“STEPPING INTO THE VOID”
(With comments on the recent BBC production “Years and Years”)
By Peter Corney (Dec. 2019)
Once you step outside the idea of objective truth and natural law and say there is no ultimate or absolute moral standard or universal good you have “stepped into the void”
You join Nietzsche and his tribe who believe that humans are just the “Will to power” and have no inherent or created sensibility to ‘the good.’ If you also reduce the explanation of all statements of value about the natural world to just the expressions of personal feelings you step into the murky world of subjectivism, which is also a step into the void. Lewis’s essay “The Abolition of Man” from which the quotation is taken is a brilliant explanation of this process.
The current popular reporting of the Royal Commission into the behaviour of the Banks and financial institutions in Australia is a fascinating insight into how confused our present society is about the matter of ultimate moral standards and the chasm developing between ordinary people and what prevails in some parts of our tertiary education system.
The words “corrupt”, “corruption” and “attitudes of venal self- interest” appear regularly in describing the behaviour of these institutions and the people who run them. This is very discouraging for ordinary Australians who have trusted these bodies. But at another level it is very encouraging for it reveals that there is still a residual belief in our culture of a doctrine of absolute moral values and in the classical virtues – the practice in ordinary everyday life of pursuing the truth, honesty and the common good.
It is also encouraging for it is evidence that the Christian heritage and values that lie behind Western culture has not been entirely lost or abandoned. This is remarkable given the influence of a coterie of tenured academics in the Arts faculties of some of our universities who have been working assiduously now for years on reconstructing the world view of a generation of tertiary students. Their goal is to create a radical scepticism about universal values and virtues and to promote moral and cultural relativism and a shallow doctrine of “social constructivism”. This puts forward the idea that all social norms and values are relative and merely social constructs created by the prevailing holders of power to control others and are open to change as we see fit. This is a reminted version of the old extreme left “ideology of oppression” with a dash of Post Modern deconstruction and flavoured with identity politics. It makes a bad ethical cocktail!
The irony is that when these same people are duded by financial institutions, corporations and rogue government officials who steal from us, they are quick to call out such behaviour as corrupt, immoral and requiring just punishment! We might well ask – ‘But on what absolute moral basis, what universal values is this judgement made?’ To quote C S Lewis again, requiring from people integrity and absolute moral values when you have called them all into question and spent years promoting self-interest is “like castrating the gelding and then bidding it be fruitful!”
Nietzsche was at least consistent in describing human natures essence as “the will to power” His prophecy of the end result of our rejection of transcendent reality and values is a chilling vision of Western culture’s future, and remember this was written at the beginning of Modernity’s reign in the late 19th C. The “death of God” in the Western mind will, he predicted, be like leaving the stability of the land and launching out on an uncertain and restless sea. He wrote “We have left the land and embarked …… we have burned our bridges behind us – indeed we have gone further and we have destroyed the land behind us …. Woe then when you feel homesick for the land……there is no longer any land.” The storms on this restless sea are now beginning to engulf us.
Watching the recent dystopian and satirical BBC television production “Years and Years”, written and produced by Russell T Davies, that predicts the future of Western culture and our politics was both an amusing but depressing experience. But as the elderly grandmother of the family says; “Well we are responsible for all this!”
The recent election results in the UK, Australia, Europe and North America show that perhaps the majority of the electorate are beginning to wake up and react to this cultural confusion and destruction.
* C S Lewis “The Abolition of Man” page 45 Pub. Geoffrey Bless 1965
* Nietzche – See “Beyond Good and Evil” S36, also his essay “The Antichrist” for a succinct summery of his radical idea of the good as the will to power found in “Twilight of the idols” page 95-96 Pub. Woodsworth Classics 2007, and “The Gay Science” Vintage Books 1974 page 124.]