Since the great egalitarian explosion of the last two centuries, there has been only one publicly acceptable morality. If morality were not so assumed to be universal, it would not be off our radar, and we would squeal about how oppressive it is that our society tolerates only one.
The social morality of our time is egalitarianism. This means everyone is equal, which leads to pluralism, or the idea that everyone should be able to do whatever they want and if this causes social disunity and unrest, we’ll pretend that’s a good thing. Pluralism in turn causes dysfunction, which creates a need for a police state, which makes society so scary that most people want a socialist safety net. At that point, the deconstruction of a civilization is at hand.
However, it all starts with the assumptions and underlying values that we use to interpret politics (and other things). As a wise man once said, “there are no facts, only interpretations.” However, thanks to its popularity, we have one and only only morality which we can discuss in the context of politics.
This morality contains a number of sub-headings. The first is the notion that because everyone is equal, if unequal results occur, it is through oppression. Another is the idea that we are heading toward a future Utopia through Progress. Yet another is that compassion is our highest goal, which requires us to “lift up” those “below us.” The essential ideal boils down to all of us owing every human an existence, and whatever choices that human makes should have no consequences from civilization at large.
Despite their good intentions, and who really cares about intentions when you have results to measure, the path on which this morality puts society is one that goes away from “find the right answer” and gets closer to “any answer is fine so long as you say it nicely.” The result of that is a society geared away from achievement. It is a civilization of those who do not challenge themselves.
This is not to speak an endorsement for Ayn Rand-style social Darwinism, where everyone has to work as hard as possible and earn as much money as possible and put their souls on the shelf. Our society has already tried that, and it is a result of our egalitarian morality. When society is chaos, people become desperate for money so they can buy their way out of the disaster.
I propose a different social morality: we go with what works. As part of that, we have to know what we’ve done in the past and how it turned out. That way, when someone speaks about their latest wishful thinking, we can say, “Last time, that ended in the collapse of a nation,” and then see what they say. Our new morality should not be about how we want to feel, judge or desire changes in our situation, but the consequences of those changes.
It’s a subtle shift. Most people would barely notice. But over time, it would shift society from a system of takers penalizing makers to a system where makers would be given the ability to use their powers for good. Takers, who are by definition incapable of making a systemic good, would be isolated in their own spheres of (small) influence.
The next political revolution is not going to come from policy decisions or speeches. Politicians have a job to do in keeping the system working. What can help them out is if we create a cultural change, and then send a clear message to our politicians, so that everyone in unison desires the same idea.
Much like the great shift leftward in the West during the 1960s, the result will be pervasive and silent. It will spread through oblique channels, altering attitudes, so that when those people return to questions to which they formerly knew the “answers,” they will re-interpret and end up in a radically different place.
It won’t come easy — we’re talking about altering at least 223 years of history, and probably a few centuries more. But this could stave off the inevitable disaster of social dysfunction as well as the potential disaster created by sudden or radical changes to a political system.