On Friday, we saw how the Myth of Independence, combined with the Myth of Self-interest, makes conservatives unjust and ungrateful, and thus unfit to live in society.
Today we will discuss a specific aspect of this unsuitability for social life: The Myth of Independence contributes to the corruption of justice in society.
Mythers do not understand justice, the central virtue of social life
The Myth of Independence—the belief that the strong succeed in life on their own—not only makes people short-sighted and mean-spirited, but also makes them unfit to live in society for another reason—one that is much more dangerous. They become blind to the demands of justice. How does this happen? Why does believing the Myth of Independence make people unable to understand the workings of justice?
Mythers become crippled in thinking about justice because of their ingrained habit of thinking of themselves apart from everyone else. Since Mythers constantly contemplate only their own rights and their own demands, they lose perspective on the big picture, on the view of society as a whole. They don’t see their connections with everyone else. They don’t see that the rights of others deserve just as much respect as their own rights. They begin to get aggrieved at others, who insist on their own rights, even if those rights are not convenient for Mythers. They come to imagine that possession of rights is another sort of zero-sum game, that someone else’s accession to rights must necessarily diminish their own.
Such people are incapable of making sound judgments about justice. Their imagination has become stunted by focusing so much on themselves. They can no longer put themselves in the position of others, imagine living others’ lives, or sympathize with others’ sufferings. And since they treat themselves leniently while treating others harshly, they are neither unprejudiced enough nor impartial enough to deal with others equitably.
Moreover, they cannot be trusted to judge their own actions fairly. This follows, of course, from their propensity to go easy on themselves. They can be relied upon to regard any transgressions of their own as mild or non-existent. Indeed, it is a very common trait of those who live by the Myth of Independence to deny that even their most selfish and greedy actions have any bad consequences. Instead, they justify themselves with any sort of argument, no matter how flimsy; they hire others to think up justifications for them; they even launch ad campaigns to try to convince their fellow citizens that their vices are actually beneficial to society. Anything to prevent facing the truth about themselves.
And the truth is that their behavior is habitually unjust to their fellow citizens.
Tomorrow we will complete our consideration of the Myth of Independence by showing how the injustice of Mythers infects the very heart of society, and destroys the fundamental principle of American community.
Until tomorrow, then.
3 December 2012
by Alfred George filed under