Everyone knows what Moral Equivalence is. We get a big dose of it every day from the newspapers, from the TV, from the teachers in our public schools, and from our government officials.
Moral Equivalence is the worldview tells us that there’s no real distinction between good and bad, between God and the Devil.
It says that there’s no difference between Us and Them.
We see the examples of it all the time. The Israelis and the Palestinians — the “cycle of violence” and the “peace process”. Islamic terrorists and the American military — they kill civilians, but, hey, so do we. The capitalists and the communists — sure, the Soviets were bad, but we interned Japanese-Americans! And look what we’re doing to the environment! And the poor people in our inner cities have no health insurance!
And so on and so forth, ad nauseam.
One of the prerequisites for a true Moral Equivocator is a deep-seated and ineradicable loathing for one’s own culture. And, since all the practitioners of Moral Equivalence are Westerners, this means a deep-seated loathing for Western Civilization. There is no act so despicable, no atrocity so abominable, that a Moral Equivocator cannot make it exactly the same as something that we Westerners do.
Call it a Reverse Philosopher’s Stone — it turns all the gold into lead.
They behead schoolchildren. We allow schoolchildren go without free dental care. Same thing.
In the comments on Fjordman’s most recent post, Darrin Hodges drew our attention to a symposium that was hosted at Griffith University in Australia in February 2006. It was entitled “Responding to Cronulla: Rethinking Multiculturalism”, and featured a number of speakers giving their views of the causes and consequences of the Cronulla riot. One of the speakers was Kevin P. Clements, of the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland. Below are some excerpts from his speech, which can be found here (pdf format):
In particular, I want to focus on some national, regional and global dynamics that are making these instances of “micro” hostility and violence more rather than less likely. If we can start naming some of these processes then we will have a better understanding of why people feel that they have license to engage in violent behaviour in pursuit of their political or personal ends. Before doing this though I would like to personalise the issue a little bit. If we do not do this then it is that much easier to disown our share of responsibility for instances of intolerance, racism and mob violence. As you can tell from looking at me I am white, male, middle class and a Professor in a prestigious Australian University. For all of these reasons, I benefit enormously from maintaining the system and the status quo more or less as it is. Thus even though I might decry the specific events of Cronulla, (and I do) in fact I am a beneficiary of a system that favours males, favours white Anglo-Saxon protestant types and favours professionals. This is the system that many of the marginalised youth in Cronulla were seeking to defend in their own distinctive way.
Notice the finely-tuned rhetorical technique employed here: denigrate our own culture, all the while taking a patronizing tone towards the poor ignorant yobbos who adhere to it.
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Those of us of a liberal internationalist persuasion used to think that contact between peoples and cultures would stimulate higher levels of cooperation, empathy and understanding. We are discovering, however, that this is not necessarily so. In the absence of norms and institutions aimed at facilitated empathetic understanding, the rapid movement of peoples all around the world is in fact generating quite a lot of stress.
An emphasis on empathy is important, because that is what the Moral Equivocator excels at: he is exquisitely empathetic with the representatives of any culture other than his own.
The riots represent a challenge to all of us in terms of developing a better sense of how to deal with a world that is collapsing in terms of time and space but which has not yet developed any real norms that will guarantee cultural diversity in an integrated global social system. Such violence, however, will become more rather than less common unless we deal with some of the macro global factors outlined above and their local manifestations…
[A summary] of the sources of the Cronulla violence; the narrow parochialism of anti-Moslem sentiment (especially when articulated by political leaders) and something of the unwillingness to acknowledge the sovereign equality of all Australians and create spaces within which all might realise their full potential.
Notice that anti-Muslim sentiment is narrow and parochial, while Muslim sentiment is… what? Deeply tolerant of other cultures? Enlightened and informed? Characterized by a benign cosmopolitan outlook towards the whole world?
There is, of course, a major unspoken premise to all of the Moral Equivocator’s arguments. He may loathe his own culture and question its moral legitimacy, but he is not really a part of it. Somehow he has moved beyond it — through education and his naturally enlightened attitude he has become a transnational progressive, a true Citizen of the World. The benighted and ignorant ways of his fellow countryman are embarrassing, but they certainly have nothing to do with him.
Our regular reader and tipster LN read the comments on Fjordman’s post, and was inspired to investigate the further writings of Kevin P. Clements. He emailed me with some of the following links — it turns out that Mr. Clements is also a member of an organization called the World Prout Assembly.
The WPA has a number of slogans, including:
- Put Economic Power in the Hands of the People!
- Moralists of the world — unite!
- Economy of the People, For the People and By the People!
- One World, One Humanity, One Family!
One may be forgiven for thinking that the last of these is reminiscent of Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein Führer!
WPA has a Vision:
The vision of World Prout Assembly is for activists in all countries fighting for justice in all spheres of life to come together to form one universal coalition, in order to mobilize moralists for creating global change. By providing solidarity and support to all local, anti-exploitation struggles, the World Prout Assembly envisions the mobilization of humanity to end the economic hegemony of the transnational corporations and the political hegemony of any present or future superpowers.
And also a Mission Statement:
The mission of the World Prout Assembly is to unite moralists everywhere against exploitation anywhere. We seek to gather together the unheralded and unsung heroes and heroines around the globe, who quietly do yeoman work in countless local struggles against oppression.
Oppression comes in countless forms, be it fundamentalism, fascism, communism, patriarchy, or corporate capitalism. The victims of oppression are human beings, animals and plants — all life forms.
Struggle starts with the fight to reclaim economic sovereignty of local communities. This begins with the spread of cooperatives in all sectors of the economy. Struggle thrives when the local people and local experts plan together the development of their district and then regional economies. This struggle to regain control over local economies is part of the movement for economic democracy.
World Prout Assembly endeavors to unite all struggles against oppression into one global struggle, as we seek to create one world, one humanity and one family.
Notice the lavish use of Moral Equivalence in the above paragraphs. Not just Communism and Capitalism, but Animals and Plants! One Organism, One Vote! The Guaranteed Annual Year!
And then there are the sinister hidden implications in the “struggle to regain control over local economies.” We all know what that means, and it’s not economic freedom.
We don’t need no stinkin’ Invisible Hand! Make way for the inevitable Central Bureau of Economic Planning. It will be staffed, of course, by alumni of the World Prout Assembly.
WPA was founded by the late Prabhat R. Sarkar, and I’m assuming that this is a quote from him:
“In the modern world, capitalist exploitation is rampant almost everywhere. Capitalism is now rapidly moving into the final stage of degeneration. In the early part of the capitalist era, society experienced certain advantages, but towards the end, society has become the victim of insatiable rapacity, unbearable hardship and heartless deprivation. Those countries suffering under the weight of capitalist exploitation are rapidly moving towards worker revolution.”
But it could equally well have come from Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, a.k.a. Lenin.
The piece by Kevin P. Clements that LN pointed me to is called “Compassionate and Critical Peace Research in an Age of Violence and War”. He opens with a classic Moral Equivalence lecture:
There is no qualitative difference between an American dying in the tragedy of the World Trade Centre and an African dying in the current conflict in Dafur [sic] or in the South Kivus. Each unnecessary death diminishes us as human beings. Each is as important as the other and, insofar as their deaths were avoidable, we as human beings have responsibility for them. We need to confront and challenge any effort to privilege one people’s pain over that of another.
Notice that all “pain” is equal. The pain of the Muslim offended by a cartoon of the Prophet is the same as that of a schoolchild blown up by a suicide bomber. It’s all pain. It’s all the same.
Another sample of Orthodox Moral Equivalence:
As peace researchers we must seek higher levels of understanding of what is driving those committed to violence: what are their motivations, and what choices do they have? There can never be any “axis of evil” for peace researchers. Equally there are no eternally ordained righteous individuals, groups or nations.
The basic premise is this: if only we can understand the motives of others fully and completely, if only we can manage to attain complete empathy with them, then all evil will disappear. It will be revealed as a figment of our own ignorant monocultural imaginations.
We need to acknowledge the violent potential in all of us. What needs to be understood intellectually is why and how some people choose this path and others do not. When we know this then we will know how to strengthen the values, beliefs, attitudes, behaviours and institutions that will resort to violence as the last rather than the first option.
Now there’s something I won’t argue with: the “violent potential in all of us.” All of us definitely have it.
The distinction — and remember: Moral Equivalence abhors a distinction — is between the expression of violent impulses and the restraining of them.
What’s the difference between a man who kills a lot of people because he is enraged by their beliefs, and one who feels the same way but only writes a letter to the editor of the newspaper? To you and me, the difference is significant. To the Moral Equivocator, it means nothing.
Consider the overweening arrogance of this next paragraph:
It is not enough simply to understand the world; we need to have a commitment to change it. This remains a fundamental imperative for the peace research community. To change the world we need to be in radical and constructive dialogue with those who choose violence.
It has taken roughly seven million years for the human species to evolve to its present condition. It has been ten thousand years or so since the development of agriculture and the beginning of civilization. Recorded history encompasses about five millennia. English Common Law and the British juridical system — upon which the civilization of the West is based — have developed incrementally over more than a thousand years.
The evidence indicates that the emergence of all the important structures of civilization — those to which we owe our well-being and our longevity — took the work of many generations of hands to fashion. Yet these academic busybodies, these self-anointed experts on what’s best for all of us, have decided that they will simply change the world.
And they just might do it. God help us all if they succeed.
And now the usual bromides:
We must apply our best empathetic and listening skills to the task at hand. We must explore possibilities for dialogue and conversation with those who normally would not give us a hearing and also with those who might not have had the privilege of being really heard by others. The world will only change if we remain open to dialogue and conversation with those with who we are in radical opposition.
Empathy. Dialogue. Being heard.
But what of the man who believes that “dialogue” means imposing his beliefs on others by force? What if “being heard” means generating the sound of a nail-packed bomb that explodes and destroys him and everybody nearby?
What if he has no interest in your Moral Equivocation? What if his sole aim is to kill you? Will empathy help you then?
It is equally critical that we do not ignore the ongoing significance of institutional and collective dynamics and how these generate conditions conducive to violence. Just as we must acquire an openness to converse with people that we consider complicit, if not responsible, for cycles of violence, so too we need to pay much more attention to the organizations and institutions that generate the institutional frameworks of violence.
I assume this last prescription involves increasing our annual payments to Hamas and Fatah.
In order to generate a global environment conducive to nonviolence in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere it is crucial to delegitimize violence in the West. We have to start with ourselves.
Why? Why do we have to start with ourselves? Where does that imperative come from?
Why not start with those who actually initiate violence against innocent people? Or would that be too radical?
We should learn from those small groups that have made a commitment to nonviolence through the years. The Quakers and Mennonites for example, believe that true human fulfilment comes from attempting to live life in the spirit of love, truth and peace, answering that of God in everyone.
And, whether they realize it or not, the Quakers and the Mennonites, like the rest of the Pacifist-American community, depend on the might of the United States Marines to stand between them and those who would squash them like bugs because of their heretical beliefs.
There’s plenty more like this over at the WPA site. If you have the patience and the stomach for it, you can go over and read the rest yourself.
Universal Moral Equivalence is an ideology that aims to destroy the West by leveling it. If nothing is different from anything else, then all ideas about what is great and good and true are inherently fallacious. No culture is better than any other. We’re just like they are. Except, of course, that we are racist imperialistic patriarchal oppressors, and they’re not.
There is however, one distinction which the Moral Equivocator will never give up: the distinction between himself and all those who disagree with him.
Some differences are important.