Monday, July 15, 2013

Virulent Absolutism in an Age of Relativism

In today’s world of ethical relativism we seem confronted with the incongruity of a militant and unapologetic self-righteousness.

This should come as no surprise. Relativism argues that there are no objective or universal moral values, because values are dependent on, and therefore relative to, such things as culture, social class, race, gender, ethnic group, or time period. Nothing is absolute and anything goes.

However, to avoid chaos, as Thomas Hobbes informs us, we need a strong central government to dictate to us what is right and harsh punishments must be enforced to maintain order.

In our present government-by-lobby mixed economy, this means the squeakiest wheel dictates the laws and rules. The legal has become identical to the moral, thus moral outrage is expressed at any violation of the law—no matter how inane, incomprehensible, or irrational the laws or rules may be.

Rules in our K-12 schools provide an abundance of self-righteous inanities, mostly related to the schools’ phobia for guns. A kindergartner who brought a souvenir cap gun to school was interrogated for two hours until he wet his pants, then suspended for ten days.* A six-year-old was punished and forced to apologize for bringing a gun to school made out of Legos no more than the size of a quarter. Enforcers of the rules say that intent and motive are irrelevant. Seriously? We’re talking about five- and six-year-olds! “How is this not bullying?,” one commenter on the forums asked.

“Well-intentioned” are words that do not come to mind when thinking of these enforcers. “Vicious” and “mean-spirited” do.

Remind me to keep my Boy Scout knife at home the next time I go to school.

The so-called zero-tolerance policies have no value or foundation in fact. One couple who sponsored a prom party in their home were arrested for supplying alcoholic beverages to their underage guests. Their motive—which, of course, is irrelevant—was to keep their son from attending a liquor-filled party on the beach forty miles away. Car keys were collected at the door so no one could leave until sober. The couple, no doubt, saved lives that night. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), a politicized and, now, militantly self-righteous organization, was delighted over the arrest.

Then there was the mother who left her sleeping infant and five-year-old in the car while running into the store to make a quick purchase. During the nine minutes that passed, 9-1-1 was called, the mother’s purse was searched, and she was taken to the police station. Three visits from child-protection services warned her that next time her kids would be taken away.

The latest and most disturbing of inanities was the arrest of an underage college student for buying a six-pack of bottled water. Seven of Virginia’s state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents mistook the water for beer and the terrified teen and her two friends mistook the plain clothes agents for the type of people who can do bad things to young girls. They drove off brushing two of the agents who were trying to smash the car’s windows. Upshot? One night in jail, two-and-a-half months’ anguished torment under threat of imprisonment for five years, and the girl had to apologize for mistaking the agents.

Something is terribly wrong in the above case. The agents should be apologizing to the girls and the higher authorities should be investigating the behavior of overly zealous law enforcement officers. That’s what one would expect in a free society.

My previous two posts demonstrated how overly zealous and self-righteous federal prosecutors and college administrators go after people with a vengeance for the slightest transgressions, if one can even call them that, of the laws and university rules.

A “busybody state” is how we might describe our current situation. H. L. Mencken once described puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” In today’s cultural atmosphere, puritanism from the right has waned a bit, but it certainly seems alive and well from the left. Perhaps Mencken’s quote should be amended to read: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be responsible—that is, accountable, competent, and independent.

Busybodies know what is best for everyone else and through their officious meddling they aim to make sure we do what they think is best. If we dare to deviate ever so slightly from the prescribed norms, as defined by the busybodies, the fullest power of retribution must be brought down on us.

Everything is relative? Yes, except for what the busybodies dictate.

*Had the gun been loaded with caps, it would have been described as an explosive and the police would have been called.

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