“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul simply has nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ Is it so bad then to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus…and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s hard to be misunderstood when you never form an opinion or really assert anything.
I am sick and tired of relativism. Sure, self-righteous, know it alls (especially the religious ones) can be annoying, but I’m even more annoyed by people who refuse to stand for anything or condemn anything (to clarify: not condeming people but acts), constantly saying “well that might be right for him” or “so long as it feels like a good decision.” That’s crap. There are some things that are never OK. Sure it makes it easier to understand why someone felt tempted to cheat on her spouse when you know that he’s a bad husband, but it’s still wrong. And yes knowing your spouse cheated on you would certainly make you mad, but it doesn’t make it permissible to kill your wife (don’t even get me started on “manslaughter” which often results in very reduced jail sentence for men who kill their adultery committing spouse).
I read a book in college called Closing of the American Mind by Alan Bloom, and the book began “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.” Bloom explains that “Openness—and the relativism that makes it the only plausible stance in the face of various claims to truth and various ways of life and kinds of human beings—is the great insight of our times. The true believer is the real danger….The point is not to correct the mistakes [of the past, i.e. slavery, sexism, etc.] and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all.”
The reason I’ve been thinking about all of this is because lately I’ve been engaging in e-mail debates with a couple of my law school classmates, and one of the guys reminds me of Clinton and his responses to queries about having “sex” with Monica or any other politician attempting to give an answer that means nothing. Our discussions often become a series of pointed questions directed to him in order to try and ascertain what he really believes. But it seems he often lacks any opinion; he can see both perspectives and doesn’t believe that we should judge others’ belief systems, thus he often fails to assert any real belief. I fail to see how having an opinion is sitting in judgment of others but whatever. I hate this apathetic openness that results in members of my generation being unable to really even engage in a debate because they are so “open.” Despite my frustration, I’m very grateful that at least we’re having these discussion even if they’re thwarted by his extreme relativism (he won’t even concede that killing with the exception of self defense is always wrong). He often challenges me to examine issues that I wouldn't otherwise, and I believe too many people are so apathetic that they never think about and discuss current events, philosophy, religion, and whatnot. Sometimes I wonder if there was such a thing, if our collective American brain would be rotting as a result of misuse and lack of use.
Anyway, can you tell that I went to college with no career path or major in mind and thus came pretty close to experiencing a true liberal arts education? Just disregard this rant if it makes no sense.