Righteousness: Ignorance and Inauthenticity

I just wrote a long post about inauthentic righteousness, but I also touched upon how ignorance relates to righteousness.  I don’t think it’s always clear if a particular instance of righteousness is either inauthentic or ignorant.  I suspect they’re mutually reinforcing.

A lot of ignorance seems like willful ignorance.  Most people who are misinformed or lack adequate knowledge aren’t that way because of not being intelligent enough nor because they don’t have access to quality info.  Most ignorance is based on some combination of laziness, apathy, limited curiosity and closedmindedness.  But it seems to me that, in one way or another, the person is choosing (even if by default) to be ignorant.  In this sense, ignorant righteousness probably most often equates to inauthentic righteousness.  And it’s the devious people with knowledge who use inauthentic righteousness to manipulate the willfully ignorant.

It’s a perfect relationship.  The devious person doesn’t want others to know what he actually knows and the manipulated person would prefer to remain in contented ignorance.  The only person who loses out in this scenario is the person who actually cares about knowledge, about truth, about authenticity.

However, authenticity is a tricky business.  Some people are ignorant for “authentic” reasons meaning they actually don’t know better.  This is particularly a problem with the media world we live in where there is so much misinformation, so much spin, and out right lies aren’t that unusual.  So, I can’t be too critical of the ignorant masses.  Unless you spend all of your time researching every claim you come across, you simply are incapable of discerning the truth.  And few are willing and able to invest huge amounts of time in constant research.

Even those working in media are trapped in this swamp of spin and misinformation (maybe more so even).  Can we blame the media?  Or are they as much victims of the spin factory in which they’re just mere cogs?

This post was inspired by a video clip of Glenn Beck.  It’s one of the many examples where Beck is being melodramatically righteous (although he isn’t crying in this scene) in judging others and most importantly is doing so on the basis of ignorance (willful or otherwise).  I’d argue that his ignorance is willful here because with a simple websearch anyone could find articles that would provide the relevant info.  But Beck would have to be emotionally neutral and intellectually objective for a moment (i.e., remove his head from his ass) in order to realize he isn’t making a fully informed judgment.

In the video clip, Beck says (while holding up a picture of a supposed female “escort”), “Let us say we’re done with all of this political correctness stuff.  This escort… really!?!  Where are you being escorted?”  Beck throws his hands up in the air, and then with moral indignation he says, “WHORE!”  The video clip ends with Beck expressing snide disgust.  Obviously, in Beck’s mind, “whores” are the scum of the earth.

Now, what disgusts me is this very ignorant bigotry.  First off, although sometimes “escort” is a euphemism for prostitute, often it’s simply used according to its literal meaning.  Many escorts simply do that… escort.  Do all poolboys and yardworkers have sex with lonely housewives?  Do all actresses become famous by having sex with directors?  Are they all “whores”?  Is there a secret conspiracy of whoredom?  Even if that particular picture of an “escort” really was of a prostitute, I’d think the fact that prostitutes are the ultimate capitalists would help assuage Beck’s paranoia of socialism… but apparently not.

Anyways, who is he to be so righteous?  Glenn Beck is a former drug addict.  The drug trade that funds worldwide terrorism is morally worse than sex between consenting adults.

After having seen that Beck clip, I happened to hear an interview with a former prostitute on public radio.  It was a perfect comparison.  Beck’s attitude was dehumanizing.  On the other hand, the public radio interview humanized this person’s life.  The woman interviewed became a prostitute at a young age.  She left an unhappy home situation and had no plans on how to take care of herself.  A pimp approached her and she was grateful because he was the only person offering her advice on how to provide for herself.  She wasn’t desperate.  She simply wanted to have enough money to live on and be able to remain in school.  Beyond graduating from high school, she dreamed of working hard towards a career as a lawyer.  Yes, her life was sad.  But I thought it interesting that, despite her having been a “victim” as an underage prostitute, she was less judgmental than Beck about prostitution.  She didn’t even seem resentful towards her former pimp.

Instead of Beck’s abstract and misinformed moralizing, this was a real person living a difficult life with a sense of hope.  Working for a megacorpoation with a clear political agenda, I’d say that Glenn Beck is the real whore.

Glenn Beck makes for a good example because he is very representative of a certain strain of moral righteousness found in American culture.  In this attitude, there is a quickness to judge anyone deemed somehow different or less than the person making the judgement.  It’s a way of defining an in-crowd and out-crowd.  The implied meaning is that a “whore” is unworthy of respect or even compassion.  The judged person is “other”, and so a potential enemy of the group.  They must be attacked first before they attack.  Their very existence undermines the group’s authority.  If the judged “other” are offered even minimal compassion, they could no longer be categorized as wholly “other” and so they would be a threat to group cohesion.  This is a very primitive sense of morality… basically some kind of social darwinism.  Might makes right.

To a person at this low stage of moral development, the facts don’t matter.  They know they’re right.  Every “moral” issue is a battleground to be won at nearly all costs.  Maybe it isn’t exactly willful ignorance.  Wilfulness would mean there was some minor awareness of responsibility.  It’s pointless projecting a more advanced sense of morality on to their behavior.  I suppose their righteousness is “authentic” in some basic emotional way, but there is no profound moral depth to this “authenticity”.