Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

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Shooting into the Dark

December 20, 2012
"k1f" Kirby Farrell

“k1f” Kirby Farrell

We are meaning-making creatures, and when a disaster appears utterly senseless to us, it intensifies the anguish. This has been true of the rampage in Connecticut, where school children have been murdered by a young man whose motives are as yet unfathomable as death itself.

According to one study, about half of rampage killers have a history of mental illness that society would not or could not treat.[1] Overtaken by paranoid delusions, they may believe that the world and self are collapsing. In reaction, they look to violence to destroy the threat. Since the threat is a mix of psychic turmoil and available cultural themes, the choice of tactics and victims may mix tortured logic and happenstance. But while explosive anger can be a symptom, many rampage killers such as Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, make elaborate plans and present coherent, if criminal, motives.

Jared Loughner, notorious for a massacre that gravely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Gifford in 2011, became convinced that the government is sinister and, without a gold standard, debasing the currency. He feared that like paper money, words are artificial and losing their meaning. To friends he described the way dreaming and waking were blurring together in his mind.

These are psychotic fears that reality is dissolving. Yet denial keeps us from recognizing that these symptoms are also distorted versions of widely held beliefs. Government and business constantly subvert words—we call it “spin.”  In the financial press “goldbugs” take for granted that the government is deliberately cheapening the dollar to dilute Federal debt. And as the movies and pop song lyrics remind us, life always has dreamlike qualities.

Like Adam Lanza in Connecticut, some berserkers are described as shy or withdrawn. The terms acknowledge not only an inability to bond with others, as in autism, but also the intensified demands of an inner world. Beset by delusions, unemployed and adrift, with a darkening future, Jared Loughner faced social death. Running amok, he was trying to prove his own reality: that he was alive. That he mattered. If your early childhood sense of “what is right” begins to collapse and you feel totally alone and cornered, then godlike power over life and death may seem like the only way to concentrate your self. James Holmes opened fire in a Colorado movie theater screening a Batman fantasy of superhuman, violent righteousness.

Like an infantile superhero movie, violence “purifies” ambivalence and confusion. The moment of violent action explodes description. For an instant all conflicts, history, and the future are annihilated. The process can be seen as suicidal oblivion or heroic transcendence, as in the religious mania of the 9/11 terrorists. Many berserkers, including Adam Lanza, kill themselves after the spasm is past, when momentary oblivion begins to reveal real-world consequences.

Berserkers are usually male and draw on ancient male cultural themes of warrior heroism, the hunt, and patriarchal rescue or punishment. Stress and incoherence can confuse or mask the themes, and overriding neurological pressures may make them opportunistic, but almost always they shape rampage behavior. Adam Lanza wore military garb, and about half of rampage killers have had military training. The Columbine killers played out military models. As in military fantasy, the alluring role is Rambo-style solo heroism with assault weapons. Jared Loughner tried to substantiate his unraveling identity by posing for photos in a G-string with 9-mm bullets tattoed on his back and a pistol on his hip. You could say he stripped off his troubled everyday self, trying to become a fantasy hero. The photos show either an avenging Rambo saving the world or a lost soul acting tough. Posing, tattoed with bullets, Loughner was making himself a weapon. No more conflicts, no more fears. Just pure force. I am a bullet. Superhuman. The power of his fantasy showed up after his assault, when people rushed to buy guns. It is the same fantasy that the NRA rationalizes for gun owners.

In effect, firearms are the most obvious—and in the US, available—means of pumping up the self. From Hollywood westerns to paramilitary police headlines, the gun settles conflicts. “Going postal,” a “terminated” employee counters the fear of social death by pumping up intoxicating rage.

Social death means no future: no intimate bonds to substantiate you, no seeking, no story. While we can only speculate, this may help to explain attacks on children. We grow up in school, among others who reflect who we are and want to be. To feel isolated and rejected for whatever reasons—neurology, “temperament,” social prejudice—could spur a lasting urge for revenge: to “wipe out” a sickening memory. By some reports Adam Lanza had to be home-schooled when he didn’t get along with others in primary school. One of the Columbine killers was pitifully depressed, the other gripped by arrogant fury, but both died to destroy a school.

A killer may be attacking the oppressive ideal child he couldn’t be. The violence may be trying to obliterate the child at the core of his own personality whose disintegration in illness feels terrifying and demands emergency action. More poignantly, other people’s children can represent the love, hope, and happiness of the family that the killer despairs of ever enjoying. In the most basic way, children dramatize unlimited life before social pressure and adult roles constrict it. Childhood is posterity, remote from death, close to fantasies of immortality. A target of doomed envy.

And so a despairing father “sacrifices” his own children, perhaps for revenge against an alienated spouse. Even the fanatical Norwegian ideologue Anders Behring Breivik, who imagined he was saving Europe from Islam, slaughtered happy children at a summer camp.

Breivik could remind us of another dimension to the behavior: his plan was a hunt. As in our evolutionary past, warfare, or in some video games today, rampage killers frequently act like hunters. And like all predators, hunters prefer the young as victims because they are easier and less dangerous to kill in numbers. If the goal is a world-gripping record kill, few transgressions can match the slaughter of children.

This brings us to the problem of berserk behavior as a cultural style. Granted someone’s potential for rage, why does it so often follow the same gun-slinging scenario? One answer is that virtually every rampage killing has a copycat element to it. Nobody, homicidal or not, can be completely spontaneous. American culture has elaborately modeled rampage behavior in news, entertainment, and lore, where self-abandon is associated with “breakthrough” performance and “going for it.”

Like the hunt, combat, and sport, rampage killing is a competition for “star”-dom: for the godlike power to hold the world in terrified thrall. In this sense the concentration on glory or infamy can be intoxicating. Defying a lifetime of inhibitions and laws, the ecstatic killer is “beside” himself. If you fear that the ground of your personality is disintegrating, you can dream that the world’s attention will make you feel real. If you die in the attack, better to go out in a blaze of glory than to sink alone into terrified, helpless madness.

We like to think that sanity and the mad murderer are tidy categories, and that the culture has effective ways of treating them. But a school massacre says this isn’t true, which is one reason why Americans keep lethal weapons under the pillow, despite all the proven dangers they pose. This is one way of understanding why audiences are drawn to rant broadcasting for invigorating doses of outrage. Like the would-be rampage killer’s seething, a daily dose of anger can relieve depression and anxiety, converting flight into fight and feelgood indignation.  Some rampage killers have acknowledged the influence of rant media. Why should it surprise us? Listeners are hearing disembodied voices in the air that urge them to heroic outrage against enemies.

The point is not that we’re all rampage killers. But under stress, feeling cornered, some of us will use the ideas and passions around us to make a story we can act on. Adam Lanza’s mother was a “gun enthusiast” in an area of gun enthusiasts, and he used her weapons to make her his first victim.[2] Her former sister-in-law, Marsha Lanza, told reporters that Nancy was part of the Doomsday Preppers movement, whose members believe they need to prepare for the end of the world. She had a survivalist mentality and had turned her home “into a fortress.”[3] You could be excused for wondering if Adam Lanza might have been able to resist the plunge into violence if he wasn’t living in an arsenal, with a mother whose anxieties played out as survivalist ideas.

In a television interview a few days after the massacre a Texas politician called for more guns. If the young woman principal of the school had been armed, he fantasized to a national audience, she could have “taken out” the killer. It’s Batman as national policy.

And you could be excused for thinking that reducing stress would be a better cultural ethos than survival-of-the-fittest “creative destruction” and trigger-finger heroics. In an underemployed nation that’s stripped down to its G-string at home while paying for history’s most extravagant weapons, there are healthier policies than shooting into the dark because you heard a noise.

 

1. Laurie Goodstein and William Glaberson, “The Well-Marked Road to Homicidal Rage,” New York Times (April 10, 2000).

2. Matt Flegenheimer, “A Mother,a Gun Enthusiast and the First Victim,” New York Times (December 15, 2013).

3. Caroline Bankoff, “Newtown Shooter Adam Lanza;s Mother was an Avid Gun Collector,” New York (December 15, 2013).

For more context, see “The New Rampage Mentality” here and Berserk Style in American Culture. The most insightful study of how the terror of death begets viuolence is Ernest Becker’s Escape from Evil.

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Romney’s Taxes

September 27, 2012

“Normal Dan” Dan Liechty

So  Maria Bartiroma and Christian Heinze have taken to scolding the press, the Obama campaign and by extension the all rest of us for our continuing “obsession” with Willard “Mitt” Romney’s personal taxes (http://gop12.thehill.com/2012/09/maria-bartiromo-hammers-media-over.html). It is all beside the point, they say, simply voyeuristic and in any case none of our damn business. But if I could sit down with Maria and Chris, I would like to pose for their evaluation (and by extension, all the rest of us as well) the following. (note: please excuse that I use a university setting in the scenario–it’s what I know–please feel free to substitute whatever institution makes most sense to you. DL)

Let us imagine that it is the strongly established custom at my university that a certain percentage of the salaries earned by all those working here are given back annually as a gift to the university in support for the university’s general operations. Let us further imagine that one of the most highly paid professors on campus routinely goes through all kinds of machinations and accounting tricks to keep his “salary” as low as possible, moving this over here and that over there, explicitly to keep his “contribution” to financial support of the university as absolutely low as possible. As a result, on the whole he routinely pays in a significantly lower percentage of his total compensation package in give-back support than any of the custodians, office workers and maintenance people, even though his total compensation package is 100s, even 1,000s of times greater than theirs.

What are the rest of us who work at this university to think of this person? Well, many of us recognize that on a much smaller scale we are doing the same kind of thing ourselves, the main difference being that given his level of compensation he has access to many more machinations and accounting tricks that would simply not be cost effective for us to try to access. We therefore perhaps a little grudgingly tolerate the man’s financial mores and figure that as long as he isn’t breaking the law, well, no harm no foul.

But would we then support him in becoming president of the university? Would we buy the view that it is exactly his deft employment of machinations and accounting tricks that qualify him to be president of our university? Were we to find ourselves on the presidential hiring committee reviewing his application, would we think it “none of our business” to expect a full inspection of his compensation and giving record at our university?

You, Maria and Chris (and by extension all the rest of us) can answer these questions in whatever way seems right to you. I know what my answer is.

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Clint Eastwood Appreciation

September 11, 2012

“Normal Dan” Dan Liechty

Good old Clint Eastwood is back in the news lately, following his “empty chair” speech at the Republican Convention. There is not much more to say about that, other than to express my disappointment in Clint’s political judgment. But because he is front and center in current events, I have been doing an increased amount of thinking about him these recent weeks. No question about it, I love Clint Eastwood’s movies. Although I oppose on ethical grounds the concept of redemptive violence (a theme running through his movies like the mighty Colorado since Fistful of Dollars (1964), director Sergio Leone’s masterpiece, starring Clint, that created the very genre of the “spaghetti western.” The noxious theme continues to run through the later movies Eastwood directed himself, but at least there it tempered by the realities of aging and moral ambiguity. I have thought long and hard about why I would love these movies so much, even though I so vehemently oppose their central theme of redemptive violence. I’ve come to the conclusion that their tales of righting the world’s wrongs through the explosive but heroically portrayed violence is for me a sort of moral pornography. I cannot deny that it holds a certain fascination, even if it be teasing what I tend to think of as the dark side of our nature. Kirby Farrell’s cultural analysis, especially his book Berserk Style in American Culture, strongly outlines the grounds for both the fascination and for why overall this must be considered the dark side of our nature.

Ernest Becker, of course, was the master of suspicion when it comes to cultural heroism. Yet he also suggested that we cannot live in the absence of its pursuit. That is quite the dilemma for anyone striving to incorporate Becker’s insights into daily living – be deeply suspicious of all forms of heroism, criticize it, debunk it whenever possible, but recognize that you can’t live without it. Well, I suppose if there is an implicit heroism in such a task, it is the heroism of insight. Peel away the onion of illusion. Now the next layer, now the next layer. Now again the next layer. And then what?

Clint said it the best, in his 1973 film, High Plains Drifter (perhaps my favorite, by the way). With that determined glint in his eye that is quintessential Eastwood, he says, “And then you live with it.” Gosh, I wish I’d said that…

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“Post-Birth” Abortion?

September 7, 2012

“Normal Dan” Dan Liechty

There has been a lot of media hype this summer over an article published last February in The Journal of Medical Ethics. http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2012/03/01/medethics-2011-100411.full  Supposedly, the article makes an argument for “post-birth abortion,” that is, allowing legal infanticide for an unspecified period of time after a child is born, giving the parents a bit of extra time to decide if they really want this child or not. The argument is that this is only taking the justifications for pre-birth abortions one step farther and that all important moral justifications for pre-birth abortions apply equally to post-birth abortions, since no clear moral line of distinction can be made between a fetus about to be born and that same fetus some minutes or hours or days later after birth.

I first heard about this article on an ethics discussion list last winter. Most people thought it was a hoax. But the authors and the journal present it as a serious article, and over the last few months I have been “confronted” with this article numerous times by people claiming it is the “logical extension” of pro-choice thinking. Feeling perhaps a bit goaded, as well as enjoying a bit more free time this summer than I usually have, I finally actually read the article.

The authors, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, summarize what they see as the central moral arguments supporting abortion, noting that the thread that runs through them all is that they all place the convenience of the adults above the good of the fetus. They then engage in an “if…then…” thought experiment. They say that “if…” arguments for the legitimacy of abortion based on what is convenient for the adults only are morally valid, “then…” there is no moral difference between pre-birth abortion and after-birth infanticide.

They are not (I don’t think) advocating infanticide, but playing the Devil’s Advocate role concerning arguments for the legitimacy of pre-birth abortion set forward by others (that they play the role so well is the source of confusion about their intentions and why one can easily read them as actually advocating legal infanticide.)

Now, if it were true that abortion rights supporters draw solely or even mainly on what is convenient for adults as the basis for their moral reasoning, this article would have a lot of force behind it. In fact, it probably would have been already written by someone else years ago. But that is only very peripheral to the moral reasoning of those who support policies of choice in specific circumstances (it is, in fact, the perspective on abortion advanced by those who want to proscribe it entirely.)

The central pillar of pro-choice moral argument is the woman’s right to bodily integrity, plain and simple. This is why distinguishing between stages of fetal pre- and post-viability is of crucial importance in reasoning toward moral support for policies allowing for abortion in specific circumstances. Pre-viability, we are looking at a circumstance in which assertion of the woman’s right to bodily integrity (autonomy) must be protected above fetal right to existence, because the existence of the fetus is completely dependent on the will of the woman to continue the pregnancy. Post-viability, that is no longer the case, and therefore once viability has been reached, the right of the fetus to existence must be weighed much more equally with the woman’s right of bodily integrity.

Even once viability has been reached, in my view, the decision to continue the pregnancy is still strongly that of the woman herself, but the right of the fetus to existence increases along with the length of the pregnancy. Regardless, there is a crucial moral difference between pre-viability and post-viability. For the most part, we have set viability at about the end of the second term of pregnancy (approx. 6 months.) Increased medical technology is constantly pushing that backward into the 5th month, but there are certainly limits as to how far this can or (morally speaking) even should be pushed.

The authors of this article totally ignore and dismiss viability as a moral watershed in pregnancy termination, which is certainly why 99% of medical ethicists who read the article initially thought it was a hoax of some kind. It turns out it wasn’t a hoax, but it certainly was laughably poor, scholarship–about like someone making an argument about how high humans can jump but neglecting to take gravity into account. While “if…then” thought experiment has a place in academic discourse, no serious ethicist will have learned anything from this article about actual policy.

One thing I hope we have learned from this episode is that with the advent of the internet, articles of this type, on issues related to “culture war” hot buttons, are bound to be hyped and exploited far beyond the intentions of the authors or the journal editors. Much more cautious hesitation about publishing such articles is in order.

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Roberts and Rationality

August 8, 2012

“Normal Dan” Dan Liechty

Circumstances conspired to put me on a “political news diet” for the last few weeks – no TV, no newspapers or magazines, no podcasts, no internet, very sparse radio contact. I have to say that once the withdrawal shock was weathered, it was pretty nice. What’s more, that the world could just keep right on going, even without me obsessively milking each medium to follow its every move. Furthermore, I felt much more relaxed and optimistic about our species the longer it lasted! But, of course, all good things must end, and like it or not I am now back home trying to work my way through the amassed pile of papers, mags, podcasts and Bill Moyers programs that were sitting here waiting for me. Did I learn anything from the experience? Probably nothing profound or that will stick. In any case, I’m back at it now, and noticing something others have missed.

There is an emerging consensus among academic social and political scientists that people do not make political commitments based on rational considerations of specific policies. Their research points toward the conclusion that across the political spectrum, conservative to liberal, people are heavily and even determinatively influenced by nonrational factors. Rational faculties are more likely to be employed in the secondary step of rationalizing decisions and commitments already made.

One version of this thesis getting a lot of attention right now is that of Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion (Pantheon, 2012). Haidt interprets research findings to conclude that people generally “pick a team” and then on specifics will line up behind whatever the team position is. This goes a long way in explaining why people will so consistently line up behind inconsistent positions on specifics (e.g., “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!”) and even support with a full head of steam policies that are directly contrary to their own personal best interests (e.g., the long-term unemployed person voting for those who will curtail unemployment benefits.) This often leaves liberals (who hold rationality in high esteem) scratching their heads confusedly. But liberals are prone to the same type of thing–misdeeds perpetrated by those on liberal side are much more easily overlooked and forgiven than the same misdeeds on conservative side.

There is a lot that could be done with this analysis, but it appears to break down when we consider the judgment rendered by Chief Justice John Roberts in the recent case concerning the constitutionality of Obama’s healthcare mandate. According to this view, we might have expected Roberts would line up dutifully with his “team” and find the mandate to be unconstitutional.

Instead, even though he dodged the direct question of the mandate, we find him weaving in and out to find some rationale for ruling favorably on the policy itself (as I only learned days later.) This was a real shocker to everyone! The conservatives clearly feel betrayed, that Roberts has double-crossed them and is not a reliable “team” player. Liberals discuss the possibility of welcoming Roberts into “their” camp. So while the team-analysis does seem to hold in terms of the follow-up reaction, it doesn’t seem to explain Roberts’s own motives.

Keep in mind that social science research is never intended to explain the motives of specific individuals in specific circumstances, but only that of large numbers of people in general circumstances. With that said, it seems clear to me that Roberts decided that by hook or crook the Obamacare policy had to be found constitutional. His resort to the taxing powers of the other branches allowed him to do this without total, in-your-face disagreement with “his” team on the question of the mandate. In other words, his brief was clearly a rationalization of a prior decision and not the basis for that decision.

Why this prior decision, when it would have been so easy to simply rule with the other four justices against the constitutionality of Obamacare? I suggest it has to do with the fact that Roberts is beginning increasingly to look at his court from the perspective of History. From this perspective, he sees that future historians will be writing about the Roberts Court as extremely activist and powerfully partisan. Although something like 40% of its actual decisions have been 9-0 or 8-1 (in other words, representing a clear court consensus–cause for at least some optimism about our divided political present) the remaining 60%, which are often the much more visible cases, have been down the line 5/4 decisions in which the majority unapologetically align themselves with the conservative point of view. Roberts understood that if, in the heat of this election year, there were to be yet another in a long line of 5/4 decisions on key watershed issues, this time against the healthcare mandate, thus effectively gutting the main positive policy achievement of Obama’s first term of office, the judgment of History will doubtless be that under John Roberts, the Supreme Court degenerated into little more than a submissive handmaiden of the Republican Party. Obviously, Roberts wanted desperately to avoid this judgment of History, and he found a way to do it (or at least mitigate it somewhat.)

I am surprised that no one else appears to have noticed this (at least I haven’t seen it mentioned in the post-decision analyses I have read so far) but it is really the only way I can make sense of the motives for his decision, and the Byzantine brief he wrote to rationalize it. We’ll have to see if it results in more unexpected twists and turns in future cases.

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Of Gout and Global Warming

July 27, 2012

“Leucocephalus” Phil Hansten

[Please welcome our newest contributor, Phil Hansten! -ed.]

What we can’t think about: The possibility that climatologists are correct to warn of potential catastrophic climate change.

“Prediction is very difficult. Especially if it’s about the future.” This sounds like a quote from Yogi Berra… you know, the guy who said things like “It ain’t over till it’s over,” and “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” But actually the quote is from the Danish Physicist, Niels Bohr. And he is right. Prediction is indeed difficult, particularly in complex systems such as climate change, or how combinations of chemicals will react in a particular human body. After spending the past 50 years trying to predict outcomes in people taking interacting drugs, I think the principles involved are almost identical to those that could be profitably used in dealing with the risk of climate change. Since climate change denial is a central focus of EBF, I thought we might explore this idea.

Prediction of Magnitude. Suppose you are on colchicine for gout, and you start clarithromycin for a sinus infection. Clarithromycin can produce colchicine toxicity, which in turn can cause fatal bone marrow suppression. Some people have less serious reactions, but we cannot determine ahead of time how bad it will be in any given person; there are too many variables. Climatologists have the same dilemma; they know that the CO2 buildup is risking catastrophe, but they cannot make precise predictions of timing and magnitude; again… too many variables. Precise prediction of outcomes, however, is not required for a rational assessment of risk.

Tipping Point. There is another similarity. Once serious colchicine toxicity begins, it is difficult to stop. Colchicine can inhibit its own elimination by the kidneys, and dialysis doesn’t work. So by the time a serious reaction is detected, it is often too late. Climatologists tell us a similar story; we may get to a point where mutually reinforcing effects are set into motion, and no amount of remedial action will stop the inexorable march to disaster.

Threshold for Action. There is scientific consensus among experts regarding both climate change and colchicine. Some refuse to accept the science, usually because they don’t understand it or they benefit from their denial. But it is not a matter of whether the specific predictions of climatologists will prove true 30 years from now…  rather, the question is whether global warming presents a non-trivial risk of catastrophe. The threshold for taking action when dealing with complex problems that can potentially lead to disastrous outcomes often occurs long before definitive scientific data are available. One can always say, “the jury is still out” to justify inaction; look at the delaying tactics of Big Tobacco after the health risks of cigarettes became clear. But in science, the jury is always still out, so the question is not about juries… the question is whether or not the data suggest we should take vigorous action.

But despite all the similarities, there is one striking difference between colchicine and climate change; ignoring a colchicine-clarithromycin drug interaction puts one person at risk of death; ignoring climate change could be fatal to billions.

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The Paterno Statue

July 24, 2012

“Svaardvaard” Bill Bornschein

The pedophile scandal that has rocked Penn State University carries within it an element that Becker addressed so insightfully, the quest for immortality represented in the construction of all manner of memorials. In this particular case, ground zero for the anxiety surrounding this sad story is the iconic statue of  Paterno,  forefinger uplifted in the ‘Number 1’ gesture  leading his players. The statue was removed this morning amid chants of “ We are Penn State!” from loyal fans.  Prior to its removal the statue was protected from vandalism by a volunteer group of students.  The juxtaposition of the statue’s removal with the recent death of Paterno himself has likely increased the feelings of loyalty to the football program. The angst of the entire situation was heightened by the squeaky clean image of Paterno’s program, one that stressed team over individual by not placing players’ names on the uniform.  The perceived wholesomeness of Paterno and the program was reflected in a halo that adorned Paterno on a campus mural. The immortality overtone of the halo is obvious.

In chapter five of Escape From Evil, Becker speaks of the power of immortality ideology. He states, “All human ideologies, then, are affairs that deal directly with the sacredness of the individual or the group life, whether it seems that way or not, whether they admit it or not, whether the person knows it himself or not.” It follows that a threat to the individual is a threat to the group and a threat to the group is a threat to the individual. In describing primary cultures, Becker uses the power of immortality ideologies to explain why individuals submit themselves to painful passages into group identity. He asks,” Why would human beings…  subject themselves to circumcisions and subincisions, perforated nasal septums, neck rings, holes in the flesh… if not for the ultimate stake: immortality, the triumph over the extinction of the body and its insignificance.”  Even Ayn Rand would submit.  In modern times the tribal scarification has been replaced by endless practices and workouts, all in the hopes of achieving athletic immortality in a Hall of Fame, the secular equivalent of Valhalla. Beyond the players and coaches, the entire university community participates in a rich mix of cultural rituals, pep rallies, bon fires, tailgating and the like that cements the group bonds.

This symbiotic relationship between the fate of the individual and the group is on full display in the case of Penn State. Pedophile Sandusky violated the primary rule by placing his individual lust over the good of the group and the leadership of the university looked the end of the way to preserve an institutional legacy, until it all came crashing down. How will this play out? The NCAA has leveled very severe penalties on the school and a new vigilance is apparent in member NCAA institutions. My prediction is that the football program will eventually thrive again, the need for communal immortality being that strong. One reason for my prediction is observing the case of basketball at the University of Kentucky in my home state. The University recently celebrated a national championship in men’s basketball. This program is the most heavily penalized in the history of college sports and it was only twenty years ago that Sports Illustrated featured a cover of a KY basketball player with head hanging and the headline, Kentucky’s Shame. Today, that is all ancient history. It is true, paying players, point shaving and falsifying transcripts pales in comparison to the Sandusky and Paterno transgressions.  Further, in contrast to Penn State’s perceived tradition of integrity and wholesomeness, the University of Kentucky has a legacy of corruption that is broadly accepted by the fan base. Still, the overriding factor is the need to believe, the need to belong, the need to attach oneself to an immortality project, the need to transcend. Look for Penn State football to rise phoenix-like from the ashes.