The Wages Of Sin

The Wages Of Sin

America’s conservatives have abandoned all that was once holy to them, trading in their crumbling economic theology for a decadent orgy of greed and self-indulgence.

By David Todd McCarty | Monday, August 17, 2020

Imagine you are a mouse. You have an instinctive and natural fear of cats, as they pose an existential threat to your very survival. You avoid cats, because the consequences of coming into contact with a cat, is certain death. One day, due to an infection caused by a parasite that you acquired ironically enough, from cat shit, you lose your fear of cats.

This isn’t a fairy tale or morality fable, it’s a scientific phenomenon—if you still believe in that sort of thing. Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that occurs in mice, and that has the unfortunate side effect of removing their instinctive fear of cats. Mice, infected with Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan parasite, lose all fear of predators, and are consequently more vulnerable to being eaten by cats. Infected mice, when eaten, allow the parasites to reproduce in the cats intestines (the only place where they can reproduce), and the process repeats itself. Research shows that even months after an infection, even when parasites are no longer detectable, the effect on the mice remains. They lack fear, and so become emboldened beyond anything reasonable or sustainable.

Since the improbable election of Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party seems to have collectively become infected with a parasite that has removed not only any moral compunction, but also seemingly any fear of eventual repercussions.

Ayn Rand, the patron saint of laissez-faire capitalism and greedy Republicans everywhere, is the parasite that has infected the consciousness of American conservatism for the last fifty years. Ayn Rand preached her ideal of objectivism, or the virtue of selfishness, where the ultimate moral value, for each individual, is his or her own well-being. Since selfishness, as she defined it, is principally concerned with one’s own well-being, Rand believed that selfishness was a virtue.

The fact that so many Republicans have come under the spell of Rand and her twisted theocracy of selfishness, does much to explain the seemingly cruel approach they’ve taken to governing. If there is no moral value in altruism, which Rand vehemently opposed, then there is no moral purpose to operating outside of your own interests. The basic principle of altruism, according to Rand, is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue, and value. She argued that the opposite was true. That man exists solely to make himself happy.

“Collectivism is the tribal premise of primordial savages,” wrote Rand, “who, unable to conceive of individual rights, believed that the tribe is a supreme, omnipotent ruler, that it owns the lives of its members and may sacrifice them whenever it pleases.”

By her logic, all religious and government institutions that hinder individuals from pursuing self-interest should be removed. She may have rejected the notion of libertarianism, but there would be no modern Libertarian Party, or Tea Party, without her.

Ayn Rand believed, in essence, that you are your own God, and therefore, you must let no other come before you. Republicans have therefore abandoned any notion of objective morality as an impediment to embracing the virtue of selfishness and their own indulgent moral relativism. 

Jake Tapper from CNN and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows were speaking on television recently about whether there’s any evidence to back up President Donald Trump’s claim that mail-in voting facilitates mass electoral corruption.

“But there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud though,” Tapper said, to which Meadows replied, “There’s no evidence that there’s not either.”

This is a bit like arguing that because you can’t prove to an idiot, with his limited knowledge and understanding of science, that the earth is indeed round, then you can’t disprove his theory that it might be flat.

The Republican Party, particularly under the spell of Donald Trump, has suffered a dangerous sequence of cognitive failures. The first was the loss of any cognitive association between immorality and social consequences, between bad behavior and repercussions. There no longer seems to be a social consequence for lying, cheating or disturbing social norms within the Trumpland bubble. When you are confronted with undeniable evidence, call it fake news. When you are accused of lying, accuse the accuser. Double down. Deny. Obfuscate. Lie, and do it bigly, often and without reservation.

Once Republicans decided that morality was merely subjective, and relative to who was defining it, they learned they could rationalize any behavior, no matter how outrageous. There ceased to be any absolutes, leading to a distrust of common understanding or scientific expertise, and opened up the level of debate to anyone with an opinion.

This in turn inspired a Dunning-Kruger-based culture where the temptation to accept a superficially plausible answer that confirmed prior biases undermined rational thought or deductive reasoning. Logic has no place in an environment ruled by uncontested faith.

Finally the entire culture began swimming in the primordial soup of a closed media feedback loop, where the newsmaker gets his news from a media platform designed to appeal to the newsmaker. It’s a snake eating its tail.

Without a functioning moral compass, Trump’s Republican Party has embraced mortal relativism and learned to worship unfettered selfishness as an act of incontestable faith. They are the mouse who fails to understand the consequences of his actions. Death and destruction await but they are unable to tear themselves away from gorging on the seemingly endless block of cheese.

The Republican Party, who for so long wrapped themselves in the flag and held the Bible aloft before them, as if God was on their side alone, has so distorted Christian morality as to have done irreparable damage to an entire religion in America.

The teachings of the Bible are in no way compatible with the decadent theology of Ayn Rand. If the founding fathers did in fact, take any inspiration from teachings of Christianity, it was that man is not to be trusted and the better angels of our nature do not always triumph. They created a system of government that expected men to be greedy for money and power, and took great pains to ensure that no one group held too much of it.

One can only hope that vestiges of institutional knowledge remain of what this country once was, are strong enough to provide a base for us to rebuild this country. 

The future is far from certain.

Follow David Todd McCarty on Twitter @davidtmccarty and The Standard @capemaystandard

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