The way we perceive truth will always be relative to our past experiences and beliefs. If perception is reality then in reality truth is relative. That is why we must absolutely agree on free speech principles so that no one can silence another.
We all must absolutely have the right to defend ourselves, to keep what we earn and spend it how we please the way we decide, and the right to life. The idea that there can be no one enforced truth is the foundation of religious freedom and the entire constitution. Moreover, this is the foundation of liberty, the ability for individuals to think for themselves, independent of groups vying for their membership.
If reactionary conservatives understood this there would be no more hateful backlash to things they don’t agree with like homosexuality, and if liberals understood this there would be no more speakers disinvited from college campuses.
Back in the 60s students at Berkeley who were on the left fought for free speech to speak up against civil rights violations and discrimination. Later in the 2000s when Eminem was fined by the FCC he became an advocate for free speech. Today the next advocate to understand this is the rapper, Logic, who told fans “Fight for the right to get up and say F*** white power.”
While it may seem easier to oppress a group with different truths, history shows us people are willing to give their lives if they believe their group faces extinction. What do they have to lose? What do they have to live for if they lose their community? That is why dominant groups have to recognize that it will not only become a threat to them but pose a crippling hypocrisy over the minds of those within their group.
All groups that attempt to impose dominance refuse to stare the fact in the face that no matter how hard they try no two people will ever think the same. Meanwhile, as they try to conform the minds of members of their group to one way of thinking, they lose sight of the inevitability of their own group fracturing from those who dissent within I.e. the Protestant Reformation.
“Many of the founders believed that, generally speaking, the mass of citizens are corruptible and easily swayed. This makes them susceptible to charismatic leaders, or even chaotic mob rule. Poor people, they reasoned, could also be bought off. The people are vulnerable. So if you let the people decide what to do, it won’t be long before they either hand the reins of government over to some charming rapscallion who will quickly establish himself as a brutal despot, or the whole thing will simply devolve into anarchy and bloodshed.” -The Public Professor, The Founding Fathers did NOT Want you to Vote
Perhaps that is the reason our well-traveled founders, in their system of checks and balances, chose a kind of representative Democracy where representatives, as long-term thinkers, would insulate their groups in their own world to prevent conflicts with other groups thus preserving the Republic. This creates a mindset threshold for thinking before leaders of groups can get into office and continue to keep the whole thing going as long as possible.
A country where we agree that everyone has their own truths can treat each other however they agree to within their groups but must be tolerant of other groups. If a person doesn’t like the way things are in their group, they have the freedom to leave and change groups. For those who don’t want to be in a group, make your own group, established on peace, love, and positivity.
While these ideas seem to be common sense, moral relativism under the name “Post-Modernism” is constantly being attacked by the American right. While this vague term has been used to attack the left it’s rarely defined. While I’m not an expert in French philosophy, I think this definition will fit the public sentiment:
“While encompassing a broad range of ideas, postmodernism is typically defined by an attitude of skepticism, irony or rejection toward grand narratives, ideologies and various tenets of universalism, including objective notions of reason, human nature, social progress, moral universalism, absolute truth, and objective reality.”
But Post-modernism isn’t a threat to individual liberties, its a threat to exclusionary groups (ones which hold conditions of membership) that thrive off of claiming there is only one truth. Meanwhile, practitioners don’t realize they have their own truths but think they’re the same because when we all sing the same songs we superficially assimilate identities without seeing differences.
“Music does not discriminate, it was made to assimilate,”- Logic
Below the surface, however, we are all processing and experiencing information differently, filtering it through our own cognitive biases. This same mental deception is used in confirmation biases when we want to believe something that isn’t there, we make baseless connections and leaps of faith which change the way we hallucinate our reality.
Only when we accept that we all have our own truths can our inner vision (the holistic way we perceive reality, in which the memory is distorted by biases) be clear because we start depending on the only thing we can rely on, the only thing we truly have, which is ourselves and past experiences from our perspective.
One of the best arguments I’ve heard moral absolutists make is if truth is relative then is it right for Islamic extremists to kill people? For extremists, it is. On the surface its easy for Islamophobic (or otherwise ignorant) commentators to say its because Islam is evil, but we know this is ignorant because nearly all other Muslims are peaceful practitioners. In reality, we have to evaluate what is going on in each individual mind. If in reality, we are making our decisions based on survival, then the variables surrounding a person will explain their actions.
For instance, in the documentary The World Before Her Hindu nationalists, one of the largest religious groups in India, are seen both threatened and disgusted by a beauty pageant coming to India. They view it as both demeaning to women, and an attack on Hindu culture at large, which they are desperately fighting to preserve (really so they can preserve themselves (their own internal operating codes).
To that end, extremists of a typically peaceful religion isolated their daughters and sent them to dozens of summer camps for religious and political indoctrination. They learned to despise the trashy girls that would show their skin in swimsuits, and pay exorbitant amounts of money for painful cosmetic surgeries. They were taught to love their heritage good or bad, and that this was all they needed in life. They were told that the reason their family businesses were hurting was that these models promoted global products, not local ones. They were taught to hate all other religious and cultural groups which did not support their dominance.
As you can see, these people have not accepted moral relativism, and given the right circumstances, they would do whatever it takes to defend their way of life, even to the point to training their 11-year-old daughters in how to use guns and other weapons. This situation is no different from any other group which feels they are dying off, realizing they were too welcoming to other cultures, and now has to take a final stand to preserve and hope to grow.
Ever curious where hate comes from? When someone challenges your ideology or faith (internal operating code) you lose confidence in your ethics and feel weak, confused, and personally attacked. Those who are not part of the intelligentsia of the group cling to stereotypes as their justification for why they believe what they believe instead of understanding that they are not better or worse, just different. Even within groups, the only real stereotype is that no two people are the same. This is how the masses are brought to wage religious, cultural and ideological wars against each other.
If we don’t accept moral relativism, this will be the fate of humanity, as all groups motivated for survival and growth will continue to clash. But what would this post-modernist hell look like? For that, I’d simply direct you to the far east where every Taoists have understood this for centuries. While only 12 million people claim to be current practitioners, over 100 million others have said they participate in Taoist activities. This is because Taoism is often used as an adaptation to existing religions. This means most people will continue to live in their own cultural/religious groups, but still understand that everyone has their own truths and as such will not attempt to impose it on others.
That being the case, why isn’t everyone killing each other? The most basic reason is that those cognizantly being independent thinkers generally follow the Non-Aggression Principle: an ethical stance which asserts aggression is inherently illegitimate. In other words, don’t act aggressively towards others. For a more in-depth conversation on the subject, I’d recommend the debate between Dennis Prager and Michael Schermer of the American Atheists Institute.
Still, does that mean we can guarantee individual liberties? If we accept moral relativism, does that mean religious groups could theoretically behead someone on American soil? No. That would be breaking a social contract that individual morally relativistic Americans agreed to. What if the person consents? Well, that becomes a more complicated issue, getting into euthanasia and whether a person has the right to end their own life, under whatever delusion they may be under.
To a person who is aware of other groups, they would rationally choose to switch for their survival because they could not reconcile a single absolute truth between two groups both making that claim with different principles. For a more in-depth look at how a government would look based upon objective principles, try studying Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, although this certainly does not contain all the answers.
Ultimately, moral relativism only makes sense when its understood from each individual’s perspective of group survival. Understanding this from a higher level of awareness is the only thing which will allow our collective vision evolve and create peace. Each individual must know that their survival is dependent on the conformity of the rules of the group. On the level of humanity, it all comes down to the freely agreed upon Non-Aggression Principle.
Music Pairing: Via Purifico