Our Current Plague Of Nuttiness

hillaryEvery day’s news brings multiple illustrations of the plague of nuttiness that is afflicting America. A case in point is the government’s handling of the Benghazi affair.

On September 11, 2012, the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya was attacked, four Americans including the ambassador were killed and ten others were injured. The administration blamed the attack on protests about an anti-Islamic video, an assertion they reportedly knew to be false.

Four months later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when asked whether the Benghazi attack was caused by a video-inspired protest demonstration, she responded “What difference does it make?” and went on to say that it is “less important today looking backward” and finding out why the act was done than to “find them and bring them to justice” and then perhaps find out “what was going on in the meantime.”

Think about that. Here was a Yale law school graduate, often characterized as the brightest woman of her generation, saying that the perpetrators should be brought to justice before the facts of the case were known. Both logic and law support the opposite view—that the facts must be known first because they are the only basis for achieving justice. Moreover, her suggestion that there is no difference between a spontaneous protest and a planned terrorist attack gives new meaning to the term “absurdity.”

The Benghazi affair is but one example of the mindlessness that seems to be increasing. Here is another: in April, 2013, a federal judge ruled that the “morning-after” pill be available over the counter to anyone without age restriction. (If taken within 72 hours after intercourse, the pill is very reliable in preventing pregnancy.) His ruling means that even a pre-teenage girl can obtain and ingest the pill without her parents’ knowledge. Thus, they will unable to watch any of the numerous side effects associated with the pill. Also, school administrators would presumably have to allow morning-after pills in class even though aspirin and ibuprofen are forbidden.

Another example: In June of 2013, New York City Council members proposed that in issuing crime alerts, police be banned from referring to a suspect’s age, race, gender, or disability. The sponsors of the measure urged further that it be brought to an immediate vote rather than go through the usual committee process.

Policy unions understandably protested the proposal. Consider this scenario: an elderly woman is assaulted in a mall parking lot and subsequently describes her attacker as an Hispanic man in his twenties who was dressed in a red jacket and a blue cap and walked with a pronounced limp. The police then issue an alert, but the only part of the description that can be included is that the attacker wore a red jacket and a blue cap. Patrolmen, mall employees, and shoppers would be left to wonder: Young or old? Man or woman? Hispanic, black, white, or Asian?  Physically impaired or not? The chances of apprehending the attacker will, of course, be slim to none.

Readers will be able to think of many more examples of contemporary mindlessness, and as the list lengthens, the underlying question will grow more insistent. Why this plague of nuttiness? Of course, government, private agencies, and individuals were never free from foolishness, but until fairly recently it was not so obvious or pervasive. What happened to make it so?

The answer, as I explain in Corrupted Culture, lies in the combined effects of two movements that were prominent in the last century and whose effects have become more pronounced in recent decades. The first, Hereditarianism, claimed that the masses are deficient in mind power and therefore need to be guided by their betters.  The other, Humanistic Psychology, claimed that everyone is wise and wonderful from birth, can create his or her own truth and reality, and therefore has no need of guidance from church, state, or society,

One might have expected that the second, more generous assessment of human nature would have canceled out the negative one and everyone would regard his or her neighbors as wise and wonderful. But that did not happen. The reason was the ego factor, which led people to regard Humanistic Psychology’s extravagant claims about the human person as applicable to themselves and people who share their views, but definitely not to others.

The result of this perspective has been a widening gap among people of different intellectual, political, cultural, and religious persuasions. Discussion and dialogue have suffered—one thinks immediately of the inability of elected officials to compromise on vital issues, but that is just one example. The prevailing attitude among many people is, “My opinions are always insightful and those who do not accept them are ignorant or intellectually dishonest.”

This attitude is most evident among the many people in government who combine the worst errors of Hereditarianism and Humanistic Psychology. That is, those who regard the people they serve as incompetents who need to be highly regulated, and themselves as unerringly wise and noble. Ironically, that very self-image makes them more foolish and ignoble than they would otherwise be, for it deprives them of the self-questioning and self-criticism that could help them avoid, or at least correct, lapses in judgment and assess other viewpoints more objectively.

The longer such attitudes go uncorrected, the more nuttiness we will see and the more threatened America’s future will be.

Copyright © 2013 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved