding the root causes of problems and working on those. Think about that responsibility rather than about any suffering and any supposed entitlement.
A Vicious Circle.
Imagine the world has been forced into two artificial poles: prudes on one side with naughty chic people on the other. Both sides, in their ways, can damn the other side and can resort to mental and physical violence. Suppose a reasonably decent person tries to talk to either side. Prudes hear only a defense of self-indulgence and badness. They hear only moral relativism that excuses and enables whatever badness people wish. They hear only the glamorization of badness. To reinforce their position, they act prudishly. They are strict, accept no missteps, and punish all mistakes harshly. In contrast, chic naughty people hear only boredom, refusal to face life in all its complexity and richness, and fear. They hear excuses for the rulers to continue domination through guilt. To reinforce their position, they make a point of breaking rules, stress moral ambiguity, and seek people who cannot live by prudish standards yet have satisfying lives. They make a point of having fun in ways that prudes cannot use such as drugs, and in showing that these ways do no real harm. Both sides see selfishness and willful blindness. They talk past each other. Nearly every American has heard this non-dialogue and has been forced into one side or the other.
Talking past each other insures there is no sane middle ground. There can be only two poles. The two poles reinforce themselves by contrasting themselves with the other pole. So they reinforce each other. If either pole were to accept a sane middle, it would undermine the other pole but, in doing so, it would also undermine itself. It is always easier to go to a pole, and to hide in the safety of its dogma, than to find the sane middle. Sadly, in the real human world, two opposite poles are more stable than one sane middle. Two opposite crazy poles arise out of one sane middle. This process is the same split-making that leads to two stable political parties or to two stable enemy-camps-with-many-members in wars. It is easier to have bad guys and good guys than to have human guys. This is an example of what I called “systems that eat the world” applied to decency, prudery, and indecency. Because of this tendency, I don’t expect us ever to find a good lasting resolution. I am glad evolution prepared middle moderately decent people who eventually get over their diseases of prudery, indecency, and chic naughtiness.
Bad Effects of Enabling Indecency.
-The worst effect is bad thinking. We can’t think straight. We deny an important part of ourselves. We buy into the Romantic myth in the hope of making sense of inversions. We begin a vicious circle in our minds where the myth supports bad ideas and we cling to the myth to make sense of the bad ideas. We lose the ability to think outside the circle.
-We turn young people away from being simply decent or as decent as they can be.
-We hurt decent people.
-We stifle the contributions that decent people could make.
-Indecent people are wasted sentient beings. It is not so much that their lives are not productive as that their minds stay forever dead (asleep). They have wasted the opportunity to be human. They are lost. Of course, inside they are still residually human, and sometimes they do a decent thing in a crisis. But their humanity is not usually available. Indecent people are as screwed up as an animal that has long been tormented in a cage.
-There really are social problems (poverty, abortion, teenage pregnancy, bad education) that need hard work to understand and to help. Indecency diverts us away from them. Indecent people blind us to the real problems and to what really needs to be done. Indecent people fool concerned people into thinking indecent people are relevant. Concerned people fool themselves into thinking they really do something merely by acting out. Genuinely concerned people are co-opted. Concerned people get fooled into enabling indecency. On the other hand, people that want an excuse to ignore social problems use the indecency of complainers as an excuse.
-Showing off can be fun. Indecent people give showing off a bad name.
-Indecent people cause trouble and annoy other people. Indecent people hurt the hearts and stomachs of other people, even other indecent people.
-Resources have to be wasted on indecent people, and wasted guarding against indecent people.
-Indecent people ruin neighborhoods.
-Indecent people ruin their children. Indecent create indecent copies of themselves. Their children grow up never even knowing what decency is. By the time a child is five years old, if they child has grown up among indecent people, that child likely will never change.
-Indecency forces us to choose between trying to save the children of indecent people versus enabling the indecent parents.
-Indecency leads to violence.
-Indecency adds to conflict between groups even when most members are common passable people, such as conflict between ethnic groups.
-Indecency leads to bad politics. Enabling indecency leads to worse politics.
-Enabling indecency leads decent people and ordinary people to feel guilt where they should not feel guilt at all. They feel bad about the bad that indecent people do. They feel responsible for the original issues such as welfare kids even when they did not cause the original problems. In a vicious circle, the guilt allows them to be further used and made into enablers.
-Enabling indecency leads to tolerating indecent behavior that should not be tolerated. It allows indecent people to take advantage of decent people and ordinary people. It allows indecent people to force decent people and ordinary people into the role of enablers.
-Enabling indecency allows some groups to take advantage of others. It allows Blacks to use White guilt, gays to use “straight guilt”, Jews to use Christian guilt, Muslims to use Christian guilt, and the Irish to use middle class guilt. It prevents ethnic groups from “calling out” bad behavior by other ethnic groups; or it encourages calling out instances of bad behavior that don’t really matter much. It allows bad business people and rich people to cheat the public in the name of creating jobs. It allows all business people to say they are romantic entrepreneurs when really few are.
-Enabling indecency prevents us from knowing when programs work or not. Enabling indecency prevents us from making a good personal welfare system and from making a good system of supporting business.
-Enabling indecency leads young people to misuse (overuse and underuse) alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and sex, and to indulge in too much violence and bullying. Enabling indecency leads young people to strange damaging ideologies of both the Left and Right.
-Indecent people are not needed to make life more interesting, challenging, creative, and, indirectly, better. We can live with far fewer of them.
-We have wrongly romantically inverted the real world to make decency indecent, uncreative, stultifying, boring, and the tool of social injustice while we make indecency decent, creative, creative, interesting, and the vanguard of social justice.
-Indecent people think they are passably decent; but they are not. Indecent people think they are heroes of politics, gender, ethnicity, religion, the owning class, the middle class, the working class, or free people; but they are not. Indecent people think they are hipper and cooler and more interesting; but they are not.
-Indecent people are not the world force of disorder that allows for creativity, progress, and an interesting world. We do not need indecent people to make the world better. Indecent people do make the world more interesting sometimes just as HIV, herpes, the flu, mosquitoes, stupid politics, parasites, a tsunami, cancer, car accidents, disease, famine, war, and bad love can make life more interesting. That does not mean we should confuse indecent people with the world force of creative disorder.
-Indecent people are not “beautiful losers” and demon-haunted outsiders fighting spiritual decay while retaining moral purity. Indecent people have learned to think of themselves that way and to present themselves that way because it works to fool better people. Real beautiful losers and demon-haunted outsiders were not originally indecent until they learned to make themselves that way by internalizing stupid social myths.
-We wrongly think indecent people are creative people while decent people are uncreative idiots.
-We wrongly romanticize indecent people as rebel secret warriors for goodness. We wrongly think all decent people are stooges of the corrupt regime. Wrong political correctness, Right and Left, makes us pretend indecency is something else, and wrong political correctness makes us enable indecency. Not every angry picket for the Tea Party or for Black Justice is a rebel warrior for goodness. Not every rap song, country patriot song, rock rebel song, or song about a misunderstood criminal is the paean of the people.
-We wrongly think indecency is effective. In fact, nearly all indecent self-styled rebels achieve little good. Few true rebels fighting for goodness are indecent. Few indecent people are secretly rebels who fight for true goodness.
-Self-romanticizing indecent people almost always hurt the causes that they think they help. Black hip-hop “gangsters” and White Supremacists set back the true struggle of Black and White people. Martin Luther King did not die so Black fools could show off their butts and ride around in rolling boom boxes; Thomas Jefferson did not write the Declaration of Independence so White fools could flood the airwaves with lies and ride around shooting out of pickup trucks.
-Indecent people almost always make bad citizens. Besides hurting their own group, they hurt the nation as a whole. Decent people don’t always make good citizens but they don’t often make bad citizens.
Ethnic Groups, Religious Groups, and Other Groups.
If your group has many indecent people, even if they are a minority, and even if your group has many normal people who obviously value decency, then still other groups will look at your whole group as indecent. Whether this skewering is unfair on some high level doesn’t matter because it is part of human nature, and it is a reality of this world. If your group has many people who are loud, dirty, drink a lot, abuse drugs, steal, lie, bully, abuse women, do not value education, are hyper-sensitive to being “dissed”, violent, drive boom boxes, commit assault through noise, commit assault through dress, have unrealistic opinions about race, religion, or politics, wait to catch people in other groups in mistakes, or manipulate the economic and political system, then your group has a serious problem. The bad behavior hurts your group much more than the bad behavior gets back for any prejudice by other groups.
I was a juror in a murder trial in which two young Black men killed a third young Black man, out of a wrong glamorized sense of tough “gangsta” indecency. Their bad idea of respect ruined two families. Over the 4th of July 2014, Chicago had over 200 shootings, most Black-on-Black. In August 2014, as a response to the shooting of a young unarmed Black man outside Saint Louis, Missouri, Blacks rioted for four days and looted stores. What does looting have to do with justice for that Black man or social justice? How is looting anything but indecent? About summer of 2012, close to where I live in Auburn, AL, a young Black man (allegedly) killed two nine-year-old Black twins and their White caregiver, for no reason other than to take the old man’s car. The alleged perpetrator had earlier allegedly killed at least two other young Black men but had escaped conviction. In 2012, at a party at an apartment in Auburn, AL, a young Black man shot six other young Black men in a fight over a Black woman. Three of the victims died on the spot. The accused man claimed self-defense. Too many young Black men, and some young White men, think it is unmanly to do school work and to care about mental achievement. Young Black people call doing school work is “acting White” or “acting Chinese”. About 2008, a White fraternity at Auburn University satirized Black people in a play where White kids put on blackface – the school rightfully abolished the fraternity.
All this is a huge price to pay for enabling indecency. The price is paid both on a personal level and at the level of the community. The normal people struggling to be tolerably decent and to raise their children in a tolerably decent world pay the biggest price. In Chicago, Black parents who simply want to send their kids to school, to learn how to make a living, pay the biggest price. It is not a joke.
Every major ethnic group has a subgroup of romanticized indecent fake heroes: Black “gangstas”; White skinheads and low-lifers; White “gangsta” imitators; Hispanic gangster champions of “la raza” and the barrio; and tough up-and-coming on-the-go hustling me-first people of all races. Even if these people are physically tough, and clever in some ways, they are still indecent. These people wrongly see themselves as rebels in the fight for freedom and fairness, and warriors against “the man”. The people in the neighborhood, who are not overtly tough, and who likely are scared, tend to go along. See the English movie “Attack the Block”. In fact, these people are cheap tools of the power elite. Rather than help their ethnic group, help fairness, and defeat “the man”, these people stifle their ethnic group, foster hatred, bleed off energy in useless stupid fake rebellious acts, blind people, and keep smart people in their own group from seeing truly and seeking real solutions. The most successful people in the fight for fairness are not blinded by ideology but seek truth. Decent people are more likely to have clear sight and are more likely to do long-term good than “gangstas” even if “gangstas” see a few things decent people don’t see. Even if your big motive is your own group, and you don’t care about others, still you should also fight ignorant indecency and should promote clear sight and decency. If you believe the myth of indecency, then you are part of the problem, and a traitor to your ethnic group.
A Bad Effect You Didn’t Worry About But Should.
You live in a nice suburb or a good building in a nice neighborhood in a city, and don’t worry much about indecent thugs with excuses. You live in a bad neighborhood and indecent people are so pervasive that you can’t do anything about it, feel you shouldn’t do anything about it, and feel the absence or presence of a few more indecent thugs with excuses won’t matter. You are both wrong.
Already indecent people are a big drain on America through disruption, crime, abuse of programs such as welfare and aid to business, and by keeping us from achieving the efficiency that we need to compete in the world arena. No matter what indecent people say, society carries them more than it exploits them for gain. Indecent people are a net loss. As America moves into the world economy, we will not be able to afford the burden of many people that we carry now: uneducated, borderline criminals, real criminals, people who have children too young, have too many children, people who abuse programs, have no aptitude for a job that is suited to a modestly successful life, and people who milk the system. We can raise the minimum wage as high as we want but that won’t make indecent people productive members of society; it will only screw up the economy. We can give business firms huge tax breaks and all that will do is erode the tax base. Something has to change. Most likely, from desperation, we will stop caring for indecent people and willfully unproductive people. I don’t know if they will end up in prison but I doubt it because we can’t afford that option either. Somehow, we all will have to deal with this issue. Either we prepare or we suffer.
If you are in a racial group or religious group, Black, White, or Hispanic, Christian or Muslim, with a lot of indecent people who brandish excuses, they will bring your whole group down with them. Your group as a whole will be excluded from whatever accord America finds in the future to preserve the highest material standard practically possible in the real world economy. Like it or not, groups will still matter in the real world, and, if your group has too many assholes, then your group as a whole will be pushed aside to let other decent groups find security. Your group will be pushed aside even if most people in your group are decent but a big minority is indecent thugs. The presence of indecent thugs in your group threatens your grandchildren directly and harshly, no matter how much you got to church and how much you teach basic skills. They hurt you and your grandchildren. I don’t like this but I have seen it.
Go Ahead and Judge, Go Ahead and Band with Good People.
Except for some unusual people such as Taoist adepts, it is not possible to be human without judging other people. Decent people and normal people have to judge. Judging in itself does not make you bad, and judging in itself does not make you judgmental. We have to judge if we are not to promote bad acts, enable indecent people, and allow indecent people to hurt people. Too much indecency prevails in the modern world because ordinary people have bad judgment through bad ideologies. The trick is to judge correctly. I do not run through how to judge correctly. Only by practicing at judging can we avoid becoming a bad judge and a bad person. Only by practicing can we judge correctly. We can only judge correctly if we do not romanticize indecency and if we do not let fear of moral ambiguity make us pretend that we do not judge when really we do. It is better to judge openly than in stealth. Once we have confidence in our ability to judge, we should band together with other people of decent judgment to make a better world and to control badness.
Decency, Indecency, Fun, and Interestingness.
Of all the mistaken ways to denigrate decency and glamorize indecency, maybe the worst is that decent people are necessarily boring while indecent people are necessarily fun. See David the bon vivant really fun tough rebel guy in Part Two. “I don’t want to go to heaven because all the interesting people are in hell”. If you want to have fun, you have to be indecent. If you want more fun, you have to be more indecent. All indecent people have fun; all people who have fun are indecent; people who have fun have fun only because they are indecent; no decent people have fun; all decent people are boring; most of the boring people are decent. All this is just false.
Sometimes life is boring and naughtiness can be fun. To deny this is bad. To deny this is the same as to deny that drugs, including booze, can be fun and can alleviate the boredom of life. But to admit this is not to assert that naughtiness is always fun and always alleviates boredom. After a while, naughtiness gets more boring than normal boredom. Doubling down doesn’t help. After a while, you have to find some way other than naughtiness to make life work. If naughtiness is all that makes life work for you, then you have to expect that eventually you will meet grief and other people will shut you down.
If the world were made entirely of simple decent people, life would be slightly more boring in some ways. Even so, a simple decent world would be better than a slum of annoying indecency, and the world would still be interesting enough. The world would not be boring in general, and it would be better. Because the world would be better to live in, it would be more interesting and less fearful to the many people who are frightened of indecency, so the previously-frightened people would participate more, and the world overall would be more interesting than otherwise. Even if we had to forego the thrill of a few naughty chic-indecent acts, we would do other things more effectively and the world would be more interesting for that. We would enjoy ourselves, fight poverty, cure disease, recover from typhoons, save nature, explore the cosmos, make art, and sell tasty doughnuts. See the movie “Pleasantville”; even if it is corny it is true. We would not have bad censorship, as in the great “Michelangelo” episode of “The Simpsons”. There is little chance the world will ever be made mostly of simple decent people. There is no chance decency will overcome the real world and make the real world deadly boring.
I am not sure where decent people rate on a scale of being interesting and making the world interesting. Many interesting people are decent at heart while many indecent people would be hell to live with. If there is a hell, it will not be full of truly interesting people that you can get along with. It will be like “No Exit” by Sartre. The vast majority of indecent people that I have met are not creative or interesting; they are energy-sucking assholes. People might think indecent assholes are creative and interesting, but they are not. I have met annoying selfish conniving people who have minor talent but not enough to excuse bad behavior. There are plenty of talented decent people that I would rather spend time with, and I am likely to get a lot more out of time with them. Some creative people appear indecent, but mostly that is a pose they take because they have fallen victim to the false dogma that scuzziness goes with creativity. If you look behind the pose, often you find a passably decent person. Apparently that was true even of Lou Reed. I find this pose of scuzziness by would-be creative people sad, funny, and wasteful. If you want to be creative, dare to be decent, dare to embrace the half-way decent person inside.
A small minority of indecent people do contribute. They fight big indecency such as when tough guys in the movies kill gangsters. They have talents other than their indecency that lead us to put up with their indecency. An episode of “Law and Order SVU” showed the military protecting a man who molested boys because the man was a genius with guidance systems. Indecent people make the world more interesting sometimes, although not as much as romanticism makes out. Indecent people do add some things that decent people cannot contribute, and that even passable people cannot contribute. I do not sort it all out here. To deny that indecent people can be interesting is ideological blindness, like denying biological evolution or denying that drugs can be fun. But accepting that some indecent people can be useful or fun sometimes is not an excuse for indecency. Watch the English movie “Attack the Block”, and make up your own mind if the movie excuses badness.
The key is not to romanticize and not to enable. You cannot make yourself interesting by making yourself indecent first; you just make yourself indecent. You cannot make yourself more interesting by making yourself more indecent; you just make yourself into an asshole. Great people have flaws. We cannot make ourselves great by imitating their flaws. Jesus drank a fair amount of wine and Winston Churchill drank too much whiskey; drinking more does not make us into Jesus or Churchill. If you want to make yourself interesting, make yourself interesting first. If you want the world to be more interesting, make yourself interesting first.
Sometimes a sitcom or drama on TV adds a little “edginess” to a character to try to make him-her more interesting and maybe more realistic. Sometimes this tactic works but mostly it turns out silly. Mostly it returns attention to the basic underlying decency of the character. In my memory, the first big character on TV who was a deliberate mix of decent guy and naughty boy was “Maverick” from the late 1950s. “Maverick” worked. I loved “Maverick”. “Maverick” began a trend. I like mild bad boy characters. But what sticks is their basic underlying decency rather than their surface naughtiness. When Magnum put his neck on the block to help his friends, he was being decent, not a fun bad boy. The same can be said of the never-ending parade of dysfunctional families following the trail of “Married with Children”.
J.R.R. Tolkien (“Lord of the Rings”) valued all life, and stressed the value even of indecent life. A deeply decent person, Frodo, could not destroy the Ring. In the past, the good guys had spared the indecent evil Gollum when they should have killed him. If Gollum had not lived to destroy the Ring accidentally, we all would be living in a horrible world. We need even indecent people to make a full and complete world. This might be true and it might even be what God had in mind. But Tolkien’s lesson does not excuse indecency. You cannot indirectly save the world by emulating indecency. Acting like a Gollum rebel bad boy does not automatically make you a savior of the world or of your group. Tolkien was not a champion of romanticized indecency, at least not on purpose. Tolkien was fighting British prudes, fighting the death penalty in England, he followed the New Testament in extolling common people, and he was arguing for the value of all life; so he went too far the other way. He romanticized too much when he made his point. In contrast, Frodo needed Sam, a deeply decent person, and physically tough person, to protect him from the indecency of Gollum. Frodo needed Sam more than he needed Gollum. LOTR might have been less as art if, in the end, Sam had taken the Ring from Frodo and tossed it into the Lake of Fire; but LOTR would have been more accurate about how the world works, how the world should work, and how we need to see the world.
After you get to a certain age, you need to do what you think is fun, not what other people think is fun. We all take cues from people around us, but, in the long run, we shouldn’t do what we think the cool kids think is fun, and should not depend on rebels, rockers, bad boys, bad girls, true conservatives, or what Ronald Reagan would do. If you can’t figure out fun for yourself, then take time to pick a good reference group. Don’t let TV, media, or myths pick one for you. If fun for you is deeply indecent or criminal, like getting drunk four times a week, beating up your girlfriend, or beating up queers, or if you think you have to do that crap from time to time, then you have some serious issues that this book can’t help with. You are wrong and bad, and you need to stop.
Decency Needs Indecency; Good Needs Evil.
This section is important for a later chapter on the problem of evil. See above about Tolkien.
Some decent people are born fully decent and don’t have to learn to be decent. These people are like walking angels. They appear in all cultures, races, and religions. These people do not have to learn about indecency in order to be decent. Decency can exist apart from indecency. Sadly, naïve decent people are also easy victims, and they disappear quickly unless they are well buffered by a lot of other nearby decent people and other halfway decent people.
In contrast to natural decent people, most decent people start out with a predisposition to be decent, and then learn to be even more decent. Most halfway decent common people have to learn about decency so as to stay as decent as they can be. To learn to be decent, we need experience of indecency. We experience a lot of indecency by meeting normal common people who make mistakes, but even that might not be enough. To learn about indecency, we need to experience really indecent people, survive the experience, and then not be so traumatized that we can’t learn from what happened. Sadly, I have met decent people who have been so badly hurt that they remain “frozen”.
Except in some ideal managed world of the future, wherever there is decency, indecent people arise to prey on decent people. That is what happened in our evolutionary history. As a matter of fact, decency and indecency will almost always appear together. When we see two things that always appear together, we are tempted to read a lot into their co-existence. We are tempted to see them as needing each other in a deep way, and as necessarily forming each other. We should not make this mistake. We can see the co-existence of decency and indecency, and even see relations between them, without also assuming anything metaphysical.
To achieve our full potential for decency, we need indecent people. This sounds as if I am saying that, to achieve full goodness, we need badness, or, in other words, good and evil depend on each other and make each other. One could not exist without the other. Set aside for now that question. What I am saying is we should not romanticize relations between goodness and badness, between decency and indecency. Decency can be made better and more decent by its encounter with indecency but we should not raise indecency into a co-equal cosmic metaphysical principle.
We would need decency even without indecency and evil so as to handle the problems of a hard and uncertain world. We need decency to handle storms, fires, accidents, childbirth, disease, and old age. Not all arguments, conflicts, and wars are born of indecency. We need decency to handle those too. Decency can exist on its own apart from indecency.
In some individual cases, decent people become better when they encounter indecent people. They could not have become as good as they are if they not encountered indecent people and suffered first. In some cases, people need to encounter indecent people in order to become decent in a deep qualitative way that they could not have become otherwise. Some victims of violence, stealing, and war, as a result of their encounters with indecency, become good in deep ways that other people cannot reach. However, in some individual cases, decent people do not become better, or do not become enough better, or even completely collapse, as a result of evil. Evil really does hurt.
Decency adds to the total of goodness of the world while indecency subtracts. When decency makes up for the hurt of indecency, sometimes it adds more than enough goodness to make up for what indecency took away from the world. Sometimes it does not. One mark of evil is that it cannot be undone; evil cannot be made as if it were never. It is not clear if we can add enough good after evil to make up for the harm. In some cases, at least, maybe many, we cannot. If so, then it is not clear that the total sum of goodness in the world is greater because of evil, because decency adds enough more goodness when it counters indecency to make up for the loss of goodness. Of course, even if decency cannot make up for the harm of evil, decency still has to try, decency still has to remain decency. We cannot see good and evil, decency and indecency, in terms of mutual dependence where evil spurs decency to be even more decent and to make the world overall better.
I do not know what to make of all this. I admit some evil can make us better but I do not think evil was put here to make us deeply better. It is more like something we have to endure. I do not think the factual co-existence of decency and indecency means something metaphysical and that good and evil are somehow interlocked siblings.
I am not sure how Western people thought of these problems before Romanticism. In the recent world of romanticized pop culture, we can get a sense of how people see the issues in such movies as “Legend” with Tom Cruise or the “Batman” series. Especially in the “Batman” comic books and movie series, the Joker and Batman make each other. If the Joker had not killed Bruce Wayne’s parents when Bruce was young, Bruce would never have become the Batman. If the Batman had not arisen, the Joker would never have been inspired to his great crimes. Neither can ever finally defeat the other. Each inspires the other to go beyond himself. This relation was evident even when Heath Ledger played the Joker because the Joker did not necessarily cause the rise of Batman but the Joker makes clear that they need each other now. The same relation is extended to Batman’s other enemies, and the enemies in many comic books, movies, manga, and movies about vengeance. Good and evil make each other and need other. This view makes for some really fun movies but it is deeply wrong.
Decency, Indecency, and Meeting God.
I can’t say what happens to people after they die on the basis of decency, because they felt the need to make the world a better place, felt the need to use their talents, did something extraordinary once or twice in a life, were ordinary passable people, or were indecent, trash, or a criminal. When we die, we face God, and, if God wishes, he makes us confront who we are and what we have done. Maybe the worst fate for an indecent person is to make him-her think, see who he-she is, and feel the harm done. Thai Buddhists call this being forced to face yourself.
I think God likes decent people, enjoys normal people who work hard to make the world a better place and who try to use their talents well, admires people who do extraordinary things, likes passable people and indulges them, and gets rid of indecent people and criminals after he forces them to see themselves. God does toss the trash. The New Testament makes a point of valuing common-passable-normal-ordinary people, and likely knows more than I do, but that attitude still does not make clear what God will do with them. The New Testament does not guarantee they will be saved. In fact, it implies that most of them will be discarded. Fiction writers distort passable people so as to stress how lovable common people but usually distort decent people with annoying flaws. Many of Dickens’ characters fit this mold. Every sitcom since “The Honeymooners” has done this.
Decency as a Reflection of the World.
I have said the world is as it is, and is not otherwise. Decency is not a fully rational approach to the world based on a realistic vision of how the world works, except in rare cases where near-decency prevails. Simple naïve natural decency makes sense in an American or Japanese middle class neighborhood but not in an American urban blight zone – although, when done there, simple natural decency does make a different kind of transcendent sense. Yet I still urge decency. How realistic it is to try to make the world a better place depends on how amenable the world is to your efforts. Decency has not remade the world. Even if the world is not much amenable to decency, I still urge us to try. I urge us at times to go against how the world really is, and thus I imply that the world is not as it is. This is a contradiction on one level. I don’t think it is a deep contradiction, and it doesn’t bother me. This topic also is too much to go into here, so likewise I pick it up again later in the book.
The remainder of this chapter is optional. If bits of it are tedious, skip around.
PART 2: THE IDEOLOGY (DOGMA) OF INDECENCY
What follows is not a history lesson. I don’t guess why things happened. I only narrate what happened as it is relevant. I don’t expect you to read any philosophers so I don’t cite specific works. You can skip this part without loss of continuity but it is sort of fun, especially the story of David.
The West has appreciated, and sometimes glamorized, outsiders and the underbelly of society at least since Roman times. Low-life people, drunks, prostitutes, pimps, criminals, and Cynic philosophers were a source of fun. Despite glamorizing outsiders, Romans did not emulate them or think they were spiritually superior. All states societies know that rich and powerful people sometimes act badly but put on prudish hyper-decency to cover themselves and to control others. Tanakh (Old Testament) prophets skewered these people and this hypocrisy. Corruption of the rich and powerful does not mean all society is corrupt, indecent, and invalid. The West accepted that truth can come from outside standard sources including from the underbelly of society, outsiders, and criminals. Yet the West did not usually look to them as the source of the best and deepest truth. The West usually has not advocated adopting the ideas, outlook, manners, dress, speech, and life-ways of outsiders, the poor, rebels, etc. While Jesus felt sympathy for the poor and for people on the outside, and insisted we act kindly to them, he did not say to emulate them just because they are outside. Thoughtful people in the West said glamorizing outsiders, underbelly, etc. could be silly and wrong. Fiction writers both recognized the tendency to glamorize low-life people and they made fun of the tendency.
Fascination with outsiders etc., yet not emulating them, appear clearly in Chaucer from the late 1300s. The ideas are well-said by 1610 by Shakespeare, especially his Henry plays, and Cervantes, not just in “Don Quixote” but in stories too, for example, “The Little Gipsy Girl” and “Colloquy of the Dogs”. Prince Hal could glean wisdom from Falstaff but he did not rely on Falstaff or become Falstaff.
Sometime after 1600, glamorizing outsiders, rebels, outlaws, and criminals became more earnest. John Milton, in “Paradise Lost”, in 1667, did not intend to make Lucifer a fascinating seductive “bad boy” but that is how Lucifer came off; what happened to Milton is typical of what happened in the West in flirting with badness. The early modern poetic statement that “indecency satisfies in a way goodness cannot” is “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” by William Blake in 1790; it might be the West’s first modern graphic novel. A rebuttal from the mid-1900s is “The Great Divorce” by C.S. Lewis.
Western thinkers began to wonder how society worked on its deepest level, usually to figure out how to govern best. We got Hobbes and Locke. In the early 1700s, thinkers began to see European society as intrinsically corrupt. Under ideal conditions, society might work well. But under the real conditions in Europe, society did not work well. People from within society could not see the deep problems of society. A person had to stand outside society to see what was going on and to give advice that was not tied to the interests of some group in society. People outside standard European society were better people than Europeans, in their tutn: peasants, hunters, artists, craftspeople, Bohemians, Gypsies, Celts, Slavs, Greeks, Chinese, Hindus, Africans, etc. Europeans developed the idea of the “noble savage”, who lived far away in the Americas or the Pacific islands, somewhat as we now think of Sasquatch. Thinkers saw the order of society as the order that stifles and brings Death. Rebels were the creative chaos from which all future goodness comes and which brings Life. At first, these ideas served the Protestant rebellions. Later the ideas served the democratic rebellions such as the French Revolution. We still believe these ideas. If one thinker can serve as an example for this trend of thought, it is Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the middle to late 1700s.
I think: Society does have problems, and often we do need to stand outside to see clearly. Yet, to stand outside society, and see how things really work, you do not have to be a rebel, low-life, member of the underbelly, worker, peasant, criminal, or artist. Philosophers, for over two thousand years, had advised standing apart so as to think better and see clearly. They did not say a person had to become a rebel, member of the underbelly, etc. to stand outside and think clearly. They did not say a person had to be apparently indecent to think clearly, know what to do, and be really decent.
After about 1750, some Western thinkers did say just that. You could only really see clearly and do the right thing if you stood outside as part of the underbelly. As a committed outsider, you would seem a bit indecent, and, in fact, be a bit indecent by prevailing standards. You could be indecent on the outside but, really, decent inside. Corrupt rich powerful people who ran society were the opposite: apparently decent on the outside but indecent inside. Society necessarily has a big secret about evil and corruption living deep in its heart. Society does not work well and does not serve the people.
Thinkers in the West not only enjoyed outsiders, underbelly, etc. as the Romans and Chaucer had done but glamorized them as rebels against social injustice, people with unique insight into deep truth, whose life-ways were deeper and better. Outsider rebels are the creative chaos that brings new better orders. Thinkers disparaged not just rich powerful people who perverted decency but other types that had once supported society and morality: old people, parsons, merchants, craftspeople, farmers, squires, soldiers, doctors, and lawyers. In their old beneficial appearance, these types were good-if-a-bit-silly-common-normal characters in Jane Austen and Walter Scott. Then they became stupid, their ways of life invalid, the carriers of hypocritical prudery, and servants of the rich and powerful. Rebellion is on the side of life while staid decency is on the side of death. Society necessarily kept deep bad secrets that benefitted the rich while hurting the common people. Powerful people tried to bury the truth while rebels and outsiders revealed it. Wittingly or not, the common people helped powerful rich people to put down outsiders and rebels and helped to bury the truth.
The “bad boy” side of Lucifer came into its own. Novelists admired the “saucy manners” of the rebel and highwayman. By the early 1800s, the Bronte sisters (“Jane Eyre”, “Wuthering Heights”, and “Shirely”) replaced Jane Austen. Henry Fielding (“Tom Jones”), Charles Dickens (many novels), Robert Louis Stevenson (“Kidnapped”), Alexander Dumas (“The Three Musketeers” and “The Man in the Iron Mask”), and Victor Hugo (“The Hunchback of Notre Dame”) replaced Walter Scott. The detective story and the story about demented genius were born, as in E.T.A. Hoffmann. Sherlock Holmes adopted disguises from the lower classes to investigate the shocking truth hidden under layers of lies.
To keep perspective, I point out some cause-and-effect: Not all goodness comes from creative chaos. Not all chaos is the birthplace of beneficial order. Some chaos is just bad. Even if some chaos is the birthplace of future goodness, not all rebels and outsiders represent that chaos. In fact, they might work against that creative chaos. Not all orderly society is bad. Not all bad society is orderly. Some orderly society is good. Some bad society is chaotic. Society really has problems, and we need to think clearly about them. To think clearly and act well, sometimes you need to stand outside. Standing outside, you might seem indecent. Yet not all outsiders who act indecently also are true rebels who see clearly and act well. Not everybody who appears indecent outside is decent inside. You cannot make yourself into a true rebel, a decent person inside, and do the right thing, by first standing outside and acting indecently. You only make yourself indecent. You cannot become Stephen Hawking by sitting in a wheelchair; you only cripple yourself. You cannot become Albert Einstein by learning to play the violin and to sail. At best, you develop some hobbies. Most indecent people are just indecent. Most people outside society are not inwardly decent rebels, seekers of truth, and workers for justice. Many people outside society are indecent. Not everybody who appears decent outside is indecent inside. Not all common traditionally decent people are lackeys of the rich and powerful. Most people who are decent on the outside really are half-way decent or try to be decent.
Sadly, people did make all the mistakes suggested above, and the pattern of mistakes became a stance. Chaos is the birthplace of all good society, chaos is the only birthplace, and rebels are the only bearers of good chaos. Rather than become seekers of truth and social justice first, without regard to indecency, people identified with the underbelly of society and acted indecently first. People believed that being a marginal person and acting badly made them into a person abiding in truth and justice who acted well. External decency always is a cover for social injustice while external indecency is always a sign of deeper decency. So you could and should act indecently first. If you act indecently first, you necessarily uncover the truth, serve justice, and become a glamorous rebel outsider. If you act indecently while “other people” act decently, you are right while they are wrong. This is part of the ideology of indecency. Nearly all this ideology is wrong. Read the novels of Joseph Conrad, particularly “The Secret Agent”.
The stance became a source of indecency and of excuses for indecency. If you wish to act indecently, for any reason, good or bad, you can claim to be a rebel in search of truth and justice. Thugs could claim that, really, they are outsider rebels fighting for truth and justice. You can do whatever indecent thing you want, and claim that you are indecent on the outside but decent on the inside. If you want to act out and indulge, just claim you are a victim and a rebel. If you wish to discredit any group, first describe them as people with power who use hypocritical fake prudish hyper-decency to bury the truth, or describe them as stupid common lackeys of indecent powerful people. Listen to “Oliver’s Army” by Elvis Costello for the bad rebels in the Cromwell Protestant rebellion in England and their modern counterparts.
Without going into any details, the idea that true rebels stand outside and seem indecent, while the rich, powerful, and corrupt stand inside and seem decent, goes well with other Romantic inversions. Briefly, the old guard is the old form of the Spirit that is about to be superseded. While their external decency might once have been decent, it is indecent now. The rebel outsiders are the new form of the Spirit about to ascend. Their manners seem indecent because they must overcome the rigid behavior of the old form of the Spirit. The old guard is the Spirit providing resistance to itself while the rebels are the Spirit as it overcomes its own resistance. This is all silly but people buy it, often without knowing so. Most people who embrace the ideology of indecency also embrace Romanticism and its excuses, and vice versa. The two seem to come as a set.
While the dogma of indecency is silly, it is artistically fruitful. Without it we would not have Frankenstein, Dracula, vampires, werewolves, spies, the modern seductress, detectives, mastermind criminals, rogue cops, gunslinger cowboys, good hearted gangsters, good hearted whores, tough girls, rock and roll, hip hop, shamans, wizards, and so much more. If you can enjoy the art without falling into the dogma, that is a good thing. The excuses that come of the dogma are another thing altogether. They are bad. I look at them in sections below. Don’t fall into excuses and indecency. Don’t let art fool you. Listen to all of “The Clash” for a band that both bought the dogma and knew it was wrong.
Again, the obvious course is to act decently, search for truth and justice, seek other decent people, seek other people who search for truth and justice, and trust your intuition about decent and indecent despite appearances. If you have to stand on the outside for a while to get a better perspective, then do it; but don’t make a virtue out of standing on the outside for its own sake. Again, if it were that simple, I wouldn’t have to write. I only urge again what philosophers have been saying for thousands of years.
To be fair, not everybody who takes the stance of a glamorous outsider rebel is a criminal using excuses. Most are harmless. They add to the spice of social life in the modern world, and some glimpse more truth through taking that stance than if they had merely plodded along as a slave of the system. Conservatives deliberately mistakenly brand all scruffy people as criminals. We need to develop our ability to sort out: simple decent people, people who seem odd because they stand apart in a search for clarity, people who take the pose of the indecent artsy rebel, people who temporarily act indecently from desperation, really indecent people who use the stance for excuses, and people who milk the system while looking polite. One aim of this chapter is to help us do this.
We are susceptible to the dogma of indecency. Indecent people adopt the ideology it because it works. They fool themselves for their gain and fool other people to their loss. Regardless of where the dogma began, now it has spread beyond Europe and America. Any full account of why we are susceptible to the dogma of indecency would require looking both at various cultures and at the evolution of human nature – a task beyond this book. One goal of this chapter is to un-fool us about the dogma of indecency, a task made harder by our susceptibility to it.
(Technical note: Soren Kierkegaard, around 1820, explicitly advocated life on the fringe as necessary for honesty, for choosing Life, and for choosing Jesus; he advocated commitment to values; and he fought against Romantic silliness. In his time, his stance almost had to seem contradictory to his fellows. His stance is not contradictory, but he might have been the only one then who knew. Kierkegaard’s situation likely added to his cramped style and to later confusion about him. He is worth reading but reading him is like chewing aromatic wood.)
The Ideology of Chic Indecency in America.
As part of the West, America has had three hundred years of a running war between “life stultifying” (Death) versus “life promoting” (Life). Americans misapply this dichotomy in many arenas, one of which is decency. Americans wrongly put decency with prudery, death, social rigidity, and injustice. They wrongly put exuberance, naughtiness, thrills-that-make-us-feel-alive-for-a-bit, and rebellious social criticism with Life and creative chaos. So America also has had a running war between “decency always mistaken as un-chic prudery” versus wrong “chic naughty indecency”. To be on the side of Life, people adopt the manners, dress, outlook, naughtiness, and work of people of the underbelly, low-life people, rebels, petty criminals, artists, and media secret agents. Americans do so even while trying to keep the affluence of the middle and upper middle class.
In the United States, beginning by 1900, and obvious by 1920, non-working-class Americans wrongly identified the working class, artists, gamblers, spiritualists, charlatans, some criminals, and gangsters, with truthful full-of-life outsiders. The working class is full of glamorous rebels and artists forced into crime. In this view, all normal middle class people and working class people with traditional ideas are aides to the hypocritical fake-prudish oppressors. To be on the side of social justice and truth, you have to live like a working class underbelly artist rebel forced into crime and menial labor. Some working class people adopted this ideology as well because it glamorized an identity they could take up and use. Most working class people do not make this mistake but they do get the strategy of glamorizing rebellion and their supposed life ways, and use it when they can: “Joe the Plumber”. Thugs and petty criminals from all classes did get the ideology and do use it adeptly for selfish gain. To see the idea, and a critique, watch as much “film noire” as you can stand.
Until recently, the ethnic group that dominated America was Whites. Americans wrongly identified people from any-ethnic-group-but-White with truthful outsiders while all White people are hypocritical fake-decent rigid oppressors. Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and sometimes Asians, are all rebel truthful social critics, especially marginal Blacks and Hispanics. All non-Whites are creative chaos Life while all Whites are rigid hyper-order Death. For instance, all Black musicians are great undiscovered artists. Any Black who followed traditional decency was an “Oreo” (Black outside but White inside) even if he-she worked for social justice. Any Hispanic who went along with traditional decency was Brown outside but White inside. Sometimes one non-White ethnic group gets jealous of the other for taking the lead in being the most secretly deserving. In 2014, Blacks are nervous about Hispanics becoming the chic ethnic group. Hard working middle class Blacks and Hispanics do not really fool themselves that they are all outsider rebels who work against the system and for truth and justice but they do get the ideology and use it. Indecent and criminal Blacks, Hispanics, Whites, and people of all races got the ideology and used it fully for their advantage. To some extent, the same is true of “ethnic” Whites such as Appalachians, Cajuns, rednecks, and “White trash”.
This dogma set the mold for action. If you want to push a cause, then identify your cause with rebel outsiders on the side of deep truth, social justice, creative chaos, and life. Find a group who oppose your cause, and label them as rich powerful hyper-prudes using fake decency on the side of rigid order and death. The majority of society serves as their unwitting helpers, at least for now. We are really decent on the inside even if we seem indecent outside while they are really indecent on the inside just because they seem decent outside. Think of your enemies in terms of a conspiracy. In this spirit, women accused men of being fake-decent hypocritical oppressors living in a cabal of “good old boys”, and women became rebel outsiders. People of non-stereotypical gender identity (“the gays”) accused most “straight” people of being prudish hypocritical semi-closeted oppressors, and took on the identity of rebel outsiders forced into outlandish behavior just to get a fair hearing. Conservatives accused Liberals of eating babies (over indulging in abortion). Proponents of illegal Hispanic immigrants accused Whites of selfishness and of forgetting their own immigrant roots. Rock-and-roll and hip-hop are such rich fields for this game that I don’t even touch them.
One, poverty, ethnic fairness, and gender fairness are good causes. Two, some of the energy leading to success came from the ideology of indecency. One and two do not invalidate the other facts that, three, people in causes too often are duped by the dogma of indecency, four, people in the cause abused people in general to help them, and, five, the causes could have succeed as well without the indecency.
Americans support the dogma of indecency because they have no better ideas. Truly indecent people, and criminals, of all groups, support the ideology of indecency just as gangsters supported Prohibition. They flaunt it, because it serves them well. Americans who should know better excuse indecency and enable indecent people even though they see the damage done. Rather than try to deal with the whole situation and come up with a better ideology, they finagle so the damage falls elsewhere.
Most working class people, middle class Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, and moderately decent people of all groups resent the ideology of indecency when they realize the implications. They do not wish to have to live as stereotypes “on the outside” to be full humans. Living on the outside is not a good long-term life for their children. Yet they still use the ideology when useful. They try to have their cake and eat it too. This bind has caused a lot of anguish since about 1970.
I do not wish to quell exuberance or naughtiness as long as mild naughtiness does not turn into badness. I do wish to quell naughtiness and chic indecency when they throttle decency and enable badness. This confusion is a serious error with many bad effects.
In the confusion, Americans disdain simple decency and tolerate too much real indecency. We have made chic naughtiness and chic indecency the new fake chic decency while refusing to see what we have done. New-fake-chic-indecency-as-decency is as prudish as the old prudery.
New inverted chic indecency has rules, and, if you don’t follow them, you are the new bad. If you aren’t cool enough; aren’t a bit naughty; a bit “hard ass”; have not been a rocker; lingered in the underbelly of society; gone through a “bad girl” or “bad boy” phase; seen through the Left Wing Conspiracy and stood up as a Rebel Conservative; hit back at “the man”; hit back against an ethnic, gender, or class group who is the enemy of your group; seen through the Jewish-Israeli conspiracy or seen through the Muslim-Arab conspiracy; then you are not decent and not fit for “good society”. If you haven’t been indecent, you are not decent. You only get to be decent by being a bit indecent. If you haven’t made your first kill yet, you are still one of the half-ass cowardly people who help oppressors. Post 1970s movies and TV satirized this stance because it is funny. Yet it lingers on. The mistake causes real damage. Chic indecency is not “just a phase”. It ruins lives and groups. We see the effect in young stars who have to be “bad”; sometimes they survive to go on to better work; sometimes not. Two who did go on to better work are Dru Barrymore and Robert Downey Jr.
Maybe the first big statement in American fiction that “good is bad, bad is good” and “showing decency in public is a sure sign of deeper indecency” is “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I like the novel but it is too easy for people to fool themselves with it. A good modern re-make is the movie “Easy A”. A clear statement both of glamorized inversion of decency-and-indecency, and how much the confusion leads us astray, is the novel “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The novel is more than a sappy story about doomed love. Much as I like his music, Woody Guthrie shows both all the good insights of adept social criticism and all the bad stereotypes of romanticizing bad boys. His student, Bob Dylan, said something like “to live honestly, you have to live outside the law”. I return to Dashiell Hammett, the father of modern tough guy detective fiction, in the 1920s and 1930s. He was a real sleuth for Pinkerton, and had a clear view of outsiders and criminals: takers, users, opportunists, and losers who live by the wrong code if they have any code. Middle class people are the dupes of the ideology of indecency. Indecent people and criminals know that, and know how to use it for gain.
From about 1900 until about 1970, things cooked along, sometimes with chic romantic indecency fueling outbreaks of anarchism and pop culture; read “Ragtime” and “Billy Bathgate” by E.L. Doctorow; both have been made into movies.
Contrary to misconception, the 1960s did not see massive indecency, although it did host an increase in romanticizing that enabled indecency later. Indecency, incivility, and disparaging decency increased in the 1970s, and again with the rise of Conservatives in the 1980s, and have stayed high since. The increase in indecency of the 1970s came mostly on the Left, and with ethnic groups allied with the Left, but not because indecency is inherent in the Left. At first, the Left produced the ideologies that allowed selfish people to excuse themselves and manipulate other people, in particular ideologies about social injustice and a hard life. Beginning in the late 1960s with Nixon’s “silent majority” and working class Republicans, and then exploding with Reagan Republicans, the Right caught up, and surpassed the Left in indecency. The Right saw that the ideology of indecency was a powerful force, and figured out how to use it. Conservatives turned into rebels. The Right has ideologies to excuse its indecency by putting the Left on the side of powerful prudish oppressors, such as: all PC is really Left Wing Fascist mind control; the market would be a perfect chaotic system but Liberals perverted it with regulation; Blacks, Hispanics, and poor people are systematically sucking the life out of the White middle class; Liberalism is really all about imposing rigid soul-killing socialism in which all people are reduced to cogs; the real agenda of Liberalism is a great secret that Conservatives must uncover; all Liberals think all abortion is better than all children; and all liberals hate Christianity and want to kill it by attacking Christmas, Easter, Holy Days, Holy Words, Symbols, and Places. Both the Left and Right offer ideologies that have been used to glamorize and enable selfishness and indecency.
Since the 1980s, indecent people of all ethnic groups, religions, classes, genders, and politics have used ideologies on both sides for their advantage. People of all groups still buy into the ideology of inverted chic indecency. We still glamorize rebels who do not really exist. We still enable indecent people and indecency. We still denigrate decency.
The Myth of David the Rebel.
As an example of how ideas can shape us, and for fun, I return to an old story, a myth that has produced ideas of what it means to be a citizen of a state under God. Few Right or Left Wing rebels, activists, or purveyors of half-truths know the links between this story and what they do. They do not draw the same conclusions from the story as I do. Still, it is fun to get a sense of where ideas come from, especially when they come from religious traditions. Stories are part of how we are susceptible to ideologies, and are one way that people fool themselves. They are not the only way. So, looking at a story helps us to get a better feel for what is going on but what follows is not a full account of how we are susceptible to the dogma of indecency or any dogma. What follows is not a general theory of decency, God’s Will, God’s grace, social justice, the just state, tough guys, rebels, or fun.
In the Tanakh (Old Testament) story of David, Saul begins as the anointed (messianic) King of all Israel. Saul commits a slight sin and loses the grace of God. Partly as a result of his sin, Saul suffers from bad headaches and bad temper. He is not fun. Because the king sinned, the entire society is unrighteous, that is, unjust. Originally David was a tough guy guerilla for hire but he came to the attention of Saul, and he could soothe Saul’s headaches with music, so Saul kept him on as both musician and guerilla fighter. David likes to sing, dance, and play music, and is an all-around fun guy. God decides to replace Saul with David. God tells David of his destiny and has a prophet anoint David as king (a “messiah”). David now has God’s grace. David leads a band of rebel outsider underbelly-of-society bandits in a guerilla war against Saul. David and his band of merry men hide out in the forest, sing songs around the campfire, conduct raids on the powerful and rich, help the people, and restore just society. Soon enough, David defeats Saul, becomes king, restores the Will of God to authority, and restores social justice. Through David, God defeats Chaos and opens the way for Life. David paves the way for the greatness of Israel and the Order-of-God-in-Good-Society under Solomon. David tells the people to sing and dance, and David promotes fun.
David was a real person. The myth of David is an official story written by political priests, after the facts, so as to condemn past enemies of the present dynasty, “them”, and to extol ancestors of the present dynasty, “us”. David comes off as a humble talented fun servant of God reluctantly accepting God’s grace and reluctantly waging war to restore order and social justice. In reality, David was a conniving usurper, bon vivant bad boy, murderer, and coercer of women, who waged guerilla war until he wore down the kingdom and took power for himself.
After David is in power, David does some bad things because he feels he has God’s grace and feels he is entitled. Apparently, rebel bon vivant fun guy tough guy saviors of social justice are entitled. Among the bad things, David indirectly murders the husband of Bathsheba and then directly takes her as another wife. David acts indecently. As a result, David loses God’s grace and spends the end of his life in lonely misery. Even being a rebel bon vivant fun tough guy savior of social justice cannot make up for abusing the feeling of entitlement, abusing God’s Will and grace, and acting indecently.
About the only really decent person in the story of David is Saul’s son Jonathan. Jonathan and David became best friends. Their friendship becomes the standard by which other friendships are measured. Jonathan would have been king if God had not anointed David to become king instead of Saul. Jonathan dies in battle, likely at the hands of David’s men. In effect, the story says that decency is the first casualty of power-hungry indecency.
No matter how priests fix up the story, David is not a decent man such as modern “family values” people or PC people want as spouses for their children. In the beginning of the story, sometimes decency, the Will of God, grace of God, and fun are NOT together. In that case, it seems we must do the Will of God and seek the grace of God instead of decency. Decency comes behind. It seems people who are a little indecent, a little “bad ass” tough guy, are effective, that is, do God’s Will; and they enjoy the grace of God, that is, have fun. It seems people who aren’t a bit indecent aren’t effective, don’t enjoy the grace of God, don’t have fun, and don’t cure social injustice. Rebel outsiders enjoy the grace of God and do His Will just because they are rebel outsiders. If you want to have fun, enjoy the grace of God, and do His Will, then find a situation of social injustice and join a band of rebel outsiders. It is not hard to find social injustice because there is some everywhere. Cultivate fun, music, and a “bad ass” tough guy attitude but don’t worry about decency.
I don’t like these implications. I have nothing against rebel outsiders, I like fun, I hope people figure out God’s Will in general and not just to suit their own ends, I hope we all find grace, sometimes we need tough guys, and we must cure social injustice and save the planet. I just don’t like seeing the ideas this simplistic way. The ideas are dangerous when taken simply (“mis-taken”, “miss the mark”, “sinful”). The ideas might be true sometimes but it is bad to take them as true always, and it is a good idea to think hard if you put anything ahead of decency and goodness, especially if you put your ideas of the Will of God and the grace of God ahead of decency and goodness.
Being indecent does not mean you have God’s grace, know his Will, have fun, are a righteous rebel, are a tough guy, and will cure social injustice. Being a rebel does not mean you are a righteous rebel, have God’s grace, know his Will, are fun, will cure social injustice, and are decent enough. Being a tough guy does not mean you are a righteous rebel, have God’s grace, know his Will, are fun, will cure social injustice, and are decent enough. If you want grace, it is not a good idea to make yourself indecent to get it. That was the point of Saul’s original fall from grace and the point of David’s eventual fall from grace. If you want to know God’s Will, it is unlikely you will find it in dogmas or in stereotypes of rebels, tough guys, or fun guys. If you want to have fun and cure social injustice, you might have to do something other than, and deeper than, act out as a naughty tough guy rebel bad boy musician. You have to figure out for yourself the something more and the relation between God’s Will, his grace, decency, and what you do. If you err too far toward indecency, privilege, and entitlement, then God will get you.
At least in the West, all rebels, Left and Right, reflect David. Rebels are fourth-hand David. They all put their ideas of grace and God’s Will ahead of simple decency. Left Wing rebels find grace in coolness and fighting social injustice. To be cool is to have God’s grace; God’s grace is coolness. If you are truly cool, then you have been anointed, have the grace of God, are a fun guy, are a tough guy, what you do is the Will of God, and you will right social injustice. All Right Wing rebels think they already have the grace of God because they are good Christians, Muslims, Jews, or Hindus; and they seek to make real the Will of God in their idea of a proper social order. They can do whatever they want to get there. They have their own version of coolness as a substitute for the grace of God but I don’t go into it. Their version combines religious fervor, political fervor, and smugness. They think they are more fun than other guys because their fun is real and not the put-on forced intoxicated fun of Leftists. Neither side relies on simple decency to seek the Will of God or grace of God. Both sides scorn simple decency as inadequate and not fun.
Some rebels stress fun guy without tough guy, such as protestors from the 1960s and most crusaders for women’s rights, gay rights, and family life. Some rebels stress tough guy such as the bad revolutionaries of the 1970s, and some Black activists, White power activists, and, it seems, the Tea Party. Since the late 1970s, movies about vengeance have mixed the two but mostly they have justified tough guy, as with the “Terminator Series”, spaghetti Westerns, “Dirty Harry” series, “Punisher”, “The Losers”, “Batman” series, etc. Hard-partying tough guy bikers are the same. The fact that most crime fighters have a dual identity reflects the mix of David’s character traits. Most self-styled rebels try to find a congenial mix of fun guy and tough guy, including most campus rebels and rockers.
Both Left Wing and Right Wing rebels teach these ideas to indecent people who use them as excuses to do bad things. Indecent people think they are rebels, real tough guy bad asses, are fun, have the grace of God, and do God’s will because they are the victims of social injustice, have had a tough life, or are smart professionals. They are seventh-hand David. In their view, being an outsider does not mark them as losers but marks them as God’s fun cool rebels destined to restore a righteous state by defeating un-cool oppressors. Just because indecent people are outsiders, they can do what they want to get back at whoever they want. In doing what they want, they follow the Will of God and have the grace of God. All other people necessarily are oppressors, do not have the grace of God, oppose the Will of God, and are not fun. In Romantic terms, rebels are truly of the rising Spirit while the current power structure is the declining Spirit in opposition to itself.
More on Rebels.
The vast majority of Left and Ring Wing self-styled rebels are not really indecent, no matter how much they frighten old people. They are stylized naughty rather than indecent. I have a soft spot for them because I am like them. Still, rebels are a big source of distorted ideas to really indecent people, so I say something. Both Left and Right Wing rebels use their version of coolness as their equivalent to the grace of God. Both are on the side of creative chaos and Life. Both oppose rigidity and Death. Both use dogmas as their version of the Will of God. Both claim status as rebel outsiders like David because both claim the other side is like Saul, the other side has power, has screwed up the state, is in serious error (sin), and has lost the grace of God. Logically, both the Left and Right can’t be David or both be Saul, have power and be outside, at the same time; but they overlook this problems and I don’t clarify any of this here. Most readers will have a feel for the silliness.
Any indecency of Right and Left Wing rebels comes not so much from what they do but because they promote ideas even though they know the ideas are half-true and so mostly wrong, and know the ideas enable indecent people. The worst bad idea they convey is to scorn simple decency. One of the worst attitudes they give to truly indecent people is that it is correct to mock simple decency. Cool people like them are above simple decency. Truly cool people are natural rebels, have fun, fight injustice, have God’s grace, and deserve the good things in life like David got. Decent people are boring instruments of state oppression. Social outsiders have the grace of coolness and automatically do what is Right, that is, act out the Will of God. If you want to be right and have fun, then be an indecent outsider rebel.
Left Wing rebels include campus rebels, “rocker” rebels, rebel “grrrls”, some Goths, campus radicals, professors who think of themselves as radical, most activists, feminists, hipsters, and some slackers. They know something is wrong with society and the world, and want to do something, but can’t figure it out. They don’t really know the ideas that they espouse. They dress and act like warmed over updated versions of 1950s Beats and rockers. In the 1990s, they looked like James Dean movies made over into Grunge. Because they don’t really get issues, often their stance is more a fashion statement, and more acting out, than about how to deal. They romanticize losers, bad artists, the underbelly of society, other rebels, outcasts, any ethnic group but theirs, ghettos, non-conventional sex, and minor gangsters.
In a non-political version, Left Wing rebels are bad boy and bad girl stock characters of comedies such as “Super Bad”, “Knocked Up”, “Kick Ass”, “What Happens in Vegas”, and the “Hangover” series. In a more serious mode, they fuel movies such as “Reality Bites”, “Sin City”, most of the “Batman” series, most films from Lionsgate Studios, and good “indie flicks” such as “Juno”. The USA channel on TV makes a living from these people, especially as they age.
These days, Right Wing rebels are more important than Left Wing rebels because the Right Wing has co-opted Left Wing rebel ideology and tactics. People barely notice Left Wing rebels now but they do notice Right Wing rebels. No Right Winger can stray far from the prudish stereotype of the good family person and good Republican but Rightists know the prudish stereotype is unrealistic, often boring, and doesn’t get the job done; so they want more. They want to be Right Wing David after he was king and before he lost the grace of God - but they forget that abuse must lead to a fall.
It is chic now among the Right Wing to be a rebel outsider. They talk about the Left Wing Conspiracy and borrow terms from the Left such as “hegemony”. They act as if Rightists are an endangered species, and so take the same attitude and privileges as Left Wing groups. They come from Campus Republicans and Young Republicans. They are like the Michael J. Fox character from the TV show “Family Ties”. They still blame their parents for the socialist takeover of America. Although rebels, they also see themselves as staunchly moral, pillars of the community, and the last defense against socialist horror. They do not reconcile the dual images. They are like David after he became king but they (think they) don’t make the sins of entitlement but instead serve as guardians of the right order of God. They “call out” professors who espouse leftist ideas in class; and they guard the community against smut. Right Wing Rebels play blues guitar, call themselves “rednecks”, go to rodeos, NASCAR, and wrestling, have public conversions from a previous life of Liberal bleeding heart mistakes, own big guns, yearn to carry them, yearn to use them, sling mud in campaigns, stir up ethnic animosity, try to dominate their wives, try to appear submissive to husbands but really use passive-aggression as well as anyone in a Woody Allen movie, threaten gays, and defend Christmas. They quote Saint Ronald Reagan five times a day. Picketing abortion clinics is a rebellious anti-social act regrettably forced on them by the tyrannical Leftist anti-life agenda. Despite all this hard living on the edge, still they claim they never cheat on their spouses, get drunk, take drugs, or watch porn - anymore. They use state programs to help their business even as they scream against big government and entitlement programs for the poor. While they pay lip service to simple decency, in fact, like Lefties, they are too cool for simple decency and they disdain simple decent people. They convey this attitude to people who are much worse than they are.
As an educated fortunate White man, I find Right Wing rebels mostly fun, as with Left Wing rebels, but Right Wing rebels are not merely fun to all people. Just as Left Wing rebels used to scare oldsters and mothers, so Right Wing rebels scare non-Whites, non-Christians, many women, and people who have read about Right Wing uprisings of the past. American Right Wing rebels are not racist fascists but people like them were the source of racist fascism elsewhere.
Rather than get to the bottom of issues, both Right and Left Wing rebels accept ideas that let them act naughty, and then give these ideas to truly indecent people who use them for real badness. When rebels see the damage done by half-baked ideas, and see the damage done by truly indecent people who use the ideas for excuses, they do not modify the ideas but entrench in them. They “double down”. They are like anybody caught in a plausible fib and who has a chance of getting out of the immediate bind if he-she can push the point and then go away. Committing to an idea they know is not fully true, committing to a fib, distorts their own sense of self, and keeps them from being able to judge themselves and other people accurately. Doubling down has the bad effect of enabling truly indecent people even more. Then the rebels feel guiltier, get more entrenched, and so on. All this folding and fooling is where the true indecency lies, rather than in adopting outmoded daring ideas. Their stock ideas of rebellion serve as a fund of excuses for truly indecent people, and truly indecent people quickly learn how to manipulate rebel “liberal guilt” or “conservative guilt” to enable indecency.
Both Left and Right Wing rebels think of themselves as the guardians of truth. Guardians of truth do not double down on bad ideas. Both Left and Right Wing rebels think of themselves as preparing the way for a better social order. A better social order does not enable indecency and denigrate decency. Both Left and Right Wing rebels have a duty, by their own standards, to be clear when their ideas are not fully true, could mislead, and are being abused. They have a duty to repudiate abuse of ideas. They have a duty to not enable indecent people and to “call out” indecent people. They have to do this without becoming prudish or fascist. Left Wing rebels have a duty to call out indecent thugs of all genders, races, religions, and socio-economic class. Right Wing rebels have a duty to do the same, including the rich. Anything less is self-betrayal and betrayal of what is high and important. Stop enabling ethnic blackmail, business blackmail, and deniers of climate change.
It is easy to dismiss these rebels as chic posers but often these people are more sincere. Eventually they see that the rebel game is silly and hurtful, and try to move on to better games. Eventually they become the professional people of their time – doctors, lawyers, teachers - and they are often the sincere, active, and socially useful professional people. They also serve as a storehouse of sympathy for the poor and other outsiders, and as a storehouse for some actually useful ideas.
Sadly the Right Wing has developed a hard indecent group to parallel the hard group on the Left. These are the people who scorn simple decency and who hurt simple decent people. These people find grace in forceful dominance either through the body or the mind. The coolness of God’s grace is now the thrill of intoxication, domination, or violence. This group uses violence against immigrants and non-Whites, “beat up queers” (“gay bashing”). They are violent skinheads, are White Supremacists, jingoist voters, and your average disgruntled racist on a slow burn. They kill abortion doctors and nurses in the name of Life. They not only sling mud in campaigns, they use dirty tricks such as fear of crime against Michael Dukakis or Swift Boat lies against John Kerry. They buy elections by pouring money into local campaigns even when they have no local ties. They rig elections as in Florida. As with the Left, these Right Wing fully indecent people happily use ideology created by Right Wing Talkers and handed down by Right Wing rebels. They are happy to make Right Wing Talkers and Right Wing rebels feel good by paying lip service to ideology: “Everyone knows that White people have been victimized by Blacks, Hispanics, and all the Left Wing Socialists, so, whatever we do to get back is alright”. These people are the equivalent of the Left Wing Indecent people with the same bad attitude and same keen ability to milk the system but often they are better funded. They have the same nasty habits such as booze, drugs, fighting, attitude, chip on the shoulder, and trashing the place.
The Tea Party waves back and forth across the line between self-styled protesting rebels with half-true totally impractical ideas to political thugs who disrupt daily life and get bad people elected.
To stress: Indecency is not attached to the Left or Right. A White man in Appalachia, who has voted Republican for the last thirty years, but connives to get Social Security Disability, even while he curses Black Welfare Queens, is as indecent and stupid about real issues as a Black gangster wannabe who shoves little Hispanic ladies at the mall, knocks up a fourth different woman so he can sponge off her check, and voted for Obama because Obama is half-Black, the only time he ever voted. A business man or male professor who milks the system is as bad as a Black woman who uses Affirmative Action to get a job or get ahead. Both groups use bad ideas of the Right (violence) and Left (bad entitlement programs). Both are adept at picking ideas to serve themselves. Both are adept at seeing themselves as victims so they can victimize others.
PART 3: SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF INDECENCY
I cannot always separate rude, selfish, criminal, anti-social, immoral, and indecent people; and there is no point in trying here. It is easier to explain with examples. Sometimes the examples criticize society, but that is not the point. Although full of indecency, I avoid politics, entitlement programs for both individuals and business firms, and PC of the Left and Right. When I use cases from these realms, it is to make an additional point. I skip over religious and political zealotry that causes harm even though it is among the worst indecency. I do not try to assign the examples to one of the groups above because various kinds of indecent behavior runs through all the groups.
Listen to “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” by the Beatles for a satire of middle class selfish indecency posing as social critique.
Dog fighting, cock fighting, and all animal fighting for sport is indecent regardless of your cultural heritage. It does not make you more of a man. It is just wrong. Cultural heritage does not excuse everything. Social class and poverty do not excuse everything.
The bad neighbors in movies and TV shows are indecent. They don’t have to be ax murderers or serial killers to reach the level of indecency. They don’t have to burn your car or poison your cat. All they have to do is play loud music, play loud TV on a giant-screen home brain-death system, keep it all going late, throw trash around, let their kids run wild, park cars wherever they want, let toys and crap pile up all over, and get so drunk they are dangerous. This behavior is not “Loving Life” and it is not the exuberance of creativity running over.
This example might be surprising. In the 1950s, America had almost no sales tax. When Oregonians learned of a four percent tax in far away exotic New York City, it was a scandal of degeneracy almost like a Roman orgy - a sure sign of failed government. Now a ten percent sales tax is common. A sales tax is strongly regressive, meaning it hurts poor people while it hardly impacts rich people. With a ten percent rate, a poor person pays at least five percent of his-her meager precious total income in sales tax while an upper middle class person pays less than one percent of his-her ample income. A sales tax on food is disgusting and indecent beyond my ability to say. Legislators use a sales tax because they will not – they say “cannot” – levy proper income and land taxes. The middle class and the rich will not stand for fair taxes. The middle class and the rich would rather bleed the poor than face the facts of state finance. Legislators offer this insight into class psychology as justification but it is not justification. One of the most important points of having a government is to help the people overall. One main way to help is to protect people who cannot protect themselves, in this case the poor. Unfair taxes are bad government, hurt people overall, hurt poor people in particular, and set a bad example. For the middle class, the rich, and legislators to allow a sales tax is indecent. It is a paradigm case of selfishness overcoming basic decency and of how blind we are when we want to be.
Bikers (motorcyclists) love freedom. Contrary to myth, they do not always hate “straight” society or look down on workaday people. They just can’t live like that, and they want the freedom to live in other ways. There is a difference between motorcycle clubs and biker gangs. All gangs call themselves clubs, and I do not sort it out here. To avoid getting sued, I can’t mention any biker gangs by name. Among other illegal income, biker gangs make money by extorting strippers and prostitutes. They “turn out” girls into prostitution, and force girls to work to pay the bikers (I say “girls” instead of “women” because the females are often less than eighteen). Regardless of what you think of prostitution, extorting money from strippers and prostitutes, and turning out girls, is hypocritical and indecent. To value freedom for yourself, and then to take away somebody else’s freedom so you can indulge your own, especially to put someone else into the slavery that you condemn, is hypocritical and indecent. Bikers hate the idea that society tries to “pimp them out” and yet they are pimps. The same assessment is true when bikers terrorize civilians. If you feel the value of not living in fear, how can you needlessly instill fear into other people? Simply saying that you value freedom does not always promote freedom and does not mean you really live free. If you value your own freedom, you have to respect the freedom of others.
Have a long conversation with a dedicated vegetarian or vegan. The issue here is not the lifestyle but the imposition of the lifestyle. Unlike bikers, PC people like to impose. In college, I knew some people who were into “Transcendental Meditation” as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Once they were among a group of friends together on a weekend when I suggested getting beer and pizza for dinner. They gave me a detailed description of how bad those non-foods were for me and gave me many suggestions for what is better. They thought they were improving my health and spirituality but I think they were trying to impose their dogma and lifestyle on me. See the movie “Scott Pilgrim versus the World”, or read the novels, for a funny assessment of the self-made glory and self-styled spiritual power of vegans. If people want to live a certain way, and other people are curious, then explain. Otherwise, imposing is indecent. Usually it is a mild form of indecency but it is still annoying.
While well-intended, much of what the Tea Party does is indecent. Black leaders who wait to pounce on the (often unintended) mistakes of Whites, never explain reality to Blacks, and never offer realistic ways into the future other than “make Whitey pay”, are just indecent. White people who indulge in stereotypes of Blacks, especially with little experience of Blacks, such as “all Blacks are stupid”, are indecent. Blacks who indulge in racism against Whites – and, yes, this does happen – are indecent.
Recently our downstairs neighbors gave me several lessons in indecency. They barbecued with a giant grill made of a split oil drum. The barbecue sent up clouds of acrid smoke which they didn’t suffer from because they lived on the ground floor and the smoke went past their door. The smoke got caught on the big roof overhang and funneled into the upper apartments, where residents choked, and where we live. When I asked them to move their barbecue out a couple of yards, we almost got into a fight because they assumed I was telling them what to do. They couldn’t let anybody outside their clique trample on their freedom, especially somebody who might not be of their socio-economic class or race. Even when I explained the problem, they only moved the barbecue when it was clear I would make a fuss. They liked the idea that they could do what they wanted, and get pleasure, while other people suffered, and other people could not do anything about it. They liked having excuses based in imagined class and race. They liked to have friends over several times a week to chain smoke cigarettes and chain drink beer. They threw all the butts, all the bottle caps, and half the bottles on the lawn. Children who played on the lawn got cut from caps and bottles and got sick from butts. Although the people downstairs had children of their own, they didn’t care. All this might be dismissed as annoying rather than indecent but it fits into a bigger pattern. During their parties, the men liked to talk about how they had to knock around their girlfriends because bitches didn’t respect them. Bitches “dissed” them (“disrespected”). The men liked to talk about the other men they had to beat up because the other men dissed them. “Dissing” could be anything from not getting another beer fast enough for a woman to looking at my girl for a man. They had no choice, they just had to hit. They used to obstruct the stairs and annoy my wife until I started doing martial arts practice on the balcony; they respect force. It is all part of the same mindset, and that mindset is indecency.
Once while walking back from the mailbox, I found myself behind two girls about fourteen years old. They were discussing what to do in case they got in a fight with another girl. The best strategy is to hit her in a place that would mean a lot to a girl even though it might not cause much physical damage, such as the face or the breasts. If you wear a ring and can threaten to cut her face, that attack is better. I know the need for smart strategic self-defense but that is not what they were talking about. What they were talking about is not just a juvenile phase; it is an indecent attitude toward people and social life.
Compulsive lying is indecent and it teaches indecency. My wife and I own an old Camry as our only car. While my wife was moving slowly through the parking lot on her way to work, a woman in a big Mercedes Benz sedan (unusual here) backed into my wife and dented the car. In the Benz with the woman were her two teenage daughters. The woman looked at us straight faced and claimed that my wife had run into her car while the woman was trying to back out. This was an obvious lie. It blatantly violated physics. I looked at her daughters as she told this lie, and saw that they were learning an important lesson about how to handle people and life. Someday compulsive lying will come back to haunt that woman just as stupid dogma and enabling indecency comes back to haunt the greater society. White lies make sense but lying, especially, compulsive lying, is indecent.
Everybody has seen movies where a person gets on a bus or subway to see obnoxious punks sprawled out on the seats, taking up too many seats, their legs blocking the aisle, blasting loud music out of boom boxes. This has happened to me on public buses. This is not just juvenile acting out. Usually the next scene in the movie has the punks robbing little old ladies. It is important to get the motives straight. The punks are not protesting social conventions such as sitting upright in chairs with your legs together and straightforward, like girls trying to protect their virginity. They are not asserting freedom to relax. They are assaulting other people in a context in which they can get away with it and in which they other people cannot avoid. It is deliberate assault. That is how the sprawling and noise leads to robbery in the next scene and in real life.
When I was young, we called “mooning” somebody “hanging a BA (bare ass)”. Hanging a BA clearly is a form of mild sexual assault. It is more than just “acting out” by wearing a bandana or getting a fake tattoo. It is more tolerable than heavily groping somebody at a concert but the motive is similar. It is important to see the true underlying motive, and most people who moon, or get mooned, see the underlying motive of mild sexual assault even if they can’t say it. Saying “moon” instead of “bare ass” hides the deep motive and makes the act seem like mere chic naughtiness. I think the fashion of wearing your pants below your butt, and exposing your underwear and butt, came from making fun of old White men in Florida and California. That is why the young men who do it wear boxer shorts, and, of course, they don’t want to get arrested. By now, most young men don’t recall why it started, and have other motives. Like sprawling on a bus, you have to get the motives straight. The young men say it is part of their fashion, part of their world. They know hanging your butt out makes a statement but can’t always say what statement. The statement is a form of sexual assault, like hanging a BA or mooning. The young men are really sticking their butts out at the big world beyond their own little world. They get away with it by wearing the boxers that are part of the outfit. The same is true of young women who wear their pants or skirt so that about half their butt crack shows, and wear a thong to make the display more striking. It is like a baboon in heat showing her big red swollen butt. It is a form of sexual assault that a woman can get away with. Women are usually the victims of assault, so maybe we can have sympathy for wanting to turn the tables. But that doesn’t make the display tasteful. It doesn’t make the display less sexual assault, and, like bikers, it is odd to perpetrate on other people just the assault that you hate getting. It is funny that boys who wear their pants down are showing off their butt like a girl in heat or like a desperate gay man in a bathhouse yet thinking they are fierce because they assault.
If you see a dead cat by the side of the road, you can look away. If you smell the dead cat, in a few yards the smell goes away. If you touch a piece of fruit and find it is rotten and slimy, you can pull away your hand. You don’t have to taste anything you don’t like. But if a big fire breaks out in a factory in the next block, you will hear the noise of the fire, sirens, and explosions regardless. When a big freight train goes by, you can turn your head but you can’t stop the rumble. Sound is the sense that is hardest to avoid. I understand not being able to listen to loud music in your apartment, thus getting into your car for a drive and a quick fix. I understand when somebody drives around with the radio on, and other people can hear it from a few feet away; it is even fun if he-she is listening to something good like R&B. I don’t accept obnoxious people who drive around in rolling boom boxes shaking tall buildings. Get into a car like that someday. You don’t really hear music, you feel vibration. The content is irrelevant compared to the thrill you get from just blasting crap. The people who do it are not interested in an aesthetic experience. They are assaulting the world in the only way they can get away with and the one way the world cannot get away from. The point is not music but assault. They might not be able to understand all the words while they are in the car but nearly everybody else within a block can, so usually the words are racial slurs or sexist slurs. I don’t like being assaulted.
I tried teaching martial arts at a local civic recreation center. Sometimes old people across the hall did square dancing. They were loud but they were loud because they honestly had hearing issues, and they turned down the volume if you asked. More often, a woman taught a type of vigorous exercise dance across the hall. Although her class had only half-a-dozen students, she brought gigantic speakers and blasted brain-numbing music that rattled the building. Once I asked her to turn it down, and told her that it was too loud. She exploded. She screamed at me for about five minutes, and then followed me down the hall for a bit more. Her voice was as much a verbal assault as her music, and as much of an assault as she could muster up without getting arrested. Although she seemed to say she would assault me physically (I couldn’t tell), she didn’t. She was not giving a course in life-giving exuberance, she was assaulting the center and all the people in it. She was taking the place over and dominating all the people who allowed. She is no different than people who drive around in cars blasting music about rape and racial hatred or who stick their ass in our faces.
In the South, when a person wants to get off a road, he-she speeds up, jams ahead of the car in front of his-her car, and careens off the exit or into the turn. Hundreds of times, while driving in the right lane of a highway, I have approached an exit ramp, with nobody behind me in my lane for half-a-mile, when suddenly an ass zooms over from the left lane, dives in front of me, and screams over to the exit ramp by cutting me off. He-she never looked to see that behind me the lane was open. If he-she had looked, he-she probably wouldn’t have cared, and would have done the same thing anyway. I have asked people in the South if this is so, they confirm it, and admit they have done it, to their embarrassment. This cultural habit might be funny except I have also seen dozens of cars crashed off exit ramps. The problem is attitude and safety. These drivers are playing out a little social drama in their head and are willing to impose on themselves and others the results. People cannot succeed by succeeding well enough, they have to get ahead, they have to make sure others stay behind, and they have to make sure they come in first. If you can’t do that in real life, you can do it on the road in your car. As a result, not only do they die but far too often they take innocent people with them.
Everybody still knows “keeping up with the Joneses” and most people still strive to do it no matter what they say. I get it – I dislike it intensely, but I get. That is not the indecency. The indecency is the feeling of entitlement that goes along with it now. The feeling shows up clearly in the modern version of keeping up with the Joneses because we can see the cars, houses, clothes, and lessons but the feeling is much bigger now than just keeping up with the Joneses. We feel entitled to have it all, to have it our way, and this is indecent. Even people who have only average talent and education at best still feel entitled. In striving and conniving to get it all, they are happy to push themselves ahead of their talent, push other people down, and twist the laws and economy to their advantage. You deserve this, you deserve that, and you are special. I do not list the details. On public television, Tiger Woods said that a feeling of entitlement led him to cheat on his wife not just with one or two women but dozens. Tiger Woods has great talent, and should not have to worry. If a feeling of entitlement drove him to that kind of ruin, it does worse, but in smaller ways, to people with lesser talent.
If you stood in the middle of a burning house, but you could still open the refrigerator door to get a cool refreshing bottle of soda, would you stop to get it and drink it in the middle of the flame filled kitchen, while not calling the fire department and not saving your family? Hopefully you would have better sense. Americans get angry when other people criticize our lifestyle as selfish and indulgent. If our lifestyle were only selfish and indulgent yet did not harm a world that was badly in trouble, I would not care. Some Americans insist they have a right to big houses, multiple big cars, huge electric bills, and a lot of wasted food because, through some honest enterprise and too much conniving, America can run a huge energy budget and some Americans can afford luxuries. We are in a world that cannot support our lifestyles, that is, we are in a burning house next to the refrigerator sipping soda watching our family burn. In this case, it is not just self-indulgent, it is stupid and indecent. You have to think seriously about where to draw the line between what you deserve as a result of hard work in a technologically rich society versus what you take from a world burning around you. At some point, selfishness really does become indecency.
I recall listening to scientists who knew better, but made their money through contracts with business, finding every excuse they could to deny global climate change (global warming). It was really sad to see smart people contort their minds. To a scientist, the evidence was clear a couple of decades ago. Even to a jingoist politician, they evidence has been clear for about a decade. To deny global climate change is not just selfish, it is now indecent, no matter what your party says or your constituents say.
I see why, in the pre-modern world, families might have six, eight, or ten children. I know why, even now, in places with uncertain life, couples want more than two children. But the world can’t afford it anymore. It is not just China, India, and Indonesia that are packed full. The whole world is packed full. People in modern states such as America, France, and China don’t see the extent to which everybody supports their children and all the children of the country. American children go to school not just on their parents’ dime but through the good-hearted support of neighbors including old people, childless people, childless couples, the poor, the rich, and business firms. Sales taxes are used to finance education. Although Americans know how much a child costs them in particular, they still do not fully appreciate how much a child costs overall and how much of the cost is borne by other people. The world is now overcrowded. The world carries at least twice, likely at least three times, as many people as it can support. In these conditions, it is indecent to have more than two children unless you personally make ALL the money, and can command ALL the resources, that it takes to raise ALL of your present and additional children, and are willing to give to the public pot. Few people really command that much in resources and even few are willing to give a big share. If you cannot afford all the costs of a child, then don’t have one. If you are a woman, and you have a child to hold a man but cannot afford to raise the child alone, you have done something indecent and destructive. If you are a man and do not fully support your wives and children, then you are indecent. If you have a congenital disease such as diabetes, don’t have children. If you are fat, don’t have children. If you have children that you know will be a burden to society as a whole and to the world as a whole, you are indecent.
The point of the following is not that welfare mothers are indecent. Some are, and some aren’t. The average welfare mother has the same number of children, about two, as the average mother who is not on welfare. The minority of women on welfare are welfare queens, although some are. The point is that welfare has become a kind of blackmail, and the blackmail is indecent.
Conversation overheard in a large retail store: One middle age lady to another middle age lady: “(A) I’ll be really glad when my daughter has her fourth child soon. (B) Why is that? (C) Because then she will get welfare payments for all four children and everybody in the house will be able to live good enough. (B) Who’s the daddy of this one? Same as the last? Don’t he have to pay child support? (A) The daddy is that no-good Howard, but we aint gonna tell the welfare people, and he aint the father of none of the others. Don’t know where their daddies are and their daddies wouldn’t pay no child support anyhow.”
Suppose a woman has a first child and cannot take care of it or will not take care of it. She is a bad person, and we don’t want to reward her. But, by withholding help from her, we also withhold help from her child. We don’t want the child to be hungry, sick, unclothed, cold, and unable to learn. Even if the child survives, he-she is more likely to be a criminal or a burden. So we take care of the child. In taking care of the child, we support the mother, even if she is a bad person. Bad people quickly enough catch on to this blackmail racket, and milk it for what they can get. The bad people spoil it not just for the kind people who give support but for all the other good mothers who really deserve help, like a thirty year old mother with two kids and used to work hard but lost her job. The fact that the blackmail inherent in the situation often goes to support bad people makes the feeling of blackmail much sharper but the feeling of blackmail taints everything anyway and would taint everything even if nobody on welfare abuses welfare. The fact that we feel blackmailed even when we help good people makes us feel angrier and taints the situation worse. The fact that we can’t separate the good people from the bad people without hurting a lot of children makes it worse again. Everyone who does not take care of his-her own children when he-she could supports indecency. Everyone who does not plan ahead for situations like losing a job before he-she has children supports indecency. Everyone who has another child while on welfare, or soon after welfare, is indecent. Everyone who gets off welfare to have another child and then goes back on welfare is indecent. Everyone who lashes out against all welfare mothers without understanding where his-her own anger comes from, even if some anger is quite justified, is indecent. Everyone who supports welfare without understanding the blackmail, the taint, and the justifiable anger of people, is indecent even if he-she thinks of him-herself as good-hearted. Everyone who criticizes critics of welfare without seeing the blackmail at the heart of the system, and without feeling the heart of critics, is indecent.
Contrary to myth, education will not solve all social problems. In particular, education alone will not make sure everybody gets a job. I do strongly support education, and I want everybody to get some education so they will be a better member of society and better citizen. My view is not a contradiction but it is not straightforward, so I need to be clear. I live among families with children, so I have had a chance to hear and see school children. Many children disparage other children who like to read, like to play music, like sports other than football and basketball, and like activities other than cheerleading and dancing. Children learn to disparage a decent well-rounded education. Kids who get something from school, and who enjoy school, are called “geeks” and “Chinese”. Children learn to disparage school not only from other children as part of overall kids’ culture but they learn it from their parents too, who do not value education. Even though education alone won’t solve all social problems, we have to value education. It has to be a part of American culture. We have to be realistic about what to expect from it – again, it is not the cure for everything - but we do have to expect something from education and we do have to value it in itself. To disparage education in the modern world is indecent. To encourage or tolerate your children disparaging education and well-rounded educated children is indecent.
The eastside of Montgomery, Alabama was largely ruined by teens who formed packs at the shopping malls, stole, fought, terrorized other shoppers, and ruined business. The east side of the city today looks like a neighborhood in Syria. Montgomery built a large new shopping mall on the west side of the city. The teen gangs started going there, shoppers got worried, and merchants got worried. One day, a little old Black lady, who was active in her community, went to the mall and started yelling at the children to behave themselves. The police and the merchants supported her. As far as I could tell, the parents of the children were nowhere. The city instituted a curfew and rules about how many people could gather at once. So far, it all seems to have worked, and the malls remain open and prosperous. I don’t think I need to point out what is decent and indecent, and the motives of the merchants and city. It is useful to point out that indecency does have some really bad effects.
When the Western pension system was devised, people lived to be only about 60 years old, many people lived only into their forties, and people stuck with a job all their lives. People expected to get only one pension from one place, and employers expected to pay only one pension for one job for one lifetime of a worker. Pensions were set up so the majority of benefits could be claimed after about 20 years of work because that might be all the years that one worker worked lived, and his-her family needed the security after he-she died. Back before about 1980, America could afford to be generous like this to its workers. Although people could get most benefits after about 20 years, employers expected them to work for at least 30 years if they lived. Today people live much longer than 60. People start a job early expecting to put in 20 years at that job, quit, get nearly full benefits, then move to another job and do the same. Some people do that with three jobs, and then get Disability or Social Security too. Not only do they get benefits from multiple sources, they get benefits for a lot longer than the plans originally were set up to cover. So, for a long time they drain resources from other people who are still working. While they might be legally and technically justified, they are not morally justified. Being clever and using the law does not make a person correct. These people are no more correct than the corporations who use the law and are clever. This is like abusing welfare and has the same feel about it as welfare blackmail. This is indecent. These people should be working to reform the pension system so that one person, and family, gets one pension per lifetime.
A “corp” is a “body”, a unified group (of people), as in “esprit de corps”. A corporation is an imaginary body, that is, an imaginary legal person. A corporation is an imaginary person made up so that a group of people can work together as a whole under the law just as a single person can work as a unit under the law. If not abused, it is a good idea. One of the most annoying rumors spread by foes of homosexual (gay) marriage is that, if a person can marry another person of the same gender, then soon people will be marrying a dog, cat, horse, rose, rhododendron, house, spirit, or something equally bizarre and offensive. In novels about Mississippi, William Faulkner had an idiot White Trash man in love with a cow. People needlessly fear this abuse of gay marriage but they do not need-fully fear the abuse done by made up legal powerful persons, that is, corporations. It is fine to give corporations some rights as a person so they can be overall useful to society as long as they are not a threat to real flesh-and-blood-and-spirit persons. It is not fine to give corporations rights under the law that undercut social welfare and the idea of a real person. Sadly, that has begun in America, and it is indecent. It is indecent in itself, and is more indecent because it is done to serve the power of the rich and powerful, including corporations. “LLC” used to be part of the name of many corporations. The letters mean “Limited Liability Corporation or Company”. Due to the laws about corporations, it is harder to sue a corporation than a regular person, a corporation cannot be sued for some things for which we can sue a normal person, and, even if a corporation is sued, the extent of liability is limited. This privilege was originally given to corporations so they could do business without many nuisance lawsuits and worries, so corporations would benefit the country as a whole. Now the law serves as a shield behind which corporations can do bad things. In a specific provision of the law set up by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to enable the harvest of natural gas, corporations that “frack” for natural gas cannot be sued. Oklahoma used to have 2 earthquakes a year before fracking there. In 2013, it had 230. The good Republicans of Oklahoma who voted for Bush and Cheney might want to re-consider. It is hard to see how a corporation can have a political position as a real person can have. Yet the Supreme Court in 2014 gave corporations the right to donate almost without limit to campaigns, and allowed officers of corporations the right to assess workers over political views. It would be little surprise if, soon, corporations had the right to marry each other, marry physical things such as dams, or marry natural things such as rivers. That would certainly help consolidate business. The abuse of personhood by corporations is indecent while the use of marriage by gay people is not.
I don’t mind ads for dentists on TV although the dentists who run ads are no better than the dentists who do not run ads. I used to not mind ads for lawyers until lawyers started running ads offering to sue the drug companies in case of any drug that might have bad side effects, one day after the FDA expressed any concern, and implying that anyone who ever took the drug, with side effects or not, “might be entitled to a large cash settlement”. The key is entitlement without talent, training, or effort. Lawyers pander to the idea that we are all entitled, and there is a magic legal doorway by which we can get ours, and get it big. The indecency is divided equally between the mass of people who hope to live easily by winning a lawsuit and the lawyers who will sell their services based on mass greed.
I thought I could avoid skewering political practices but, as I wrote this, I had to live through Republican Primary elections and runoffs in Alabama and Georgia. Out of 100 ads, about 5 might be positive ads, the content of which pretty much just featured the candidate with his family at church or at home to show what a good decent guy he was – no ideas or policies. The other 95 ads were attacks on the opponent. In a nutshell, despite being a lifelong Republican, the opponent really is a Democratic Party demon in disguise, in secret collusion with the Teachers’ Union and President Obama to take away all your guns and money, force your children to learn about evolution and hate God, and give your money to the same slime that now get welfare. In fairness, when Democrats get their turn, they are as bad. If any of these claims were true, we would have to put up with the practice. But it is all completely made up lies. If any statements were about real positions, issues, and laws, then we might have to think about it. But every message is about only fantasies and fears. The Republicans all claimed to be good religions Christian people, yet they lied, and Jesus would condemn them for lying. The worst part is that it works. Politicians invest in these lies because the lies work. People respond to this crap, and do not respond to real issues as real citizens should. This shows why Americans no longer deserve the freedom for which our soldiers are dying. The practice of politicians is indecent, and their indecency reveals something about Americans that is even more deeply indecent.
Every occupation in the modern world is part of a system. Every system has its quirks, and everybody uses the quirks now and then. Everybody takes a paper clip home sometimes. I don’t care about that. On the other hand, every system has people who are adept at milking the system. They use resources of the system for their own good. They divert the system away from what it should be doing, and so deprive other people of the help they should have gotten. That is indecent.
Because I was in academia for a while, I saw indecent abuse mostly among professors. I don’t know if academia is worse than other lines such as construction and computers and if some professors are worse than some people in other lines. Academia encourages abuse among professors but I don’t want to blame the system. People have to take personal responsibility. The professors that I have in mind are adept at writing papers and books with little content or they repeatedly re-cycle ideas that were original twenty years ago. They are adept at writing grants that seem topical and seem as if the work will produce an advance in knowledge or in practical application but really doesn’t. They know how to write a grant for any piece of money that comes up almost anywhere. If they are in the right field, they know how to attract money from business often by putting a pseudo-scientific jingle behind what business wants to hear. They support a team of students who do all the real work in exchange for degrees. The work of the team might have some benefits but not nearly as much as it seems. These professors get themselves called “stars” and so get salaries higher than their fellows, like a star in athletics – but usually not as much as the football coach. In their hearts they know they are not worth it, and know the distortion they cause, but they can’t help it. The equivalent in politics might be a veteran legislator who is adept at stabbing pork into every bill that has a little life. He-she knows how to get re-elected and knows glamour issues but doesn’t know, or care, what the country really needs. All this is no different than someone who indecently abuses welfare or Social Security Disability. They have good excuses too.
In a democracy, being a bad citizen is indecent. Voting without knowing the issues is indecent. Voting on the basis of party alone, ethnic group, or religion is indecent. People should consider why they want to help groups such as illegal immigrants. Many people within our country, such as the residents of Chicago and Los Angeles, live in conditions worse than the previous conditions of illegal immigrants. Should we help illegal immigrants from China as much as from Latin America? Should we spend resources helping illegal immigrants of particular races and creeds or should we spend resources on the people of our own cities regardless of race and creed? People must think about why they support breaking the law in some particular cases.