Just read an article by Pat Buchanan that really got me thinking. It didn’t convey much that isn’t already apparent but it presented it in such a way that it really hit me and made me think about how it relates to our epistemological cultural transition from a modernistic to a postmodern worldview.
It seems the so called “balkanization” of our society is continuing despite the desires of president Obama to unify. I don’t want to be partisan in these observations. I think no matter how you divide the palette of opinion in the USA at the moment all sides are exhibiting a similar behavior. To the political left the right are compared to Nazi’s and to the right the left are compared to communists. The right is accused of taking away rights and the left is accused of taking away freedoms. There are greedy capitalists and inane socialists. One could go on and on. The mudslinging seems to be increasing.
This may be a distorted view on my part due to the media coverage but I do think these are symptoms of something that is taking place below the surface. Namely, a transition of worldviews and an indication of a negative side of postmodernism.
As I see it three things are at work:
- A mixture of modern and postmodern elements:As I described in part one a postmodern view lacks the ability to provide order and consensus since it cannot claim any epistemological certainty about the knowledge claims that it makes. Yet at the same time it appears to me that we are still acting from the modern mind set that such certainty is possible. We have the goals of modernism but now lack the means to achieve them. This results in the next observation.
- Argumentation based on character and not on facts:When factual arguments are absent all that is left is the tactic of demonizing the opposing view. Instead of discussing the issues now we see that the character and motivation of the proponent of opposing views are called into question. Yes, this has likely always been a part of American culture and politics (think of the scopes trial or the civil war just to name a few) but my sense is that we again are witnessing an intensification of this phenomenon. Were we not able in previous generations to go about things in a more civil manner? Perhaps one of you historians could fill us in.
- An incomplete picture of our true anthropological nature:The popular articulation of the postmodern paradigm as I know it assumes a positive anthropology. If we all just live and let live, do not attempt to take power by declaring things right or wrong, then everyone will get along just fine. This, of course, runs contrary to a Christian view of anthropology, which has a unique view of how human beings tick. Namely, there is the positive side capable of love, harmony, courage, beauty and a host of other things. But the Christian view also posits that humans have a depraved side which produces war, greed, hatred and selfishness etc. If the negative side is truly present in our nature, then we have major problems if we ignore it. I am of the opinion that most of the evil in the world is not solely the result of political or religious systems but an outworking of the true nature of mankind. This I believe is missing in the popular worldview.
Maybe I’m overreacting. This is not the first crisis that the USA has had to deal with and not yet the most serious. I hope that we can successfully overcome this one like in time past but that is not guaranteed. Maybe with some effort we can return to a degree of unity and civility which is sorely missing at the moment.
In the USA a saying goes “one should never talk about religion or politics.” After reading this blog post you will have a better understand of why this saying came to be.
It has been my experience that Americans (Citizens of the USA) and Germans relate to the sensitive topics of politics and religion differently. Americans can become easily emotionally involved and take differences of opinion personally. Germans on the other hand have an uncanny ability to calmly discuss such topics and remain untouched on a personal level.
The American seems to have his/her personal interests inextricably wound up with theoretical issues and their implementation. The German seems to be able to compartmentalize such things more succinctly. He/she does not equate a difference in opinion regarding religion or politics to be a personal affront.
The moral of the story: Be careful when discussing politics and religion, especially when and American is involved, less so with a German
Just want to go on the record as a manmade Global Warming sceptic. I think the warming that has occurred is attributed to solar cycles and the increase in CO2 is a consequence and not the cause of the warming. In a couple of years if the temps keep cooling the debate should be over and this time for real.
A Widespread Misunderstanding
It never ceases to amaze me how deep the misunderstanding of democracy in western culture has become. Not only does the mainstream media willfully engage in propagating disinformation but it goes beyond them. If the media were the only culprit it would not warrant alarm bells and the accusation of stupidity. For the mainstream media that is a normal state of affairs.
This lack of understanding is also present among major politicians. People who have been democratically elected! Is it not reasonable to expect that people who work in a given profession have a basic understanding of one of the basic tenants of that profession? Democratically elected individuals should have a basic grasp of the meaning of democracy. But alas, this seems to be to much to expect from politicians.
But it doesn’t stop there. The everyday man on the street seems to be deluded as well. Maybe western culture or at least the American variant of western culture has become so infatuated with itself that it’s members have elevated the status of one of their fundamental principles beyond that what it actually is.
George Bush is perhaps the biggest culprit. I’m not talking about the pros and cons of the War on Terror. Nor am I referring to the pros and cons of the War in Iraq. What I’m referring to is the underlying assumption behind many foreign policy objectives. Bush is not the only one. European leaders and the UN are also along for the ride.
All to one degree or another have a hope that democracy will save the day. The assumption is that a society which adopts a democratic form of government will automatically adopt a set of moral standards which agree with western principles. This in turn will create a state that can be brought into the western fold. This is why the UN sponsors election verification around the globe.
In the 21st century we are witnessing a historical Novum. The mixture of Islam and Democracy. Since the elections in Iraq and the election of Hamas in the Palestinian territories it should be clear that the assumptions and hopes surrounding democracy are invalid.
What is the misunderstanding?
The misunderstanding is this: democracy is amoral. Democracy does not guarantee a certain moral stance. Democracy only guarantees that the moral stance of the majority is the one that will rule the day.
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary one definition of democracy is rule of the majority. Amoral is defined as being neither moral nor immoral. Amoral is neither bad nor good. It means neutral. And this is what democracy fosters. A true democratic system will simply allow for the majority position to obtain power. In the case of Hamas a government which was democratically elected adopted the policies of the majority of its citizens. Namely, a policy toward Israel which was not welcome among Western governments.
One could argue that the democracy itself is of moral value. Giving people a say in who will rule over them is certainly a desirable proposition. But to go beyond this is a mistake. To assume that because a democratic system is in place that a specific palette of moral principles will emerge is naive. A theoretical example: If 80% of a population are so inclined as to desire death and destruction, rape and pillaging, a democratic government will not change this. Rather a democratic government would ensure that these desire come to the forefront.
Where does this leave us?
Hopefully this blog has opened a few eyes to the realization that our moral stance must have another basis besides democracy. Democracy is no assurance that people will do the right thing. I don’t want to suggest at this point what the right thing might be. My point is simply, let us look elsewhere.
I am not anti-democracy. This is not my point. Democracy is good. But democracy is not a cure all. Beyond democracy western culture needs a basis for a broad moral consensus. If this is not found, then at some point our lack of consensus on morals will cause our democratic systems to produce a democratically sanctioned chaos.