Monday, February 8, 2010

Disintigration of values, British TV, Heidegger

Someone equated values with a “stage of cultural-intellectual development.”  There was also the implication that change, any change, is good. I am not an intellectual Leftist or Anarchist; so I would like to hear is which values we should give up?  In my previous note I observed that military honor may be on its way out.  Lawyers are arguing that the First Amendment guarantees the right of individuals to lie about military honors.  Someone who has never been in the service can claim to have been awarded the Medal of Honor and that’s okay because the First Amendment guarantees this fellows right to say anything he likes. 
Faithfulness in marriage has pretty much seen its day, as a value.  In fact Marriage itself, that imposition of virtue and open-ended commitments, may be on its way out.
Laws against murder have been severely weakened.  You can’t join the EU, for example, if you as a nation put your murderers to death.   Not that most of our states would ever want to join the EU, but many have given up Capital Punishment and those states that retain it, except for Texas, are very slow to put their murderers to death.
Self-Defense is under severe attack as a value.  Many people in the U.S. who defended themselves against rapists, murderers or robbers (one doesn’t know precisely which because they were killed by home owners before they got to do whatever it was they intended) have been sent to prison because their “self-defense” was deemed improper in some way.   Also, Esch-type organizations exist to take the means of self-defense out of the hands of the common citizen.
Self-defense in the larger sense is also under attack.  Many people don’t believe a nation should ever defend itself against attack.  These people aren’t in a majority in any nation as far as I know, but they are very vocal.  Defending one’s nation might involve killing someone and it is better to cease to exist as a nation than do that.
And beyond that, some are now asking the question, “do we deserve to survive as a species”; which turns self-defense on its head.  These people are at the farthest extreme from taking it as a “given” that everyone has the right to exist.  They want evidence that our species, homo sapiens, deserves it.  They imply that we do not.  The British and Canadians may be a bit ahead of us in this – if one can judge by the recent TV Series Battlestar Galactica (I don’t know precisely who is responsible for this, but there was a predominance of British and Canadian actors in it), Doctor Who, and Torchwood.  
Here in the U.S. we have the series “24” in which the hero, bends and breaks all sorts of laws in order to defend the U.S. which is assumed (by the series’ writers), to be worth saving.   We also have a popular series, Dexter, in which a Serial Killer has been conditioned such that he only kills murderers.  I can’t imagine Dexter being picked up in Britain.
In Torchwood the question was frequently raised, is the human race worth saving?  In the last episodes, a series called “The Children of Men” a superior race demands that the world give up one tenth of all its children or the world will be destroyed.  The children are to be used as a source of “pleasure” in the sense of a drug.  Jack Harkness told them he would fight them and not one child would be given to them.  At stake as far as he knew was the life of everyone on earth.  The aliens said very well and sent a poisonous gas into the building where they were.  The side-kick of the bisexual Jack Harkness was killed and Jack mourned aloud that he would renounced his challenge if he could; which in effect would have meant the willing sacrifice (on Jack's part) of one-tenth of all the children if Ianto would be saved.  Later on the last day, as the children are being collected he sacrifices his own grandson in order to.  One life sacrificed for the salvation of millions of children is considered by Jack worth it on Day Five.  But on Day Four he would change his mind if he could.  He would have let the children be taken rather than lose Ianto.
I am not that far into Dr. Who yet, but already the matter of the destruction of the human race is well to the fore.  A group of aliens want to destroy the earth, turn it into radioactive slag and sell it to other aliens who have a use for such slag.  Their contempt for the human race is clear.  And the Human Race, at least that portion of it in White Hall seems largely deserving of destruction.  It is the alien Dr. Who that saves the human race. 
Questions pertaining to the survival of the human race might at first seem distant from the disintegration of values, but if all the values which in the past were admired because they encouraged purity, courage, self-sacrifice, humility, love, loyalty and the like have been discredited and largely abandoned, then the question gains legitimacy:  Is the human race without these values worth saving?   Without them we might with the writers of Battlestar Galactica and Torchwood decide in the negative.
Is all change, even change that destroys our values good?   Surely not.  And it is not too late to return in some sense to our traditions and find the authentication that Heidegger recommended.  We humans have always had it in us to be as evil as the British TV series portray us.  The Bible is replete with descriptions of evil-human-nature.  Recall also Diogenes who believed humans should be virtuous and spent his time exposing corruption in society, and Dante who had levels in hell for the corrupt individuals he knew of.  But recall also that societies dealt with these evil-inclinations through education.  It has long been understood that children who are educated to be virtuous will be more inclined to be virtuous than those who are not. 
But those interested in “change” have abandoned the teaching of virtue and have incorporated a variety of experimental ideas into our education system.  Diogenes could have told them that the result would be fewer virtuous people, and Dante could have told them that they would be filling the levels of hell to abundance with the outcome of their experiments. 
I would recommend to those judges responsible for deciding whether the “right to lie” trumps the value of military honor that they consider what our founding fathers would have thought about this matter.  They fought a revolutionary war for independence and a better way of life.  They thought we in our fledgling states would with the right set of laws be able to adhere more closely to traditional values than the British who wanted to retain us as colonies.   They created a constitution and a Bill of Rights but is there any evidence that they wanted the “right to lie” amongst those rights?  Is there any evidence that they wanted to begin disintegrating the values and rights they considered their inheritance?  I don’t think so.
Heidegger seems to me quite clear about traditional values.  We nations, we ethnicities, have traditional values and if we are to seek authenticity, then we will not neglect returning to them, and then like Diogenes not be afraid to reveal our virtue in action. 

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