There is this strange way that the abandonment of all rules, ethics and morals is featured by both the enlightened, spiritually accomplished master and neo-conservative, capitalist elite. We as a society are walking both paths. It has to do with an understanding that everything is relative.

Several years ago I ended up at a Leo Burnett executive’s Christmas party in the home of the head of that agency. Our daughter was part of a small high school choral ensemble with the CEO’s son, Phil. Marcia and I had known Phil for maybe ten years. A high school student, Phil was training me in his spare time to design websites. I was starting a business in web design. Marcia and I were offered the opportunity to listen/watch the performance. The music was charming and beautiful.

Still, it felt creepy. But as is usually the case in social situations where I feel foreign to the scene, I concentrated on the food. In the room were some of the most creative people in the United States, artists dedicated to the craft of message-making to accomplish corporate goals. The chorus began singing, beginning with the number “Let It Snow.” At the conclusion of the piece, Phil’s dad looked out the window and exclaimed, “Oh, look! It’s started snowing!” There were guffaws around the room. I looked out the window. There was no snow.

Relativistic Humor.

Leo Burnett has the Army as a client. It is the agency that comes up with military slogans such as “Be All You Can Be” or “Army of One.” A good friend of ours invited us out to dinner. A good friend of his, and that person’s lover, were visiting our friend from Britain. Conversation turned to politics. Everyone at the table was gay except for my wife and me. We all loathed Bush. Then it was revealed that the Brit was a Leo Burnett contractor. In fact, he was the very guy that wrote the Army tag line for Leo Burnett.

I asked him, “How do you reconcile your political beliefs with crafting propaganda for the enemy?”

“This is my craft. This is what I do,” he replied.

Germany has experienced an astonishing succession of social environments over the last one hundred years. It would be fascinating to track the changing, guiding stories or foundation myths as words transformed during epochs of hubris, then horror, then shame, two times for two wars, and then the emergence of the present zeitgeist that might be characterized as a kind of synthesis or wary wisdom.

Evidently there was that period of time before and during WWII when the government propaganda machinery said whatever was necessary to accomplish the leaders’ goals. Ethics, morals, rules were not relevant. There was a purity of communication characterized by there being absolutely no moral barriers to achieve a goal.

Carl Rove’s stepdad lived far outside traditions of established norms. He was a widely respected peon in the exhibition body piercing world, a masochism giant, an innovator beyond the boundaries of convention. Young Carl observed that barriers to behaviors are relative, that morals are choices. Carl Rove became a visionary able to see past the need to follow a rule, adjust to a convention, or regard a moral. Then, he crossed a line. Ethics became relative. Carl Rove could do or say exactly what was necessary to accomplish his client’s goals.

When reality does not constrain, one becomes a relativist. Clearly, the propagandists of our time are relativist thinkers. Incredibly creative, breaking boundaries, they have a feature of their experience that makes their relativistic frame of reference unique.

They are not connected.

American neo-conservative, capitalist elite, Nazi extremists, creative’s claiming no responsibility for the repercussions of their craft, all these people behave like they are not members of a network. They are cut off. They serve either a very small group of people or they just serve themselves. They are relativists, but they are alone. They experience one, not One.

Consider a very similar relativist perspective. Unconstrained by morals, ethics or rules, the wise man behaves according to understandings derived from an internal experience characterized by connection to the world writ large. This person experiences the world as being barrier-less. He or she does not break down barriers to achieve specific goals.

It fascinates me that those most sensitive to the veils of reality are both the war criminal propagandists and the saints. Whereas one feels how we are all separate, the other experiences us as all the same.


This entry was posted on Sunday, July 20th, 2008 at 6:37 am and is filed under Myth/Story, Political, Society. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
2 Comments so far

  1. Bob Katzman on July 21, 2008 2:04 pm

    Andrew, excellent article.

    I don’t know if I would be pure enough to remain in your good graces if I was paid enough to be corrupted. However, since there’s no likely danger of that, I believe our views will continue to safely coincide.

    I want to think that I would never compromise my core beliefs, even if tempted (more by sex than money if the corruptor was serious about it) no matter what.

    So far, I think I would hold firm. But extenuating circumstances could bend a guy. If that gay copywriter’s partner had aids and no money for treatment, that would be a classic situation.

    I like the stories and how you present them. I want to think you would be forgiving of other people’s frailties–except, of course, anyone remotely connected to the Bush Administration.

    Is that to harsh? Not nearly enough.

    Bob Katzman

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