Battlepanda: The good answers are never easy


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The good answers are never easy

If there is one thing I learnt over the flurry of posts and comment threads over the past few days about morality, it is that moral absolutism and moral relativism are not the only options, but a couple of obvious but sad choices among a whole smorgasbord of ethical systems. Like the sorry roast languishing under a heat lamp that we always reach for first at a buffet before realizing that there are tastier choices among the spread.

Now, I doubt Jeanne from Body and Soul and I see eye-to-eye at all about the metaphysical nature of morality. Yet there is something that resonated with me powerfully in her post about Ratzinger's activities with the Nazis. So many Hollywood movies about the holocaust make sure they include a "good" German guy the audience can identify with. Maybe we like to flatter ourselves by imagining that if we lived under Nazi Germany we would be the Oscar Shindlers. But brute statistics are against us. Even if we don't develope full-blown evil like the Goebbles or the Eichmanns, we'll probably end up a complacent enabler like the Ratzingers.

What to do about this realization? Surely, we can't condemn Ratzinger for his actions if we admit that we are ourselves likely to succumb in the same way he did. And yet, in a way, aren't we letting ourselves off the hook too easily along with Ratzinger if we fail to recognize the terrible moral wrong inherent in standing by while evil takes place just because many people are capable of doing this? I think Jeanne said it best: "I can't condemn sins I'm not capable of and turn around and say that the ones I am capable of don't really matter."

And what kind of hypocrisy is it for Ratzinger to shove his stark, black and white version of absolute morality down the throats of the faithfull while granting himself forgiveness through the defacto relativism of extenuating circumstances? Like Jeanne, I'm not saying that he's a bad man because he joined Hitler's Youth. But I am saying that he's awfully comfortable about casting the first stone for one who has experienced first hand how we all have the inherent capacity to commit good and evil.