Thursday, November 20, 2008

Back to the (moral) baseline

Over on the Civitas blog, there is a thoughtful post from David Conway regarding moral collapse. He makes some good points about the refusal of those charged with solving the problems to actually acknowledge what the problems are, but like so many he falls into the trap of identifying symptoms as causes.

It is often the wilful refusal of politicians and the social services to admit the crucial link between family and social behaviour of young children that prevents the requisite steps being taken to address the problem. Instead, money, or rather lack of it, is claimed to be the crucial variable. It simply isn’t. From the refusal to admit this link flow all manner of mistaken social policies many of which only make matters worse.

Absolutely spot on, but .....

The real problem concerns what might be done to achieve the social circumstances that reduce such risk where they are already missing. In other words, the problem is how to break the self-reinforcing vicious circle that repeats itself across the generations where the relevant stabilising factors are missing........ [t]his is simply the admission of what the relevant risk factors are: namely, that single-parenthood, especially among low-income groups, militates against boys growing up with the wherewithal to resist the pull of gang-culture.

.... is wide of the mark. It is not single motherhood per se that is the root cause, but why so many now choose single motherhood. The reason is something which I have written about before, but I make no apologies for returning to it once again.

Some people will insist that the cause is welfarism - i.e. many women choose single motherhood because it suits them financially to do so, but again this is missing the point. What motivates them to make that choice in the first place? Why make such a choice when the consequences are so well known and widely acknowledged? It is possible for the child of a single mother to grow up well balanced and a valuable member of society, but everyone knows that the chances for that child to do so are significantly reduced.

The real cause of all our problems is the lack of a single moral baseline - a minimum level of acceptable moral behaviour upon which we all (or nearly all as there will always be a few recalcitrants) agree.

The moral baseline was something that existed right up into the sixties. It was based on Christian beliefs, but was not limited to strict adherence to Christianity - just an acceptance that some things are immoral and always should be regardless of personal circumstances. Thus it was considered immoral to have children out of wedlock even if there were benefits - financial or otherwise - for doing so.

Then along came the progressives who introduced moral relativity into the mainstream - the belief that morality is dependent on personal circumstances and therefore a flexible thing. The first and most enduring of the myths they put forward is that morality is related to poverty - i.e. the poor are unable to maintain the level of morality society expects because they don't have the wealth.

This myth was first put forward back in Victorian times (by the progressives of the time), but was laid to rest by Charles Booth's survey into London's East End which found that, despite the crushing degree of poverty, the people were every bit as moral as anyone else. Unperturbed by this, the progressives just waited half a century then reintroduced the myth once Booth was forgotten and it is a myth that persists today.

Once moral relativity had been established the next stage was to introduce moral equivalence - the belief that one person's morality is every bit as good as anyone elses. The tool for this was non-judgementalism based on the now established moral relativity. This is the "who are you to judge?" mentality which held that just because you don't approve of someones behaviour doesn't mean their behaviour is wrong.

This required breaking down many social taboos and stigma - such as motherhood out of wedlock - and making them part of societal norm. The obvious consequence of that was that people, regardless of circumstance, started to base their behaviour not on what society deemed acceptable but on what they alone considered moral - the "if it feels good do it" mentality.

The first signs of the consequences were apparent soon enough, but because society had accepted this new "morality" rather than deal with it various governments made it easier for people to behave how they wanted.

To cope with the increase in adultery they made divorce easier. Because more and more people were divorced and there were more single mothers around they made more benefits available to them. Then they found that this was costing a fortune, so they widened access to "family planning" in the hope that easier access to contraception would mean fewer babies. That failed so along came abortion on demand and sex education for kids. Children saw sex education provided by the state as a tacit admission by the state that it was OK for kids to have sex, something which was previously taboo, so they started to experiment - and so the whole thing snowballed.

Even though there is no common moral baseline today the vast majority of people still adhere to the old standards. They disapprove of the way many people behave but, because they've been frightened by the progressives into not appearing judgemental or critical of the "poor" they hold their tongue.

What we need is a return to the old moral standards that used to apply. As a Christian I completely believe that the easiest way to do that is by the reinforcement of Christian beliefs - but with the Anglican church as riddled with progressivism as the rest of the establishment this is unlikely to happen under the current Church leadership (though I do see signs that the conservatives in the C of E are coming back).

The Church needs to rediscover its moral compass. It needs to stop pandering to the progressives and their self-perpetuating myths. Because progressives spent years telling us that immorality is linked to poverty, the underclass have become increasingly immoral (it's not my fault, it's 'cos I'm poor init).

The poor are as capable as anyone else of being moral but, just as anyone else would, if you give them an excuse not to be they won't. That is the nature of people.


TheFatBigot said...

I'm not sure it's right to identify a domino effect of adultery - divorce - benefits - family planning - abortion - sex education. Just as likely are that these are all consequences of relative morality but do not trigger each other in a neat chain of cause-and-effect.

Stan said...

I know it probably reads that way (not to me, but I know what I was thinking when I wrote it!), but it wasn't meant to demonstrate cause and effect - more to demonstrate the law of unintended consequences.