Ed Driscoll

Empty Integrity: The New Morality

How is it going to work out for us all?, Jonah Goldberg asked last month in National Review on Dead Tree:

According to Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the death of God and the coming of the übermensch was going to require the new kind of inner-directed hero to become his own god. As a result, anything society did to inconvenience the heroic individual was morally suspect, a backdoor attempt by The Man to impose conformity. This is pretty much exactly what Robin Williams teaches in Dead Poets Society. But that ethos has traveled a long way from Mork. When Barack Obama was asked by a minister to define “sin,” he confidently answered that “sin” just means being “out of alignment with my values.” Taken literally, this would mean that Hannibal Lecter is being sinful when he abstains from human flesh in favor of a Waldorf salad. As you can see, when you take the modern definition of integrity all the way to the horizon, suddenly “integrity” can be understood only as a firm commitment to one’s own principles — because one’s own principles are the only legitimate principles. Heck, if you are a god, then doing what you want is God’s will.

How’s this new morality going to work out for us all? I’m reminded of the time when an entrepreneur announced he was going to release a new line of beer laced with Viagra. Some wag immediately quipped, “What could possibly go wrong?” Which is pretty much where we are today. It’s impossible to predict what Integrity 2.0 will yield — because no society in the history of Western civilization has so energetically and deliberately torn down its classical ideal and replaced it with do-it-yourself morality. But a betting man would probably wager that this won’t end well.

I suspect that before long we’ll be pining for the good old days, when, no matter how often people failed to uphold the standards of integrity, those standards actually meant something.

Or to put the above into visual terms:

Related: “Re-read that last sentence. It was written by a senior campus journalist, someone in training now to become a professional journalist. And she doesn’t think facts are of primary importance in the narrative. Only what is useful to the cause, it would appear.”