Contemporary Moral Culture


The Illusion of Choice: How the Market Economy Shapes Our Destiny. See Part II: "We Are Driven: The Market as the Engine of Change in America," and especially Chapter 9, "The Transformation of American Values." Especially highlighted are the transformation from a concern with the inner person and his/her character to an emphasis on external success, and the emergence of the view that money can be used as a measure of all value.

Fool's Gold: The Fate of Values in a World of Goods, see especially Chapter 3, "Limited Liability: The Ethos of the Contract Society," which explores the way in which the sense of mutual obligation has been eroded by generations of life under a market system with its atomistic ideology that says we owe each other only what we voluntarily contract to give.

For background, Chapter 5 of The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution, whose title is "Power and the Psychological Evolution of Civilized Man," might be of interest. So also may be Out of Weakness: Healing the Wounds that Drive Us to War.

Op-Ed Articles

"Apportioning Responsibility in Tobacco Cases," published, Christian Science Monitor, 4/22/97. Text of piece

If people are responsible for their own bad decisions, that applies not only to those who chose to smoke but also to those who chose to deceive them into doing so. Responsibility is not all or nothing, and a way is available to us to enable us to apportion justly the moral and legal responsibility for the health problems of smokers.

"Compassion for Swtizerland," published, Baltimore Sun, 2/6/97. Text of piece

A satiric piece based on a true account of my friend's idea of sending his extracted gold tooth to Switzerland, out of compassion for the tough times the Swiss have faced for the past fifty years, when such teeth no longer came their way.

"'The Sixties' Had a Moral Vision Worth Remembering," published, .... 96 (Also launched radio conversation on Illinois Public Radio.) Text of piece

The counter-revolution has gone too far, with conservatives trying to equate the counter-culture with amorality. But 'the sixties,' in its sense of the beauty of the human potential, put forward a vital vision of real moral value.

"Cigarette Advertising: Can We Believe the Tobacco Industry," Published Christian Science Monitor, 8/18/95. Text of piece

Demonstrating how implausible, on the face of it, is the industry's claim that tobacco comapnies' advertising is not to lure in new customers, but to compete over existing ones.

"The Anachronism," published, Baltimore Sun, 6/23/95. Text of piece

The threat of violence has revealed the White House --a late eighteenth century mansion in the midst of a late twentieth century city-- to be an anachronism. One reason for this is the moral shift in our culture that has made nothing unthinkable.

"Love of Country," published, Christian Science Monitor, Memorial Day, 1995. Text of piece

Neither the right, with its idealized distortion of America, nor the left, with its focus on her shortcomings, gives America the kind of love that would help this country be all that she can be.

"When Adolescents Get Real," published, Baltimore Sun, Text of piece

The problem with adolescents in our society is not so much with the kids themselves than with our refusal to recognize what nature is saying to us about them: that they are ready to play for real.

"Looking Back on the 21st Century," published, Baltimore Sun, 3/24/95. (A version also broadcast on Monitor Radio. Text of piece

A satiric piece on the disastrous results that occur when the United States becomes able to control its weather, and the issue becomes embroiled in the democratic political process.

"The Ethics of Polluting the Jury Pool," published, Baltimore Sun, 7/26/94. Text of piece A condemnation --written and published long before the murder trial of O.J. Simpson began-- of Simpson's attorney's use of tactics calculated to exacerbate nationwide, for the sake of a single jury trial, the divisions between the races in America.

"Liberating Men," published, Baltimore Sun, 5/25/94. Text of piece


A reconsideration --a propos of the lack of resolution in American policy in Bosnia-- of the value of the warrior as a good image of manhood. Brings in Dirty Harry, John Wayne, and the film Schindler's List, among other things.

"Barbarism," published, Baltimore Sun, 4/29/94. Text of piece

The enthusiastic response of many Americans to the flogging, by Singapore authorities, of the young American vandal raises some questions about what kind of social order is needed, and what kind is possible, to keep its members acting decently. Both right-wing vindictiveness and left-wing indulgence have their defects.

"A Time for Us to Listen," published, Christian Science Monitor, 4/1/94. Text of piece

As a member of the counterculture, I now see that our truths were only half-truths. It seems a good time for us to listen to the criticisms of our excesses, so we can help the polarized American society find a higher wisdom than either side now possesses.

"Some Passions of the Right I Don't Understand: Guns, Gays and Guillotines," unpublished, 1994. [guns&gay.chr --5]

Inquiry into the reasons why many conservatives are so impassionted in their 1) opposition to gun control, 2) antipathy toward homosexuals, and 3) advocacy of capital punishment. I also articulate some challenges to those positions, calling into question their reasonableness.

"Sacrifice," published, Baltimore Sun, 1992. Text of piece

A look at how the refusal of the American people to consider making sacrifices for the larger good, or for the future, has corroded the workings of American political leadership.

"Perfidies of Respectability," published, Baltimore Sun, 1990. Text of piece

Watching TV with my kids, I realize how much of what they see --even the conduct of those who are supposed to show us how the game is played-- undermines the teaching of the idea of moral responsibility, instead of just playing to win. I cite as examples the NBC football announcer, appreciating the cleverness of a coach breaking the rules to good effect; the tobacco industry representatives spreading their disinformation; and a couple of others. Zzzz

"The War on Drugs is Our Fix," published, Baltimore Sun, approx. 1990. Text of piece How the war on drugs, just as much as the mindless abuse of drugs, reflects our alienation from the sacred stuff of our souls. It is not the substances themselves that are good or evil, but the spirit in which they are approached that is either wise or foolish.

Radio Shows

"Why Can't Men Make Better Friends?" broadcast, Morning Edition (WAMU-FM, Washington, 1994) Text of piece

Looking at the ways American males are socialized that get in the way of men forming better and deeper friendships.

"Townies," recorded for All Things Considered but never broadcast, 1987. Text of piece A reflection by a former Harvard man, and present day rider of a bicycle, on the ugliness of elitism.

See also: "Manhood and the Fate of the Earth," under "Environmental Matters"

"Searching for a Level Playing Field," under "American Politics"

"The Question of Judgment," began broadcast call-in conversation on Wisconsin Public Radio, May, 1996. [judgment --3]

Between the narrow-minded people on the right who insist that their judgment is the only valid way of looking at things, and the overly tolerant people of the counterculture who reject all judgment as illegitimate and "judgmental" there must be a higher wisdom. Let us seek it: what constitutes "good judgment?"

"The Sexual Revolution," began broadcast call-in conversation on WSVA Radio, 1996. [sexrev --3]

To open a discussion of what was right and what was wrong about "the sexual revolution."

"The Roles of Men and Women," began broadcast call-in conversation on WSVA Radio, 1996. [menwomen ---3]

Framing a discussion of the roles of men and women: what was and wasn't right and fair in the traditional gender roles? where did these divisions of labor come from? what has changed and how do we feel about these changes? and what would the healthiest approach to gender roles look like?

"Heroes," broadcast, to begin call-in radio discussion on WSVA Radio, 1995. [heroes ---5]

Frames questions for discussing the issues of who it is that we, in America, regard as heroes, why do we choose them, how do we treat them, and what does all this say about us.

"Exploring Racism," began broadcast call-in discussion on WSVA Radio, November, 1995. [racism---5]

Asking questions to foster a discussion of the nature and consequences of racism and what can be done about it. Also, an invitation to listeners to relate their own experiences with having racist attitudes and/or being the object of those of others.

"Shame: Is It Destructive of Constructive," topic of discussion with guest, Edward Schmookler, on Shepherd College Radio, 1995.

"Laying out the two sides of a controversy: the left saying that we do too much shaming of people, leading to psychic injury with a loss of self-esteem, and the right saying we have disastrously done away with shame too much, leading to a "shameless" society. [shame -- 5]

"How Should We Think About the Morality of the Tobacco Industry?" began broadcast conversation on WSVA Radio, 1994. [tobacco --5]

An attempt to get past ideological knee-jerk reactions and look at the implications of the tobacco industry's long effort to conceal what they knew about the dangers of their product for the health of its user. Frames the questions to be explored.

See also: "Not More of the Same," under "Spiritual Perspectives"