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The Surprising Reason Americans Are Vulnerable to Moral Relativism

Is this lovely, vibrant girl the source of our existential peril?

by
Bookworm

Bio

August 25, 2013 - 11:00 am
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One of the scourges of the modern American mindset is the moral relativism which holds that no culture is better than any other – subject to the caveat that America’s is actually worst. This view allowed Michael Moore to apply the “freedom fighter” label to al-Qaeda, a definition that works only if one describes them as fighting for the people’s “freedom” to be unwilling subjects of Islamic totalitarianism. Likewise, it was under the banner of mushy relativism that Barack Obama likened the struggle to the death between two tyrannies in Egypt, one secularist and one Islamist, to some inchoate American “democratic journey [that] took us through some mighty struggles to perfect our union.”

Moral relativism is a staple item in the leftist arsenal because it’s hard to destroy a society that believes in itself, and all too easy to destroy a society that’s been convinced its values are valueless. An unexamined issue, though, is how it came about that Americans so quickly abandoned their belief in American exceptionalism. Shouldn’t late 20th/early 21st century Americans have had at least a little pride in themselves?

After all, despite her failings (one cannot whitewash our past conduct towards blacks and Indians), America is an admirable country. Neither our national identity nor our laws demand that we wipe out races or religions from the earth or that we rejoice in the death of innocents. When we go to war to defend ourselves, we view with despair, not enthusiasm, the fact that even just wars kill innocents. We therefore do not intentionally target noncombatants, and we judge ourselves harshly when they die. Having said that, we also understand that, when it comes to innocents and war, sometimes the greatest gift we can give them is to destroy the tyranny that rules their lives.

. . . the same as this?

. . . the same as this?

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Top Rated Comments   
We're better off not speculating about what others are at heart. If they threaten us, we need to act in realistic ways, proven in the past, to remove the threat.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
"by what right did the early european explorers land in the americas and assume that all of the already inhabited lands belonged to them?"

By what right do you question their right to do so?

Only through your lens of Western morality. Shaka, Genghiz, Ibn Zayid and a long list of other conquerors still considered heroes among their people would have done the same, and no one today would ever ask your questions. You and many others ask about Columbus's right of conquest, a Muslim would not ask about the right of Ibn Zayid's to conquer Spain.

The difference, sir, is that you are Westerner. You are an heir to the civilization that invented Conscience. Introspection. The idea that ALL people are deserving of rights. It is a bizarre fluke of our culture, and you act is if it something natural and universal! How typically Western!
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (59)
All Comments   (59)
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45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
The deal-breaker is what cultures decide to institutionalize, which ebbs and flows between reality and pragmatism and good works and hate, unreality and even madness.

In America we have seen slavery and then Jim Crow institutionalized, but then had the good sense to deinstitutionalize them. It's a question of who holds the reigns of law and sometimes it comes to violence like the Civil War.

Anti-Semitism surely existed in Germany shortly before the '30s but could do little harm because of a lack of institutions that could act against Jews. But then suddenly laws were made and what may have been a minority expression of hate suddenly became de facto hate for everyone and off Jews went to die.

One can presume America didn't go from being pro-alcohol to anti-alcohol in one night when prohibition was enacted in 1919, and that the reverse occurred in 1933 when those laws were changed. Probably the average American had the same views throughout that period. It was a question of who controlled law.

We are tempted to look at history in terms of a culture's law reflecting the culture but that is not so. We have laws to pay taxes; does that mean people will look back and say Americans loved paying taxes? Did we love Jim Crow and Prohibition simply because laws existed, or hate those things when they did not?

Islam is a minority expression in its harshest extremities. When it holds the reins of power you have harsh conservatism. When it is marginalized those societies have looser constraints. Look at the Taliban or Saudi Arabia.

In WW II Japan and Germany went mad institutionally, not culturally, because they let madmen seize power.

Today in America we are in the process of re-institutionalizing racism, and institutionalizing blame, complaint and self-pity. This is called political correctness. We are slowly headed down that path of madness, and with what consequences none can see, other that some type of massive failure will be the result.

Eventually something will break and something else will come along to try and purge that failure. America has abandoned common sense and principle and hard times are ahead. Our institutions are churning out dead head youths who take the easy way simply because it is there. Lack of principle means we can't make simple comparisons and so almost anything trendy will decide what is right and wrong.

Our colleges, once the best in the world, and with the same capacity to be so, have turned feral intellectually, and people who hate and fear hold the reins of education in the liberal arts. That is how a party of cultural suicide like the Dem Party comes into powers and creates institutions of harm.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Western Civilization: That wicked brew of Christianity and Greco-Roman civilization responsible for the atrocities of Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Virgil, the Sacred Scriptures, Herodotus, Thucydides, Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Chaucer, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Leonardo da Vinci, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Palestrina, Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Doctor Johnson, and Saint Francis; guilty of inventing the disciplines of philosophy, theology, political science, systematic mathematics, historiography, geology, logic, linguistics, and musical theory; plaguing the world with orphanages, monasteries, universities, hospitals, schools for the poor, hospices, trade guilds, museums, chapels, and cathedrals; burdening mankind, in its Christian manifestation, with the dread calls to faith, hope, and charity.

Anthony Esolen
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
America's national identity is that we are Europeans -- NW Europeans mostly. Now that kids are being taught that 'American' is a meaningless term, referring to any American citizen of any race or ethnic group, there is no such thing as an American. So, who is going to be proud of being.....nothing?
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
We're better off not speculating about what others are at heart. If they threaten us, we need to act in realistic ways, proven in the past, to remove the threat.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
The 1960's did bring us moral relativism as well as its evil twins postmodernism and multiculturalism.

Now their offspring control the levers of power in Washington DC.

What a bunch of BS all of that is, imagining that a society, any society, can continue to coherently function without a universally respected and unbreakable moral consensus.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more. "

Read her diary and years ago visited the actual hideout/home, not a museum replica.

Feel the same thing every day looking at the perfect sky and all the creatures sustained by this Earth, that is, when humans and their water demands and subvisions don't completely destroy habitat.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Is there even such a thing as objective, culture transcendent moral obligation? If not than it is ethnocentric of us to make any value judgments on any other culture. But if so, is there a better basis than mere moral feelings?

http://goo.gl/Jw2pp
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, there is such a thing, and there is a better basis. God gets to say what the standards are. No one else. because the moment a man starts deciding what is moral or not, it always leads to all kinds of evil. The Ten Commandments are His word, His rules. These things thou shalt not do. These other things thou shalt do.

How do we know these things are right, empirically? Because they run directly contrary to human nature, and they have proven themselves to work, when we obey. They make us happy, and they make civilization possible. Those who do not obey act like savages, demonstrating every vile human trait.

You engage in the usual, hollow, intellectual exercise. You consider morality in a vacuum, instead of viewing through the lens of human nature. So, you end up playing word games with no meaning.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
And why should it be wrong for us to be ethnocentric? Have you overlooked the fact that people of other cultures pass value judgments on us all the time?
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Basic moral obligations: Do not intentionally inflict suffering on other human beings. Help other human beings not to suffer.

That's the best foundation I can come up with. It's not based on mere moral feelings.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why?
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think because if our actions couldn't cause suffering, then we wouldn't need a moral code to tell us what not to do.



45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
The hippies believed much the same thing while a monster like Charles Manson walked among them. Would you blame The Beatles or Donovan? Evil can take on any disguise and I am disgusted that you would lay this at Anne Frank's door.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bookworm, while I agree with your underlying hypothesis -- that people are not born with either ethics or morality but must be taught them -- I must respectfully disagree with your assertion that it stems from Anne Frank.

Frankly, I think it stems more from being spoiled rotten, having too much material wealth, arrogance, selfishness and failing to learn from history than it does from poor Anne's diary.

"The laws ought to have authority over men, and not men over the laws." -- Pausanias
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah. If anything, a more accurate root to the problem lies with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, especially seeing how many of the acts of the French Revolution had predated the acts of what Nazi Germany did.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
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