Monday, July 28, 2014

Western Morality & Western Democracy

 Western Civilization

Freedom has cost too much blood and agony to be relinquished at the cheap price of rhetoric.
Thomas Sowell, "Political Trade-Offs," Knowledge and Decisions (1980)
 
Here is a recent article from Reuters ("China warns officials against aping Western morality; July 20, 2014):
China's ruling Communist Party will step up ideological education of officials to prevent them from aping Western moral standards and strengthen their faith in communism to help in the fight against pervasive corruption, state media said.
"Profound social-economic changes at home and abroad have brought multiple distractions to officials who face loss of faith and moral decline," the official Xinhua news agency cited a statement from the party's powerful Organisation Department, which oversees personnel decisions.

"The conviction and morals of officials determine the rise and fall of the Communist Party and the country," Xinhua added, in a report late on Sunday."Officials should keep firm belief in Marxism to avoid being lost in the clamor for western democracy, universal values and civil society," it said.

The party has warned repeatedly that its members should not be lead astray by Western concepts of human rights and democracy, saying that China has the right to promote its own interpretation of such ideas to better suit its national condition and level of economic development.
China's communist party leaders understand the wide appeal of Western morals, and thus have every reason to fear them if they want to retain power; thus, attacking them as foreign and not Chinese is one strategy to maintain the power of the party. But do we here in the West understand the connection between Western morality, ethics and philosophy and our democratic institutions and human rights, of democracy in general as well as these Chinese leaders do?

This question's importance is not always apparent or appreciated to us living in Western democracies, which have all undergone the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution and which have all well-functioning and -operating civil societies. But Western democracy (and the history it contains) not only informs our thinking, it also underpins our fundamental understanding of human rights and of human ethics & morality. In short, it gives our Western civilization a working framework of right and wrong that took hundreds of years of thought and trials and wars to develop and implement.
 
Today, it could be said with a high degree of certainty that people have a strong desire to feel good about themselves and of their views and actions; that it is often the case that emotionalism and sentimentalism informs their thoughts. It can also be said with the same degree of certainty that the West faces the opposite situation that China does—Western morals and its fundamental ideas are under attack from Leftist ideologies, notably Marxism. There is a verse in the bible that I have always found important and have taken to heart; it is found in the book of Hosea, one of the minor prophets, who makes a major statement: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge" (4:6).

What the Chinese party officials fear, we ought not take for granted.

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All of the thoughts and ideas of this essay emanate from a western moral and philosophical point of view; I have written a number of essays on this topic, notably here, here and here.

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