Sunday, April 16, 2006

Dan Brown: The Da Vinci Code

Dan Brown: The Da Vinci Code. 2004, Doubleday 0-385-51375-5
Physical description: hardbound, 467 pgs, large pages, illustrated (many other versions including paperback are available now); Amazon link.

Leonardo Da Vinci certainly fits our idea of the ideal Renaissance Man. Curious, inventive, practical, brilliant, and apparently charismatic to be around as a young man. Gifted. Yet, curiously sometimes careless and inattentive, unable to complete things. He was many things. On page 50 of this edition, Brown writes that Da Vinci was a “flamboyant homosexual” and fought “a perpetual state of sin against God” despite the public success of his life in historical terms. In fact, he was a member of secret orders, most notably the Priory of Sion, a secret fraternal organization founded in 1099. Da Vinci’s homosexuality is probably difficult to prove factually, but it certainly sounds likely from the historical “circumstantial evidence.”

Of course, we have all heard about the basic premise of this novel, that Jesus married prostitute Mary Magdalene, that she carried his child when he was crucified, and that his descendents live today. So it is pretty reasonable to construct a novel based on what could happen to one of those descendents.

That is one problem. The whole novel presents a fascinating treasure hunt through all the not-so-secret religious enclaves and space in France and later England and Scotland, tracking down the clues. It is set up with a prologue, epilogue, and 105 relatively short chapters as nuggets, each leading to the next point. The plot seems a bit of an afterthought, a vehicle to develop Brown’s theory. It starts when Jacques Sauniere meets a violent and spectacular demise in a secure area of the Louvre in Paris. Professor Robert Langdon is called in and for two thirds of the novel he is a major suspect by the police, so he “must” save himself. It seems a bit of a setup. There is granddaughter Sophie whom he runs around with, and a British aristocrat Leigh Teabing, owning a chateau in France (not an uncommon situation in real life) who can provide a lot of the clues.

Now, this novel does represent “English literature” as we learn the concept in high school. Literature, we learn, relates to the deep-seated issues in any culture. In Britain, authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh of the 1982 book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, from Random House, sued Dan Brown and Random House for publishing Dan Brown's novel; which the original authors claim unfairly expropriates detailed research presented in the earlier non-fiction book. Ideas cannot be copyrighted, but in Britain, at least, there is legitimate controversy about detailed factual research. A judge in Britain (Peter Smith) turned down the plaintiffs on April 7, 2006 and since Britain has loser pays in these circumstances, the plaintiffs could have to pay up to $1.75 million in attorneys fees for both sides. (In the US, "loser pays" applies only in some cases; check with your attorney; there is a movement in general tort reform to encourage its use in the US to stop SLAPP and frivolous lawsuits.)

What of the entire theory? It has several big ideas that lead up to the blood line. One is the equating of Mary Magdalene with the concept of the Holy Grail. Another is the “eternal feminine,” an idea common in the Faust legends developed in operas by Gounod and Boito and in choral symphonies by Liszt and Mahler. That is a bit of a paradox, that Da Vinci himself was so embroiled in a philosophical ploy involving the deepest notions of heterosexuality, the sexual union where one becomes mindless, and yet could have lived the charismatic homosexual male, someone who as a young man would have been the star on today’s disco floor. And even the book’s authorship adds to the controversy, as the novel seems to have been a joint effort between Dan Brown and his own wife. In his discussions about the eternal feminine, he almost seems to predicting Masters and Johnson’s modern book “Heterosexuality,” as a joyous thing, but for 90% of people.

Then you have the Vatican, its ultraconservative organization Opus Dei, and the whole paradox of Catholic thought with a celibate priesthood (which seems to have added so much to today’s scandals – effectively a ban against straights, and now it is trying to ban gays, too). While we all know that there are religious reasons for celibacy and abstinence, the real dichotomy is psychological. Family values and blood loyalty drive the lives of supposedly “normal” people, but at some point the individual breaks away from sexual or even social communion with others and focuses on himself or herself, upon an individual reconciliation with his own potentiality, and with God. But I don't see a contradiction between Jesus's being married and his Friday death, soul and body together, and complete resurrection Sunday, by God. Since he would ascend in the Pentecost, however, it seems unlikely he would have continued to function as a husband in a conventional way of this theory is true.

The illustrated version reminds one of a reading text in grade school in that one looks forward to the pictures on many pages. The photographs cover most of the controversial religious places in France and England, leading to the Rosslyn Chapel in Edinburgh, Scotland (a major business area in Arlington, VA gets its name from that). Somehow the presentation style reminds me of Hendrik Van Loon and The Story of the Bible (1928), which has many well spaced drawings – though here we have glossy photographs. In a way, the illustrated edition becomes a kind of filmstrip, like what we used to watch in grade school in addition to movies. We don’t see those often any more. (My cousin and I used to actually make them with drawings back in the mid 1950s and show them to family and friends as “movies.”)

That brings me to the real movie, which Sony Pictures/Columbia is due to release May 19. There will be a review here then.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mark Pietrzyk: International Order and Individual Liberty

Mark Pietrzyk: International Order and Individual Liberty: Effects of War and Peace on the Development of Governments

University Press of America, 2002,
ISBN: 0-7618-2293-3; Amazon link.

On a snowy day before John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration I (as a high school senior) wrote an essay midterm exam in a Virginia and U.S. Government class at Arlington’s Washington-Lee high school on the question “Compare communism and democracy.” The World Book Encyclopedia has a three-column comparative government study comparing democracy, communism, and fascism.

Reviewing a social studies dissertation is a bit different from reviewing movies, but I always like to start with a value-adding personal context for the political theories that will follow.

In the war on terror, conservative columnists have been drawn away somewhat from the usual bickering over social mores and even resistance to public funding of social programs to enunciation of what is missing from the Arab world as well as much of the Third World: something like “liberal capitalist democracy.” (Okay, I adopt the tone for this review of a columnist for The Washington Times.) And, yes, this form of society is the most successful. It incorporates, besides the United States, all of the British Commonwealth, western Europe, some of the Pacific rim, and a few other bright spots like Turkey and even India. It is much weaker in much of South America, Africa, and the rest of Asia. It can produce the best in people. How many gifted younger adults (including at least three with dual citizenship) have I met from (besides the U.S.) Canada, Britain, Germany, Spain. I once met (in the Connection Disco in Berlin) a graduate student who had been born in East Germany but had been lucky enough to grow up in Britain. None of my friends could have lived their lives had they been brought up in places like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, even Pakistan.

All of this pertains now to the current Bush administration’s “nation building” in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and the determination of enemies to retain local chaos. One comment made over and over again is why the Muslim world fell into social and political despair after the glories of its civilization 1000 years ago, and so much of it has to do with basic corruption of political processes. It seems like an underlying concept is nihilism, a desire by some people to maintain a religious definition (“from Allah”) of the pecking order, of who is better than who.

This book is based on a Ph. D. dissertation written by the author at The George Washington University and the Brookings Institution. I know the author, but I will defer here to his own presentation of himself at

The point of the book is the degree of nexus between democracy and peace. The book is in two parts: “The Theoretical Controversy” and “Case Studies.” On the political theory, the author disputes conventional wisdom that democracies are always by nature inclined to make “a separate peace” (perhaps a pun on the John Knowles novel and 1972 movie). Some of this has to do with the way we characterize democracy itself. The author provides a key chapter “How Peace Facilitates Democracy.” The case studies are the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Transformation of Germany (from the Versailles treaty through Nazism to the post World War II democracy in the west and finally in a unified Germany), and especially “Israel, A Militarized Democracy.” The particulars of his analysis get interesting. For example, on page 45 he talks about the various city-states in ancient Greece (the Peloponnesian Wars, as in the upcoming movie Troy) and takes a more critical view of Athenian democracy than did the PBS documentary series The Greeks. Israel is particularly critical: it has maintained a viable democracy because of its intense cultural and religious cohesion, and strong socialization. It has recognized some fundamental rights for resident Palestinians and non Jews but it has flagrantly violated what we see as property rights with its takings. (Ironically, Muslim Spain around 1000 AD had somewhat similar relationships with non Muslims living there.)

What is more controversial for me is the double-edge attitude that libertarianism takes towards democracy. Many libertarian commentators point out that the founding fathers really did not intend democracy as we know it today, but rather wanted to protect their property rights from the British (and the slaves). Democracy seems to invite “tyranny of the majority,” except that is why we have separation of powers and a strong judiciary. An associated concept is “market fundamentalism.” The underlying ideology is freedom to direct one’s life and choose how to deploy one’s property, assuming no aggression against others and a rather narrow view of personal accountability. But society has to deal with unfairness on a macro-scale, some of which comes from external events (interaction with other countries) or may be inherited from the past, so democracies give governments the prerogative to tax or regulate citizens to meet the needs of various groups. The objection to seeking social justice this way is that it invites corruption, and intellectual shallowness and constituents give money to politicians to get their way. A free society has to figure out how to get individuals to balance meeting their own ends with a collective need for productive socialization.

Dr. Pietrzyk also provides online an essay “The Idea of a Democratic Zone of Peace: Origins in the Enlightenment” Particularly interesting is the pertinence of the ideas of German philosopher Immanuel Kant and the 1795 essay “Perpetual Peace.”

Update: April 9, 2019

Mark recently commented on "The Great War in America" by Garrett Peck, to note that a superpower needs to provide continued leadership after a war (relative to the failure of the League of Nations? 

George Gilder: Men and Marriage

George Gilder: Men and Marriage (1986); Sexual Suicide (1973)
Publishers: Pelican (New Orleans); Quadrangle; Amazon link.

Gilder has an interesting hypothesis, the subtlety of which is not always obvious. He believes that the greatest danger to our prosperous civilization is not simply "immoral behavior" as we usually perceive it (sexual promiscuity, drugs, etc.) but the actual denial of sexuality as a civilizing force.

Most men of average talents, he believes, need families to support and wives to civilize them, to give them a purpose for an adult life and for any sense of individuality at all. The blurring of gender roles is harmful to many men. It' s not so hurtful to women who, because of their biological ability to bear children, are "sexually superior" and able to develop self-concepts without external socialization.

But underneath this is the underlying reluctance of modern young adults to couple sexuality and real human emotion with adaptive needs (child-rearing and priority family personal support). Instead, sexuality has become a vehicle of very personal self-expression (compare with the views of Rosenfels. This amounts to "sexual suicide."

There is also the "sexual princess" problem ¾ the tendency for people to choose partners for purely narcissistic reasons. The best example is the young, nubile woman who busts up a prosperous older man's marriage and alienates his affections from his wife.

Gilder minces no words on homosexuality ("the Perils of Androgyny"). He views male homosexuality as a caving in to enjoyment of a sense of abasement, something potentially tempting to any man. The "upward affiliation" of homosexuality makes it more "rational" to many men than heterosexuality. Male courtship of women (and not "going Dutch") is, after all, somewhat "irrational." He also believes that the tendency for some men to have many female partners tends to encourage homosexuality among the remaining males with no girl friends. At one point, he also maintains that most “mature” homosexuals prefer to remain rather private and have no desire to publicize the values of their lifestyles to others! He really sounds like a don’t-ask-don’t-tell proponent.

Gilder incorrectly assumes that the narcissism present in the male homosexual world precludes long-term relationships. Men need the taming influence of women to have stable marriages and even to discover true "individuality," he believes. Gilder is getting at some moral problems but he seems too focused upon conventional sexuality to really understand the implications of the debate he is trying to start. There is, after all, this constant tug-of-war in our culture between the narrowest way to interpret individual rights and responsibilities (consequentialism) and the idea that some inclinations and behaviors (however well they may work out in some individual circumstances) become morally and communally unacceptable when set up as examples for most people. Why doesn't he focus upon the appropriateness of the way people set their own priorities, and the problems that happen when people lose sight of caring about others while they seek their own ends? The ultimate implication of his line of thought is a moral imperative that any adult needs to know how to take care of others besides himself in order to be credible as an independent person at all.

Gilder is indeed the ultimate aesthetic realist, and spokesperson for the socially conservative side of the cultural war. Indeed, he is one of the few conservative writers who is willing to speak of a near moral obligation for adults to get and stay married. Ironically, gay conservative author Jonathan Rauch (contributor to Bruce Bawer's anthology Beyond Queer) has said similar things in the context of same-sex marriage.

Gilder’s ideas are reinforced by the article, “The Emperor’s New Woes,” by Dean Elder, in the April 2005 Psychology Today. Elder argues that most men need the socialization that lineage, fatherhood and therefore marriage provide (they become more stable and earn more when they are providers) but may be uncomfortable with modern wives who expect more emotional subtlety. (Gay men, perhaps, are wired differently, not to need this kind of complementarity.)

Paul Rosenfels: Homosexuality: The Psychology of the Creative Process

Author: Paul Rosenfels

Titles: "Homosexuality: The Psychology of the Creative Process" (Introduction by Dean Hannotte).
also: "Subjectivity and Objectivity: Further Aspects of Psychological Growth"; "We Knew Paul: Conversations with Friends and Students of Paul Rosenfels"; "Psychic Exhaustion and the Growth Process (Rosenfels, Paul. Ninth Street Center Monograph".

Publication: Libra Publications/Ninth Street Center, 1972, 1980, 1990;  ISBN 0-932961-08-8; paper (monographs are full-notebook size); Amazon link.

Paul Rosenfels is known as a psychological freedom fighter among his inner circle, much of it associated with the Ninth Street Center in New York. Others view him as a "guru." Paul's particular contribution is a very precise articulation of the paradigm of psychological polarity, or yin and yang, as it had been known in ancient Greece.

Paul sees human beings as, regardless of biological gender, essentially feminine or masculine. A feminine personality finds greatest fulfillment in yielding to and nurturing another person. A masculine personality finds corresponding fulfillment in possessing and motivating another person. This is the basic love vs. action duality. At the deepest level, a person is "turned on" by living out according to his polarity.

A perpendicular axis to all this is formed by the subjective vs. objective duality. Subjective feminines and objective masculines are "unbalanced" and the other two combinations are "balanced." Unbalanced persons tend to insist on following goals chosen by them regardless of the support of others. Balanced persons tend to find satisfaction by following more conventional goals (and maybe limited ones) as determined by the needs and support of others.

The other great concept in Paul's writing is the notion of psychological surplus. This comprises a person's opportunities remaining after adaptive needs are met. Creativity means exploring this surplus. Yet creativity has what many people see as a "downside": people become creative when they mal-adapt in conventional pursuits.

A goal of psychological growth is to reconcile achieving of balance (meeting the real needs of others) with surplus, being able to expand in areas where one has something unique to give. Growth is very difficult, and generally is forestalled by use of psychological defenses, where one erects false power or false surrender mechanisms in a kind of sour-grapes or sweet-lemons mechanism to avoid rejection and pain. Ultimately, one is led back, in a most personal way, to moral issues of determining appropriate personal priorities given the needs of others in one's immediate and more distant environments. Morality, to Paul, is simply what is right in human terms.

The path to growth leads Paul to make some startling observations. For example, to experience full psychological growth, everyone must pass through homosexual territory. In fact, one must choose to experience homosexual potential. A "masculine" man may find being loved by another man more affirming to his masculinity than being "loved" in a conventional fashion by a woman in conventional marriage. A "feminine" man may actually feel fulfilled by surrendering (even sexually) to another person. These possibilities occur in heterosexual marriage and gender roles can be reversed.

Lifelong psychological growth comports with a concept of lifelong adolescence, something that reminds one of the “tweens” tom Tolkien’s hobbits. One is to have the political and social freedom to pursue one’s own psychological well-being, which at least means partly one’s own goals. This is a libertarian idea. Of course, this “adolescent spirit” challenges the idea of religious faith as a determinant of the course or station of one’s life, or even socially conservative ideas of adulthood founded upon committed marriage and parenting (“baby-making”) to meet a larger society’s purposes.

Paul writes with the precision of a mathematicians giving a formal proof. Often a paragraph describing a concept for feminine personalities is followed by a paragraph describing the same concept for masculines, with the appropriate substitution of analogue concepts.

There are economics applications for some of Paul’s ideas. In an economy that is outsourcing more “content-based” work overseas, there is a tendency to grow jobs based mainly on selling or sales culture—manipulation of others, good jobs for masculines. The sales person or negotiator (be it a trial lawyer or even a bill collector) makes the customer or client respect him or even like him for his persuasiveness or charisma. The objection to this comes when manipulative exercise is not ethically justified by the content of what is to be sold, or respect for the sales person is not justified by that person’s being or performance.

My own “polarity complex” is feminine subjective, and that has some moral consequences. I “tick” by idealizing certain other people, based on values chosen by me. This gives me the opportunity to become “the power behind the throne.” There is a danger that this “upward affiliation” lapses into self-indulgence or parasitism. If I am able to get away with it, then I set a disturbing example for a rather oppressive political and social meritocracy. I justify this by saying that I, like anyone, must be held accountable for my own choices, and this accountability might include proving the capability to support others with their real needs. There is a political advantage to this approach in that it reinforces individual rights (and responsibilities). On the other hand, many people believe that social justice must be approached as a communal good, negotiated politically at the group level, and removed from the area of individual rights for their own sake, but this risks freedom because it invites corruption.

For more details, see my DADT book account (at xchap3.htm reference given above), of the Ninth Street Center site given on this site's index page. See also discussions of personal responsibility and of same-sex marriage.

The Ninth Street Center has produced a black-and-white video (available only through the Center at this time), The Paul Rosenfels Video Anthology, of some of the talk groups that seem to come from the 1980’s, in the Center’s basement East Village studio. The quite discussion has the soothing effect of My Dinner With Andre, perhaps, and Paul is at his best here as a teacher, discussing his psychological concepts, especially about the way social conventionality suppresses awareness of depression, in the simplest possible language. There is one participant who seems to be dealing with his restlessness, after an experience in the military (apparently Vietnam) in which he felt compelled to repress his intimate feelings, and Paul chuckles about the military’s naivete (as he sees it) over homosexuality as almost unavoidable in a military social setting. Paul also discusses his philosophy of writing (and even film and video) and the need for a scientific, disciplined approach to presentation rather than just an inductive one.

There is another book from the Ninth Street Center, We Knew Paul (1990), edited by Dean Hannotte (after Paul’s death in 1985) that gives interviews with a number of the participants.

The “Ninth Street Center Handbook” is available here.  The main link for the "Paul Rosenfels Community" today is here

Monday, April 10, 2006

Denish D'Souza: "What's So Great About America"

Denish D'Souza: What's So Great About America"
Washington: Regnery, 2002 ISBN 0-89526-153-7 hardbound, 218 pages incl. index

Well, this is a good one for a book report in, say, a civics class.

Dinesh D’Souza is a former White House domestic policy analyst and currently the Rishwain Research Scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Mr. D’Souza immigrated to the United States from India and some of his book gains credibility by his own account of the improvement of his life by immigrating.

I would summarize his argument as a kind of moral and political history of individual freedom. He is particularly concerned about how our culture reconciles or “authenticates” freedom with virtue and with the apparent criticism from other cultures that individualism and freedom imply a breakdown of moral order. He believes that western civilization and particularly America, with democratic liberal capitalism, has indeed moved in the direction of this authentication, despite all of the criticisms.

Since the 9-11 tragedy, discussion of freedom has centered often upon balancing it with the need for security. But D’Souza is more concerned with clarifying the principles of freedom and seeing how they play across the record of history. But a major part of the discussion concerns the challenge from radical Islam.

Commentators give different accounts on whether Islamic theology implies violence against the West. A more optimistic assessment can be found in books like The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam, by Vahiya Emerick, or Islam and the Discovery of Freedom by Rosw Wilder Lane and Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad. The Qur’an and other scriptures might lead to multiple interpretations just as does the Bible. Historians often speak of Islamic societies a millennium or so ago that lived in peace with Jews and Christians, as in Spain. And much of the hatred of some of Islam against the west can be attributed to very wrong things done to the Palestinians when Israel was recreated, as well as American and western support for corrupt regimes. Nevertheless, Islam seems to be conspicuously concerned with not just ritual observance but with the idea that religion should answer all questions for the individual, whereas Christianity (with Judaism) has over the centuries become more sophisticated in the way it deals with the rights of the individual to make his or her own choices.

Militant Islam apparently derives some intellectual rationalization in the writings of scribes like Egyptian Sayyid Qutb, who maintains that external virtue, through strict observance of religious order, is the only object of governance, and that democracy therefore contradicts the idea of virtue. Indeed, European history traces the gradual discrediting of the idea that some people are divinely entitled to be superior to others and to rule others. Militant Islam (as a part of Islam), at least, maintains that superiority and even patriarchy are ordained by Allah. So American public culture, through movies, the Internet (including this web site) remain an infectious threat (literally to its idea of male potency) even if Israel disappears and American presence in places like Saudi Arabia goes away. Militant Islam, which certainly has the loyalty of younger males in a large part of the Islamic world, holds that Islam must either conquer all and bring it under its pre-ordained order, or else the Islamic world must become like another planet, separated from the West by parsecs. Perhaps it could take over Titan or Europa.

By contrast with Islam, there are many historical reasons for the gradual growth of individualism in the West. The complexity of European political history, in conjunction with the growth of science and technology after the Renaissance, gradually led to an increase in notions of individual freedom, not only among the colonist in the New World but in other places like France during its revolution (and the Netherlands with the worlds first stock market). The printing press would make possible the private practice of religion and prayer with a hardcopy of the Bible, with private thought and without the requirement of public celebration requiring approval of priests. It would be Rousseau (Discourse on the Origin of Inequality), as D’Souza points out, who would be particularly articulate with the notion that “each of us has an original way of being human.” Western civilization was generally and continuously open to the idea that things can get better, even for the “average person.” It is this openness to change, especially through science as well as the growth of intellectual culture (especially music, from the Baroque and classical eras through Romanticism) that makes it possible to talk about freedoms in societies that still show a lot of residual oppression.

How can you say this, the left maintains, when it argues that modern capitalists are tainted by their parasitic behaviors. Workers are enslaved and exploited, the races remain segregated even after slavery formally ends. But freedom and democracy are a growth and changing process. Democracy, in the early days of a constitutional republic, was indeed challenged by the paradox of slavery. It required consensus even as it had to respect the rights of every individual. Therefore awkward, if temporary, compromises had to be accepted, like counting 3/5 of the slaves for representation, and banning slave trade after 1808.

D’Souza points out that disadvantaged peoples were generally better off in America than their ancestors or relatives in third world countries. A Ted Koppel Nightline broadcast where a mother in the Congo earns 9 cents a day by working as a porter—enough to feed her children piga’ feet or snails—comes to mind. Milton Friedman has often made similar comments about how the process of free enterprise can gradually increase living standards anywhere, even if individuals make “sacrifices” along the way. So freedom at any point in time contains a large prospective element—a belief that with further learning and openness to new ideas and opportunities, things can get better for anyone. This is not true in closed societies like those of the Taliban.

As a gay man, I still perceived myself as “free” even in the worst days after my William and Mary expulsion and reparative therapy at N.I.H. about the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. It seems like an irony now that it was probably the combination of the Civil Rights movement, Cold War brain race, Vietnam, and the military draft in my adolescent and early adult years that brought young men together in a changing social environment and made the idea of gay liberation possible – ironic inasmuch as I would be drawn into the fight to lift the military ban in 1993. But even in my own life, freedom was an evolution, first into privacy and fantasy and then self-expression and only now do the costs and obligations of freedom come back into focus.

When I wrote Do Ask Do Tell in 1997 and introduced my last chapter early on with the question, “Is it safe?” I was concerned with threats to freedom, all right. I had proposed a paradigm where individualism is “authenticated” when every person can account for his own acts. But freedom for our culture as a whole had global, collective threats. Even then I saw epidemics, global warming, asteroids, and maybe even extraterrestrials (don’t expect them to be as “gentle” as gifted teenager Clark Kent—Pie ‘O’ Pah is more typical) as conceivable threats. More seriously, and closer to terra, I suspected military threats from Iraq or Iran, North Korea, China, and a collapse of Russia back towards communism or super-nationalism. I knew about Osama bin Laden but saw him as only one of many threats, and a minor one in the scheme of things, and I was wrong there. But I was concerned about how one rebuilds a set of principles and firewalls to contain individual freedoms in view of the inevitable threats – moral and external – that would some day come.

It’s here that D’Souza’s term “authentication”—something that sounds like a step in a computer security protocol for single sign-on—comes into play. One is authentic as an individual if his or her self-expression is valid and rewards (whether monetary of psychic, as with public or local recognition from others) therefrom deserved. We can speak of “karma” here. But one’s just desserts will invariably call for readiness to care for others besides oneself, and that’s where issues like national, community or military service as well as family values come into play. There is a call not just to “pay one’s dues” but sometimes to suspend one’s own motives and opportunities to defend the freedoms of others, and that is where morality itself becomes open-ended. We come to make fine distinctions between concepts like honor and integrity. One can be honest or courageous, but for the wrong, self-serving motives. Integrity requires fidelity to one’s obligations to others, from which honesty can provide a convenient escape. But integrity requires the individual to discover truth and right, including interpretation of these obligations, for himself and act on it. When may we have to accept situational ethics?