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The Heroes with Clay Feet of our "Enlightened" Culture
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-12-05 10:28:53
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There must be at least a half dozen novels and films with the title “Feet of Clay” which deal with the mythological theme of heroes who appear to be all powerful and invincible but  unknown to those who know them, are vulnerable to some hidden flaw which eventually brings about their downfall. The hidden flaw is usually “hubris” or the kind of arrogance that believes that their power can buy anything and everybody.

We are witnessing that drama as we speak with the plethora of Hollywood celebrities, journalists, politicians, mostly men to be sure, who are being accused by legions of abused women who, having kept quiet for many years have now found the courage to come forward and tell the whole story. The last one on the stage is Matt Lauer who has just issued an apology with all the appropriate mantras and clichés, but which to the attentive hear sounds like “I am sorry I got caught.” And that’s the case with most of the predators who got caught, the likes of Charlie Rose, Al Frank, Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein, John Conyers, Bill O’Reiley, not to exclude the predator in chief, Donald Trump, who now goes around saying that what he said coming out of a bus some 12 years ago, which he has previously admitted, about crotch grabbing, are not really his words, the tape has been doctored. In other words, he has had a change of mind about the reality he remembers. In insane asylums they always have changes of mind about reality. Bizarre indeed! Remember please that this is the same man who has his finger on a nuclear button that can end civilization as we know it. Boy, are we toast!

But to go back to the myth of the feet of clay, it is interesting that the conversation presently going on TV, on the internet, on social media, in newspapers, seems to focus on the gossip and the salaciousness of the discovered sexual transgression: was it consensual, was it manipulation, were the women using powerful men to further their career? Is it all black and white, accusing women vs. predatory men, or is there some gray in between? Of course it’s all to the good that such conversations take place. What seems to be missing though is an in depth analysis of the present day sexual mores and how did we get to this point.

I would suggest that we get back to the early sixties when one of our heroes with clay feet came on the stage, Hugh Hefner. He hailed from a Puritan family (there are still millions of them around the country) where the very word “sex” was taboo, never mind discussing the subject. He presented himself as a “liberator” freeing our culture from the strictures of sexual repression. Pill and condom in hand, we were all liberated now and could conceive of sex as a toy of sorts with which to have fun and then dispose when one got bored. The same could be done to vulnerable, naïve women: use them and dispose of them after use. This philosophy is not be found in the centerfold of Playboy magazine still being sold today and presented as an aesthetic experience of admiration for the beauty of the female body. For that kind of experience one can resort to Michelangelo’s nude bodies on the Sistine Chapel which have been on that ceiling for some 500 years now. No, one finds it in the philosophy of the magazine which is at the beginning in the editorial pages.

Already by the 70s when I was teaching ethics in an Episcopalian School I was treated to a term paper on sexual responsibility, where the responsible thing to do for this student was to request a condom or a pill from one’s doctor and then go and have fun. This is the same student who after a two classes’ discussion on the ethics of sex burst out: “Mr. Paparella, we have discussed the issue long enough. Why don’t we vote on it?” Need we say more?

In any case, I would suggest nowadays that the villain here, or one of our heroes with feet of clay is none other than the same Hugh Hefner who at the age of 80 was still going after women in their early twenties and calling it loving consensual sex. In all the discussions among talking heads currently going on I have yet to hear somebody explain how sex between a mature man over 60 and an immature woman in her early twenty bent on a career can be characterized as “consensual” and perfectly legal and  morally legitimate.

Be that as it may, the problem is less aesthetical and more philosophical. If one wants to make the case that the sexual urge is a powerful natural force and that exploitation of women is endemic to that nature, then there is little to discuss and debate. All that can be done is Machiavellically put the fear of God into men who go around manipulating women by threatening prison time or loss of employment. That may work, but let’s not delude ourselves that such solution is genuine morality, for morality is never based on mere fear of punishment. It is inherently based on freedom, good will and intentions, and universality as Kant has well taught us in his Critique of Practical Reason.

If, on the other hand one thinks, that faulty reasoning can be corrected, and a flawed human nature can be redeemed, then one needs to go back to the corruption of culture which began when we were all “sexually liberated” by Hugh Hefner.” Which means we need to ask the crucial question “what is the proper place of sex in a fully human life”? Then one will begin to intuit that unless corruption is removed from a body politics the results are quite predictable: by the time one ends up with an Emperor Caligula, madness cannot be far behind. If it sounds familiar it is because it is. All one has to do is look around.


Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's NEW BOOK
"The Caligula Presidency: A Satirical Debunking Critique"
is online now and you can download it for FREE HERE!



Check also Dr Emanuel Paparella's other EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
& Europe Beyond the Euro
You can download them all for FREE HERE!

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