In my writings and on my radio show I have continually passed moral judgment on the actions, writings, and sayings of others. Although I do not judge indiscriminately, or lightly, I do not shy away from such judgments and I do not adhere to the biblical commandment “Judge not that ye be not judged.” Matthew 7:1. Instead I adhere to the Objectivist principle “Judge and be prepared to be judged.”
It is common in our society today to think that we are not worthy of passing judgment on others. This has been drummed into us from our not only our Christian upbringing which teaches us to be humble (as destructive as that is), but also from our secular public schools which teach us moral relativism, or more precisely, moral agnosticism. The hypocrisy is of course for our priests and teachers to make the pronouncement that people should not judge they are elevating themselves into a position of moral superiority.
Two weeks ago I lambasted the Ontario public school system for their political indoctrination of children. I stand by my assessment of the system but today would like to honour at least one teacher in that system, in this very city in fact who has come out and revealed a personal observation about the effect of such indoctrination on his pupils.
Dr. Stephen L. Anderson, a high school teacher in the Thames Valley District School Board, and a recent PhD in philosophy from the University of Western Ontario, has published an article called “Moments of startling clarity : Moral education programming in Ontario today” in the Ontario Secondary School Teacher Federation’s publication Education Forum. This is what he had to say:
“…I was teaching my senior Philosophy class. We had just finished a unit on metaphysics and were about to get into ethics, the philosophy of how we make moral judgments. The school had also just had several social-justice-type assemblies – multiculturalism, women’s rights, anti-violence and gay acceptance. So there was no shortage of reference points from which to begin.
“I needed an attention-getter: something to really spark interest, something to shock the students awake and make them commit to an ethical judgment. This would form a baseline from which they could begin to ask questions about the legitimacy of moral judgments of all kinds, and then pursue various theories…
“I decided to open by simply displaying, without comment, the photo of Bibi Aisha. Aisha was the Afghani teenager who was forced into an abusive marriage with a Taliban fighter, who abused her and kept her with his animals. When she attempted to flee, her family caught her, hacked off her nose and ears, and left her for dead in the mountains. After crawling to her grandfather’s house, she was saved by a nearby American hospital. I felt quite sure that my students, seeing the suffering of this poor girl of their own age, would have a clear ethical reaction, from which we could build toward more difficult cases.
“But I was not prepared for their reaction. I had expected strong aversion; but that’s not what I got. Instead, they became confused. They seemed not to know what to think. They spoke timorously, afraid to make any moral judgment at all. They were unwilling to criticize any situation originating in a different culture. They said, “Well, we might not like it, but maybe over there it’s okay.” One student said, “I don’t feel anything at all; I see lots of this kind of stuff.” Another said (with no consciousness of self-contradiction), “It’s just wrong to judge other cultures.”
This refusal to take a stand, to make a moral judgment on members of another society or on that society itself is the result of years of indoctrinating children into the cult of multiculturalism, into the dead-end, and I mean that quite literally, of moral relativism or as Dr. Anderson goes on to describe, ethical paralytics.
Moral judgments stem from a moral standard, an ultimate value, the survival of which determines our reasoning for judging something either good or evil. Normally one would make moral judgments based on a standard or ultimate value. For today’s educators and intellectuals this standard is the group or collective one belongs to. Such moral standards are, for example race, gender, sexual preference, economic class, cultural, and religion. If it is good for my race, my gender, sexual preference etc. then it must be good, if is bad for my group then it must be bad. But who is to determine what is best for the group? And what if I belong to several groups? What if I was a Catholic, black, middle class, bi-sexual woman? Who am I to make moral judgment for my group mosaic?
Obviously the answer paralyses the person into making no moral judgments at all and resigns the person to relying on the expert’s judgments on what is right or wrong.
In fact the only standard one should use to make a moral judgment is one’s own life and its survival. What benefits the survival of one’s own life is the good what is detrimental to one’s own life is the evil. When your own life becomes the standard upon which to make your moral judgments then you are standing on a firm ethical ground. You are then in a position to place yourself in the position of another and judge empathically what is right and what is wrong.
In The Virtue of Selfishness, Ayn Rand responded to the question: “How does one lead a rational life in an irrational society?” thusly:
“I will confine my answer to a single, fundamental aspect of this question. I will name only one principle, the opposite of the idea which is so prevalent today and which is responsible for the spread of evil in the world. That principle is: One must never fail to pronounce moral judgment.
“Nothing can corrupt and disintegrate a culture or a man’s character as thoroughly as does the precept of moral agnosticism, the idea that one must never pass moral judgment on others, that one must be morally tolerant of anything, that the good consists of never distinguishing good from evil.
“It is their fear of this responsibility that prompts most people to adopt an attitude of indiscriminate moral neutrality. It is the fear best expressed in the precept: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” But that precept, in fact is an abdication of moral responsibility: It is a moral blank check one gives to theirs in exchange for a moral bank check one expects for oneself.
“…so long as moral values are at stake, no moral neutrality is possible. To abstain from condemning a torturer, is to become an accessory to the torture and murder of his victims.”
Using one’s own life as the standard upon which to make a moral judgment and accepting Rand’s principle that “One must never fail to pronounce moral judgment,” the students in Dr. Anderson’s class should have responded to his challenge by saying that the family of Bibi Aisha were committing an evil act in siding with her evil husband by mutilating her and leaving her for dead. The staff at the American hospital acted morally in offering her aid and protecting her.
The students could have gone one step further as I now will. Any culture which permits, encourages, or abets in any way the subjugation of a woman or the mutilation of someone as a punishment for escaping an abusive pig of a husband is inherently evil. To the extent that this is tolerated by the Afghani people is the extent to which they are all complicit to this evil.
Originally broadcast on Just Right #229 December 8, 2011.