The Pendulum Swings

Column by Kevin M. Patten.

Exclusive to STR

There always seems to be a fine line between those who are praised and those who are condemned. Circumstances and rationalizations play a vital part in deciding who will be considered “heroes” and who will go down in history as bloodthirsty monsters. Usually when this happens, the morals that were supposed to be held so close to our hearts will be forgotten, in favor of the general (societal) consensus. For example, if we are to believe that the act of murdering an innocent person is a crime that should be condemned, how is it possible that we – as a herd-like society – praise those who perform the act under a different banner? Society proclaims to hold a permanent frown upon those who blatantly kill innocent people. But this rule should apply across the board; no person who does it, or participates in it, should receive any leniency.

Now, if we were to look at recorded history, and all its events of murder, torture, rape and pillage, we will find some cases in which the person (or persons) responsible for these heinous crimes will, in fact, be glorified for this behavior. Take Ronald Reagan, for instance. During his presidency in the 1980s, the United States supposedly “flourished” under his administration. It was an unprecedented era of National Pride and prosperity. For this vague reason alone, Mr. Reagan will always be revered as an American hero by the masses.

However, if we were to apply our standard moral creed to the “Gipper,” then he will certainly have to be condemned in the same fashion. This is because Mr. Reagan (along with many others in his cabinet) provided billions of dollars of military weaponry to right-wing dictators in Latin America, who systematically slaughtered thousands of people. We must ask ourselves: Why does a former president deserve our forgiveness? Was it because the threat of Communism was so great as to justify the support of these murderers? “Yes,” it is said collectedly. He then becomes exempt from universal morals.

In fairness, a slogan that explains subjective reasoning gets thrown around from time to time: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” The major difference? Opinion. For there is a long list of lone bombers and rouge organizations that could be compelled to fight for a supposed “freedom”: Ted Kaczynski, Timothy McVeigh, or any one of the numberless Muslim jihadists. Only a small fraction of people in America would possibly agree with anything they supposedly stand for. The masses will simply know what they did, or who they killed, and immediately make the final judgment – disregarding any valid arguments or evidence to the contrary. This principle of hypocrisy is then evoked when others do it under a different pretense. “Kill one person, you’re a murderer, kill a million, you’re a hero” – an old adage. Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, Stalin, Reagan – every one of them has reached a majority’s high respect, no matter how many dead bodies have been left in their passing.

On most occasions this bias – this absolute justification happens when there is a logo of patriotic pride. But sometimes it is the result of something even more influential: cultural trend. With the toxin that is (Or should I say “was”?) rap music, nearly all criminal behavior reaches the level of idolization: the worship of a lawless outcast, the admiration for the “Super Anti-Hero” who is exiled from society and has no respect for the rules. Drugs, murder, prostitution – all a (seemingly) decent way to live, or at least admire excessively. More than a few of the ghastly habits that are used in these songs are a breach of what we purportedly hold dear to our hearts. But because the music had reached a prominent social status, it became a prominent element of cultural existence.

The logic is this: the music is okay to listen to, but if someone we loved or cared about were to start shooting people, or selling their bodies, it would receive equal attention and condemnation. Contradictions are astounding. The simple point is that the rap industry will always be remembered and revered as an important component of the 1990s culture, while drugs and murder will always be looked down upon.

Morals and ethics will now act like a proverbial pendulum, swinging back and forth to fit the circumstances. When someone goes and picks up a hooker on the street corner, prostitution is okay; when that person’s sister starts occupying that same street corner, prostitution is not okay. When the president intentionally kills innocent people in the name of “National Defense,” the school textbooks proudly proclaim the brave work. When a disturbed bomber grows tired of the governments’ random injustices and blows up a federal building, he is the scum of the earth. Of course it must be acknowledged that a person’s morals cannot be limited to a simple statement, or an emotion that stems from personal experiences. They must be reasoned out – argued even – this to the point in which they are engraved in our character, solidified in our actions, and grounded in a near absolute conviction.

Your rating: None
Kevin M. Patten's picture
Columns on STR: 16