How Can Americans Reverse Our Nation's Moral Decline? | Zach Werrell
Lawyer and Political Operative Zach Werrell joins us to discuss ethics, truth, and power dynamics in the current political landscape.
ON THIS EPISODE OF THE BEST MEDICINE PODCAST
Our Guest: Zach Werrell
Today’s podcast is about what happens when you lose truth as a high value in society.
Two of the most “dishonest” kinds of people in our society are political operatives/politicians and lawyers.
Every single person in the country has a story about being lied to, abandoned by, or screwed over by a lawyer or politician/political operative.
My nephew is both.
I regard him as a very good man on a good path, and in this episode we get into the dichotomy of trying to be a good, truthful, virtuous person in the context of such power-hungry, competitive, rotten professions.
I hope you enjoy it.
In the mean time I want to dive a bit deeper into some of the moral philosophy we discussed in this episode.
When Truth Dies
It’s commonly accepted that we have underwent the “Death of God” as a society.
Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was the first person to write about this concept.
The idea was that our intellectual advances in science finally caused us to realize that the Earth is not the center of the universe, animals and humans underwent the same evolutionary processes, and that there are mathematically measurable laws that govern physics and chemistry - it’s not all (necessarily) some magic clockmaker or creator.
While science does not defeat the concept of God outright, it certainly changes the scope of His relevance in day to day life.
For example, a Greek citizen may have actually thought that Apollo’s rage was the reason a plague broke out. But a modern person understands that plagues can actually come from labs in Wuhan China (ha!).
Apollo is a God that symbolizes the ability for the universe to be rationally understood and harmonically/beautifully constructed. He can still symbolize that whether or not he is a literal being throwing down plagues on people.
But a Greek person would obviously be less likely to tremble in their boots at the thought of a *literal, material* Apollo creating and throwing sickness on their village because they didn’t complete a ritual sacrifice appropriately.
Similarly, people in modern times might still believe in God - however it’s so purely in a metaphysical way that it’s almost negligently efficacious on our day-to-day behaviors.
This is the Death of God. When a “highest concept” is trivialized by intellectual advances and thus our individual and group ethics/behaviors change.
Unfortunately, when the Abrahamic God dies so does “Truth” as a highest value.
Yes, we must all “Trust the Science” and believe that our material studies will find objectively verifiable facts and predictively valid theories.
But these are questions of “is,” not “ought.”
With no culturally agreed upon highest MORAL value, we have slid into complete subjectivity.
We can not agree on cultural or social norms.
Spiritual wisdom is discarded by the masses.
We lose our way.
And in an economic and political context the only thing left to protect you is the laws of the state and your own willingness to be effective.
The former is a facade as you can pay-to-win (as I discuss with Zach in the episode), and the later is pure will-to-power style “Law of the Jungle.”
This begs the question: How can we find a cultural highest value? How can we reinstate Truth in our society? And will the means to that path justify the ends?
The Confusion of “Is” and “Ought”
No person’s moral system is free from subjective human biases.
Any philosophy, law, theology, psychology or history class will cover the fact that there is a preferential and subjective nature to human ethics.
Science covers the realm of “is,” or at least it tries to.
The humanities (philosophy, theology, myth, psychology, etc) will cover the realm of “ought.”
Unfortunately, philosophers have been having roughly the same debates about “ought” for millenia.
Some things are widely agreed on - for example, all things being equal, murder is something we ought not do.
Other things are more hotly debated - for example, promiscuity, prostitution and adultery. In contemporary times many believe that these things are entirely natural and to be celebrated. Others believe they are sinful and degenerate.
There are “facts” or “is statements” that support both sides of the argument.
For every additional sexual partner a woman has, her ability to properly pair bond with a man (form a chemical bond that facilitates family stability) decreases radically. The more sexual partners a woman has, the more likely she is to divorce. Divorce is highly correlated with criminality, disease, mental distress, addiction and low achievement in children. These facts support the “promiscuity is degenerate” argument.
People have ultimate sovereignty over their own bodies. Sexuality can’t be governed by law effectively without removing freedom from a political system via government force. Humans are not a strictly monogamous species, we tend to have a “serial monogamy” pattern embedded into our psychology. Sexuality is a natural part of human life and repressing one’s natural sexual will can cause psychological distress. And the damage to a child living under a dysfunctional or abusive marriage can be much worse than a child in split custody or sole custody of one parent that loves them. These facts would be used to support the “sex positive” argument.
What one must realize, however, is that there are facts supporting both sides. If one realizes this then one might engage in a rational debate or inquiry about the subject.
Instead, what people tend to do is only listen to the facts that support their side and claim their “ought” is an “is.”
In a world with no universal subjective to settle these debates we are obligated to rationally sort through them ourselves, yet we are proving incapable. This creates an emergent problem, especially in a democratic republic: The problem of politicians inciting the mob.
The Non-Value of Tolerance
The highest value in today’s society is actually what happens in the absence of a moral value.
Conservatives and libertarians tend to have a very “live and let live” attitude with an anti-centralization bias. They want to live their life exactly how they want without Washington DC telling them. Contrary to popular opinion, they’re fine with the LGBT crowd and people of all races - they simply do not want to be forced to comply with certain behaviors by a government or by a politically incited mob of activists. They believe social progress ought to be organic and voluntary. People who try to exercise any amount of government force on their individual lives are clearly the enemy.
Leftists and liberals tend to have a “permissiveness” as their highest value - except they have an anti-bigotry bias. They believe that in any instance where someone might be judged negatively or excluded for their behaviors that they ought to be protected with the power of law. In a quest to become permissive and accepting of everyone laws should be passed and enforced to allow every single person to be included in “progress.” People who stand in opposition to this are principle are clearly the enemy.
In both cases these groups of people have defined their enemy as the people who won’t let them, and people like them, do whatever they want.
There’s a reason addiction, suicide and divorce are up. These things were on the rise before 2020 (and amplified by the shutdowns).
We lack a moral center. People think their “oughts” are facts, but there’s no universal subjective to ensure that at least we’re operating on the same “oughts.”
To cite Nietzsche again, one of my favorite ideas of his is that we must seek freedom, but it is not important what a man is free FROM, but rather what he is free FOR. For every freedom we must have a responsibility, in other words - to pursue a constructive goal, a better version of ourselves, prosperity for our loved ones, or a higher moral responsibility.
The United States used to have that kind of Freedom as it’s central value in the form of “Liberty.” Liberty was about having a society where the government would not interfere with the freedom of it’s citizenry to pursue excellence.
Liberty was never about pleasure-seeking permissiveness. It was never about the avoidance of responsibility. It was never about tolerance.
In the United States of America today, politicians use this pleasure-seeking form of freedom as an appeal to advance political conflicts.
Every moral conversation, every debate on social issues ultimately boils down to two children saying “I want something, therefor everyone must appease that, and my parents (the Republican/Democratic party) said I’m entitled to it so you have to do it!”
Under these circumstances, the stage is perfectly set for politicians to become hyper-psychopathic liars. They will say whatever easy thing their base wants to hear, rather than stand for a moral vision of America like true leaders would. They will tell their base one thing (whether they believe it or not) and incite their mob to attack the mob of their opponent with insults and accusations (and sometimes even violence).
All of this is so the politicians can gain power. Power lets them write laws and gain access to money. This is the true highest value of America, the trifecta of money, legal control and power.
Politicians perfectly embody the current moral weaknesses of the American people. Where the American people want freedom from the responsibility, politicians are happy to provide it in exchange for power. It’s a devil’s bargain. We trade away our moral authority over our world to the very people that most wish to abuse it to take our money, divide us, and control us.
Thank you for reading, viewing and/or listening to BEST MEDICINE. I hope you enjoy it.
My hope is that through this podcast we can continue this much needed discussion on morality in America. It is essential to the social health of our society, and therefor the physical and mental health of every human being within it’s borders.
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Dr Bradley Werrell