Friday, June 18, 2004

More on Political Correctness

John W. Perry (Computer Science, De Anza College) writes:

I just had to weigh in on the PC debate and I'm afraid that this time it is on John's [Gallagher’s] side.

There's the issue of separation of church and state -- a staple in the philosophy of the Founding Fathers. Yet John Ashcroft won't take the ten commandments down from school walls because it's "good morality". What about the good morality preached by the Buddha or even Mohamed? What about the beautiful words of Omar Khayyam or J. Rumi?


BV: The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads as follows. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . .” There are three separate ideas here. First, Congress shall not set up any religion as the state religion. Second, Congress shall not disestablish any religion that has already been established. Third, Congress shall not pass any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Now focus on the first point. How can the posting of the Ten Commandments in a public school or in a judge’s chambers be reasonably interpreted as an establishment of a
particular religion as the state religion? It simply cannot be! Posting something on a wall does not amount to the enacting of a law. Only Congress can enact laws.

Note that phrases like ‘separation of church and state,’ ‘wall of separation,’ and so on do not occur in the First Amendment, or in any American state document.

One simple point that few seem to appreciate is that the Ten Commandments are not specific to Christianity. There are three, count ‘em three, Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and
Islam. All three of them are grounded in what Christians call the Old Testament wherein we find the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5). Thus there is a common moral code at
the core of these three religions, a code that is not specifically Christian. Therefore, if per impossibile the posting of the Decalogue could be taken to establish a religion as the state religion, that religion could not be Christianity, but would have to be an amalgam of the three Abrahamic religions, call it Judeo-Christiano-Islam.

Another point that must be emphasized is that the moral doctrine -- as opposed to the specifically theological doctrine -- enshrined in ther Ten Commandments does not contradict what the other two major world-religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, preach. For example, is there anything in the Eight-Fold path of the Buddhists that contradicts anything in the Ten Commandments? Apart from the references to God, would the prohibitions against murder, theft, adultery, bearing false
witness, coveting the goods of the neighbor, and coveting his spouse be rejected by Buddhists, or by Hindus? Do the latter enjoin murder, theft adultery, etc.? No. They specifically prohibit
them.

My point is that there is a moral core doctrine recognized by all the major religions – a doctrine that is both reasonable, and conducive to human flourishing. John Lennon bade us imagine a society in which there is no money. That is utopian nonsense. Imagine instead a world in which there is plenty of money but no one steals anybody’s money, and in which no one rapes, murders, etc. Now if you are not opposed to such a world, how can you be opposed to the posting of the moral code of the Ten Commandments? I don’t see that you have anything that resembles a cogent argument. What I pick up from your remarks is merely the classic Leftist hostility to religion that, from the time of the French revolution, has been becoming ever more virulent.

There is this wrinkle, however. Lefties have lately been cozying up to Islamo-fascists – which suggests that their opposition to religion is not quite consistent: they are anti-religious, but make an exception in the case of Islamic fundamentalism. This is one of the reasons we speak of the ‘loony Left.’

It's a Bible Belt form of political correctness to want to smear the words of Christ all over the walls of K-12 schools and to view Protestant morality as the only moral compass worth heeding.

BV: I hope you are not suggesting that the Ten Commandments are the words of Christ. I’m sure you are aware of the historical sequence. First the Old Testament prophets, then Jesus Christ, then Muhammad. Protestant morality? I hope you are not confusing Protestantism with
Christianity. And, as I have just got through arguing, the core moral doctrine in the Ten Commandments is nothing specifically Christian.

Of course, many prominent Protestants don't even obey their own religion because the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell [sic] seem to have forgotten their own lines such as: "No man can serve two masters. One cannot worship God and Mammon at the same time." I don't believe that investment advice is what God and Christ had in mind for their minions.

BV: Now you are shifting from the level of ideas to that of people. That won’t avail us anything. The debate is about ideas and policies, not about persons and their moral defects. Besides, you are slandering these two individuals – unless you can prove that they worship money.

Bill -- the problem with both the allegedly liberal and allegedly conservative movements is that BOTH do not engage in legitimate discourse any more. There's only ALLEGIANCE TO BELIEF which is a blind and discourseless thing.

BV: I don’t see it. There is plenty of high-level discourse on the Right. Read David Horowitz, Victor Davis Hanson, to name just two. But I agree that on the Left there is mostly just garbage.

I believe that both John G. and I despise "Nanny-State" liberal PC just as much as you. However, to posit that there is no right wing form of PC reeks a bit too much of selective attention on your part. Which form of PC is more destructive? Well, the liberal form has ruined our schools and the conservative form uses moralistic crap to justify what are essentially self-aggrandizing economic maneuvers even at the cost of lives.

BV: My tentative thesis – which you will find outrageous – is that there is not and cannot be a right-wing form of PC. PC by definition refers to left-wing positions and to a toe-the-Party-line mentality. But to defend this will take a separate post. I agree that liberal PC has ruined our schools. But what you have to see is that part of the problem is caused by social decline in general, which in turn is caused by a lack of moral education. Don’t confuse moral education
with ‘moralistic crap.’ Now you are sounding like a hard Leftist: ‘bourgeois’ morality is just ideology in the service of economic and class interests. But that is Marxist rubbish.

Part of what disgusts me about liberals is their incapacity to think clearly. They seem incapable of seeing obvious distinctions. For example, to make a moral judgment is not to be ‘moralistic,’ nor is it to be ‘judgmental.’ To advocate a high standard of behavior that one only imperfectly satisfies is not to be a hypocrite. And so on, ad nauseam.

The problem is precisely that children are not brought up on codes like that of the Ten Commandments. You have complained in other messages about students who show no respect, show up late for class, leave early, and the like. Had they been brought up to respect their elders – “Honor thy father and thy mother” – you wouldn’t have the problem you have, or at least not in its present extreme form. Children need to internalize strict moral codes from any early age.
Religion teaches morality in a way that makes it easily assimilable and understandable. When the Left attacks religion, it attacks morality. The net effect of liberal-leftist policies is to
undermine the moral fabric of the country, and to promote the very malaise that you yourself complain about.

I could expand on this indefinitely. Consider the free speech provision of the First Amendment. The Left, distorting this provision, uses it to justify every manner of cultural pollution. The reason we live in a toxic society teeming with hordes of barbaric idiots is because of liberal policies in education, entertainment, the criminal justice system. For example, consider the moral boneheads who oppose California’s entirely reasonable ‘three strikes’ provision. You
don’t oppose that, do you?

Why do you think they close the New York Stock Exchange when a crook like Nixon dies? Because they're "liberals"? They closed it when Reagan died. Do you think they'll close it when Carter dies? He may have been a bad President but he's not a bad man by half.

BV: Now you are back to discussing individuals. What Nixon did was essentially no different than what Clinton did. Both chaps leave something to be desired, morally speaking. But why bring in Reagan? Don’t you think he was a great president? We’ll have to see what happens when Carter dies. No doubt Carter is a decent man, but then so was Reagan. The main difference was that Carter was a weak appeaser who made the world more dangerous, while Reagan, understanding the Soviet threat, played a key role in ending it, thereby making the world better and safer. Something tells me that we will disagree about this.

There was no moral equivalence between the USA and the USSR. Libs and lefties are quite confused when it comes to moral equivalence. They see it where it isn’t, and fail to see it where it is. To illustrate the latter point, they cannot see, pace Slavoj Zizek, that National Socialism and Communism are morally equivalent.