A Society With No Absolutes Is Not A Society At All

It has become greatly fashionable to question fundamental presuppositions of right and wrong, to question presuppositions held by society for a long, long time. The generation that have adopted these positions (often unconsciously) have been marketed to again and again in popular fiction as well as by popular opinion.

The academics, journalists and rhetorical hero of the minute sing in near unanimity to pursue a life of unrestrained individualism, to seek pleasure and avoid pain while inhabiting a brief interlude before death, known as life, and make of it what you will in life, after all it’s survival of the fittest, competition is the only rule.

Never before in human history has relativism so thoroughly and completely governed the sentiment underlying human social thought and behaviour. ‘That’s YOUR truth, not mine’ it is said. ‘It’s not any of my business what he/she does’. And my favourite ‘What right do you have to say/interfere?’…Well presumably we live in a society which holds a set of common moral values…the violation and or transgression of which warrant criticism at the least and punishment at best….has that not been the central feature of human societies for hundreds of thousands of years? Err….perhaps I read the wrong literature, wait! perhaps I shouldn’t have been born downtown!

The damn truth is this, a society which has no absolute moral values….is not a society at all, but a guaranteed descent into mutually bewildered barbarism. (And oh sod off all you post-modernists)

Ways to attribute causation and blame

‘Islam’ and ‘The West’ are questionable rubrics that in popular discourse have particular meanings and connotations. I want to take a look at how these seemingly diametrically opposed forces meet in possibility and actuality.

Islam is a world religion, roughly a fifth of people living identify with it. It is like any other religion, it is embodied in more than one way, that’s to say it looks and acts differently depending on where and when, different shades of the same colour on a palette you could say. This is an obvious but necessary point considering that repeated narrative of Islam’s one-dimensional nature.

The West is easier to definitely negatively, it is not a geographical area, after all Australia and Austria are nowhere near each other, nor does a language define it, I mean Portuguese and Danish don’t share much in common linguistically, perhaps the link is elsewhere. What has the power to relate people beyond immediate words in such a dramatic way? Religion seems to be the force.

The West is broadly speaking, Christian, it has different languages and more than a few ethnic groups, it  underwent a process of secularization which has changed different countries to varying degrees, so France is secular in a different way to how Portugal is secular. Most Muslim Majority Countries are Secular in the political sense yet different still because the Enlightenment was an activity restricted to a relatively small area of the world, to pockets of Western Europe, its ideas percolating over time through those societies in different ways.

The West has a Christian heritage, this is the underlying relation that is at the root, (often unconsciously) of this modern discourse of ‘The West’ as I see it. This discourse is often the basis of identity politics, a type of politics that often sadly reduces the world to a polarised story of us the good, us the hero, us the victim, and them, the ‘others’, the ‘savages’, the perpetrators. This is an inescapable aspect of identity politics of which ‘Islam’, as a civilisation plays in the same way, nor is it confined to ‘The West & ‘Islam’, it is a matter of identity, a feature throughout history.

Where is the meeting of the Monotheisms you ask? After all I have described two worlds that would seem to be separate…there is a separation but there are always  meeting points, even 1000 years ago there was a bridge between Aquinas & Avicenna via the former’s scholastic mentor. Very few civilisations maintain lives apart from the world beyond them. The question is to what extent? After all we are now seeing through globalization the deliberate dilution of national identities across the world. We ought not imagine however that in ages past there was no interaction between cultures. Scholarship has shown that whether through trade routes, through philosophy, through migration, there has always been a link between Christendom and its younger cousin, the Islamic world.

This is excluding all the untold stories that scholarship can  perhaps never document, the only prospect that I find disconcerting is the loss of identity within both worlds, the commercialisation and post-modern process of a world of diverse groups living the same lives as consumers with the same goals and same importance and same truths….a world blind to nuance, without the wisdom to appreciate difference while distinguishing it.

The prospect of identity loss, loss of heritage and a watering down of human identity into a world of brightly lit consumerism and shallow selfish individualism is a prospect that should worry people, rather than reaching for convenient words like Islam and The West by which we attribute all sorts of phenomena.

A very large contradiction…

Psychopathy being a universal social reality, as well as a psychological phenomenon, undermines the myth into which we are born.

It contradicts the supposed foundation of modern capitalist democracies, the idea that the individual interest guarantees the interests of society. The naive idea that if the individual is unrestrained then society inevitably flourishes….I suppose we are all caring, individuals imbued with compassion…sadly there are exceptions to this fantasy.

This system which we are taught comes out of well-educated and beneficent minds of a period curiously termed ‘The Enlightenment’ actually goes back further, at least 100 years….if it didn’t exist in ancient times. It is mercantilism, the dominance of a merchant class whose interest (no pun intended) is profit at all costs (pun intended). The British East India Company is a good example, the Medici family’s dominance in the Italian city-states even earlier also illustrative of this system in question.

State Capitalism/Mercantilism…greed all down through history

Living, legacy and the lie (poem)

When they live they are hailed,

when they die they are worshipped,

emperors of old toss and turn in envy,

fears of mortality pester their dull selective brains,

vain, how vain the hopes of legacy?

Always eating yet never full.

Should we taste the sin of pride

we are then on good terms with that deceiver,

the liquid is cast into iron and our chains forged,

I call out, in a sudden primitive frenzy that cannot be suppressed,

in a raised voice, atop no mount, but footed on a mound of earth,

to whatever life, in its tempo, whether anyone begs to listen or not…..

”Let those who have wisdom, and a heart not hardened be content with a cup

never to be full, live contented in a garb well-worn without pretense”

My lungs emptied, the swell fades, a verse of blackbird song….

a weathered face turns in the crowd, searching, with eager eyes.