American Elephants


Whatever! by The Elephant's Child

Hillary Clinton testifies
…………………………………………………….photo by Kevin Lamarque/ Reuters

“What difference, at this point, does it make”

That’s the plaintive cry of the modern relativist. What’s a relativist? As Roger Kimball says in the preface to his admirable new book The Fortunes of Permanence, “It wasn’t that long ago that a responsible educated person in the West was someone who entertained firm moral and political principles. When those principles were challenged, he would typically rise to defend them. The more serious the challenge, the more concerted the defense.”

Kimball quotes  Canadian writer William Gairdner from his The Book of Absolutes, a study of relativism. A modern relativist

is more likely to think of him or herself as proudly distinguished by the absence of “rigid” opinions and moral values, to be someone “tolerant” and “open.” Such a person will generally profess some variation of relativism, or “you do your thing and I’ll do mine,” as a personal philosophy. Many in this frame of mind privately consider themselves exemplars of an enlightened modern attitude that civilization has worked hard to attain, and if pushed, they would admit to feeling just a little superior to all those sorry souls of prior generations forced to bend under moral and religious constraints.

An enlightened modern attitude? Moral indifference? “Whatever” has become a defining term. Or call it simply multiculturalism.  Equality of groupiness.  What is important about you is the culture to which you were born and what group you belong to. If you are black, the color of your skin is the defining element about you. If you are Hispanic, it is apparently that you speak the Spanish language, but it is more defining if your skin is brown, and you are here illegally. Lo que sea!

In an interview just before departing from her office as Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis spoke of how proud she was of the multiculturalism of her department. They had Latinas and Latinos, Blacks, Women,  LGBT people, disabled people, Asians,  all the necessary boxes on the multicultural assortment paper had been checked off. I don’t think she mentioned white men. Pigeonholes.

Any agency that hires on the basis of checked off boxes instead of skills, knowledge, expertise, and ability to play well with others will not contribute to good government. But then good government is no longer the objective. But what does it matter?

There have been natural disasters in our country, and we have an obligation to care for the victims. so we have set up an agency to do that, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). So we know that problem is taken care of. What? They don’t get there in time,? Their regulations prevent real help? They have trailers for emergency housing, but they are assigned elsewhere? Whatever. We can only follow the rules. There are no failures.

Difficult situations are “fixed” by creating an agency, or a regulation. Whether it actually works or not is a matter of moral indifference. Old dusty documents like the Constitution are too confining, too rigid. We need a living document that adapts to modern times as the times change. For relativists there are no absolutes. No firm, unchanging political principles. A right to keep and bear arms? Well, not now, when little children have been brutally murdered. Too rigid. We must get rid of most weapons, particularly the scary-looking ones. Wasn’t the Second Amendment just about Militias?

It was supposed to be a form of liberation — freedom from rigid rules. God is dead, everything is permissible, there are no absolute values. There is no absolute truth. America is not exceptional, Western culture or the intellectual heritage of the West, is more often to be at fault, and other traditions may be more interesting. All cultures are equally valuable, and calling some Muslims “terrorists” because their culture is different is just — judgmental.

Noticing the imperfection of our society, we may be tempted into thinking that the problem is the limiting structures we have inherited. Relativism promises liberation from “oppressive” moral constraints. So we adopt new enablers: “pluralism,” “diversity,” “tolerance”, “openness” which end as official warnings to accept all behaviors of others without judgment. Above all we must not be judgmental. There is no truth, no right and wrong, no eternal truth. After all, what difference, at this point, does it make?

Ironically, the very success of economic and political freedom reduced its appeal to later thinkers.The narrowly limited government of the late nineteenth century possessed little concentrated power that endangered the ordinary man. The other side of the coin was that it possessed little power that would enable good people to do good. And in an imperfect world there were still many evils.  Indeed, the very progress of society made the residual evils seem all the more objectionable. As always, people took the favorable developments for granted. They forgot the danger to freedom from a strong government. Instead, they were attracted by the good that a stronger government could achieve — if only government power were in the “right” hands.
…………………………..Milton and Rose Friedman: Free to Choose

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