Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Judgement daze

In the absence of objective value, what supports the argument against tyranny? What constitutes an immoral act of government against the governed? In our increasingly postmodern culture we are consistently reminded (ironically) that expecting objective standards to be upheld is somehow bad. In discussions regarding marriage I've been confronted multiple times with assertions that it is no more valid to take the position that a healthy traditional family is objectively the best environment for raising children than it is to say that any other "family structure" is just as good. I'm sure that the wolves that raised Mowgli were great people, but it isn't as if we don't have millenia of human experience to inform some of our conclusions. I remember the first time that I was shocked by a discussion with a pro-choice advocate that could not even agree with me that a baby that had been delivered, but the cord not yet cut deserved protection. There are times that common ground can get pretty hard to find.

If such fundamental things - human life itself, and the oldest institution in human experience - evoke such relativistic analysis paralysis, how does that reconcile with the instant and visceral judgement against the young Texas lady that has recently been in the news over her exotic wildlife hunts? People that have no personal experience with hunting, and no understanding of wildlife conservation whatsoever, trip over each other in their haste to deliver absolute judgement and vilify. And then there was the facebook experience last week with the gentleman that felt it necessary to use Jesus to bludgeon Christians into supporting an open border because that's the compassionate thing to do - but a U.S. foreign policy that looks the other way regarding corrupt governments and the resulting human suffering of millions in our own hemisphere isn't much concern. To these shedders of alligator tears, the fact that our national government creates an environment that is enticing people in foreign lands to send their small children through a gauntlet of abuse on a dangerous journey of thousands of miles seems to pale in comparison to the real problem of U.S. conservatives that think immigrants should follow the law (thereby not loving Jesus enough). Which brings us to Hobby Lobby. Apparently, if a corporation doesn't buy something for their employees, it's the same as that corporation prohibiting the employee from getting it for themselves, or forcing a specific religion on them. There is a very long list of things that corporations don't provide for their employees. That's what paychecks are for. The logic behind the left wing outcry over the Hobby Lobby ruling is baffling for too many reasons to begin listing here. At the core of all of these debates is the assertion of political morality on our culture - a malleable, consensus-based, humanistic morality.

The favorite bible verse of the unchurched left has become "judge not". They may have no idea what the passage is saying, but it's a useful mechanism for telling Christians to shut-up. They certainly don't have any intent to forego judgements themselves, so it clearly isn't judgement that they have a problem with. Evangelists for a new morality are increasingly common and increasingly vocal. This new morality is situational, relativistic, subjective, and contemporary. It abhors traditions, and simply discards any historical human experience that doesn't support departures from undesired historical norms.

My recent foray into C.S. Lewis' "Abolition of Man" has impressed on me how prophetic Lewis' insights were regarding postmodernism's influence in education, and ultimately on society. His essay was a response to the postmodern indoctrination, presumably unintentional, found in a literature textbook that he had been given for review. It should be required reading in the training of every educator, and for every student that cares to be equipped against relativism. Since it is a rebuke of postmodernism's influence in education, there probably isn't much chance of it becoming required reading. The following is taken from the first chapter:
Let us suppose for a moment that the harder virtues could really be theoretically justified with no appeal to objective value. It still remains true that no justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous. Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism...In battle it is not syllogisms that will keep the reluctant nerves and muscles to their post in the third hour of the bombardment. The crudest sentimentalism about a flag or a country or a regiment will be of more use. We were told it all long ago by Plato. As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the 'spirited element'. The head rules the belly through the chest — the seat, as Alanus tells us, of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment — these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal. 
The operation of <the reviewed textbook> and its kind is to produce what may be called Men without Chests. It is an outrage that they should be commonly spoken of as Intellectuals. This gives them the chance to say that he who attacks them attacks Intelligence. It is not so. They are not distinguished from other men by any unusual skill in finding truth nor any virginal ardour to pursue her. Indeed it would be strange if they were: a deserving devotion to truth, a nice sense of intellectual honour, cannot be long maintained without the aid of a sentiment which <the textbook authors> could debunk as easily as any other. It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so.
And all the time — such is the tragi-comedy of our situation — we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more 'drive', or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or 'creativity'. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.
Two recent news items illustrate the fruit of the postmodern tree too well. First, in the ongoing immigration debate and border crisis we see the objective value of America simply being ignored by vast numbers of Americans. Many outside of the United States see objective value in the economic opportunities of America, but American citizens should find objective value in the deeper aspects of our nation, and recognize the dangers of an open border immigration policy. Our politicians should understand the objective value in protecting both the idea and the land of America. A rational, America first, immigration policy can not be formed without an understanding and appreciation of America's unique value. Unfortunately, protection of American exceptionalism has been linked to the evil of nationalism in the new morality. The atrophy of the chest has robbed the pseudo-intellectuals of their ability to love America and what she was created to be. Which brings us to the second item - Bowe Bergdahl.

When American exceptionalism becomes meaningless, what does Bowe Bergdahl fight for? What does the border patrol defend against? We are bearing witness to dramatic changes to the U.S. military. The military has traditionally been a bastion of americanism, steeped in tradition, with a mission focused on defending the homeland, the Constitution, freedom, and the American idea and way of life. The missions provided by politicians may not have always aligned with that military culture but the efforts to change that culture are relatively new. The morale and motivation of our soldiers depend on them understanding the objective value of what they fight for. Relativism has no place on the battlefield. How do we avoid an increase in the recruitment of soldiers like Bergdahl that have been raised in a postmodern system that has downplayed the objective value of America and anything that might keep Bowe at his post? Is it a surprise that the system that creates Bowe Bergdahl will trade five terrorists for his release? In the case of Bergdahl and Obama we have made men without chests and vainly expected of them virtue and enterprise. Are we really shocked by the results?