Monday, 12 October 2009

Reconstruction and morality

Echoing both the OMD album of my youth and David Watkin's book that inspired it - far more important intellectually - is the idea that Cameron has re-introduced to the political agenda without any great fanfare, that of the moral reconstruction of the nation. As Janet Daley writes in this morning's Telegraph;
So Mr Cameron and his team must take heart as they come smack up against the most dangerous and pervasive official orthodoxy of our time: one that is more sinister than the command economy or the surveillance state, more destructive of the common good than easy money or consumerist selfishness. Moral relativism – the idea that no one, and certainly no one in a position of power or authority, may pass judgement on the worthiness of any individual's life choices – is the great beast that will have to be defeated.
Watkin traces the defence of modernism in architecture back to Hegelian and Marxist philosophy; to the false supremacy of Zeitgeist that condemns critics of modernistic architecture as “old-fashioned”, irrelevant, anti-social, and even immoral. Staunch in his defence of Quinlan Terry, (not in my opinion a great designer, but a good enough one) Watkin says “The modernism with which Quinlan Terry has had to battle is, like the Taliban, a puritanical religion.”

Modernism in architecture as with moral relativism in society is based not on the primacy of the 'right' of the individual to make their own rules, or set their own standards, but on the suppression of the right of society to set rules and standards against which individuals may be morally judged. I've commented before on the French bourgeois virtues; Assiduité, Economie, Mediocrité, Conjugalité, Temperance,Optomisme, Dynamisme, Modernité, and these are the building blocks of what Cameron means by Responsibility. Please note that modernism and modernity are quite different (ask me if you must) and that mediocrity means something quite different to 'poor quality'. Even rediscovering the vocabulary of morality after decades of moral relativism is clearing the brush from a lost garden.

Be in no doubt that the opposite of responsibility is irresponsibility, and the antonyms of the bourgeois virtues are the vices upon which Beveridge declared war; idleness, ignorance, squalor, disease and want, and just as Cameron is the inheritor of Beveridge's sword so Labour, whose best-intentioned Welfarism has created so much poverty and suffering amongst the British people, are the enemy of a responsible society.


Budgie said...

Oh, my. As C S Lewis said: "Here are a good many deep questions settled in a pretty summary fashion." Lewis meant to be rude; but I do not.

Yet I cannot agree with Janet Daley, whom you appear to quote with approval: "Moral relativism – the idea that no one, and certainly no one in a position of power or authority, may pass judgement on the worthiness of any individual's life choices ...".

We most certainly should NOT allow those in positions of power to pass moral judgments on others. The reason? Not because moral relativism is true - far from it - it will destroy our civilisation, but because (Christianity's saving grace) all humans are sinful.

That is, morality, to mean anything, must be 'outside' us and absolute, something we should ALL reach for. It cannot mean that some people decide that they are more moral than others and try to impose that on the rest of us. What happens if they are wrong? And so often in history they have been wrong.

Raedwald said...

Good points - but we have a criminal code based on both Abrahamic and Christian morality, which has evolved as our theological nous was elevated into something really Christian by the secular Enlightenment - and in a very real sense we are judged against it.

To know that we are all sinful is no reason to move the moral goalposts to accommodate our sinning; moral absolutes are just that.

In Daley's defence, I don't think she meant that politicians should write our moral code - God forbid - but that we, as a society, should be able to say 'No, that's wrong.'

Big subject - not easily suited to blog debate, but I think morality is back on the agenda. At last.

The Great Simpleton said...

The thought of the moral majority invoking their ire conjures up images of the worst of the Daily Mail and America's right wing at their worst.

Where moral relativism has gone wrong is using taxes to pay for lifestyle choices. The welfare state has moved from being a safety net against life's misfortunes to supporting teenage pregnancies and multiple marriages by the middle classes, to name but two examples.

Bill Quango MP said...

That was a good album.
Then came Dazzle Ships.
Just awful.

Anonymous said...

The Homosexual, by definition, is a moral relativist.
When a Party is filled with such behavioursts you do not have a cat's chance.