Are we out of the Woods yet?
By: Paul Murano – March, 2010
There have been two opposite reactions in the aftermath of Tiger Woods’ public apology, and each is an inappropriate extreme. One illustrates the fatal flaw of capitalism, the other of secularism.
The first was the media blitz we were inundated with for a week, with everyone and his sister weighing in on to what degree Tiger’s apology was genuine, whether or not Elin should take him back, what his real motives were, etc., etc., etc. It was a tabloid’s dream. His press conference got more post-game coverage and Monday-morning quarterbacking than the Superbowl. And everyone’s an expert – from TMZ to Nancy Grace to the cable news stations. And talk radio? Forget it. Every caller knew the ulterior motives of the man and was ready to counsel his wife on exactly what to do. It seemed all of America for one week was Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul sitting in their judge’s seats assessing the situation, offering their expert advice on all that needed to be done. Often with passion and candor: there were a lot more Simon’s than Paula’s.
Why do people care so much? Sex scandal with a touch of violence involving the rich and famous will always sell. It’s titillating and it’s gossipy, which are the masculine and feminine points of weakness that appeal to the lower part of human nature. Why does sex and violence involuntarily captivate us as it does? Because underneath it all sex and violence represents the beginning and end of human life respectively. There is no greater natural power a person has than the ability to create and destroy human life. Being drawn to that power, with all of the instinctual excitement attached to it, is what the media has increasingly exploited for money, manipulating the physical (for males) and relational (for females) aspects of it for profit. Why would the media manipulate people’s natural weaknesses for monetary gain? Because they can. And here lies the problem with pure capitalism, or capitalism without ethics: profit takes priority over people, greed over good.
The second reaction went the opposite way. Anger and moral indignation was expressed at the media because Tiger’s marital relationship is none of our business; a couple’s marriage is strictly private. But is that true? Although we may have lost appreciation for this in recent decades, marriage is a public institution. The family and the state have a vested interest in its success. This is why the wedding takes place among the community rather than alone in private, with public witnesses being an essential component. The state and church (if a religious ceremony) also give their official recognition. In fact, up until recently banns of marriage could stop a potential wedding, adultery was against the law, and divorce was extremely difficult to obtain. So too generally were sex and babies saved for the bond of marriage. The idea that marriage is a strictly private relationship to which each couple may choose to define it at will came into popularity along with no-fault divorce and open marriage as part of the mentality that contributed to the breakdown of the family.
Why was there all that anger at the media coverage from these people? Perhaps one reason matched that which existed during the Clinton scandal: husbands did not want their wives looking at them with wondering and suspicious eyes; and vice-versa. Nothing makes a person more uncomfortable than having light shed in areas they have been successfully hiding. Conscience can be a stubborn thing when it comes to guilt, even after we’ve rationalized our way into feeling okay about ourselves, and even when only consenting adults were involved. Hence the visceral reaction against the media. And there lies the inherent problem with contemporary secular humanism: radical individualism replaces the common good and objective truth is replaced with relativism.
What did we learn from being lost in the Woods for a week? That Tiger was guilty of adultery, the media for exploitation and greed, and the people for unfairly judging both.
Paul Murano taught theology and philosophy at Assumption College and Northshore Com. College. He is also a co-host of The Paying Attention! radio program on WCAP and Host “Beneath the Surface” on Burlington Cable Access. You can E-mail Paul at PJDM@aol.com