Ethics Or Fear
An ethic is a belief system founded in right and wrong, whether concerning conduct or mindset. Colloquially it is based in the heart, a nurturing soil of sentiment, reason, and spirit. Morality can be willfully broken or blind, in which case it ceases to be ethical. On the other hand, critical thinking can merge with passion and, importantly, honesty, to comprehend life with agape and awe. Einstein spoke to this confluence of intrapsychic forces when he wrote, "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science."
In the 2016 election, two million more voters chose Clinton than Trump. In effect, they were voting for equality, a concept rationally argued by the Founders. Equality has had a recent surge, rippling the world consciousness. The #MeToo Movement exemplifies this incipient transformation. So does the quest for LGBTQ rights. In the second most populous country in the world, India, gay sex was recently decriminalized. All this is huge. Massive social protests based on benevolent philosophies are major players today. After several millennia of relative stagnation, civilization has been rocked by Enlightenment ideals, a keystone being women's suffrage, achieved in the US in 1920.
Central to this ethical ferment is a profound and widespread sense of empathy. Indeed, caring and cooperation are common across the animal kingdom, having a strong basis in natural selection. In humans, empathy often combines with a spiritual element, accessed through religion, meditation, or a primal awakening to the majesty of nature. Such feelings and attitudes exist across all cultures. Combined with principled government, they establish norms of reason, based on dignity, respect, and hale stewardship of the planet Earth.
And yet there is another way to govern: Fear. When President Trump spoke in his inaugural speech of ending "American carnage," he framed reality as a brutal us-vs-them where 'them' is the side of evil. Life is an arena, Trumpism vs evil, where he and his followers must win at all costs.
If this seems like the opposite of the truth, pure gaslighting, that's the point. Fear overrides rationality. Everyone gets in line because they are afraid that if they don't, they will suffer a horrible fate.
For a fear-based society under Trump, Einstein's quote above gets degraded into, 'The most beautiful thing we can experience is our leader. He is the source of all reassurance and faith." This kind of God King government is already in place in countries where giant tapestries, murals and statues of the dictator take up a good amount of public space.
Ethical governance opens the mind. Fear-chained governance closes it. The cost of wearing such stress-sewn blinders is not only the vitiation of reason. It also undercuts a nation's ability to adapt in a complex, changing world.
As ice sheets melt, as mass extinction proceeds, as Texas-sized garbage patches gyre in the oceans, as catastrophic fire and storm punish our failure to admit the insights of science, our mendacious president fixates on establishing a mythologized White culture.
At this point in the history of human civilization, it looks like we do have a kind of Manichean choice. We will either descend into reality-denying dictatorship, or soar on a growing collective consciousness to embrace miracle, reason and compassion.