On the heels of learning that Harvey Weinstein is more likely a talented sexual predator than a Hollywood god, we find out that Bill O’Reilly settled a sexual harassment allegation for $32 million and that the prominent political journalist Mark Halperin is also alleged to have both sexually harassed and, perhaps, even assaulted young women working for or with him. To this list of allegations of sexual misconduct, we can add Sen. Al Franken, Judge Roy Moore, Kevin Spacey, Sylvester Stallone, and, no doubt, many more.
Then there is the Russia story. Instead of wondering about Trump, we’re now curious if it was actually Hillary Clinton who colluded with the Russians. Like the Weinstein affair, if bribery or corruption took place, how many people knew and why did they remain silent?
We could continue for quite a while on this topic; it’s not as if the business world is somehow immune from the corruption and scandal plaguing politics, media, and entertainment.
In their new book Common Sense Business: Principles for Profitable Leadership, Ted Malloch and Whitney MacMillan do a wonderful job of calling attention to what underlies so much of the corruption and scandal plaguing our elites.
…we have abandoned the idea of a telos, a noble purpose guiding our actions into the future, in most of business and public life. Moral norms have been relativized and separated from both personal and business decisions. Prudence as an intellectual practice, signifying an excellence of the mind and of character, has come to be replaced by preferences and the leveraging of opportunity to get what we want (or think we need).
The abandonment of moral norms, and especially of a telos, happened with incredible speed in our country. Over the last two decades its exponential acceleration takes the breath away. It also leads to a further deterioration and degradation of society. Malloch and MacMillan make this point as well:
When we are required to define life as random chaos without order or spiritual/noble purpose, gratification must be instantaneous or it’s not gratifying at all. Why wait? Why not just do as you please, and as your sense drive you to consume, right now? Do so immediately, without any thought for tomorrow, let alone next year or the distant future for generations to come, for your business organization, for society.
And then they really hammer the point home:
Modern individuals and especially business cannot delay desire in the present, even if in so doing, we could take steps to satisfy ourselves better later in time. This is why our budget priorities are ridiculous and our debt is out of control. It is why companies often take extreme risks.
Might it also be why people like Weinstein, O’Reilly, Halpern, and Clinton took such foolish risks? They followed their appetites into personal destruction.
They are just a few of the many examples that show we need a new elite with a telos grounded in the good, the true, and the beautiful.
In the last few decades, what have our elite actually done for the true benefit of the American people?
- Our education system is a disaster and those in leadership refuse to change course.
- The higher-ed bureaucracy gorges itself while students and their parents go broke with loans.
- Our business leaders make decisions based on the next quarterly report, shipping factories overseas if it helps the stock price while leaving America’s heartland desolate.
- Media moguls push storylines that are often detrimental to the foundation of society: the family.
- Too many church leaders seem attracted to the praise of the world rather than the reality of Christ.
- And our politicians have proven that they have lied to the American people in order to secure their positions, meanwhile putting the country on a financially perilous course.
Yes, those are broad sweeps of the brush. There are certainly a few good men out there. Indeed, I would consider the authors mentioned here to be in that camp. But we need many, many more of them.
In Christianity and European Culture, Christopher Dawson argues that to restore the moral order we must recover our own cultural inheritance and then communicate it to the now secular world.
That won’t be easy as the moral order of the West is primarily a Christian order blended with the ancient wisdom of Greece, Rome, and Israel — no matter if the modern man of the West refuses to admit it. To even say so now is to cause offense and be considered a member of the Inquisition.
And for that reason it will be a new generation that carries the cross of recovering their cultural inheritance. The future leaders are probably just elementary students now. Ones, though, who are likely taking a path of learning far removed from the public education system. Their education will be critical, it will determine whether or not they have the chops to challenge and change the current, corrupt order.
Indeed, Christopher Dawson believed,
…the only part of Leviathan that is vulnerable is its brain, which is small in comparison with its vast and armored bulk.
How much societal change and chaos is the result of men in ivory towers playing with dangerous ideas and then over many decades imprinting their favorites on young minds?
If Whitney MacMillan and Ted Malloch are right, then at the bottom of all of our troubles, we have a moral problem. If Christopher Dawson is right, then to confront that moral problem requires men of good character retaking education or establishing new institutions of learning, especially in higher education, while also supporting organizations that help prepare the way.
It is not as if the world has never seen a time in which a prosperous society tossed aside the moral order that helped create it and then crumbled under the weight of decadence. We know things get worse if we stay on the current track. But we also know that great awakenings do happen and they can start with even the smallest of seeds.