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The Modern Vacuum of Ethical Restraint
I believe that the remarkable changes in our society are largely due to a few things happening either all at once or at least in rapid succession: First, we have moved away from God. Nietzsche got the ball rolling when he subtly pointed out that God is Dead, but now if a Christian says “God is good” then everybody rolls their eyes. (Interestingly, if certain Muslims say the same thing, everybody ducks.)
Regardless, the idea that each of us lives according to the ideals of someone greater than ourselves is considered, well, provincial. Perhaps quaint. Certainly non-scientific and outside the realm of polite, reasonable society. But then some other things happened:
The idea of pride and shame was also degraded into a primitive impulse to be avoided except in antiquated cultures. Public ostracism was sneered upon as “judgmental.” Who are you to judge? Because after all, we all answer to ourselves! So you can’t criticize me for striving to live up to whatever ethical guidelines I decided for myself the day before yesterday! Partially because I’ve already changed them in ways that I don’t fully understand! And so on.
And then our family structure has been either damaged or disregarded. Every TV show has the father portrayed as, at best, a bumbling fool. With the wife and kids trying to work around his foolishness without hurting his feelings more than necessary for a good laugh.
Then the concept of law has been degraded as well. So many men are in prison only because of racist cops. Laws are so numerous that no one can follow them all. Regulatory agencies and courts enact laws outside the democratic process, and those laws are clearly not legitimate and thus should be discretely avoided without making the father figure (government) feel silly, just like the TV dad. Or God. Or family. Or societal norms.
Nietzsche (a flawed genius, but unquestionably a genius) predicted that this vacuum of ethical restraint would result in societal upheaval, violence, and a complete restructuring of human interactions. All of which has come to pass, almost precisely as he predicted.
So – what now? Some of what has been torn asunder cannot easily be rebuilt. I posit that modern western society is clearly unsustainable. So what’s next? Human nature is not nice. And now it acts without the restraint of God, society, family, or government. We seem to view the concept of freedom as simply the liberty to do whatever the heck we want. This is not working out all that well. To me, the concept of personal freedom doesn’t even make sense without personal responsibility. Today we ask, “Responsible to who?” If the answer is just to ourselves, than Nietzsche would say (and did say) that we have a very serious problem.
What do you think? Am I overstating the changes in western society? Where are we going? And can our course be altered at this late stage? If so, how?
Thank you for your input.Published in General
Math is hard. :^)
Too many leftists seem to equate the Constitution with their own preferences. They’re good people; the Constitution is good; therefor, anything they approve of is required by the Constitution and anything they oppose is unconstitutional, by definition. They’ll find a legal-ish justification later.
Cold war was is always better then a hot war. This more of the default setting for most of history. Most nations, Empires and what not spent their time at state of uneasy peace. Its when the projectiles start flying every thing goes sides ways.
I actually don’t see that. I don’t see the abandonment of morality, often its changing for the better. I mean racist/eugenics theories are just next to impossible to present as moral now. We tend to try to protect human life more then we did a century ago. And for god, well we had gods and with out them we seem to do fine, and many people still have gods and they seem to do fine.
What concerns me more is perhaps we don’t and never had a generalized and collectively held notion of what is evil.
Setting aside whether I agree with you, how do you propose to rectify this?
Wow, I don’t understand how you can claim this. Eugenics is alive and thriving, it’s just that we avoid calling it by that term. Unborn babies with Down’s Syndrome are routinely aborted. Iceland has bragged that it has eliminated Down’s Syndrome – it has done this by eliminating those who have it.
No, we don’t. Euthanasia is a brisk business, and the elderly, sick, and depressed can kill themselves with help from a society that does not value them. Babies born with serious illnesses are euthanized in places like Belgium. In this country we have aborted about 60 million unborn babies. I can’t imagine how you could think that we protect human life more now than in the past.
You don’t have to be an atheist to think that entropy increases.
Not even one? Will the treatment of homosexuals, relief from certain forms of censorship and self expression, comes to mind.
Fair, but at the same its certainly moved down a couple notches. The idea of forcefully sterilizing someone is far less accepted today.
Because abortion is not the sole measurement here. Working, safety, consumer, product standards I mean both by government decree and civil society standards.
Yea, but you have to be one to think that is all everything will ever be.
Ricochet comment of the quarter.
They have high school civics teachers that think like this. They think that government force and central planning is the only way to improve things, and it works quite well in spite of the evidence that it doesn’t. The truth causes them to have a mental breakdown.
They think that whatever they are enraged about can be fixed with government force. They find things to be enraged about to “fix’ to stabilize and increase their political power.
Equal rights under the rule of law and according to the Constitution? Sure. Special rights invented out of whole cloth and shadowy penumbrae? Um, no.
As for censorship, it seems to me it’s alive and well, just more insidious, and that it has morphed from a fixation on sex to one on politics and feelings. You may think that the assertion which is made by many, that they have a “right” not to hear anything that’s offensive to them, and that “words” are somehow equivalent to actual “violence,” is an improvement; I’m not sure I do.
And, limitless self-expression? I think the OP and some of the comments make the case as to why such a thing is against the best interests of society at large in this age of #meeeeeeee2 far better than I can.
Well, to answer myself on what the left thinks is justice coming for Trump, there is this article (again I’m not clear how any of it is impeachable or a valid area for Mueller to investigate or why it wasn’t in focus long before his political life).
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That’s what they’re about, isn’t it?
In the final analysis, that’s what is going on.Then, the more we do that, the more things get screwed up so it looks like we need to do even more.
I don’t disagree at all with your perceptions. However, It has been my life experience that everything in society is cyclical. Early in my teaching career I had a close friend who was much older than I was and a confirmed atheist and largely a socialist. His older son, rebellious from the cradle went in exactly the opposite direction, both religiously and politically. We are experiencing the swings of the pendulum. We see it in our politics as we swing from Obama to Trump, from Reagan to Clinton, Clinton to Bush. We are never happy in the middle, always seeking the extremes, so we vascillate between the ends of the spectrum. This too will pass.
Except that there’s a rawlpin that dampens rightward swings. It does swing back a little, but never as much as it goes left.
That’s because in a Keynesian system, graft, dependency, and rent seeking are more profitable and dependable than honest productivity. Once the bad behavior gets entrenched, what are you going to do? The only thing that’s going to fix it as a bond market collapse.
To quote John Derbyshire, “We’re doomed.”
Agree. Besides eugenics was never put forward as anything other than rational utilitarianism, and was a modern invention, at least the 20th and now 21st century versions. What moderns call morality which they think to be improvements is stuff they’ve invented that has a short half life and is part of the decay. Moral law evolves over the centuries and creates then holds civilization together until eroded by the short term interests of the centralizers who admittedly dress it up as if a state religion with catechisms, priests and group prayer.
Because the family is a messy and retrogressive obstacle. The “parents” often have opinions counter to the best practices of the highly credentialed planners. Bitterly clinging to their misguided notions, they obstruct and defy much needed progress.
The Great Society showed the way: create dependence on government for entire classes of people, and use financial incentives to destroy the family structure of these “favored” classes. There has always been a criminal underclass. The Great Society innovatively made it clients and agents not of local bosses, but of the Federal government.
The underclass is now destroying public education and making cities increasingly ungovernable by local authorities. As Progress continues, there will be a groundswell of remaining non-clients abandoning outmoded notions such as “liberty” and “freedom of speech.” They will begin to clamor for a single authority to take over and establish order. Or else.
I would second this, with the observation that the Judeo-Christian (Western worldview) is that corruption (entropy) is the natural state of humanity, and that people need to continually work against it otherwise society collapses. It is also what gives life meaning. Take responsibility for something and make the world a little bit better, rather than a worse.
It seems to me that the atheist worldview generally leads to nihilism, unless the atheist accepts that even if they don’t believe in god they act that way. As Jordan Peterson says: “Your religious worldview is better determined by how you act in the world, not in what you purport to believe.”
The treatment of homosexuals? Really?? How is that specifically tied to the Judeo/Christian tradition in this country? It doesn’t take too long to think of quite a number of successful entertainers, artists, and writers in this country and in Western Europe who were known to be gay, yet still succeeded, while in the atheist Soviet Union, homosexuality was criminalized and gays were persecuted. The neo-pagan Nazis persecuted gays. So how, then, do you equate the Judeo/Christian tradition with ill-treatment of gays?
I’m glad my youngest is 35.
As for censorship, we have simply traded one kind of censorship for another. It’s interesting that the past censorship that comes to mind, that of the movie industry, was largely self-imposed. Now, we have a vigorous censorship in place in academia, the arts, and in the overall culture. Conservatives are frequently barred from speaking. People who don’t toe the line on certain social issues can lose their job. Laws are proposed to criminalize certain kinds of speech, such as referring to a person by a different pronoun than the one they would prefer.
I don’t see any proof that, as a whole, atheists and secularists are interested in self-expression or free speech — quite the contrary.
Forceful sterilization might not be acceptable now (though I have no doubt that can change), but that is about the only area in which improvement can be seen. Everything else has notched up. The difference is that in a culture of radical individualism, it becomes OK to use eugenics voluntarily, and as long as we don’t use the term and talk instead about “choice”, we avert our gaze.
So you are tying improvements in those areas with increased secularization?? How is that? Please explain!