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)

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Unintended Consequences

The inculcated sense of disempowerment, subjugation and victimhood however real or imagined carried in the minds of today’s generation has led it to adopt, on a large scale, slogans, references and notions about the individual, society and human freedom that it hasn’t (I believe) quite reflected upon.

Let me be more exact, the cliché ‘born that way’ have gone unexamined. It suggests a form of determinism, something which eludes human will or initiative. Regardless of the context in which a phrase like that is used it absolves agency. This is done increasingly with regard to sexuality or crime. If people are to be safeguarded and respected under the pretext of this determinism, how do you respond to lobby groups who have operated in Britain and Holland since the 1980s who say they are attracted to children? That there’s is merely sexual orientation over which they have absolutely no control?

We all know, instinctively that paedophilia is a grave social deviancy which transgresses moral boundaries that are found across the world, boundaries which hold societies in tact, preservation of the species. It is the conscious choice of an adult to act upon the most unnatural desires, desires which emerge in the course of a long dark pursuit of sexual self-gratification. Despite unprecedented attempts in certain countries at finding the wildest possible excuses for human behaviour, I suggest, in accordance with longstanding wisdom which has formed the basis of cultural and legal systems across the world for centuries that human beings are responsible for their actions. Which means responsible for guarding their desires whether perverse or noble.

– In a time when metaphysical determinism is abandoned or reviled and a new scientific determinism has won favour in excusing the inexcusable.

“The soul is not moved to abandon higher things and love inferior things unless it wills to do so.”
― Augustine of Hippo, On Free Choice of the Will

They tried to Abolish all that was normal…

The counter-culture of the 1960s produced art and ideas that have remained for half a century embedded in western societies, embedded so casually that how ‘counter’ cultural they really are is questionable considering that it is less counter and more normative. Yet still people, certainly people who lived through that period of ‘exploration‘ & ‘discovery(self?)’ look back to the 1960s with a sense of awe and admiration for those rebels and iconoclasts, the figureheads of the counter-cultural movements. Yet how much admiration do the figureheads of the counter-culture we live with actually deserve? Is it simply a matter of a courageous, adventurous, universally minded generation rising up to challenge the supposedly oppressive beliefs and cultural norms of older generations?

From the outset let me make it clear that it was a broad phenomenon in which many musicians, writers, artists, thinkers are involved merely by association or simply for being around at the time and happened to get caught up in the movement. The Beat poets are an interesting pre-cursor, some of whom went on to be the figurehead-activists behind the movement’s force and core-ideals. One such person was Jewish-American poet Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg grew up within one of America’s many minority communities in New Jersey to a Marxist mother, whose psychological illnesses and trauma impacted him greatly. In fact Ginsberg spent several months in a psychiatric institution for several months as a young man.

Yet he went on to become one of the most widely read poets of the second half of the 20th century. He like many other poets of the modern period wrote in a free-verse structure without any regard to the formal structures of English poetry that had been the prevalent mode for centuries, furthermore up until the earlier 20th century, competence in pentameter and poetic form was a per-requisite to be even considered for publishing. It was not merely poetic tradition that was to be rebelled against for Ginsberg. Just about every social institution, every tradition and norm needed to be challenged. He along with others he inspired worked tirelessly through music, art and literature to lambast what they saw as old-fashioned and oppressive, any remnant of religious, family-centred world which restricted individual freedoms and whim.

Politics was understood by the counter-culturalists as a self-serving cesspool of corruption out of touch with the ‘common man’ or worse legislating against people’s individual freedoms and desires. The only politics that was worth pursuing was oppositional politics in the streets, demonstrations which could display disenchantment and disdain for policy, the policy-makers and anyone associated with the corrupt ‘establishment‘ or ‘system‘. Ginsberg, a life-long communist did however lobby for reform in his country, he worked for equal legal rights for fellow homosexuals, one of many minority groups in the country who were due to cultural taboos kept their sexuality largely under the radar and had occasionally faced discrimination on a social level.

Ginsberg however campaigned further, not merely for the explicit political/legal recognition of a homosexual minority but for the unrestricted freedom of adults to have sexual relations with children, opposition to which was in his mind, a product of oppressive, old-fashioned obstacles to human freedom such as religion, the state and first and foremost, the family unit. Timothy Leary who like Ginsberg was known for his advocacy of illegal mind-altering psycho-active drugs famously stated ‘don’t trust anyone over thirty’ an ideal intended to appeal to the inherent impulses for creativity and self-discovery present in young adults. Any attachment to their parents, to traditional ways of thinking and living were to be abolished, however persuasively.

The individual was supreme, all else could perish in an instant without a moment’s care, after all the goal was to be care-free, free of responsibility, free of commitment and ultimately free from certainty. The strategy to undermine all the old certainties, all the beliefs and norms of the past was for many counter-culture figureheads to pressure youth directly or indirectly to take illegal drugs to induce altered states, (which in reality was more akin to not thinking at all, to damage a functioning brain) and to sell new exotic, eastern quasi-religions, caricatures of traditional forms of religion found in the Indian Sub-Continent and the Far East.

Freedom was in the counter-cultural view and remains understood firstly as a negatively defined freedom, that is, the freedom to rebel, to oppose, and secondly freedom for the individual, that is to say in contrast and often at the expense of the collective or tribal good. The counter-culture of the 1960s produced an idealism, which has within it some underlying healthy, admirable values such as a questioning of power, a vague pacifism and a sort of open-mindedness, yet how those values are expressed and framed in language, how we, 50 years later project back onto that period that idealism is fraught with insurmountable problems and subjectivity.

The goals however of many counter-cultural figureheads were arrogant, selfish and perverse and it is those seeds that have sprouted more over time than the other seeds, seeds of human respect, trust and decency. What is left is the last generation, in western societies of adults, who worked, lived, and almost always married living among us, they came of age in the 1940s and 1950s when an outlook on life, however flawed, was shared, when the blind desire to rebel, to contradict and to ingratiate had not been fostered by mentally troubled poets and C.I.A operatives.

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

The Individual v.s Mass Media

Although I honestly believe most humans have a knack for spotting a liar, it has to be said even the most independent minded of people can become anesthetized with the media’s day by day inconsistent blurred snapshots of human existence. Achieving a comprehensive understanding of any given issue be it government legislation, a natural disaster or a conflict is made impossible on all levels by the media (whose true concern is profit, as opposed to journalistic integrity)

In the milieu of this data-storm; clips, flashes, rolling text, sound bites, it amounts to sensory overload, each day, over and over again, yet we think we have control…we are being mentally overwhelmed each day.

Let me be more concrete, I’ve been trying to follow the situation in Iraq, where violence has been escalating in recent months. The situation in Iraq is often not even reported on, and when it is reported on, it’s fragmented, there is no consistent frame of reference provided by the media, if one really wants an authentic picture of Iraq one must turn to investigative journalists whose objective isn’t financial, one has to critically investigate and draw one’s own conclusions.

Most people generally don’t bother to go through that process (some with greater excuse than others) but what my point is, trust yourself and your own analytic faculties, don’t make the mistake of taking what’s presented at face value, for the sake of ‘news’, even if its 9:13 p.m and you’re worn out after a long day, on the cusp of that corrosive daily grind.