I would say that now I have heard everything, but, as soon as I say it, I will hear something else from the Men In White Coats that I have not heard before and that I wouldn't have thought that supposedly intelligent people would even have thought of and I will realize once again that I have really not heard everything. They are imaginative people, these people who think everything is analyzable by science.
Today's episode of Let's Apply Science To Something It Has Little To Do With involves Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California who, it turns out, fathered a child by a member of his house staff, which has caused the news programs to look for explanations in all the wrong places.
[And I should probably specify here that the person who bore the child was female for the Women's and Gender Studies folks out there who have convinced themselves that men and women aren't really different after all.]
Whenever a public official is found to have committed a moral indiscretion, the news programs call, not on anyone who is an expert in morality, but on someone who is an expert on disease. Instead of a priest, or perhaps an ethicist (a class of people in whose existence I frankly do not believe) they call on a psychologist.
CNN's Anderson Cooper, following the current custom, called in a "Dr. Drew" (didn't catch his full name), whom he pressed for an explanation. Dr. Drew, who has never actually had Schwarzenegger as a patient, much less ever even talked to the man, was in no doubt as to the diagnosis: it was a "classic case," he said, of "Love Addiction."
Now I don't know how they select the names for diseases in psychology, but I'm thinking that there should probably be some requirement that the name of a psychological malady not sound like it might have been the title of a hit song for K. C. and the Sunshine Band.
We first witnessed the descent of psychology into disco diagnosis last year, when the TV shrinks identified Tiger Woods' problem as "Sex Addiction," a diagnosis which Woods gladly accepted (better to have a disease than commit a moral failure) and for which he announced he would seek "treatment."
But it is not only the increasing triviality of the pop psychological diagnosis of wayward celebrities that is remarkable, but the underlying speciousness of the whole enterprise. I have remarked elsewhere regarding the tendency in our culture to try to explain away human moral behavior through scientific hocus-pocus. Aristotle divided the reasons for human behavior (of which he identified seven) into the voluntary and the involuntary. Our entire culture is trying to shift behavior from the voluntary, where we are responsible moral agents, to the involuntary, where we are merely amoral spectators of our own behavior.
You are not responsible for contracting a "disease."
But the Dr. Drews of the world take this process to an even more absurd level. With Anderson Cooper facilitating, the expert somehow managed at one and the same time to excuse Schwarzenegger for his behavior by diagnosing him with a disease ("Love Addiction"), but kept reminding his audience that this didn't make what he did "okay."
Well, if it was a disease, then why wasn't it "okay"? And what exactly does "okay" mean? Why didn't he say, not that it still wasn't "okay," but that it was still "wrong"? Is there something wrong with the word "wrong"?
I have a solution for all the psychological nonsense we get treated to whenever a public official or a celebrity falls from grace.
CNN needs to hire some old, crotchety, no-nonsense priest to come on whenever this happens. Anderson would say, "Father O'Malley, what went wrong here? How could [insert name of latest wayward celebrity] this have happened?"
Then the priest would look at Cooper, shake his head, and say (and I'm thinking an Irish accent would be helpful here), "Anderson, are ye daft? Or mebbe you've been hittin' the bottle again? Why the man's a sinner: that's what's wrong with 'im." Then the priest, who would have an intimate understanding of sin from having heard confessions and prescribed penance for his entire adult life, could explain the finer points of temptation and moral failure, which involve among other things, Getting Down Tonight, which results from a little to much Shaking of the Booty, because That's the Way you Liked It at the time--only later to realize that even your Boogie Shoes are not going help you run away from it.
And then he could assure Anderson that Schwarzenegger's being a sinner doesn't mean what he did was not wrong. And this remark, unlike Dr. Drew's, would have the advantage of not being rationally inconsistent with everything he had just said.