Moral Relativism Allows Evil to Thrive
- 22 April 2007 by Author 0 Comments
Moral Relativism Allows Evil to Thrive
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 04/22/07
The horrendous acts of violence at Virginia Tech University this week remind us of the fragility of mortality, and how much we take for granted the quality of American life. We don’t, for the most part, have a violent society. From a global perspective, we truly live in relative tranquility for being the third most populous country in the world. That, in part, is why events of such wanton violence shock us to the core. They are anomalies in our society which make the contrast with typical American culture so stark.
As a society we can never be totally protected against this kind of premeditated violence. Each of us must accept responsibility for our own actions, and in spite of Cho Seung-Hui’s allegations that it was our fault; the responsibility and accountability are laid completely on his shoulders. I’m reminded of the old phrase, “no one ever became extremely wicked suddenly.” And it’s obvious based on all accounts that such was the case with Cho. There was a string of events and concomitant personality traits that provided outward manifestations of deep psychological issues.
Having lived in Korea, I know of the strength of the Korean culture in valuing human life. I know how much parental approbation of their children is valued and treasured. In light of that, I find myself commiserating with this young man’s mother, at the shock, grief, and traumatic realizations they must be facing now acknowledging the evil perpetrated by her son.
I can’t help but think of a couple sets of parents here locally whose sons likewise perpetrated a horrific crime against one of their classmates, and I grieve for them; I pray for them. Perhaps along the way those parents saw patterns of behavior in their children that alarmed them. Perhaps they did all they felt they could do to rectify their conduct and their disturbing actions. But ultimately, with few exceptions, all human acts, whether good or evil, are the exercised volition of each individual. Parents cannot have heaped upon them the failures and evil deeds of their children, unless the parents failed to teach them right and wrong. Neither can society be blamed for the evil acts Cho inflicted upon his peers at Virginia Tech. He chose to do evil, and regrettably, the families of the slain, and the rest of us, are left to wonder why, and grieve.
No culpability can be ascribed to guns, violent movies, violent video games, or school classmates and administrators who may have failed to intervene at some point in this young man’s life. No, the responsibility lies directly on him. All of these elements may have been factors increasing his proclivity to commit such a heinous crime, but they are not the cause.
However, I can’t help but believe that one of the most fundamental philosophical and moral impediments to such actions has been incrementally removed from our collective psyche, and that’s moral relativism. The secular concept that there are no absolute truths has gradually eroded our value system in such a way as to alter our social morality. The late Alan Bloom wrote some twenty years ago in The Closing of the American Mind, “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.” The elimination of absolute truth claims absolute morality as its first victim.
When we witness a horrendous slaying like this and the one committed by the two Pocatello youth, we must be shocked back to the realization that there is absolute evil in the world. Fundamentally it is resident within the heart and mind of perpetrators of evil acts, but those rationalized amoral sentiments can be shared collectively by those of like disposition, as with the nineteen who attacked us in September of 2001. Evil is ensconced in the hearts of those who vow to destroy us if we don’t convert to their religion or ideology. Evil is inflicted on the innocent through emotional and sexual abuse. Evil manifests itself in rape, racism, and violence.
Moral relativism weakens our collective cultural conscience. It weakens our ability to identify evil and the resolve to confront it as such. It leads to the perfidious exoneration of individual responsibility and culpability for perpetrators of evil, and seeks blame for such actions in social, parental, and educational failures. It allows continued erosion of our traditional values and social mores. It prevents us from recognizing the evil in our midst that threatens our families and our neighborhoods. And it prevents us from recognizing the enemies to our nation and our culture.
Aside from empathizing with parents of evildoers, and praying for those who have lost loved ones, a significant proactive step we can take in dealing with these tragedies is to seek an epiphany of sorts, and come to the realization that there is indeed evil in the world. Perhaps we can make more of a difference individually and collectively when moral relativism is replaced with moral certitude, and the accompanying requirement to act accordingly. For as Edmund Burke said, “The only thing needed for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.”
Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.