By Karen Barna
“Hence is the able-bodied man that does not put God as his fortress, but that trusts in the abundance of his riches.” ~Psalms 52:7
In my reading I’ve come to understand this thing called “conscience” as a figment of man’s imagination. That in fact this thing called “conscience” is just an imaginary creation, a topic, a subject given to philosophers so they can debate its many manifestations and its purpose as an institution to modern day civilization. Laws and religion give man the opportunity to learn and acquire the appropriate modes of behavior, but I’ve come to understand that while you can take the man out of the jungle, you can’t take the jungle out of the man. He’s already created a concrete one.
The reason I say this, is because most people lack, as it has not been endowed to them by their cultural cultivation, the virtues that embody conscience like; prudence, temperance, and love. Virtues that allow for him to be wise in handling practical matters, exercising sound judgment and common sense. Careful in his conduct, displaying empathy towards others when appropriate. This thing called conscience then, we will begin to see, is really a thin line that has been drawn in the sand by society’s governmental laws. On one hand you must preserve the self by acquiring the necessary elements which will promote your survival and at the same time be respectful that your actions do not infringe upon another’s way of life or their life itself. Through careful inspection of a society’s operation we begin to see the various manifested forms of sociopathy. This is discovered when we get people to talk in talk therapy about their behaviors. Most people though, forego the option of speaking candidly about what it is they do behind the veil of normalcy. One would be surprised if one could read the private thoughts of another, so much so that one might actually take the notion of conscience less seriously.
We see examples of this obsessive need to collect and possess material wealth, conduct that reveals itself to be acts of permutated forms of love; dysfunctional forms of this psychic power we’ve come to understand as an element of personality known as narcissism. The Bernie Madoff ponzie scheme. Bernie Madoff fell in love and married his first love. A love that played out in a highly dysfunctional way. We could argue that Bernie Madoff would not be Bernie Madoff without his wife, Ruth. It’s a love tragedy on a grand scale. One could argue that if you took Bernie’s wife out of the picture, then Bernie Madoff wouldn’t be Bernie Madoff. It’s a story where the need to keep the affections of another’s love, the one decides to exploit people in order to maintain appearances and a semblance of the wealthy, good, and virtuous. Why does money seem to create the stereotype that it makes one more “civilized” than others? I mean, does it really?
Man is base and primitive in his nature and so we as a species have created super-structures like the federal government in order to operate and maintain a civilized nation with its various civilized societies, but do these laws really give people a conscience? One could argue that the only thing they give to people is the “appearance of a conscience.” If this weren’t so, then why do so many people “play outside the lines of law?” I thought about this in the example of a defensive attorney who his astute at slithering around the law in order to keep his client from being convicted. The attorney with the outstanding creative intellect of language and logic. It is game play on the most sophisticated scale. One could argue too, that effective communication is a super-power, and that with this super power man has created nations. Also with this super power man has created the most heinous weapons and means of destruction possible. One could debate the issue whether or not man should have privileged access to some of his creations because so often we see the lack of virtues required to embody technologies conscience use.
The virtuous and religious create cultures possessing extreme acts of conscience where self-sacrificing conduct is highly valued. Where individuals live in communities and provide service to the poor and elderly. The ultimate display of self-sacrifice, sacrificing the needs of self in order to be subjugated by “a god.“ But the American ethos require that you only possess enough conscience in order to promote your well-being and well-being of the state which includes the survival of the nation’s economy. America likes people who pay their taxes and inject money into the system. If you can find a legally way to do it, they’ll like you even more. So then, everything can change once money enters the picture. The little green piece of paper, that has pulse, but no conscience. (It could be argued that money does in fact have a pulse because political leaders evaluate economic health through Job Reports, Savings Accounts information, and other forms of financial reporting.) Maybe that is why we behave so un-virtuous from time to time, and yes I would be as bold to suggest that most people act out of a drive to attract a love object, and nothing attracts a love object like the semblance of wealth. Humans then, like money, we have a pulse but no conscience. Conscience is, after all, like I previously stated, only a figment of our imagination. Just like the figments of our imagining of what those little green bills do for us. We do what we have to do in order to make a niche for ourselves, even if that niche means pushing the other person out of the way.