Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dictatorship of relativism

“Only the disciplined mind can see reality, Winston. You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. You also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party.” –O’Brien, 1984

That objects have no inherent value, only subjective ones that people assign them, is a modern idea C. S. Lewis rigorously refutes in The Abolition of Man. If the truth stands like a hill above the plain of falsehood, then you have to flatten the hill to give falsehood, any falsehood, a chance at supremacy. When that’s done, you can start building up the lie. And it’s an open competition. Whoever is the most ruthless building up his lie wins. It’s the dictatorship of relativism Pope Benedict warned about.

For example, when does life begin? David Cole writes at Taki’s:

One of the most blatant legal fictions in the U.S. today is that life begins when a woman says it does. In most states, a woman can be on her way to an abortion clinic to get her “tumor” legally sucked out, but if she stops at a mini-mart to buy some smokes and rethinks her decision, and if she gets caught in the middle of a robbery and takes a bullet to the gut and loses the baby, the robber can be charged with murder for doing exactly what the abortionist was about to do legally. If a woman wants to get an abortion, the baby is a tumor and the act is legal. If a woman wants to keep the baby, it’s a baby and anyone else can be prosecuted for harming it. To deal with the obvious contradiction between prosecuting people who destroy fetuses in some situations and protecting those who do it in others, a legal fiction was created, namely that life begins when it’s wanted. A wanted fetus is a life. An unwanted fetus is a tumor.

In other words, there’s no inherent value of the womb-dwelling baby that necessitates special care or even consideration. What value it has is imparted by the mother—or creator, I should say. “Mother” implies carrying the baby to term, a risky assumption of pregnant women in the age of autonomy. The more apt “creator” title implies the divine aspect as well as the power to destroy.

If everything is meaningless, the only meaning is subjective. And the only subjective meaning that holds sway, if we are to avoid total anarchy, is that meaning which those with indiscriminate power inflict by sheer will (i.e., womb bearers against their children/clump of cells).

You see this leveling in art, too. How could Life magazine insinuate Jackson Pollock was the greatest living American painter in 1949? Did the war kill off every talented artist in America? Contrast Pollock’s sloppy “expressionist” drip paintings with a Monet or a Rembrandt. One is the work of inspiration, talent, and industry. The other you can’t discern from garbage.

Even mediocre art is preferable to Pollock’s “best.” The key difference is in the attempt at content. Pollock gave his paintings nondescript names, like “No. 5,” because names with words, which have objective meaning, might prejudice the viewer against what the viewer wants to see. Pollock painted nothing so people could see whatever they want. They are contentless. Oh, you see a tree orchard? I see old men playing chess. Timmy sees a shipwreck.

Steve Turley writes:

As the twentieth-century Christian scholar Hans Rookmaaker recognized, modern art comes from the loss of our sense of a created order. The world prior to the modern age was filled with divine meaning and purpose. And the mission of the artist was to serve humanity by awakening us to that divine meaning and purpose by representing such in new and beautiful complexions.

But the rise of modern science in effect de-sanctified the world by supposedly exposing all cultural meaning systems as fabrications. The world is not governed by the gods or divine meaning or purpose, but rather by physical, chemical, and biological causal laws. The mission of the artist is now redefined; the modern secular artist all too often seeks to celebrate the new, the hip, by tearing down cultural fences and mores and exposing them as artificial constructions. Art increasingly exists to shock, to turn our heads and grab our attentions with blasphemous and pornographic content.

So much of modern secular art is a window into a world devoid of any objective meaning, any sense of care and purpose. It is no wonder that our books and movies are infatuated with dystopias and Armageddon scenarios. (Emphasis added)

Since modern art is insignificant as far as values are concerns, we’re not at each other’s throats over its meaning. Not so when the way of governing ourselves in accord with truth is at stake. Then we get passionate and violent, as we should in defending truth from lies.

Related: “The whole lie and nothing but the lie.”

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