- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Sin and society

"More than a half-century ago, T.S. Eliot wrote about the sense of alienation that occurs when the controlling moral authority of a society is no longer effective. In his play 'The Cocktail Party,' a troubled young protagonist visits a psychiatrist and confides that she feels a 'sense of sin' because of her relationship with a married man.

"She is distressed not so much by the illicit relationship, but rather by the strange feeling of 'sinfulness.' Eliot writes, 'Having a sense of sin seems abnormal' to her she had never noticed before that such behavior might be seen in those terms.

"In many ways, Eliot's play is about anomie the state that sociologists identify as resulting when one is caught between the loosening moral norms regulating behavior and one's own moral misgivings. Strong cultural values and clear concepts of good and evil integrate members into the group and provide meaning. When traditional cultural attachments are disrupted, or when behavior is no longer regulated by these common norms and values, individuals are left without a moral compass.

"Social facts like crime statistics and suicide rates can be adequately explained only by analyzing the unique social conditions that evolve when norms break down. The resulting anomic state leads to deviant behavior as the individual's attachment to social bonds is weakened."

Anne Hendershott, from her new book, "The Politics of Deviance"

Good, bad news

"Corporate corruption endangers everything in which we have, over the past many years, invested our time, effort and money particularly Republican control of the House of Representatives. And our 401(k) plans aren't doing so well, either. In this period of gloom it behooves us to look for a moment at the bright side of corporate corruption.

"Corporate corruption is saving us money. However much we've lost on the NYSE and Nasdaq, we'll more than make it up in lower entertainment and redecorating costs when Martha Stewart goes to jail.

"Finally, corporate corruption has brought me hope about my own professional career. Capitalism is all about adding value. I am a capitalist. But I don't have any value to add. This is my one objection to capitalism. However, besides being a capitalist, I'm a journalist, so I do know how to lie. Thanks to the peculations of the past few months, I've realized that, in the capitalist market system, I can add value, too.

"One last cheering thought: Corporate corruption gives al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other Muslim radicals second thoughts about messing with the United States. If we'll [cheat] our own grandmothers in the stock market, God knows what we'll do to them."

P.J. O'Rourke, writing on "The Upside of the Down Market," in the Aug. 5 issue of the Weekly Standard

Fading Founder?

"Say goodbye to the stern and remote George Washington, the boring one who wore a powdered wig, had wooden teeth and always told the truth. Embrace instead the action hero of the 18th century, a swashbuckling warrior who survived wild adventures, led brilliant military campaigns, directed spy rings and fell in love with his best friend's wife.

"That is the message from the people who run Mount Vernon.

"Their goal is to reposition the father of the country for a new era.

"'When teachers and curriculum planners and textbook authors look at the Founding Fathers today, they see too many white males,' said David W. Saxe, a professor of education at Pennsylvania State University. 'George Washington is dissipating from the textbooks. In the interest of being inclusive, material about women and minorities is taking the place of material about the founders of our country.'"

Stephen Kinzer, writing on "George Washington: Mr. Excitement?" Sunday in the New York Times

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