August 7, 2019 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
Morality Is Suicide to ‘the Chosen’
They may sound reasonable, but be aware their goal is dominance.
It’s time again to talk about how the “chosen people” think. First, hypocrisy.
The term has universal moral application. What’s good for me is good for you. No one therefore is above anyone else, and we’re all morally, though not literally, equal. If I believe in the Golden Rule, but don’t act on it, I’m a hypocrite. Acting hypocritically requires a priori commitment to higher values independent of my self-interests.
Hypocrisy has a very different meaning, and a very different application, when you don’t commit to values higher than and independent of your self-interests—when you divide society into in- and out-groups and when you believe you are part of a “chosen people” defending itself against—let’s say—invaders who “threaten” your “way of life.”
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According to this moral formulation, only the out-group can be hypocritical, and the reason for that is simple: It’s the out-group. The in-group quite literally can’t be hypocritical, because the in-group is obviously virtuous. Because obviously virtuous people can’t be hypocritical, the in-group can’t be hypocritical either. See? Simple.
In this view, hypocrisy does not have universal moral application, because the in-group does not want it to. It rejects universally applied morality, because universally applied morality would challenge and even undermine its goal of maintaining social and political dominance over out-groups that are invading their way of life. In other words, a universally applied morality is a kind of suicide in the minds of the “chosen people.”
Let’s change this around at bit.
Not long ago, people who were aligned with what was then called the Tea Party said they were committed to the rule of law, limited government and fiscal responsibility—all higher-order principles independent of individual or group interest. Tea Party Republicans said Washington must do something to stop the tide of illegal immigration, first and foremost because it is illegal. Any government that overlooked criminal activity, they said, was complicit in said crimes, and thus illegitimate.
This was a serious argument assuming “illegal” had universal moral application. Even liberals who defended minorities of all kinds felt compelled to address that point of substance. So lots of energy went into debating border integrity, and vast sums were spent militarizing the border, all with the good-faith presumption that Tea Party Republicans meant it when they said action must be taken to stop unlawful entry.
They didn’t mean it.
What’s illegal isn’t unlawful entry.
What’s “illegal” is immigrants’ existence.
Social scientists knew from the beginning that the Tea Party Republicans were mobilized by the election of the first African-American president and the seismic demographic changes occurring in the United States that he represented.
After Barack Obama’s victory, Republicans suddenly talked less about conservative economic orthodoxy—i.e., being anti-Big Government—and more about who deserves what. Even as they denied the racist roots on their thinking, Tea Party Republicans declared that entitlements were, wrote Reuters’ Chrystia Freeland, for “the deserving, hard-working citizen” as opposed to the “unauthorized, foreign freeloader.”
Look a little closer.
See this through the eyes of someone who has rejected universally applied morality, because universally applied morality is suicide to the “chosen people.” Look closely to see that the “illegal” in “illegal immigration” is not about the crime of crossing the border without authorization from the government. The illegal part, when you look real close, is really about who that person is and whether that person is “deserving” or not. When Republicans call undocumented immigrants “illegals,” they are telling us what’s going on. What’s illegal isn’t their actions. What’s “illegal” is their existence.
So when the president says, as he did today, that the problem with the immigration system of the United States is that too many immigrants are entering illegally, and that the solution is entering legally, he doesn’t mean a word of it. He means the solution is a federal law outlawing immigrants for the crime of existing. After all, he has said dozens and dozens of times, something must be done to stop these invaders.
You could say the president is a hypocrite. He’s saying one thing, meaning something else. You could say that, but you’d be overlooking the bigger picture. Donald Trump does not lead a movement committed to higher-order principles with universal moral application. There is no hypocrisy in the in-group, because the in-group can’t be hypocritical. There is only power and dominance, and loyalty to “the chosen.”
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.