Not so fast….
If you are 30 or younger you are currently living in a unique historical situation. You are the first generation that has been simultaneously taught two completely contradictory ideas about morality. This contradiction has left many of you uncertain or maybe disoriented in a way that, deprived of guidance that many of us had over the years, leaves you unable to enjoy the depth of a world of which you fail to even be aware.
In this process, you have been deprived of the concept that there is true good and true evil in the world, and those very ideas weaker sister, that there is no true virtue. What you come to discover is that you live in a world where all you are left with is “tolerance.” You might say that to be a good thing, but just like Pinocchio discovered, taken too far, when you have an absence of morality, what you are really left with is a vacuum. It is chaos brought on by a society filled with people lacking a moral compass; lacking an ideal to aim for in their lives.
The first contradiction is fundamental in the moral relativism taught today. Modern moral relativism has come about from a multitude of sources in our contemporary lives. First you are taught that morality is relative, or in the best of cases, a personal value judgement. By relative, I mean the nearly complete lack of right and wrong in anything. Since “only thinking makes it so,” then morality is taught as just a case of personal opinion or coincidence. Nothing stands alone and is valued only as it is relative or related to particular frameworks, e.g., ethnicity, upbringing, culture, or the historical moment into which you are born. It is just a cosmic accident that you find yourself where you are.
But moral relativism doesn’t stop there. The teaching goes on to say that morality at its core is nothing but a power grab by one group over another.
It is pretty clear if you study history that religions, nations, tribes, and ethnic groups have hardly agreed on anything, and essentially still don’t. So the sophisticated thing to do—once you realize how arbitrary issues like your moral values really are—is to learn tolerance for people who think differently or come from different places or backgrounds. It has gotten to be that one of the worst criticisms or labels you can gain for yourself is to be labeled as judgmental, or god forbid, intolerant. And since you no longer have the anchors of “right and wrong” to guide you, you have an increasingly difficult time knowing which is the best path to take. Just about the worst thing you can do is to offer a person advice on how to live, right?
The old ways of looking at things are now
described as “irrelevant” or “oppressive.”
And so you have a generation, some of Gen X and most of Gen Y, that have never been tutored in what was once called practical wisdom, which has guided men and women for eons. You might have gotten the best education money can buy, but you suffer from terrible moral and intellectual neglect. When the wealth of knowledge about virtue and how to gain it, abandoned to the point of even making the word “virtue” sound out of date, then anyone daring to use it sounds incongruously self-righteous and moralistic. If they are polite, they call you just out of date. In some cases, you might be described as no longer appropriate for our modern world. You see, the old ways of looking at things are now described as “irrelevant” or “oppressive.”
As I mentioned previously, modern relativism begins by claiming outright that making judgements about how to live is impossible because there is no true virtue or true good in the world. It has been suggested as fact that only tolerance can bring people together and keep us from killing each other. You see it today on social media where you signal your supposed virtue by letting everyone know in clear terms that you are tolerant, compassionate, and open. Then you hope that the group likes you.
Telling people that you are virtuous is not a virtue. It is called is virtue signaling and according to some, is actually a vice.
It has been suggested as fact that only
tolerance can bring people together
and keep us from killing each other.
Do you see how if you find yourself intolerant of someone or some other cultures’ views you aren’t just in the wrong, (despite their being no right or wrong), you are actually announcing to the world that you are pathetically unsophisticated, maybe even a member that basket of deplorables so often mentioned.
Does it make sense that moral relativism leaves you in a vacuum, a vacuum where people simply can’t function in perpetuity? It is a completely chaotic world totally lacking a moral compass of any kind. When you lack some kind of ideal, what parameters do you use to define your life and goals? What is your ideal then?
For moral relativists, ideals are
the same as values, and like all values,
they are simply relative
and rarely worth a sacrifice of any kind.
What you wind up with (just look around you if you doubt) is a kind of negativism and hopelessness which leads inescapably to ideologies that will tolerate nothing more than blind adherence to their tenets. They will assert that they have the answer to all ills—everywhere.
Here is the other contradiction. You may remember that I mentioned young students signing up for humanities courses to study the greatest books and thinkers of history. Students are instead taught to ideologically attack the ideas rather than being taught to learn the wisdom within. Here is the contradiction they encounter—the ideologue. This person, by way of contrast, is hyper-judgmental and critical. This type is always aware of what is right for others, and just exactly what to do about it. Did you ever notice that sometimes the only person willing to offer advice in a “morally relative” community are the ones who know the least? Look at your humanities departments and tell me it isn’t true.
In our classical past, the idea that societies had different morals and rules wasn’t a secret. It is, however, shocking to compare their response to our contemporary one. The modern response is most often relativism, nihilism, and inappropriate ideological responses. On the other hand, when ancients discovered that different regions had different rules, morals, and world views with customs completely unfamiliar to them, they assumed the explanation for right and wrong was usually based in local ancestral authority. The response of the ancients was not despair, but rather the adoption of the approach developed by the Greeks—philosophy.
Did you ever notice that sometimes
the only person willing to offer advice
in a “morally relative” community
are the ones who know the least?
Societies were then able to understand that different people had different ideas about how to live, different practical ideas about life, and not be frozen in fear at the differences. It actually increased the depth of their understanding of man and, in turn, created some of the most iconic conversations in history about how people live. This was a world devoid of “safe spaces.” People learned that although laws and rules of behavior vary from place to place and yet, what didn’t differ was that in all places, people are driven to make rules, laws and/or customs.
To put this in terms that modern people will hopefully comprehend, is to say that it appears all people are, in some way, by some kind of biological gift, so unerringly concerned with morality that we always create a system of laws and rules where ever we are.
You might think that two generations of people who have heard unceasingly from their ideological teachers about their rights, the rights that belong to them, rights, rights, rights, would object to—maybe actually hate—being told that they would do better to focus on what I call responsibilities.
These generations raised in little family groups by ridiculously protective parents, on rubber playgrounds, with helmets galore, and safe spaces for when they get older and encounter the real world and god forbid, hearing things that they don’t want to hear. They actually feel numbed by this almost criminal underestimation of their strength of character and have begun to embrace the idea of values, and moral right and wrong. The idea of first set your house in order: make your bed, clean your car, do your homework, be kind to the elderly, before you even consider taking on the responsibility of repairing the ills of the world is one that more and more accept as true. The extent of this has humbled me and should, if you think about it, move you to tears out of respect for these so poorly educated young people. They want rules that they can respect.
Rules can be demanding. They will force you to undertake and make incremental progress that over time, broaden you to a new limit of understanding. It means you have to venture out into the unknown. Being more than you were yesterday means developing yourself beyond the limits of your current self, forcing to you carefully choose and then pursue your ideals. These ideals are, in all cases, up there… above you…superior to you, and you aren’t really sure that you will ever reach them. Younger people ask me, “If my ideals aren’t guaranteed to be attainable, why should I bother?” You bother because if you don’t, you won’t feel like your life has meaning, to you or anyone else.
In the final analysis, there is a question that no one ever considers. Psychologists work with in the deepest part of our psyche with this question. The question is around the idea that in some ways we all want to be judged. That there are and should be rules. And the foremost rule is that you simply MUST take responsibility for your own life. Period.
So, what do you think? Are you having some challenges taking responsibility for your life? It can happen to any of us…
If you are, give me a call so we can talk about it… Schedule a time for a free call and tell me your story.
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