Probably one of the most disturbing experiences in the development of any sensitive and intelligent child is to be confronted with the fact that his parents, his teachers, his rabbi or his priest are capable of saying one thing and believing or behaving the terms of the opposite.
Almost every child at some time before adolescence is required to cease questioning flagrant moral inconsistencies on the part of some authority figure by being indirectly or explicitly told, "Do as I say, not as I do." The frequency with which individuals are required to adust to various forms of moral duplicities in complex societies suggests that apparent acceptance of these inconsistencies is an index of socialization and maturity.
Those who, for whatever reason, persist in demanding moral consistency are at best told to "grow up" or are dismissed or punished ad deviants and "trouble makers."
One could speculate that a society which prides itself upon its democratic principles of justice, equality and human responsibility for the welfare of one's fellow human beings places a major additional and inescapable moral burden upon its citizens.
When Thomas Jefferson translated the Judaic-Christian principle of human equality into the politifal principle of "inalienable rights" that justified the American Revolution at the same time that he and other Founding Fathers continued to accept and justify human slavery, they laid the foundation for the "moral schizophrenia" that continues to dominate America. Every American child must be socialized to come to terms with the twin realities of the morality of the American ideals and the "practical" reality of the required violation of these ideals.
Our children are taught that all men are created equal in segregated schools and segregated churches that are concrete mockeries of the words of justice and equality.
The teachers who are required to teach the values of democracy are at the same time required to justify by rationalizations or silence the persistent absence of democracy in their classrooms.
Members of the clery and their religious leaders must be careful not to alientate their parishioners by being too demanding in a literal interpretation of the concept of the "fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man."
Parents must find ways to have their children understand that there are limits to the extent to which principles of equality can be permitted to threaten the status and the aspirations of the family.
Moral duplicity is therefore an inherent and inescapable aspect of the "democratic" socialization of all American children. These moral conflicts have their personal and social consequences. Individuals are required to cope with them by one or more devices.
Most human beings appear to accept the given moral inconsistencies of their society either passively or cynically. They accept the facts of injustice as given, adopt a personal "dog-eat-dog" philosophy, and function in terms of the prevailing rationalizations of their society as long as they are not personally victimized.
More sensitive human beings tend to internalize guilt; they remain personally concerned about the moral duplicity of their society and sometimes work for social progress even at the risk of ridicule and ostracism.
In recent years we have seen an increasing number of young Americans seeking to resolve their moral conflicts by rebelling against the success and affluence of their families, by escaping into cults and communes and wandering off into morally uncharted jungles for personal self-destruction.
It is ironic and indicative of the depth of racist indoctrination of American children that even at the height of the collective rebellion of American youth in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, they did not make the rejection of American racist practices a clear and sustained objective of their protests.
The problems of coping with society moral duplicity do not remain personal. They start with society, they infect individuals and they become institutionalized. They become parts of the pattern and fabric of our political, economic, educational and religious life.
Moral duplicity becomes euphemistically rationalized by such terms as "practical," "realistic," "hard-headed" and "tough-minded." When examined, it is revealed that these terms mean that the discrepancy between moral values and immoral practies must be accepted. We tell ourselves and our children that the verbal ideals can be accepted so long as they do not interfere with "conveniece," "efficiency" and "success."
Individuals are the agents for the perpetration and perpetuation of social moral insenstivity. These are generally successful individuals, rewarded individuals.
These individuals are frequently found in governmental, corporate, educationla and religious leadership roles. These are the main characters of Watergate. These are the corporate leaders who design and implement bribes in obtaining economic advantages from government officials.
These are the educational and intellectual leaders who seek to justify racial segregation in our schools, colleges and universities - or remaian silent in the face of this flagrant contradiction of the meaning and purpose of education. These are men who consider segregation normal and who find it difficult to understand those who question their right, indeed their obligation, to functions in terms of an unquestioned and "realistic" Machiavellian dualism.
The advice which Machiavelli gave to the Prince can be summed up as not to confuse personal morality with those imperatives which are required as the leader of the state.
This simplistic Machiavellian dualism seems to be the foundation of contemporary governmental, economic and educational leadership. This is true in spite of the fact that Machiavelli was advising the Prince in the early 16th Century.
The world of the present, the nuclear age, demands not only a critical re-examination of Machiavellianism but also major efforts to modify personal behavior and the operation and leadership of social institutions toward moral consistencies.
In the contemporary nuclear age, Machiavellian dualism is not only anachronistic, but it also threatens survival of the human species. Collective, institutional immorality, no matter how sophisticated and intellectually rationalized, now emerges as even more destructive potentially than interpersonal forms of immorality.
Accepted collective moral duplicity merely postpones human extinction. This anachromism invites the ultimate catastrophe.
Racism and all other forms of institutionalized and rationalized inhumanity and cruelities are forms of moral duplicity. If manking is to survive, the most "practical" and "realistic" basis for human interaction must now be a rigid adherence to consistent moral ideals.