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.

Source of Misery, Root of Evil.

Something that has the power to cause such fear and strife in families, gives birth to such envy and greed, tears lives apart in its relentless occupation of the human mind…cannot but be considered evil and ought never have been created.

No artificial unit of exchange should be the arbiter of our freedom, yet it is. Is this not a perpetual tragedy in the human story?

It is difficult, more difficult for some than others, to walk away from this abusive cycle of misery. But if you have the will join the land, enjoin goodness and triumph!

 

The debasement of human relations

A whole generation’s understanding of what it means to be social is being reduced to a relentless, pavlovian system of abstract connectivity which amounts to a barrage of inconsistent visual and aural stimulations, a system in which people have invested all their heart, hope and ego, a system upon which they are utterly dependent, and yet this is considered progress?

The economic and political order on which modern society was constructed killed off the tribal/clan/family based society, which was not based upon self-interest, it was based upon the common good. This system could only be born if the shared religious/mythological/supernatural worldview was eroded. And so a tyrant was born, the false-self, something which our ancestors and eternal truth demands we each, as individuals slay.

There are two paths in life

There are two paths you can take in this life, one of fear and one of fearlessness.

The first path is very like the existence of a control freak who is so afraid of anything outside their delicately constructed understanding of reality that they will hold on to this world they have constructed at all costs, anything perceived as different, as being outside their construction is a threat. Sanity hangs on a precipice.

That which may possibly separate  their understanding of the world, from that breast to which they eternally cling is met with hysterical suspicion at best and bitter resentment at worst, it is outside the confines of the circle which has drawn itself around them. The saying ‘people fear what they don’t understand‘ is very apt here.

The road less traveled in our society is the path of fearlessness which bravely anticipates and even trusts that which lies beyond the confines of the circle, there is no evil, dark, obscure force lurking in wait for them. The ‘other’ is not one to be feared, but a human to be learned from and lived alongside. The path of fearlessness gives us the humility that our understanding of the world is at best incomplete, if not flawed, is it not radical humility to take the step in opening up to the experiences and ideas of others?

The Quest of truth can only be pursued beyond the circle which is drawn around all humans. Truth and profound understanding is ascertained either Rationally or Intuitively and yet that is not always enough, one needs  courage, humility and empathy.

One of the greatest challenges

One of the greatest challenges every human confronts in life is considering and treating people who are ethnically or religiously different than themselves with equal dignity and respect.

It takes courage to break from the institutionalized mythologies of difference that are imposed on us….that world-view which can be traced back to the beginnings of recorded history, the story of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Those different to ourselves, the ‘other’, ‘barbarians’, the seeds of violence are planted with fear and watered with labels.