Thursday, May 16, 2013

What Happened?

So what happened? How did we get to the point where we are afraid to pass public judgment, and therefore induce shame, in situations like these:

  • The parents who don't get married but make a child and then abandon that child to be raised by his grandparents--and then do it again with a different partner. 
  • The child in the 25+ age range who still lives with his parents and isn't going to school or looking for a job.
  • The husband (or wife) who is verbally and/or physically abusive to his or her spouse in front of others.
  • Parents who are obviously neglectful or abusive to their children.
  • Parents who allow their children to run rampant in and outside of their homes, and who would rather defend their children's right to do so that take command of their families.
  • Men or women who abandon their families and break their word because they've met someone else and just want to feel good.
  • Teenagers who mistreat their parents but still expect them to house and feed them.
There are several reasons people have for not wanting to "say something" about situations like these. They are:

1. (Usually unspoken, but very powerful) If I do say something, some of that negativity may come my way, and I may be the next target of the person I'm criticizing.

2. He who is without sin, cast the first stone. In other words, for those who are Christians, there's a certain type of Christian who thinks that "judge not, lest ye be judged" means that we literally cannot pass judgment.

3. It's not my business. These things have to do with people's private lives, and they don't affect me directly, so I shouldn't interfere.

It may be surprising to hear coming from me, but the first reason for not saying something is probably the most legitimate--it may seem a bit cowardly, but nonetheless a rational person has to pause and decide whether he wants to risk the ire of someone who is not of the best character. Many times there is a way around this dilemma, such as calling Child Protective Services, or the police.

The second reason is hopefully a misreading of the "judge not" injunction. Surely Christ did not want Christians to have no active moral standards and do nothing to uphold the security and well being of their communities. Perhaps "judge not" means that a Christian cannot decide someone is going to Hell, but he can decide to not condone immoral or anti-social behavior in his family or community. As it is, many people seem to be hiding behind "judge not" because it's convenient and sounds pious.

The third reason has to do with a misreading of the liberal ideology of individualism, as Dan Demetriou pointed out in his post from last week. In this misreading, we go from the emphasis on the individual and on the individual's rights enshrined in liberal ideology, to the idea that religious matters must be purely in the private realm (for the sake of peace), to the more radical position that moral matters must also be purely in the private realm, to the idea that we have a right to privacy so deep that even though our behavior does in fact affect the larger community, the community has no right to say anything about it. In all the instances in bullet points above, and more, there is a definite negative impact beyond the individuals and families involved, an impact that erodes trust and order in society.

At this point, we have a liberalism that is dysfunctional, because liberalism was instituted to keep people safe and free, but we see that in its present form it has spawned behaviors that make people less safe and many individuals less free, because they are victimized by those who don't play by the rules.

Unfortunately, liberalism in practice is what the majority says it is. So even if the train of thought outlined above may not make logical sense (i.e., the steps along the way don't necessarily follow logically from previous developments), the latter stages make social sense to more and more people, and the impact is being felt by all.

Political equality and equality of opportunity are transforming more and more into a type of lazy, relativistic egalitarianism that backs up the "it's private, it's none of my business" position. This lazy egalitarianism says people make a lot of different choices and lead lifestyles of their choosing, and since we cannot judge among them (all choices are equal), we have to allow any and all behavior without saying a thing. If we want to be treated equally we have to treat everyone else equally. Of course it doesn't work out that way. As a matter of fact, the relativistic position just allows some who are more aggressive and don't care about the community to have their way.

All of this assumes that "saying something" has quite a bit of power. I happen to think it does have power when people are willing to say something. Human beings are, as Mark Griffith pointed out by referencing Aristotle, "political" (i.e., social) creatures. What other people think about us matters, which is why so many try so hard to come up with reasons why there should be no judgments made.

What happened?

Our tendency to dislike being taken into account by others, combined with the liberal democratic environment, has led us to choose every opportunity to change the culture so that we can avoid being taken into account by others. Meanwhile everybody sees themselves as rational and self-controlled, able to govern themselves without the need for others, a position which denies our social nature and is quite obviously not true.


  1. So, in essence, today's liberalism is in actuality, apathy? Am I understanding this correctly?

  2. Well, I think it's more than apathy, which would mean just not caring. What I see is an active evolution of our understanding of some of the core liberal tenets like individualism, rights, and equality, with the aim of more personal freedom but a lack of comprehension about the side-effects for society's cohesion.