Email to Neil Steinberg
New Morality: By Whose Authority?
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20120617                        Morality

From: Scott Sinnock 11:49 am 17 Jun 2012
Subject: Gay Marriage - Long Moral Struggle, Sun Times 17 Jun 2012

I greatly enjoy your perspectives. So here is an engagement of one. Sowel's quote: I assume you imply in your last paragraph that his quote is right, and you challenge opponents of gay marriage to challenge it. I don't oppose gay rights, or endorse them, but I don't see what being a supporter or opponent has to do with refuting the quote, but that is quite pedantic with regard to the issue, and I think you would agree. The issue is: "law should be restricted to morality that affects community security". I just turned his words around a little to put it in today's language, but I think you can see how they say nearly, if not wholly the same thing. His corollary then follows, "Morality (I assume by this he must mean "other" morality) should be left" out of law. So it seems he proposes a distinction between "civil" morality, that which "endangers the community" and other, I guess much less important morality that the church, community, and even individual conscience can have. But community security, well, that's "a whole nother" ballgame. Based on that morality we and, though authorities, compel and forbid, imprison, conscript, and kill; but on the church's and your own morality, well, there, and only there, you can think (not really, see below), but not act in accordance with whatever you want. But before we reject his premise that morality, or at least some morality, should be left out of public law, let's look a little deeper. What constitutes "public endangerment". Is it restricted to physical harm?, does "physical" include money?, how about "mental" harm ("pain and suffering"? and especially in today's world of statistics, at what level of harm does the authority to compel behavior kick in? or is any harm at all sufficient? or even the "possibility of harm, not actual harm (passive smoke, drunk driving)? or even the thought of harm (terrorism and conspiracy laws)? It seems to me, Stowe's morality, and yours if you agree, can be argued to crowd out all other morality, all in the name of "protection of the community and its members" and "freedom "oppressive" morality" (the "other" morality, and, of course, any which disagrees is "other" and "left" to the churchs and individuals). All that's left for meaningful civil debate is the nature of the "civil" parameters, a few of which are mentioned above, as if these aren't moral parameters. Human rights, especially women's rights, equal protection under law*, democracy, private property, and global warming (well maybe not this last one), among others are taken as "givens"*** of the new "morality"; "givens" that sit above old "traditional" morality of church and, mainly kings (e.g. the American and French Revolutions). It seems we inherited much of this new "civil" morality from the "founding fathers", Jefferson, Robespierre (he must be included), Hume, Locke, Rousseau, Adam Smith, Mills, Hobbs, and other enlightenment thinkers that urge us to cast off the morality of the past and endorse a new morality that rejects the right of birth and holds that nature follows knowable laws of geometry, mathematics, and logic, and perhaps morality does too (utilitarianism). Powerful ideas, still ringing loudly across the world. But perhaps the new is becoming the old, perhaps "rejection" is becoming the tradition, and perhaps we might benefit by heeding to the other urging of the enlightenment, reflection, the idea that the mind can, and perhaps can't help but create its own universe. Perhaps modern ideals, expressed by our political leaders as those of "the world community" (of which e.g. Iran and Korea are not admitted as members"") have become, as the old morality, tools used by people who like to tell other people what to do.

"Look what we can do?" We have taken an age-old, worldwide, nearly culturally ubiquitous morality, homophobia, and turned it on its head in a generation. What morality can we NOT change, make ours, compel others with (anti-anti-gay columns, i.e. propaganda). Morality is ours to define, ours to command, ours to use, ours to compel."

Sigh, another pedantic digression, the point I am so inadequately trying to make after many enthymemes is:

"Where does the authority for the new morality come from?" the authority that elevates it over the old?
What constitutes "community endangerment?"
Whose call is it to make? and then, because of that last question
"Can the majority ever be wrong?" which brings us right back to the first question.

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I stored it in my One Note file; someday, like about a billion others, I will write, like you, for others, but now I am content just writing for myself, with occasional exceptions, like this email. Thank you.

Scott Sinnock
205 West Todd Ave
Woodstock, IL 60098

* except to compensate for previous violations of equal protection or, much more commonly, to reward or punish favorable or unfavorable actions and people, but that's not the ideal, just the inevitable practice of law

** how can any nation NOT be a member of the world community?

*** NATO leader, can't remember his name or title, opined during the Chicago meeting that NATO is willing to talk with the Taliban at any time and anyplace, so long as (here come the conditions) they are willing to respect generally accepted human rights, particularly women's rights. What an arrogant position. He is asking the Taliban to give up the whole of their belief system (which, by the way, believes, with some justification, it is us, in the "enlightened" west, who disrespect women far, far, far more through our unabashed use of women's sexuality to sell everything from cars to wives to church attendance). We ask them to surrender before talks even begin, because, I guess, "human rights, particularly women's rights" are "obviously" "right" and the Taliban, are obviously wrong, "on the wrong side of history" as Obama likes to say. "So if you will just give up your silly old-fashioned morality of male dominance and recognize the superiority, no absolutism, of ours, we will, talk".  By that, of course, we mean "teach" them the new "right" way of thinking. What a culturally imperial position, especially for the war's losing general. Sound a little like "sour grapes" to me. But, after all, we are right, aren't we Neil? I'm not so sure anymore.