Thursday, August 30, 2012

Heart on Sleeve

R. Jay Magill:

The intriguing thing about our repeated moral letdowns is not that insincerity continues to exist, but that we continue to insist we are outraged by it. In many ways our frustration with insincerity is itself disingenuous—a kind of performance of an upright moral sensibility. Most of us actually do recognize how things get done in the world, for better or worse. Power and money matter. Who you know matters. Public and private do not need to align in political matters. This is called pragmatism, or realism, or realpolitik, or Machiavellianism, or, since Machiavelli, simply politics. WikiLeaks and the Occupy movement may have been arguing against the ways of the world for high-minded moral reasons, but as the intellectual historian Martin Jay recently wrote in his Virtues of Mendacity, the political hypocrisy Americans so passionately decry "may be the best alternative to the violence justified by those who claim to know the truth." Many a Communist dictator, Jay notes, regularly enforced the citizenry's total transparency by spying on and slaughtering or banishing dissenters to Siberia. Like it or not, liberty includes the right to lie; freedom allows for deceit.