Trump, Egocentrism and Morality
Posted by BroadBlogs
Is America losing its moral grounding?
Is there no longer any difference between US and Soviet-style morality?
When asked if Vladimir Putin’s killing bothered him (he’s murdered political enemies for instance) Donald Trump retorted,
What, you think our country’s so innocent?
Masha Gessen immigrated here from the former Soviet Union and worries that “what aboutism” creates a false moral equivalency, as she wrote in the New York Times.
“What aboutism” resonates with Soviet-style propaganda: When accused of anything just say that your opponent is not pure. “But what about them…?”
Everyone does it. There is no moral ground. Just winners and losers.
Winners and losers — a Trumpian mindset.
But “winners and losers” leads us away from moral behavior and into “Might makes right.”
The egocentric mindset
Ken Wilber is a philosopher who studies societal evolution. Turns out that both individuals and societies evolve over time. But some people and cultures get stuck in the early stages.
At the earliest phase we are egocentric. It’s all about me. I seek reward. I avoid punishment. Toddlers and early societies are all about themselves. And ruled by people who believe might makes right.
Trump certainly fits the egocentric mindset. I don’t know that he ever does anything to benefit anyone but himself.
- As a businessman he hired contractors and refused to pay them.
- He refuses to pay taxes that would help the country because he personally benefits by not paying.
- He conned students into taking courses at his non-university
- He forces himself on women
But then, might makes right.
Higher stages of evolution
The next stage of evolution finds us emerging out of the me-focus to care about our closest communities. We become ethnocentric. White straight Protestant males care about white straight Protestant males… Gangs care about their own members… I care about my country… and to hell with anyone else.
At the next stage we gain the capacity to think in global and “universal” ways. This stage began with the Renaissance and grew with the Enlightenment. The view is rational and grounded in reason and science. Its focus is progress and achievement.
At the next stage we grow inclusive and caring toward one another and the earth. Relationships, harmony and dialogue are key values. All cultures are equal. This is a partnership mindset.
Wilbur describes each of these stages as “the flatlands” because if you are in any of these stages you cannot understand — or you reject — most everything about the other levels outright.
Next up is the integral stage from whence we can see some value in each of the other stages and utilize that which is positive while letting go of the negative. Flexibility and functionality are high priorities. Equality is complemented with awareness of degrees of excellence where appropriate. And morality is not entirely relative, but based on a question of harm.
“Might makes right” is the new America?
Many of us worry that America is devolving.
And we reject the notion that morality is relative. If you harm someone — kill them for reasons other than self-defense, or cripple them physically, mentally or emotionally — that is wrong, regardless of culture.
If a powerful group is exploiting a less powerful group for gain (slavery or genocide…) that is wrong.
This is not merely might makes right.
All killing is not equal. If you kill a political enemy, that is much worse than fighting to defend your country or allies against fascism or genocide, for instance.
We can behave morally
Ms. Gessen worries that one of the norms DJT has attacked since taking office is our striving to act in line with our moral values — to be better.
I worry too.
About BroadBlogsI have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.
Posted on February 24, 2017, in politics/class inequality and tagged Donald Trump, Ken Wilber, might makes right, relative morality, social evolution, what aboutism. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.