Envy, or fairness?

Cogitduck #5


Today is the South Carolina primary.  Sometimes brilliant, sometimes bungling, but always a firecracker, Newt Gingrich has turned things around in the past couple of days.  My commentary doodle though is looking back to a moment earlier in the week.  Twice now in recent days, Matt Lauer has challenged a Republican on the idea that the President and his allies are campaigning on the divisive basis of “envy.”  Last week it was Mitt Romney, and this Wednesday was Romney supporter and New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

It’s a bit amusing to imagine that, in snapping immediately to the question of fairness, Mr. Lauer was impulsively responding to a recollection of some deep-seated childhood trauma.  My joking and his bias aside, Lauer is a pleasant enough TV personality.

But his recent spates do seem to reflect the brokenness of American culture today.  As little kids, we all learn the basic rule to be nice and share with others.  But the last couple generations of children have failed to learn how to get on in the real world.  Since bursting forth in the 1960s, a counterculture has cascaded down to us through Hollywood, progressive pedagogy, and permissive parenting, reinforcing the notion that our society is irredeemably unfair while simultaneously growing our sense of entitlement.

For every ten times a voice in our culture admonishes us about “greed,” how many times are we warned against envy or covetousness (commandment number ten)?  A cultural establishment that mistakenly sees our society as basically unfair cannot be bothered with those kinds of questions.  But to so readily dismiss those psychological motivations is to betray a major deficiency in worldview.

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