Thursday, April 28, 2011

Closing of the American Mind: Cultural Relativism

Closing of the American Mind, Part 2: Cultural Relatvisim

Openness. Or as our current professors call it, "Diversity." The supposition is that, from the early 20th century, after the onset of WWI, it was clear that the belief in Western philosophy and religion was illogical. People with the vehement belief in nationalism and Christianity had caused the deaths of millions of people. Further, and you see this in US History books quite often now, that since Christians' desire to spread their religion was more often an excuse to find riches, power, and the conquering of other cultures and enslavement of them, it is much easier to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Thus, a denial of Christianity as a whole is a break from the actions of our ancestors. The climax of this movement was Nietzsche's quote that "God is dead." He did this not out of a prideful acceptance of atheism, but out of a logical use of reasoning that, if the beliefs of a benign God were to result in enslavement and war, then those beliefs were better off to be rejected. But leaving the belief system of mankind in a bottomless void, something had to fill in the hole. That, as liberal arts colleges have found, is a round education in "diversity." In other words, a teaching of students about other cultures, their beliefs, their virtues and their gods. While this is not wrong in itself, a lecture which brings up the comparative beliefs of another culture cannot be analyzed without something to believe in originally. Thus when, for instance, we look at the actions of the Aztec chiefs, or of Nazi Germany, we have to look at it through the idea that what they did was neither right nor wrong. Of course, I have used the extremes in this sense, as Bloom talked about with his students. Whenever he asked, "Give me an example of someone who is evil," almost without fail, the class brought up Hitler almost immediately. But the same cannot be said of asking who is a hero, or good. It is much harder to come up with someone who fits the virtues of a society who believes in none. Cultural Relativism is now the lion who slouches toward Bethlehem, ready to devour.

When we look at Cultural Relativism, we see a world where the impetus behind "good" and "evil," "right" and "wrong" is erased. There is no meaning in these words, especially in today's world of 24 hour news, constant analysis of the motives behind any crime, investigations into past histories, acceptance of other cultures, no matter how they reflect on the moral beliefs of the person doing the reflection. To look at the phenomenon of relativism, we have to examine the word cultural. When we think of modern culture, we need look no further than the commercials following every round on The Price is Right. Constant messages from lawyers, determined to get the maximum settlement from insurance companies, or free medical care for those countless people who are on Medicare. Then we switch to Let's Make a Deal or American Idol, and find that for the most part, it's not the winners that entertain us, but the losers. The ones that are voted out, or Zonked. We have resorted to being a society of victims, rather than a society where heroes are revered. Even those who are considered heroes, like Scully, become side show oddities who are put on a pedestal and soon forgotten, with their books going to the bargain rack and the made-for-TV movies lost in the annals of film storage buildings. But the losers, they grace the images plastered on our walls, fill our airwaves and waste hours of our lives on gossip and triviality. People flock to hear the filth that spews from Charlie Sheen, who at the end, blames his troubles on his childhood, on his father, on anything else possible except his own failures. Such a time is this, that we live and work to fill our spare time with uselessness. I would much rather live in the 1800's, where people went rather to lectures by Daniel Webster, Ralph Waldo Emerson, or prior years where the preachers filled the auditoriums with passionate speeches, with fire and brimstone and emotion.

Now, there is no God to worship, no heroes to admire, no philosophers to debate and no questions to ponder. Now, you are okay, and I am okay. That's all that matters. Why attain the status of true happiness, of contentment and self-actualization when it's perfectly acceptable just to be "okay?" The university trains everyone with an "equal" education, and are satisfied if those giving them money acquire a degree in business or nursing or, ironically, education, without having a sound foundation in the questions of life. The churches accept everyone, and the chambers are filled with preachers that say, "It's okay if you do this or that sin, God loves you anyway." And while that's true, there is no fervor in trying to be closer to God, to being closer to the good that Aristotle talked about in his writings. And the government has embraced the idea that everyone is "created equal," and that everyone has the "right" to "happiness." Of course, this is the happiness attained by letting the government take care of everything for you, for achieving entitlements that bring only mediocrity to the citizens, without any hard work or satisfaction in becoming a productive member of society. It is a shame that no one can rise up from their cave wall and stride confidently into the sunlight. I talked before about a statue made in the country of Senegal, see here, and about the gloriousness of the statue looking out over the Atlantic. I hope that one day a man may attain the same stature that the figures have standing over the capital city. I see no one now that can do it.

Thus we return to "Openness," the center belief of universities in the modern era. By treating everyone equally, all cultures, beliefs, religions, we have created parity in the world of human thought. It's easy to see how this effects football, for instance. You wind up with too many teams that are 8-8, and are, truthfully, very boring. And if everyone is equal, there is no way to compare one culture with another, no beliefs to hold as superior to another, to ideas to ascend to. Thus the modern thought process have done in under a century what past inquisitions, tyrants, political movements, and kings have tried to do for eons. They have weakened the idea of Christianity and other western thoughts, not by extinguishing them, but by accepting all beliefs throughout the world. If everyone is okay, then there's no need to believe in anything. So believe in something. Worship a God, strive for the goals that will make you better than everyone else. Leave that cave and stand in the sunlight. The real world is so much brighter than the dim bulbs reflecting off the screens.

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