Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On Imposing Morality

So many say that one version of morality shouldn't be imposed on society as a whole. I'm glad people believe they shouldn't impose their morality or existential values on others because that leaves me free to impose my morality on them. I am the Master and they will be the Slave. Ok, that was kind of a joke, but such facile thinking has been all the rage recently with the dominance of post-modern cultural relativism; and we know that people who say that really don't mean it because the whole point of saying a person shouldn't impose their morality on others is in fact a surreptitious attempt to impose an individualistic morality on the prevailing moral sensitivities of society. It’s a form of shame that denies shame a priori and yet it presents a false sense of liberalism that only expands radical individualistic liberty while at the same time strangling any meaningful opposition voices.

Moral values, and their more rigid facsimiles, laws; shift along with the prevailing zeitgeist of the bourgeois. If modern history is any gauge, however, I'd be very cautious to attenuate a people's common moral inhibitions, even if I don’t agree with them; either through political repression or through forced hedonic apathy. If you thought Abu Ghraib was bad, just remove a people's common moral sense. Srebrenica will look quaint in comparison, and no amount of investigative journalism or individual moral outrage will arouse the slumbering majority out of its hedonic trance. At the temples of the theatre, the abortion clinic, and in the sheltered monastic cloisters of academia; as these cognoscenti chant the mantra that “it doesn’t hurt anybody else” the voice of the people will increasingly ape the tautological cousin that “it doesn’t hurt me” so why bother.

The case of the homosexual existentialist is illustrative. The ultimate moral force for this archetype is passion. Such people may be rich in their sense of art and other epicurean delights, but these previously safe indulgences also mingle with the wild eccentric passions that become the moral furniture of such people’s doings (NB: as opposed to being). Society has become more accepting of the open and free expression of passion recently and so what was once seen as extreme or fringe displays of passion during the stuffy Victorian age or in America’s 1950s now has become acceptable to the reformed epicurean mind. Embarrassment and pain are minimized while hedonic utility is maximized. In the most deviant of this trend, some even get much pleasure from artificially (i.e. artfully) creating shame, guilt, and pain in the absence real socially imposed shame, guilt or pain (e.g. the mainstreaming of torture porn flicks like the “Saw” series). They have their pie and flamboyantly eat it too.

The fundamental identities of all people are linked to their relationships to others; for without an external point of reference, there is no consciousness. The voyeur peeking through the keyhole of an apartment has no conscious identity until he hears steps approaching from the stairwell behind him, and it is only at that moment that the voyeur becomes self-conscious. In our interrelating with God and other people, we become conscious. That consciousness eventually blooms into a complex conscience of right and wrong, virtue and vice.

The influence of interpersonal relationships including relationships with God was clear to Charles Darwin who otherwise would scrupulously avoid religious debate, and for whom a divine first cause was irrelevant. In “The Descent of Man” He said:

“The moral nature of man has reached its present standard, partly through the advancement of his reasoning powers and consequently of a just public opinion, but especially from his sympathies having been rendered more tender and widely diffused through the effects of habit, example, instruction, and reflection. . . . With the more civilised races, the conviction of the existence of an all-seeing Deity has had a potent influence on the advance of morality. . . . His conscience then becomes the supreme judge and monitor. Nevertheless the first foundation or origin of the moral sense lies in the social instincts, including sympathy.”

For the materialistic neo-Darwinist as well as the God-fearing Christian, relationships are the bedrock of moral philosophy.

While the (homo)sexual existentialist uses the prism of passion in relating to others and in judging all other truths; the Latter-day Saint (as well as many other religious people) use a logical hierarchy of principles that revolve concentrically around 1) God, 2) Family, and 3) Society. Passion is simply a poor blunt instrument that must be skillfully controlled in order to remain within the narrow confines of logic-based moral first principles. Granted, there are materialists who claim prescriptive moral principles from descriptive processes, but they run into the difficulty of forever seeking to derive a prescriptive ‘ought’ from a descriptive ‘is’ (see C.S. Lewis “The Abolition of Man”). That is partly why American (or any other) politics will never be divorced completely from religious narrative: there must be a moral imperative to existence that is firmly rooted in the right. This is evident from the Mayflower Compact to the Massachusetts Constitution, from the Bill of Rights to the Emancipation Proclaimation, and From the Monroe Doctrine to the Bush Doctrine. We see public religion (with their own hymns, temples, prophets and scripture) even in atheistic (re: secular) communist countries.

If passion were the foundation of moral thought, however, (as with Nietzsche and the sexual existentialists), then there is no common social conscience or moral cohesion. Such a society inexorably divides into the slave and master classes and are only distinguished by their ability to effect their own personal morality (i.e. passion or the ‘Will to Power’). Such a society is repressive of those who seek to peaceably assemble and organize for the common social good since this would be a sign of herd or slave mentality that Nietzsche found so reprehensible and which he thought originated in the Jewish ideal of monotheism. There will be great ‘diversity’ of art and even truth, but access to this art will require a deconstruction and deeducation of humanity so that aesthetics and logic will no longer exist in the social sphere except as fragmented individual parts that deny association or wholeness. People will only ‘do’ they will not Be. There will only be those people that act (the Master) and those who are acted upon (the Slave). Love, the supposed final and supernal effect of the sexual existentialist; will cease to exist except as a thing that is ‘done’ or ‘made’ but that cannot ultimately be shared. There is no exit (to paraphrase Sartre) from self in this passionate model of existence and other people exist only as objects of one’s passion, rather than as autonomous beings; to be traded for ‘power,’ ‘money,’ ‘sex,’ ‘art,’ or any other final passionate effect. This is the difference between the Pathetic morals of the homosexual existentialist and the etho/logical morals of the Latter-day Saint; or any other moral system that sprung from Jewish Monotheism.

No comments: