Relativism, Obligations & Values


When speaking of relativism in the realm of Modern values, the argument on the part of the right has been an ill-conceived opposition, but for good reasons. ‘Cultural relativism’ has been used as a tool by Cultural Marxists at home, while these very same people have utterly rejected it abroad (in select cases of course). I want to first describe how Liberals use relativism in a selective and insincere way, followed by a primer on the true place of relativism in a Traditional outlook.

To illustrate what I mean about Western interpretations of relativism, let us take the example of the burka, the most obscuring garment for Islamic women, which covers the face entirely. This article of clothing is banned at the national level only in Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, with other European countries featuring either local or in many cases no restrictions. This despite the fact that what the garment symbolizes is clearly at odds with the narrative of the radical Feminist agenda in the West, which seeks to tear down all symbols of ‘patriarchal domination’. The reason this contradiction is possible in countries such as the UK is that Liberals want to make life comfortable for Muslim migrants above all else, as part of a broader cultural agenda which has very little to do with Islam itself.

Liberals do not see culture as organic, but rather as a designed phenomenon, something they can mold and change as they please. The primary challenge to this notion is existent cultural monopoly, that is to say societies in which the culture is illiberal, homogeneous, and resistant to change/design, especially from outside. To be clear, every nation in the world had a cultural monopoly within its borders or demarcations at one point. Only in such a setup can a culture replicate itself, and a people be privileged with a shared history that they feel a profound connection to from generation to generation. However, because in every case of civilization, the unique and organic culture of a given people runs counter to Liberal beliefs about the world (concerning liberty, equality, morality, religiosity, etc.), it stands to reason that the Liberal project is to eliminate these cultural monopolies, muddying their waters with ‘different perspectives’ or some other such sugar-coated concept, and thus circumventing the cultural development of the next generation in a bath of choice-based molasses.

dolezolRachel Dolezol, kickin’ it in the hood

From its perch atop the superpower status of the post-Cold War West, Liberalism has different tools which it deploys depending on if its enemies are foreign or domestic. The domestic enemy is the shattered remains of Traditional culture, native culture in the West. To destroy this, a domestic relativism must be deployed which deliberately deprives the owner of the house from protesting against his replacement, protesting those who rape his daughters, protesting those who threaten his safety, protesting those who undercut his wage, protesting those who change the very fabric of a community. If all is relative, then he should simply adapt to these changes as his world is destroyed, or as National Review demanded of its blue-collar audience: he “just needs to die”.

For the foreign enemy, this tactic simply will not work. It would be impossible to engineer the movement of Europeans, or indeed East Asians to the Middle East and North Africa, because currently these are not desirable places to live, either socially or economically. It is impossible to water down such illiberal cultures with migration and relativism, so instead an active, hard-line Liberalism is needed, a fanaticism of the political left every bit as potent as it was in 1790s France or 1920s Russia. The leftism which smashes, which destroys, which kills without conscience. The treatment of girls by Bangladeshi migrants in Rotherham was just fine with the British government, but the Taliban’s treatment of Afghan girls is still used as reasoning for the “good war” in Afghanistan, and all the misery it has caused. Do you see the hypocrisy?

The West has become endemically multicultural, and so relativism is a very useful tool in preserving this status quo and fighting against those who would undo it in favor of any sort of homogeneity which could resist Liberalism more effectively by way of existent cultural monopoly. The rest of the world is not multicultural, and so relativism is abandoned in favor of neo-colonial and chauvinistic Liberalism which demands the world obey its morally obtuse notions of ‘human rights’, ‘democracy’ and a cavalcade of other Enlightenment demands.

mccainsyriafund ISIS – collapse the state – enter as peacekeepers
install liberal government
that was the plan

But where is the truth of the matter? To understand where relativism fits and where it doesn’t, we need to be very precise about morality, for when it comes to judging cultures we are speaking about moral questions.

As I have said many times before, in ancient times, there were no such notions of ‘rights’ as there are today, meaning the metaphysical and immutable properties of victims. Instead, issues of morality rested with violators. The center of morality’s metaphysical manifestation was in the murderer, not the deceased whose rights had been violated. It is the murderer who has broken a moral law binding upon him, and it is for that he ought to be punished, not because someone else has had their rights trampled upon. This is a subtle difference, but it is important, because it leads the discussion away from universal rights, and towards a moral understanding that revolves around obligations.

Now, moral obligations are distinct from moral values, and the distinction is key in understanding where relativism plays a role. I believe that moral obligations can only be relative in any kind of practical sense. They depend on the situation, preconditions, and personal particulars. Only I am morally obligated to provide for my child, and it would be foolhardy to expect someone else to do it under pain of moral sanction. Yet, does this relativity in moral obligation imply any lessening of moral weight? Absolutely not. Being the anti-secularist that I am, for me culture and spirituality are inseparable, so that when there does not exist some inescapable conflict with conviction, you should engage with the Traditional culture and fulfill its expectations of you.

When it comes to moral values, these only allow us to judge an action or belief as either good or evil. No matter the outcome, we are not morally compelled to do anything about it. This somewhat relates to the points I have made on the issue of abortion. I have solid reasons for considering any act of child-murder to be evil, but am I morally obligated to do everything in my power to prevent every single abortion in the world? No. A man who says he loves the world loves nobody. I am reminded of the terse words of a German jurist:

Schmitt Quote 1

Child murder by other races, in other cultures, is ultimately an issue for heroic and good men in those groupings to combat, and I wish them sincere success, believing that they will understand where the responsibilities lie. Moral values are absolute, there can be no relativism here which does not lead to nihilism and hedonism. Moral obligations however are, while just as important, relative to the given context. Not only is this moral understanding integral to a realist outlook on geopolitics, but it will also help undermine the ethics-based lies used by our enemies to manipulate us into either accepting relativism at home or enforcing faux absolutism abroad.


4 thoughts on “Relativism, Obligations & Values

  1. Good piece. Just wanted to point out one thing:

    >Instead, issues of morality rested with violators. The center of morality’s metaphysical manifestation was in the murderer, not the deceased whose rights had been violated.

    This is an important distinction (between a right resting solely with the agent who possesses the right, vs. a right corresponding to someone else’s duty) but historically the change was the _reverse_ of the direction you indicate; not until the latter half of the 18th c. did the “x’s right = y’s duty” correspondence take shape (and I don’t think it was predominant even in that era).

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  2. One of the key drivers of Liberalism is the creation of new moral duties and obligations as a result of technological progress. There are two aspects to this mechanism; one is obvious, the other is more subtle. First the obvious aspect: if somebody has a moral duty or obligation to do something then it is generally assumed that the individual has the ability to do it. Without such an ability there can be no moral duty or obligation. Technology often provides people with new abilities, and those abilities sometimes imply new moral duties and obligations. Consider for example modern humanitarian aid deliveries to different continents all over the world. Such efforts rely on a whole host of modern technologies such as transport aircraft and sea vessels, global communication networks, as well as modern mass production methods. In the past such technologies were lacking and thus there was no moral duty to provide humanitarian aid relief to people suffering on the other side of the globe. Once those technologies were developed, however, it became a moral duty to provide such relief. The Australian moral philosopher Peter Singer wrote as much in his well-known article “The Drowning Child and the Expanding Circle”. The basic premise of the article is that the circle of individuals for whose well-being we are morally responsible expands as our technological capabilities increase:


    To challenge my students to think about the ethics of what we owe to people in need, I ask them to imagine that their route to the university takes them past a shallow pond. One morning, I say to them, you notice a child has fallen in and appears to be drowning. To wade in and pull the child out would be easy but it will mean that you get your clothes wet and muddy, and by the time you go home and change you will have missed your first class.

    I then ask the students: do you have any obligation to rescue the child? Unanimously, the students say they do. The importance of saving a child so far outweighs the cost of getting one’s clothes muddy and missing a class, that they refuse to consider it any kind of excuse for not saving the child. Does it make a difference, I ask, that there are other people walking past the pond who would equally be able to rescue the child but are not doing so? No, the students reply, the fact that others are not doing what they ought to do is no reason why I should not do what I ought to do.

    Once we are all clear about our obligations to rescue the drowning child in front of us, I ask: would it make any difference if the child were far away, in another country perhaps, but similarly in danger of death, and equally within your means to save, at no great cost – and absolutely no danger – to yourself? Virtually all agree that distance and nationality make no moral difference to the situation. I then point out that we are all in that situation of the person passing the shallow pond: we can all save lives of people, both children and adults, who would otherwise die, and we can do so at a very small cost to us: the cost of a new CD, a shirt or a night out at a restaurant or concert, can mean the difference between life and death to more than one person somewhere in the world – and overseas aid agencies like Oxfam overcome the problem of acting at a distance.


    I am always struck by how few students challenge the underlying ethics of the idea that we ought to save the lives of strangers when we can do so at relatively little cost to ourselves. At the end of the nineteenth century WH Lecky wrote of human concern as “an expanding circle which begins with the individual, then embraces the family and soon the circle … includes first a class, then a nation, then a coalition of nations, then all humanity, and finally, its influence is felt in the dealings of man with the animal world.” On this basis the overwhelming majority of my students seem to be already in the penultimate stage – at least – of Lecky’s expanding circle. There is, of course, for many students and for various reasons a gap between acknowledging what we ought to do, and doing it; but I shall come back to that issue shortly.

    Our century is the first in which it has been possible to speak of global responsibility and a global community. For most of human history we could affect the people in our village, or perhaps in a large city, but even a powerful king could not conquer far beyond the borders of his kingdom. When Hadrian ruled the Roman Empire, his realm covered most of the ‘known’ world, but today when I board a jet in London leaving what used to be one of the far-flung outposts of the Roman Empire, I pass over its opposite boundary before I am even halfway to Singapore, let alone to my home in Australia. Moreover, no matter what the extent of the empire, the time required for communications and transport meant that there was simply no way in which people could make any difference to the victims of floods, wars, or massacres taking place on the other side of the globe. By the time anyone had heard of the events and responded, the victims were dead or had survived without assistance. ‘Charity begins at home’ made sense, because it was only ‘at home’ – or at least in your own town – that you could be confident that your charity would make any difference.

    Instant communications and jet transport have changed all that. A television audience of two billion people can now watch hungry children beg for food in an area struck by famine, ***or they can see refugees streaming across the border in search of a safe place away from those they fear will kill them.*** Most of that huge audience also have the means to help people they are seeing on their screens. Each one of us can pull out a credit card and phone in a donation to an aid organization which can, in a few days, fly in people who can begin distributing food and medical supplies. ***Collectively, it is also within the capacity of the United Nations – with the support of major powers – to put troops on the ground to protect those who are in danger of becoming victims of genocide.***


    It is easy to see how this “expanding circle” of moral responsibility which technological progress has made possible is utterly corrosive to traditional institutions like the family and the nation. Familial, ancestral, ethnic, racial, cultural, and religious identities cannot be maintained in a society which values the well-being of “outsiders” just as much as it values the well-being of “insiders”. Unfortunately, nothing can be done about this development — it is simply something which happens naturally in technologically advanced societies.

    The more subtle aspect of this mechanism is that the ability to do something is merely a necessary condition for having a moral duty or obligation to do it. It is not a sufficient condition. For example, the fact that I may have the ability to free a convicted mass murderer from prison doesn’t mean that I have a moral obligation to do so. Both technologically-induced emotional hypersensitivity and the destruction of hierarchies create new moral duties and obligations by providing new sufficient conditions for those moral duties and obligations.


    Emotional Hypersensitivity

    Emotional hypersensitivity makes people much less tolerant of suffering than they were in the past. As a result, the maximum level of suffering (i.e. the sufficient condition) past which people believe there is a moral obligation to intervene and end the suffering is constantly being reduced. For example, tobacco manufacturers now have a moral responsibility (by law) to warn their customers of the dangers of smoking on cigarette pack warning labels whereas they did not have such a responsibility before. Prison administrators now have a moral obligation to provide inmates with the ability to “read, write, speak, practice their religion, and communicate with the outside world” (from ACLU website) whereas such an obligation did not exist in the past. Industrial chicken farmers now have a moral responsibility to care for the well-being of their chickens to a much greater extent than they had to before (for example, by providing them with larger cages, or by foregoing the use of cages completely).


    Destruction of Hierarchies

    The destruction of hierarchies expands the circle of individuals for whose well-being we are morally responsible. In other words, the sufficient condition of “being an individual for whose well-being we are concerned” is now met by an increasing number of individuals. For example, we now have moral obligations towards homosexuals whereas in the past engaging in homosexual acts was a criminal offence. We have moral responsibilities towards ethnic minorities whereas in the past such minorities might have been shunned or persecuted. We even have some moral duties towards animals, whereas in the past we had, as the Bible famously puts it, “dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle.”


    A final but important consequence of this mechanism is the following: in modern societies acts of charity, mercy, and grace become duties, responsibilities, and obligations. Ironically enough, nothing quite scares a Liberal like a “duty, responsibility, or obligation” (moral or otherwise). It is for this reason (as well as for reasons of practical efficiency) that the primary moral agent of modern society is no longer the individual but the collective (in the form of a charity, NGO, or government). For the most part “doing good” in modern society no longer implies an individual and private act of compassion or kindness but rather a collective and public appeal for change of some form or another (ex. protests, die-ins, hashtag campaigns etc) to some higher authority (ex. universities, companies, the media, government etc). This diffuses personal responsibility and makes people more self-centered, egoistical, stingy, lazy, and immoral.


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