Friday, August 11, 2006

The rise of the flat-earthers

Apparently I've been "brainwashed by the press". That was the protestation of a colleague of mine this morning when I said it was wrong to draw a moral equivalence between Israel and Iran, given the former is a liberal democracy, and the latter is an oppressive theocracy. I also, admittedly in a raised and angry voice, pointed out that Iran is committed to the "annihilation" of Israel and has made it quite clear that the country "cannot continue to exist". What's more the subjugation of women in Iran is reminiscent of something from medieval Europe.

The response, however, was quite telling. Iran's theocracy was not a problem and there is nothing to say that it is any better or worse than us. Also, just because Israel doesn't say it, it doesn't mean they don't want to kill all muslims and annihilate Iran. Sadly, there is little one can say when faced with a conspiracy theory, as they are - by virtue of their inherent fallaciousness - impenetrable.

The discussion though did not end there. There was also, shall we say, a quite heated discussion, whereby the bottom line for my colleague was that all opinions are "equally valid". Sadly, this kind of moral, cultural and intellectual relativism has reached a point now where it seems to be blindly accepted. In acts of flagrant sophistry all arguments, regardless of physical and known reality, become equal.

The result has been a legion of flat-earthers arguing against, for example, action in Afghanistan, on the grounds that the Taliban's cultural differences are valid even if we don't like it. For the flat-earthers, values such as liberty, equality and freedom are not exportable because - and they say this with a straight face too - it is wrong to say that others are wrong.

Such a paradox, which rejects moral absolutism through the use of a morally absolute statement, is not unique though to my colleague. It's an expression of the sophistic state that the West has now found itself in.

10 comments:

Serf said...

the Taliban are entitled to live how they like even if we don't like it.

I wouldn't disagree with the idea that members of the Taliban be allowed to live as they please. I would not force them to drink, or borrow money, or wear different clothes, or to watch television for that matter. I would just ask that they extend the same courtesy to their fellow country men (and women, especially women).

dizzy said...

a well spotted cock-up on my part. Re-worded to state what you knew I meant :)

Prodicus said...

Relativism with its daughter, post-modernism, is a curse. Its effects are dangerous and they are finally becoming clear even to some former moonbats. If the only alternative on offer is totalitarianism (it is not the only alternative, but you'd think so to hear the moonbats) then the only answer is to let all 'cultural differences' flower, but each behind its own wall, perhaps. I'll stay out of Aghanistan as long as the people of Aghanistan stay out of my little patch. Their place, their rules. My place, my rules. One snag... they won't stop coming to my place. Another snag... their rule book insists that I adopt their rules even in my own patch. No.

Anonymous said...

I am happy with any country to govern itself in the way its people choose. If that is a theocracy, or dictatorship, then sobeit. It is up to the people that are governed to make the decision to rise against their leaders. No matter what we think, it is not our decision.

BUT - and there is always a but - at if at any point these nations directly or indirectly try to force their values on us, then we do have a say in it. Hence, I have no problem with what happened in Afghanistan - the Taliban were certainly complicit in, and most likely active supporters of, the terrorism that killed so many in 2001. And I have no problem with Iraq-I, as the savage dictator once again tried to extend his power and influence onto another nation.

But I do have a problem with Iraq-II, since as far as I can tell, there was little or no evidence that Sadam was actively encouraging people to act against us (or those we count as friends). He may have uttered his support of certain regimes or organisations that act against us, but speaking support and giving it are two very different things.

So yes, I agree in parts with the 'flat-earthers'. We should not judge others from different cultures, or from different times. I do not judge Roman Emperors when I read they bedded 12 year old children. I do not judge organisations, such as Barnados, that actively encouraged child labour in Victorian times. And I do not judge those that dealt in the slave trade many hundreds of years ago. Just as I do not judge muslim regimes that punish women for being women. It isn't very long ago that our culture dictated that women were second best - with the arguments often backed up by religious persecution. Our culture is not so different from the Muslim culture. How many wars have we started in the name of God?

Croydonian said...

AJD - that would be all very well if the citizens of state X (whichever one you like) were able to opt out of its form of rule other than by asking directly or indirectly for a bullet through the brain. The title 'Kiss the hand you cannot bite' (a book on Romania under Ceasescu) sums up the position of a tyrannised citizenry.

One does not have to do much digging in the archives to think of murderous regimes that were, and in some cases still are, quite capable of keeping ideology and murder within their own frontiers. Are you happy to play at moral equivalence with the Khmer Rouge or Kim Jong-Il for example?

A more 'domestic' example of the use of brute power would involve a wife-beating husband - and there are precious few people who know think that a marriage licence gives a man carte blanche to enforce his will against his wife because he has the strength to do so.

dizzy said...

"I am happy with any country to govern itself in the way its people choose. If that is a theocracy, or dictatorship, then sobeit."

errr surely, by defintion, if a state is a dictatorship or theocract then its people did not choose it?

Anonymous said...

The paradox gets even worse. One would think that the opposers of moral and cultural absolutism might be expected to extend their non-judgemental attitudes from the group to the individual, and be supporters of individual freedom, but usually nothing could be further from the truth.

For them, it’s not for us to criticise a society which circumcises its females, covers them from head to foot in a burka, stones them to death should they commit adultery, or kills them if they refuse to marry their cousin. But should the next door neighbour of the aforementioned moral relativist express a desire to perhaps own a 4x4, or to smoke a cigarette, then they will frequently come over extremely judgemental.

How is it possible to sustain such contradictory attitudes within one brain?

Anonymous said...

Dizzy - there have been plenty of revolutions throughout history. Bloody, maybe. But Western revolutions are no exception to this bloodyness!

Croydonian - I take your point about wife-beating. I think I might reflect some more on it.

John - I don't have a problem with 4x4's or people smoking. But you are right - lots of the 'flat-earthers', as Dizzy calls them, do :)

dizzy said...

I'm not sure I follow what the point about revolutions is? Revolutions tend to be the actions of elites, not the actions of "peoples". Also, just because there is the possibility of revoltuion I;m not sure that means we should sit back and wait for one to happen necessarily.

dizzy said...

Incidnetally, ajd, I'm rather surprised that you don't think we should be judgemental about a culture that, for example, stones a married rape victim to death on the ground that she obviously seduced the rapist.