Tuesday, April 21, 2015

To live nobly one must judge and be judged

Ayn Rand said something quite wise in 1962 in her book In praise of Selfishness (I know, I know but still). And what's funny is that Ayn was really promoting honesty over all else rather than selfishness or right wingery. Because leftism is in many respects a flight from judgement - an elaborate retreat into euphemism to obscure the brutal facts of state power. Thus placing more and more of your livelihood under the control of a central bureaucracy is called income security. Or living off of someone else's efforts is called "positive liberty" while successfully earning by providing others goods and services they value is termed "greed".

It is only in today’s reign of amoral cynicism, subjectivism and hooliganism that men may imagine themselves free to utter any sort of irrational judgment and to suffer no consequences. But, in fact, a man is to be judged by the judgments he pronounces. The things which he condemns or extols exist in objective reality and are open to the independent appraisal of others. It is his own moral character and standards that he reveals, when he blames or praises. If he condemns America and extols Soviet Russia — or if he attacks businessmen and defends juvenile delinquents — or if he denounces a great work of art and praises trash — it is the nature of his own soul that he confesses.

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 others in exchange for a moral blank check one expects for oneself.

There is no escape from the fact that men have to make choices; so long as men have to make choices, there is no escape from moral values; 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.

The moral principle to adopt in this issue, is: “Judge, and be prepared to be judged.” The opposite of moral neutrality is not a blind, arbitrary, self-righteous condemnation of any idea, action or person that does not fit one’s mood, one’s memorized slogans or one’s snap judgment of the moment. Indiscriminate tolerance and indiscriminate condemnation are not two opposites: they are two variants of the same evasion. To declare that “everybody is white” or “everybody is black” or “everybody is neither white nor black, but gray,” is not a moral judgment, but an escape from the responsibility of moral judgment.

No comments:

Post a Comment