I am Australian, of Irish descent. I’ve lived in New Zealand since mid-2015. I love it and am very grateful to have been received. However, and although it strictly isn’t any of my business, I’m very worried about what seems to be happening to the Kiwi character, which I have long admired from afar. And about what’s happening to the character of the West generally.
I am a white heterosexual male over 50 years of age: no offence intended.
I go to church (mainstream Christian, nothing fancy): no offence intended.
The purpose of the articles and posts on this site is primarily to join dots. There may occasionally be new information but, generally speaking, the dots I’m joining are already visible. Once the dots are joined, I comment on the resulting picture (of what’s going on).
I may appear biased, in the sense that the bulk of my critique is directed at what calls itself the “progressive Left”, though it has other names. I should therefore make clear that –
– I only take aim at what appears to me to be so extreme as to be irrational or harmful;
– I believe we need a body of thought and speech and action that is directed at the abuse of power but it should be directed at all abuse of power, not just at selected abuses;
– I will occasionally criticise extremes on the conservative side of culture and politics, but only occasionally. This is not because I don’t take these extremes seriously, but because the entire Left is already critiquing them: I can add little to that. My focus is on critiquing the new power because not many people are yet aware of the danger it presents.
Although I’m a Christian, I endeavour to reason in “secular English” because that’s the common tongue. Although my faith founds, surrounds and informs my views, I (and other Christians) observe and reason in the way anyone else would.
I’ll mention some basic positions that are relevant to the articles and posts on this site. I only mention God expressly if it is necessary in order to explain myself, or if I’m saying something about Him.
#1 Human beings are extremely significant – all of us, without exception.
Of all the things on Earth, nothing is more significant than a human being.
Lots of people believe this: it’s why we have human rights. Different people believe it for different reasons: some state their reasons, some just assume it.
I believe it because I believe the Creator of the cosmos created us human beings “in His image and likeness” and that it is this Imago Dei that gives us our value. In any appraisal of the value of a human being, the Imago is the trump card; it contains and asserts our value regardless of other characteristics and circumstances (including a person’s decisions and actions).
#1.1 Groups are important because they are groups of human beings
I should say “only because” they are groups of human beings. The value of a group of human beings is essentially a matter of arithmetic.
#2 Human beings are equal – all of us, without exception.
Again, lots of people believe this, though it’s not always clear why they do.
I believe it for the reason I believe #1 – the Imago Dei. In any comparison of one person with another, the Imago is the trump card: we are equal because of this equaliser, which dictates our ultimate value regardless of other characteristics and circumstances.
This equality is not observable: on the contrary, differences and inequalities are observable. This equality is real, not notional: I don’t try to treat people as if we are equal; I believe we are in fact equal.
#3 There is no such thing as a good person or a bad person.
Each of us is a mixed bag of good and bad, love and hate, tenderness and malice, sweetness and horror. The mixtures vary, of course – some clearly better or worse than others – but no-one is perfectly good or perfectly bad.
#3.1 [Likewise,] there is no such thing as a good group or a bad group.
Each group is also a mixed bag. Members of the group are likely have one or more common characteristics, but otherwise the group members differ. Even if a common characteristic is adherence to an ideology or belief, members will not share exactly the same understanding of it or enthusiasm for it, much less the same approach to propagating it.
In any event, each individual member of the group is a mixed bag. Even if the shared characteristic of the group is good (or bad), it doesn’t follow that the group is good (or bad).
#4 Life, the world and people are complex
The mixed-bag nature of individuals and groups illustrates how complex things are.
For example, an effect or consequence is unlikely to result from only one cause. Simple solutions are attractive, but usually not true.
We cannot know all that needs to be known in order to reach a conclusion, so we should hesitate before speaking dogmatically.
Also, we can be fooled – for example, by our biases and expectations. Or by the difference between appearance and content: we are easily distracted and persuaded by what appears on the surface – but we know, or should know, that things are not always as they appear.
#5 We must love each other to the utmost degree – without exception, qualification, reservation or hesitation.
This follows naturally from ##1 & 2. Also, [I believe] God requires it of us. This is the essential requirement of interpersonal morality.
#6 It is appropriate to judge actions, but not to judge people.
Otherwise known as: “Hate the sin, not the sinner” (many Christians); “We attack ideas, not people” (many atheist advocates); “Play the ball, not the player” (many sportspeople).
In addition, however, we must be careful about judging actions – because of #4.
#7 We are morally accountable for our own decisions and actions, nothing else.
I am in no position to judge any other person: we are peers (see ##2 & 3).
Moral accountability is concerned with people’s decisions and actions. We are not morally accountable for who or what we are, or for the decisions and actions of others. On the other hand, the matters for which we are accountable can include inaction and decisions not to act.
#7.1 I believe in free will
I don’t believe in determinism – that our thoughts and actions are determined or programmed by whatever precedes them. I believe in powerful forces and influences – and that these limit our freedom to make our own decisions – but it is important not to exaggerate their effect.
I believe in personal moral accountability because of our free will.
#8 Morality applies to all of us, all of the time.
Every human decision and action has a moral character.
I would add: the same moral rules apply to all of us all the time. No-one is above morality. Similarly, no-one is below it or off to the side.
#8.1 Two wrongs don’t make a right.
A wrong is not fixed by a second wrong. Vengeance and justice are not the same.
#8.2 Ends do not justify means.
If you do a wrong act for a good end or a good reason, it’s still a wrong act. The noble agenda does not justify it.
#9 All this applies to me
You are extremely significant (#1). So am I (#2). I am a mixed bag (#3). I must love others, and they must love me (##2, 5 & 8).
I am accountable for what I write (#7). I must especially be mindful of ##3, 4 & 6.