Contemplation: An Age of Infedelity? Should We Get Over it?

By now I assume most people who pay attention to the news have heard about SC Governor Mark Sanford’s admittance to having an affair with a woman besides his wife (which I guess is essentially what an affair is).  If you haven’t heard this then I will direct you to here and here and here, for just a few sources.  Now I don’t want to jump on the Sanford bashing bandwagon, as it seems he is receiving more than enough criticism right now as is.  Personally I haven’t liked Sanford much at all over the past two years of living in South Carolina, but that is due, more than anything, to differences in political and social beliefs.

What I would like to think about is the fact that it seems like the whole marital infidelity game seems to be quite common in politics.  Besides Sanford we’ve recently had Senator John Ensign and Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards.  Then there was that whole prostitution thing with former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer.  Oh, and who can forget President Bill Clinton’s little liaisons?  These are just to name a few, there are plenty more out there, along with any number of other immoral acts by various politicians in the US (and as far as I can tell the rest of the world is just as bad, if not worse, in some cases).

Now I am going to venture into a realm that I normally try and avoid on this blog (mostly because it always seems to be able to heat people’s tempers up).  Morality . . . or better yet (because I really don’t care for the religious connotations that the word “morality” possesses) Ethics.  The contemplation of what is right and what is wrong.  The idea of good and evil.  All that shiz. All I have to say about it all is a big “UGH!”

Quite honestly I both loath and love thinking about ethics.  And in all honesty my reasons for both the loathing and loving are pretty similar.  What it comes down to is the fact that I have never been able to pinpoint any definites about the ethical being of humans and as such I tend to steer much more towards the relativist view of the whole ethical human conundrum.  Listen, I’ve heard all the arguments against relativism, and don’t really want (or need) to  hear them again.  I get it, really.  If everything is ethically relative then why aren’t people just running around and killing other people and raping and just being fiends?  Why? Because that is a gross over simplification of relativism which further assumes that relative ethics and morals have to lead to what is seen as destructive and “evil.”  Relativism would allow that some cases of these horrid acts, as well as lesser horrid acts – like cheating on spouses – would inevitably happen (and guess what, they do, everyday, deal with it).  But relativism just as much allows for what is deemed as generally moral behavior, like not killing your neighbor.  Just because relativism allows that we could act in any way which we define as ethically acceptable does not mean that everybody deems it acceptable to do horrible things like rape and murder.  Why not?  Probably because it is all around detrimental to the continual functioning of society and human kind.  This doesn’t need to be an absolute moral imperative, it might just as well be our will as a species to survive and continue doing the things that we do (I actually think it is greatly more this than anything else).

Just because I tend to maintain this relativist attitude doesn’t mean that I think that cheating on a spouse is okay (I just assume that others probably maintain differing ethical views on the matter).  I guess what really gets me about ethics more than anything, and has contributed to my love/hate and relativist attitude, is that it seems like everybody just picks and chooses the ethics that serve them best at the time, and are more than capable to justify that choice.  It is this thing, the hypocrisy of ethics, which just makes me fume about all these politicians and our society in general. 

It makes me pissed at the politicians because so much of their campaigning is always based on the quality of their morals and then they go and do something like have an affair or swindle tax payers or what have you.  It’s hypocritical, that is all.  Yes, I am sure there are many politicians who do maintain their morals, good for them, but that isn’t the problem really.  Really the problem is us, as a society, in that we demand these morals, or at least the outward appearance of them, regardless of the fact that we should all be capable of seeing that this ethical ideal is never really actualized.  It would be nice if people didn’t cheat, and steal, and hurt other people.  Yes, that would make for a pretty great world.  But face it, that isn’t how things work.  People do cheat and lie and steal and hurt others.  Should we let them get away with it?  No, people need to be held responsible for their actions.  But I think that we, as a whole, can get off our moral high horses a bit and realize that the ideals are unrealistic and will not be actualized.

So I am not condoning Governor Sanford’s actions, that wouldn’t be right for his wife or children, but I will not fully condemn him either.  He’s a human, he just happens to be a human in a very visible position so we can all see him when he faults.  Oh, and he’s also a hypocrite, which strikes me as just as bad as being adulterous, if not worse.

I don’t think people are good or bad, I think that we are just people, trying to survive the best we can in a difficult world.  There isn’t anything easy about it, I’ll admit that freely.  Sometimes we falter, other times we succeed with flying colors.  Most of all though I think we need to relax and get over ourselves, we make things all the more absurd with our constant inconsistencies and then trying to convince ourselves (and others) that the ideal is present or achievable.


~ by Nathaniel on June 25, 2009.

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