We who believe in affirming civilization’s basic building blocks — for instance, the Ten Commandments — sometimes feel like we’re losing, bigtime. The new morality, after all, undermines them: Thou Shalt Go Ahead and Kill the Unborn and Elderly; Thou Shalt Redefine Adultery as Thou Wish; Thou Shalt Dishonor Thy God With Thy H.R. Budget.
So it’s good to read an article like Victor Davis Hanson’s “Postmodern Prudes” and realize that we are not being bested after all. He catalogs some of the strange contradictions of modern morality. Here is my paraphrase of some of Hanson’s examples:
- Smoking marijuana — good. Smoking cigarettes — bad.
- Pornography in college classrooms — good. Calling a woman “honey” — bad.
- Morning-after pill on-demand for girls under 16 — good. Sex with girls under 16 — bad; illegal bad.
- Near-nude women gyrating on stage — entertainment. Calling them “hussies” — offensive.
- Eliot Spitzer’s prostitution scandal — a career-changer. Carrie Prejean’s “I’m for traditional marriage” scandal — a career-ender.
- Michael Vick’s dog-killing — big news. Kermit Gosnell’s baby-killing — not news.
It made me think of some others.
- Going hunting — bad. Going to watch gun violence set to music on a giant screen — good.
- Plastic bottles that hurt the environment — bad. Contraceptives that hurt the environment —good (read Simcha Fisher on that, by the way).
- Excessive plastic surgery to make a woman into the woman she wants to be — bad. Excessive plastic surgery to make a man into the woman he wants to be — good.
- Not having a car-seat at the hospital for your newborn — bad; illegal bad. Killing your not-yet-born at the hospital — freedom of choice.
- Religious people promoting chastity in an age of rampant venereal disease — dangerously repressive. Secular people promoting promiscuity in an age of rampant venereal disease — sexy fun!
And of course …
- Military interventionism before 2008 — bad. Military interventionism after 2008 — good.
Anyway, you get the drift. Hanson draws his own conclusions from this new morality. But I draw an additional conclusion: This can’t last. An ideology is something to take seriously: An uncompromising worldview that pulls beliefs and actions into its orbit with inexorable force. Environmentalism. Pacifism. Feminism.
But the new morality is only environmentalist until it wants to drive a car; it is only concerned about water pollution until hormonal contraceptives are the pollutant.
The new morality is for peace and domestic civil liberties only when they are threatened by a Texan.
The new morality is feminist except when it comes to pornographers and Beyonce.
The truth is, there is no new morality … just a collection of untethered beliefs “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine,” to quote Ratzinger quoting Ephesians on the way to decrying “the dictatorship of relativism.”
The problem with such a morality is that it is very vulnerable: Like a teen-ager, the new morality rushes to affirm whatever happens to be “cool” at the moment. It can easily be hijacked and used for evil by a popular figure.
Its vulnerability is also an opportunity. I can think of literally dozens of people who I personally know who shook their heads at the absurdity of it all and left the new morality behind for firmer ground.
Let us help more people do so.