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Soul, Self, and Society

This presentation is not intended as a book report. I intend to use this book Soul, Self, and Society: The New Morality and the Modern State by Edward L. Rubin as a tool to better understand certain aspects of reality which I find interesting. My hope is that y’all agree with me that this is interesting and an intelligent discussion will follow. Throughout this talk I shall intertwine among the statements of the book some of my own thoughts and experiences, and where appropriate I shall mention current events. The book about a great complex subject, but it is only 316 pages long, so there is much that is touched upon but not elaborated. In some cases where I think I can contribute, I try to elaborate more than the book does. In other cases, I have chosen to ignore some things written in the book, because my time is limited and my intention is not to give a report of the entire book. Please interrupt me and ask for clarity if ever it is unclear whether what I am saying is Rubin’s opinion or my own. Rubin’s book is a work of sociology. He is not a moralist, so even though he writes about morality, he does not use terminology like “should” or “ought”. At his talk on Thursday November 5th he gave indication that he lives according to the new morality of self-fulfillment, but in the book he tries to be objective and nonjudgmental, merely explaining the three moral systems without claiming that any one of them is better than the other two. For the most part, he succeeds in his attempts at nonjudgmental objectivity, but he repeatedly claims that American conservatives today are insincere when they used terminology appealing to the new morality instead of honestly expressing their higher purposes morality. He too often criticizes this side, without ever criticizing the other side, and so he is clearly not neutral. I think, however, that there is evidence supporting his claim that many American conservatives are insincere; he might exaggerate this, but he did not invent it.

The premise of Rubin’s book is that there are moral systems and they occasionally change. In Western Europe and the United States, since the fall of the Roman Empire, there have been three great moral systems. The first, which dominated in the Early Middle Ages, was the Morality of Honor. On pages 201-202, Rubin mentions that many in the Southern United States still live according to a morality of honor, or at leave that was the case until rather recently. Dueling was practiced, and men are expected to be armed and defend their own families and property. Also, I asked him about the ethics of Ayn Rand, because she wrote The Virtue of Selfishness and advocated for a new morality that in some ways is identical to the Morality of Self-Fulfillment. He told me that Ayn Rand’s morality is not a move forward into the Morality of Self-Fulfillment, but a retrograde movement back to the Morality of Honor. I have read almost everything that Rand wrote and published, and watched videos of her speaking on television; I judge Rubin’s interpretation of her ethics to be correct. So, vestiges of the morality of honor are still present in our society, but it lost its dominance almost a thousand years ago. The Morality of Higher Purposes replaced the Morality of Honor, beginning in around the year 1100. One moral system does not completely replace another in a day; there are centuries when the two compete for the hearts and minds of the masses, and vestiges of one system remain long after it has definitively ceased to dominate.

In every age, there are many individuals who violate generally accepted moral rules. The fact that some individuals disobey prevailing moral systems does not prove that there are not prevailing moral systems. This is important to keep in mind. Anecdotal evidence of immoral individuals does not disprove or even weaken Rubin’s thesis. On the contrary, the commission of immoral acts can help us to understand Rubin’s thesis, which is that acting according to one moral system seems immoral to advocates of a different moral system, but such acts are not really immoral because they are consistent with the moral system which is believed by those who do them. To understand Rubin’s thesis, it is crucial that we distinguish between those who violate the moral system which they themselves believe, and are thus are guilty of moral turpitude, and those on the other hand who live according to the moral system that they believe, and are therefore have not committed any moral fault, yet appear immoral to those who hold a different moral system.

Transgression happens in each system of morality. In the moral system based on honor, transgressors feel shame, meaning that they suffer from a loss of reputation. In the higher purposes moral system, transgressors feel guilt, meaning that they suffer from committing an act which is contrary to their higher purpose. In the morality of self-fulfillment, transgressors suffer regret. They reflect on their own past, and they regress lost opportunities for more pleasure, or they regret having imprudently chosen a brief pleasure that had great suffering as a consequence. Rubin points out, on page 173, that regret might be worse than shame or guilt. A warrior can perform a heroic act and thus redeem his honor. A sinner can have his guilty erased by the forgiveness of a merciful God. There is no remedy for regret, however, because the past cannot be changed. We can choose to not think about the past, but that would be like cutting off your arm to cure a broken finger. The greatest happiness, according to the morality of self-fulfillment, is a life full of pleasure. If one forgets his or her past, then all past pleasures are lost. The pleasures of the past have more positive value that the negative value which is the sufferings of regret. This is clear to me, but it is not clear to all. Several people over the course of the last five years have advised me to forget the past because thinking about the past makes us sad. I find such people to be very shallow, superficial individuals. They are very poor examples of people who live according to the morality of self-fulfillment. The individuals of whom I am now thinking are young, and I do not think that they live according to the morality of honor or the morality of higher purposes, yet they ignore what is more important in the morality of self-fulfillment: “modern morality’s concept of a life path implies that each person’s life is all he or she definitively possesses and thus is of incalculable value to the individual,” (page 201).

Ultimately, God gives purpose to all that is. Without God, there is no ultimate purpose, but there are mediate purposes that have value here and now. Understanding this is crucial. Proponents of the Morality of Higher Purposes argue that without God life is ultimately meaningless. Proponents of the Morality of Self-Fulfillment can answer that ultimate meaning is unimportant at the practical level, since we cannot know such things anyway, but immediate purposes do exist, and they are what really determine how we live our lives. Aristotle wrote that there is one thing that even God cannot do: He cannot make what has happened not have happened. The past cannot be changed. We cannot know if God exists or not, but we do know with certainty that we exist, and every person is responsible for writing the story that is his or her own life. Writing a good story, which means living well according to the Morality of Self-Fulfillment, involves less risk, since we know ourselves, as compared to the Morality of Higher Purposes, because we do not know God and can never be certain that we are doing what He wants. “In contrast to theatrical works, both comic and tragic, which feature dramatic incidents, usually within a compressed time period, novels show one or more characters progressing through life and reacting to a succession of experiences. They emphasize the individuality of personality, the continuity of consciousness that the characters possess as they encounter the settings and events that constitute their lives. It is not difficult to see how this literary genre would emerge from Locke’s idea that knowledge is based solely on one’s experiences and that these experiences, as linked by memory, establish each person’s individual identity. The essentially narrative attitude toward human life that it revealed sharply and decisively contested the essentially teleological view embodied in the morality of higher purposes. What mattered, according to that moral system, was life’s ultimate result; what mattered, according to the evolving morality, was the course of life itself,” (page 136).

Reading that took me back about ten years to a day when I very nearly rejected the Catholic Church and converted to Protestant Christianity. I was listening to an old priest, born in 1912 and ordained to the priesthood in 1938, who was giving a talk to whoever chose to attend. I was the youngest person in the room. Most of the audience was composed of elderly French women. The priest said that in Heaven there is no memory. Everything we have ever done will be forgotten. He then said, “I know that this sounds too beautiful to be true, but it is true.” I found that so repulsive that I almost renounced my baptism. The idea that my entire life will be forgotten did not sound beautiful to me at all. The experiences that I hold in my memory are an important part of who I am. If my soul goes to Heaven, but my memories are erased, then it will not really be me who is in Heaven. According to what that priest said, my life cannot continue into Heaven, rather a completely new life, as if the life of a different person, will begin. The person that I am will be inihilated. The old priest and the elderly women who listened to him considered that to be beautiful, but I felt like vomiting. This great difference between me and those French people of my grandparent’s generation is a manifestation of the change in moral systems. Even though they did everything that was necessary to survive from day-to-day, they believed their earthly lives to be ultimately unimportant, and little more than a burden which they hoped they might soon be rid of. They believed wholeheartedly in the morality of higher purpose. I was born in 1972. I have lived during a time when the morality of higher purpose and the morality of self-fulfillment are both strong society forces, and aspects of each has influenced me. One aspect of the morality of self-fulfillment which I hold dear is the value of the life that I have lived and the memory of it. A French priest close to my age, who studied under the priest I listened to that day, wrote a book that was published in 2013. Here is a quotation from that book, which I translate from French into English: "Learning to welcome reality, starting with oneself, to better discern how to act, is always called for, because this is essential for the person. Thus, the real welcome as it is, has consenter what it is, and finally do with this real as it is, is a true way to wisdom. Discover the greatness and richness of the truth of things and people, that is to say objectivity of their existence and what they are, is the spiritual health - and thus truly human - the most fundamental which affects the recovery of physical and mental health. In some way, the whole therapeutic demarche is to bring the person in practice truth of what it is. For there is in us a non-understanding, self-misunderstanding, which was installed from traumatic events, through the representations of the environment in which we grew up; it is our emotional wounds. Most of the therapeutic work - Socrates had already understood - is therefore a return to what one is deep and welcome as it is, that is to say, good quality, made to be put for good, to achieve a certain Bonheur staff and participate in that of others," (Accompagner, sentier pour une sagesse, Samuel Rouvillois). Please notice that the priest close to my age, though he had studied from the older priest, embraces as I do the belief that this life does matter, and we should not hope to forget every experience we have ever had. Both of those men are Roman Catholic priests; neither was a heretic; neither was excommunicated for censured by the Church. But their beliefs on this point are radically different.

“In addition to being chosen for oneself, a life path, as the defining feature of self-fulfillment morality, combines momentary experience with a general pattern, In terms of momentary experience, individuals are instructed to enjoy themselves as their lives unfold, to derive as much pleasure as they can from life as it is being lived,” (page 167). This “explicitly rejects the morality of higher purposes, which finds life’s meaning in its destination; the idea of a journey, which it substitutes, is that one should enjoy the things one sees along the way,” (ibid.). Choosing to do ‘good’ at each and every moment, without worrying about the future, is not necessarily a rejection of the morality of higher purposes, because what one considers to be good might be service to God, or to the Nation, or to one’s family. “The modern morality of self-fulfillment rejects all such higher purposes. As accurately identified by Freud, it recommends that people should do whatever makes them happy, whatever feels good to them,” (page 168). This morality can be called “hedonic”, because it has pleasure as its only purpose, but I think that a better adjective would be “Epicurean”. An Epicurean seeks pleasure as his or her only purpose, but s/he does so intelligently, making choices likely to maximize pleasure, and minimize suffering, during an entire lifetime. Such people would not use heroin to experience intense pleasure leading to death at the end of a year, nor would they choose dangerous sexual relationships from which one can catch a disease, or because of which one can suffer the anger of someone’s spouse. Epicureans would seek the pleasures of eating food that is both delicious and healthy, and drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation. Epicureans might have sex with multiple partners during a life-time, but always in safe situations. The happiness sought in the morality of self-fulfillment is the happiness of cows, but unlike cows that mindlessly seek what their instincts make them desire, adherents of the new morality use their human minds to think, plan, and freely choose what will bring them the most happiness over the course of their lifetimes. “The desire to avoid anticipated sorrow regarding decisions one is making in the present generates an important mechanism by which the morality of self-fulfillment is internalized,” (page 172).

On pages 178-179, Rubin states and well explains why the morality of self-fulfillment is not utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is the philosophy according to which we should want the greatest good for the greatest number. It assumes that good can be measured and transferred from one person to another. In the morality of self-fulfillment, however, happiness is incommensurable: it cannot be measured. We cannot know if one person’s happiness is greater than another’s. We cannot judge that the happiness a millionaire experiences from living alone in his mansion is less than the combined happiness that a dozen homeless people would experience if each were given a room in that mansion. We cannot force a beautiful woman to marry an ugly man because we compute that the pleasure the man will gain from the marriage is greater than the pleasure the woman will lose. As a society, we cannot compare one person’s happiness with another, so we should try to give every person an equal opportunity to achieve happiness, and the maximum amount of freedom required for that achievement. “No person’s self-fulfillment is more valuable than any other person’s because there is no external standard by which one person’s self-fulfillment can be distinguished from another’s,” (page 179-80). This lack of external standards by which to judge is crucial for understanding the impossibility of proving that one morality is better than another. If there was some goal, then we could judge the moral system by how well that goal is reached. The goal of the morality of honor was survival in a difficult and violent time. People survived, so we can say that that was a good moral system. The goals of the morality of higher purposes is Salvation (eternal life in Heaven) and a powerful, prosperous nation-state on earth. Some individuals cared more about one of these goals, other individuals cared more about the other. That moral system can be judged according to how many people were Saved, and according to how powerful and prosperous nation-states became. We do not know how many people were Saved, but we do know that nation-states became very powerful when the morality of higher purposes was prevalent, so we can say that that was a good moral system. The goal of the morality of self-fulfillment is personal happiness, but we because we cannot measure happiness, we cannot know if this morality is achieving its goal or not; we cannot judge it either positively or negatively. The most that anyone can do is judge if this moral system has made him or her happy, and then embrace or reject it according to whether or not it has made him or her happy. We cannot choose moral systems at will, however. Someone who has long lived only for his or her own happiness, and suddenly realizes that s/he is not happy, cannot very well change to a morality of higher purposes. If one tries, it will be artificial. Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy, characterizes Nietzsche’s philosophy of the will as ‘you must choose some purpose and then passionately devote yourself to that purpose. It does not matter what you choose as your purpose, as long as you passionately devote yourself to it,’ (This quote is from memory). Chesterton points out, that if you really believe that it does not matter what purpose you choose, then you will not be able to devote yourself passionately to it. As soon as matters become difficult, you will remember that the purpose you chose is not better than any other, and so you will abandon it for something easier. It is not likely that someone would choose to suffer much for a cause that he believes to be unimportant.

“The new morality leaves the content of the individual’s life choices open and instead prescribes a mode of decision-making: the demand that one must make those choices for oneself,” (page 163). Rubin writes earlier in his book that moral systems are learned and felt rather than logically thought out, so they can contain internal contradictions. The new morality, as described here, seems to me somewhat similar to the morality of Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre denied that any choice was ultimately good or bad, but he insisted that one must accept the consequences of the decisions she or he makes. On this point, the necessity to accept the consequences of our choices, adherents of the new morality seem lacking. Unlike a Sartrian or Nitzschean hero who nobly follows his own greatness and then suffers the consequences without complaint and without regret, it seems to me that many who adhere to the new morality do not accept the consequences of their actions. Another problem, as I see it, is the contradiction between increasing government control over people’s lives, and the requirement of the new morality that everyone must be free to make his or her own decisions. Increasing government control means less personal freedom. This reminds me of a protest I read about. It occurred on November 5th and it involved thousands of people around the world wearing masks and demanding that governments protect workers from their employers. The protesters called themselves anarchists. That is an example of the illogic of some who live according to the new morality. Anarchy means ‘no government’. An anarchist is someone who wants there to be no government. People who demand that the government become more involved in economic matters to protect employees from their employers are the opposite of anarchists; they are statists.

Chapter five is about the new morality as it related to sex. More than any other area, it is with regard to sex that adherents of the morality of higher purposes accuse the believers of the morality of self-fulfillment of being immoral. Rubin shows that this accusation is wrong, because the morality of self-fulfillment does make demands, something harsh ones, related to sex. The purpose of sex in the morality of higher purposes was procreation, and the most important rule imposed on couples was that they get married and stay married. In the new morality of self-fulfillment, marriage still exists, but it has lost all importance. The imperative now is that both parties in a sexual relationship are completely free at all times, and that each one is fulfilled by the sexual relationship. When children result from sex, or are obtained through adoption, artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization, they must be raised not with their ultimate salvation in mind, or with the desire that they will serve their country, but rather they must be raised so that they have self-fulfilling lives.

Rubins mentions Denis de Rougement thrice. I believe that he is important in this area, and therefore I shall speak of him more than Rubin does. First, here are numerous quotations from his most famous book:
L'Amour et l'Occident by Denis de Rougemont, Plon, 1972.

«On sait que le mariage, au XIIe siècle, était devenu pour les seigneur une pure et simple occasion de s'enrichir, et d'annexer des terres données en dot ou espérées en héritage. Quand l'«affaire» tournait mal, on répudiait sa femme. Le prétexte de l'inceste, curieusement exploité, trouvait l'Église sans résistance: il suffisait d'alléguer sans trop de preuves, une parenté au quatrième degré, pour obtenir l'annulation. A ces abus, générateurs de querelles infinies et de guerres, l'amour courtois oppose une fidélité indépendante du mariage légal et fondée sur le seul amour. Il en vient même à déclarer que l'amour et le mariage ne sont pas compatible. . . [page 25 begins here] Mais cette fidélité courtoise présente un trait des plus curieux : elle s'oppose, autant qu'au mariage, à la «satisfaction» de l'amour. . . . La règle de l'amour courtois s'oppose à ce qu'une telle passion «tourne à réalité», c'est-à-dire aboutisse à l'«entière possession de sa dame»,» (pages 24-25).

«Je définirais volontiers le romantique occidental comme un homme pour qui la douleur, et spécialement la douleur amoureuse, est un moyen privilégié de connaissance,» (page 37).

L'amour courtois «c'est l'amour hors du mariage, car le mariage ne signifie que l'union des corps, tandis que l'«Amour», qui est l'Éros suprême, est l'élancement de l'âme vers l'union lumineuse, au-delà de tout amour possible en cette vie. Voilà pourquoi [page 55 begins here] l'Amour suppose la chasteté, (pages 54-55).

« Dans l'optique de l'homme médiéval, toute chose signifie autre chose, comme dans les rêves,» (page 70).

«Le symbolisme médiéval procède généralement de haut en bas - de ciel en terre - ce qui réfute les conclusions modernes déduites du préjugé matérialiste,» (page 72).

«Du côté cathare, le mariage et la sexualité sont condamnés sans rémission par le Parfaits ou «consolés», mais demeurent tolérés dans le cas des simples croyants, c'est-à-dire de l'immense majorité des hérétiques. Du [page 86] côté catholique, le mariage est tenu pour sacrement, cependant qu'il repose en fait sur des bases d'intérêt matériel et social, et se voit imposé aux époux sans qu'il soit tenu compte de leurs sentiments. . . . Or nous voyons cette religion de l'amour ennoblissant [the catharism] célébrée par les mêmes hommes qui persistent à tenir la sexualité pour «vilaine»; et nous voyons, souvent dans le même poète un adorateur enthousiaste de la Dame, qu'il exalte, et un contempteur de la femme, qu'il rabaisse: qu'on se rappelle seulement les vers d'un Marcabru ou d'un Raimbaut d'Orange,» (pages 85-86).

«On sait que les jeunes Celtes au moment de la puberté, donc au sortir de la maison des hommes, devaient accomplir un exploit (meurtre d'un étranger ou chasse glorieuse) pour acquérir le droit de se marier,» (page 99).

«C'est le roman allégorique du XVIIe siècle qui inventa le happy ending. Le vrai roman courtois débouchait dans la mort, [page 147] s'évanouissait dans une exaltation au-delà du monde,» (pages 146-147).

«La religion des troubadours se prêtait aux complicités les plus sournoises avec l'instinct, qu'elle excitait par sa volonté même de le nier. L'ambiguïté du langage mystique de l'hérésie devait faire naître, des le XIIIe siècle, une rhétorique profane de la passion. Et c'est la diffusion de ce langage par la littérature romanesque qui aboutit, au cours du dernier siècle, à ce renversement des rôles : l'instinct devenant le vrai support d'un rhétorique dont les figures lui prêtent désormais un semblant d'idéalité,» (page 177).

«Agir, en vérité, c'est accepter les conditions qui nous sont faites, dans le conflit de l'esprit et de la chair; et c'est tenter de les surmonter non plus en détruisant mais en mariant les deux puissances antagonistes. Que l'esprit vienne au secours de la chair et retrouve en elle son appui, et que la chair se soumette à l'esprit et retrouve par lui sa paix,» (page 179).

«Le mythe sacré de l'amour courtois, au XIIe siècle, avait eu pour fonction sociale d'ordonner et de purifier les puissances anarchiques de la passion. Une mystique transcendante orientait secrètement, polarisait vers l'au-delà les nostalgies de l'humanité souffrante. C'était sans doute une hérésie, mais pacifique, et par certains de ses aspects, très favorable à l'équilibre civilisateur. Cependant, du seul fait qu'elle s'opposait à la propagation de l'espèce et à la guerre, la société devait la persécuter. Ce fut Rome qui porta le fer et le feu dans les provinces gagnées à l'hérésie. En détruisant matériellement cette religion, l'Église romaine la condamnait à se propager sous la forme la plus ambiguë et peut-être la plus dangereuse. Traquée, refoulée et désorganisée, l'hérésie ne devait pas tarder à se dénaturer de mille manières,» (page179).

«Don Juan ne connaît pas d'Iseut, ni de passion inaccessible, ni de passé ni d'avenir, ni de déchirements voluptueux. Il vit toujours dans l'immédiat, il n'a jamais le temps d'aimer – d'attendre et de se souvenir,» (page 214).

«Agapè ne sait pas détruire et ne veut même pas détruire ce qui détruit,» (page 234).

«En quoi consiste le respect . . .? En ce que l'on reconnaît dans un être la totalité d'une personne,» (page 236).

«L'amour est lent et difficile, il engage vraiment toute une vie, et il n'exige pas moins que cet engagement pour révéler sa vérité,» (page 236).

«Il est certain que l'Occidental christianisé se distingue de l'Oriental par son pouvoir d'approfondir l'être créé dans ce qu'il a de particulier. C'est tout le secret de notre fidélité. La sagesse orientale cherche la connaissance dans l'abolition progressive du divers. Nous, nous chercons la densité de l'être dans la personne distincte, sans cesse approfondie comme telle. «D'autant plus nous connaissons les choses particulières, d'autant plus nous connaissons DIEU», dit Spinoza. Cette attitude, qui définit mon Occident, définit en même temps les conditions profondes de la fidélité, de la personne, du mariage - et du refus de la passion. Elle suppose l'acceptation du différent, et donc de l'incomplet, la prise sur le concret dans ses limitations. Le chrétien prend le monde tel qu'il est, et non point tel qu'il peut le rêver. Son activité «créatrice» consiste alors à retrouver en profondeur toute la diversité du monde créé; et c'est ainsi que la Renaissance définit l'homme : un microcosme,» (page 240).

«Les chansons de geste sont nées au XIe siècle . . . . Elles furent composées, pour la plupart, par des clercs, et dans des intentions précises : c'étaient en quelque sorte des poèmes publicitaires destinés à attirer la gloire et la foule à tel pèlerinage ou abbaye en magnifiant ses reliques miraculeuses et ses héroïques fondateurs. Il est compréhensible que ces chansons de clercs parlent très peu ou point d'amour. Un seule, la Légende de Girard de Roussillon (composée entre 1150 et 1180 selon Bédier) contient un épisode d'amour courtois. . . . A tous égards, elle marque la transition de l'époque française au «roman» proprement dit,» (page 246).

«Je me fondais sur cette phrase d'Héraclite, qui transparaît, cité ou non, dans tous mes livres: «Ce qui s'oppose coopère, et de la lutte des contraires procède la plus belle harmonie.»,» (page 291).

«Ce n'est pas amour, qui tourne à réalité. Cette sentence courtoise signifie que fin amors est jouissance du désir, non du plaisir; . . . A l'extrême, il s'agit d'écarter la réalité physique de l'être aimé-surtout celle de la femme pour l'homme, car il n'y a pas ici de symétrie, et je n'ai pas encore trouvé une seule femme qui ait chanté l'amour de loin,» (page 294).

Chapter six, titled “The Morality of Relations with Society” is the most problematic in this book. “All [moralities] expect people to fulfill their obligations, but the former ones define obligations as roles established by society, while self-fulfillment morality regards them as commitments one has chosen for oneself,” (page 164). This is wrong. The morality of higher purposes was founded, at least originally, upon the belief in God. It was not ‘society’ that established roles, but God.

“In modern morality, being compelled to choose a course of action often exempts the person from the obligation to continue it,” (page 164). The Roman Catholic Church has incorporated this into its cannon law. Now, if there is any lack of freedom at a wedding, for example if one of the people getting married feared displeasing their parents by not getting married, then the marriage can be declared invalid and an annulment granted. Likewise, if a monk or nun can claim that there was even the slightest coercion limiting her or his freedom when taking vows, then those vows can be declared invalid. In practice, if a Catholic wants an annulment, or a monk or nun wants out of their vows, they can almost always point to something that limited their freedom. Now, encouraging someone to get married, or to become a monk or nun, can be considered coercion, which limits freedom and makes the marriage or the vows invalid. The Roman Catholic Church does not recognize divorce, and it says that vows of celibacy last until death, but in practice that is not the case, because wedding vows and religious vows can be easily annulled.

On page 165, Rubin writes that according to the morality of higher purposes, the mother a zyogote or fetus that is “severely impaired” was morally bound to give birth, because “each child born alive has a soul whose higher purpose is to be saved.” In the new morality of self-fulfillment, however, there is a moral obligation to abort it before it becomes an independent human being, particularly if it will suffer pain once it is born.” I disagree with this. Eugenics came out of the morality of higher purposes. Severely impaired individuals are a burden on society, so those who lived to serve society would want to prevent such individuals from multiplying. A morality of self-fulfillment, however, would not dictate one way or the other on this issue. In most cases, because of the aversion to suffering, those living according to the morality of self-fulfillment would abort severely impaired zygotes or fetuses, and we see that this is what actually happens. I do not think, however, that they have a moral obligation to do this. I observe that the mothers of handicapped children are sometimes treated with disapproval by folks, usually other women, who believe in the morality of higher purposes. It seems to me that the millenials, who more than any other generation live according to the morality of self-fulfillment, do not judge others for their decisions to have, or not to have, severely impaired children.

This evident contradiction is like the elephant in the room. It is so big that one cannot fail to notice it, unless one has lived in the room his or her whole life, and the elephant has always been there and never moved. People get used to what is always present and do not notice it. But how did this all begin? There must have been a moment some time in the past when people were not yet accustomed to not seeing that increased government control is contrary to personal freedom. I think that we can understand this as an instance of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The morality of higher purposes was intimately tied to the Christian religion and monarchy. The revolutionaries who first promoted the new morality, first in France and then elsewhere, were opposed to the Christian religion and to monarchy, therefore they were ‘friends’ to democratic forms of government which took over many of the functions, like education and health care, which had previously been performed by the Church. Still today, they feel that they are rebellious when they call for more government, because in calling for more government, they are implicitly calling for less Christian religion. The Roman Catholic Church teaches subsidiarity: “That most weighty principle, which cannot be set aside or changed, remains fixed and unshaken in social philosophy: Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them,” (Quadragesimo Anno by Pope Pius XI, part 2, art. 5). The smaller units of society, which would be destroyed and absorbed by the State, would include organized religion, and families, both of which can limit personal freedom, and both of which often limit personal freedom more than big government because they are closer and therefore more capable of monitoring an individual’s behavior. If personal freedom is the greatest good, then folks might prefer big government to strong families and religious institutions. “The growth of the administrative state releases marriage from its prior role in sustaining social order. A stable home is no longer necessary for the production of goods and services, the education of children, or the governance of political localities,” (page 228). Surprisingly, I found an Austrian economist who had the same opinion sixty-five years ago: “Paradoxical as it sounds, individualism and socialism are not necessarily opposites. One may argue that the socialist form of organization will guarantee ‘truly’ individualistic realization of personality. This would in fact be quite in the Marxian line,” (page 171 of Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1950).

Though big government reduces personal freedom, it can and does increase the amount of pleasure, and decrease the amount of suffering, that is be experienced during a life-time. A human beings capacity to feel pleasure is limited. A billionaire can have only a little more pleasure in his life than a middle-class American. The reason for working hard and sacrificing present pleasures might be the hope of greater pleasures in the future, in which case this would be in-line with the new morality of self-fulfillment. After a certain level of wealth is attained, however, continuing to work hard would be foolish, because the amount of pleasure sacrificed to work hard would be greater than the additional pleasure to be gained from extra wealth. If people continue to work hard even after they have everything they need to make them happy, then they must either be working for a higher purpose, or they might suffer from a psychological disorder. Big government is expensive, and inefficient, which reduce the wealth of nations somewhat, but this slight reduction in wealth would not hurt the majority of folks in the United States, because the majority of folks in the United States have more than enough to live pleasantly, so if some of the “more than enough” is taken away by the government, there will still be enough left. People gladly trade wealth which they cannot use for the security of having their pleasures guaranteed for life; government healthcare protects against sickness; government unemployment insurance and welfare programs protect against poverty; government regulations protect consumers against harmful products; government regulations protect employees against unfair treatment; and law enforcement protect against criminal violence. Recently, mellineals have voiced their desire to be protected against words that hurt their feelings. On this point, President Obama has spoken against the trend on college campuses to forbid the voicing of disagreeable opinions because they might hurt the students’ feelings: “Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal, and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues, who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side, and that’s a problem too. I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women. I gotta tell you, I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view. I think you should be able to — anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with ‘em. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, "You can’t come because I'm too sensitive to hear what you have to say." That’s not the way we learn either,” (

Another reason why adherents of the new morality of self-fulfillment might be willing to sacrifice some of their personal freedom to big government is that big government can undo, at least partially, natural inequalities. The U.S. Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man state that all men are obviously created equal. Rubin points out that this is false: “Contrary to the ringing words of the two Declarations, however, equality is not self-evident at all, nor is it the way people are born. Instead, people vary obviously and dramatically. They are tall and short, strong and weak, quick and slow, smart and dumb. . . . What is truly self-evident is that no society can treat its members equally in every way. Treating them equally in even some selected contexts requires a robust ideology, backed up by affirmative social commitment,” (page 181). Equality is one of the goods that is highly valued in the morality of self-fulfillment. Equality is unnatural and can only be achieved when the government is powerful enough to dominate nature.

Rubin states that the equality demanded by the morality of self-fulfillment is equality of opportunity. Competition is allowed, and as long as competition is allowed there will be winners and losers, so the final conditions of different persons will not be equal. I lived in France six years, and I would say that the attitude Rubin expresses here is American, not Western, because Western Europeans find competition to be anathema. They believe that one must hate the competition, and therefore all competition is contrary to love and would be suppressed in an ideal world. This world is not ideal, so competition is everywhere allowed, but it is severely limited in France, and competing hard, except in sports, is condemned.

The importance of freely making choices, without objective criteria that could be used to judge whether if one alternative is better than another, is manifested in American religious practice. “forty-four percent of Americans report that their current affiliation is different from the one in which they were raised. . . . Fully twenty-eight percent go to services outside their own faith;” (page 193). So almost half of Americans have chosen a religion other than the one they received as children, and over one quarter of Americans make the choice to attend religious services regularly (weddings and funerals do not count) that are in other religions. The important thing is choice, based on emotion, without objective criteria like belief in the doctrines held by this or that religion. The ignorance of Americans about religion, including the religion they claim to believe, is well-documented. “Only half of Americans can name a single one of the four Gospels, that thirty-nine percent think that the Old Testament was written in the decades following the death of Jesus,” (ibid.). The belief in reincarnation is growing, especially among American Catholics, who neither know nor care that this belief and the Christian belief in Heaven and Hell are mutually exclusive. As long as it makes them feel good, they include it in their religious beliefs, while rejecting whatever makes them feel bad. By adding whatever makes them feel good, and rejecting whatever makes them feel bad, each American creates his or her own religion, which is often illogical, self-contradictory, and untenable as a belief system; but though each person’s concocted religion might be untenable as a belief system, if it achieved the purpose of self-fulfillment, then it is good, and criticizing this religion, or even pointing out its inconsistencies, would be considered immoral.

The final chapter of the book is titled “Conclusion: The Future of Christianity”. In this chapter, Rubin admits that the morality of higher purposes was formed by Christianity, whereas the morality of self-fulfillment was formed in opposition to Christianity. Yet, despite their different origins, it is possible for Christianity to conform to either one. Christianity has always had a certain type of self-fulfillment as its goal. Saint Augustine of Hippos was, perhaps, the first person to ever write his autobiography. The Roman Catholic Church emphasized the importance of free choice, for both men and women, when getting married. Theologians emphasized the role that individual free will plays in both sin and salvation. Rubin then shows how Christianity could possibly accept the morality of self-fulfillment in interpersonal relations, especially sex. He rightly points out that, except for Jesus explicitly prohibiting divorce, most of the traditional Christian teaching about sexual relations, including homosexuality and abortion, are found implicitly but not explicitly in The Bible. Because these doctrines are not explicitly stated in The Bible, the Church could change them, and many Protestant churches have changed them. As to divorce, which is explicitly forbidden by Jesus, the Roman Catholic Church allows annulments, which for practical purposes are the same as divorce. Protestant churches have always allowed divorce, either because they believe that marriage is not a sacrament and therefore it is not the churches domain, or because they interpret the exception that Jesus allowed as pertaining to any sexual fault, which effectively allows divorce after either partner has had sex outside of marriage. If even what is explicitly forbidden by Jesus can be allowed by calling it annulment, or by translating an obscure Greek work in an unusual way, then it seems plausible that other Christian doctrines related to sex, which are not found explicitly in The Bible, could be changed easily. This chapter would be great, if not for the section from pages 311 to 314, in which Rubin writes about reconciling Christian teaching about helping the poor with the new morality’s requirement that people support government welfare and health care programs. He fails to understand that Christian charity must be voluntary. Its purpose is not just to help the poor in material ways, but to express the love of the givers to the receivers. Love must be free; taking from one person to give to another is not love, because the person who loses never chose to give. Rubin writes, “What better way to make uncompensated sacrifices for the poor than to impose taxes on oneself?” (page 314). In writing that, he ignores the fact that people who vote for higher taxes are not imposing those taxes on only themselves, but mostly on others, so it is not a personal sacrifice, except for the tiny, insignificant portion of the total that each taxpayer pays.

In summary, I agree with Rubin’s basic premise, and I like many of his examples because they are thought-provoking and they shed light on my own experiences, especially the traumatic experience I had ten years ago listening to an old Catholic priest who said that our lives would not be remembered when in Heaven, and that that fact “seems too beautiful to be true.” He ends by looking forward to the future enlightened by the lessons of the past, stating that just as vestiges of the early medieval morality of honor remain to this day, though that moral system has been universally rejected, so too vestiges of the morality of higher purposes will continue, but Western society as a whole will reject that moral system as a whole. Then, “we can expect that in another five or seven hundred years, a new morality will arise that will challenge, and ultimately displace , the self-fulfillment morality this book has endeavored to describe,” (last sentence of Soul, Self, and Society).

My life is in the transition period from the morality of higher purposes, to the morality of self-fulfillment, and my beliefs and desires reflect that. I am a Roman Catholic Christian, I believe in Heaven and Hell and do not live for pleasure in this life alone; on the other hand I value my past, do not want to forget it, and I oppose governmental efforts to impose morality on free adults. On issues like prostitution and drug use, I believe that they should be legalized, because free adults can better judge what is right for them in these areas than the government can, and because criminalizing these activities has caused more harm than these activities would cause if allowed. Personally, though I partially accept and even embrace the morality of self-fulfillment, I doubt that I shall ever fully abandon the morality of higher purposes, because living without purpose, or living with pleasure as the only purpose, is boring. "The existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom. Now we can understand Shopenhauer when he said that mankind was apparently doomed to vacillate eternally between the two extremes of distress and boredom. In actual fact, boredom is now causing, and certainly bringing to psychiatrists, more problems to solve than distress. And these problems are growing increasingly crucial, for progressive automation will probably lead to an enormous increase in the leisure hours available to the average worker. The pity is that many of these will not know what to do with all their newly acquired free time," (Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, pages 111-112). Europeans, especially the French, understand the importance of the great ennui which dominates life now that people live without any higher purpose. Rubin does not even mention this, which is proof that while his book relates to the United States, but not to all of the West.

Some Examples that We are Now in the Transition Phase between the Two Moralities

“At present, conservatives in the Western World also oppose the growth of the administrative state, which is co-causally connected to the new morality, but they accept the political system of representative democracy. When conservatism developed in the nineteenth century, however, these positions were reversed,” (page 152). In the United States, conservatives support the old morality that is fading away, and they oppose the growth of government and its interference in society. This combination of support for conservative morality and opposition to increasing government administration makes sense, according to Rubin, because there is a co-causal relationship between them. The new morality of self-fulfillment requires massive government involvement to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to achieve self-fulfillment, which requires protection from everything that endangers or reduces self-fulfillment. Without massive government, life would be harder, and it was generally accepted that weak or defective individuals could not achieve self-fulfillment, which was accepted, even though Christian charity provided for the survival of such individuals; they were kept alive even though their circumstances made it impossible for them to thrive.

On October 26th of this year, I read this headline in the on-line BBC News:
“Poland elections: Conservatives secure decisive win.” The Law and Order Party, which was strongly supported by the Catholic Church and was most popular in rural areas, defeated the Civic Platform Party. The strange thing, from an American perspective, is that the Law and Order Party favored increased government to regulation the economy, provide for the poor, and combat moral evils such as abortion and in-vitro fertilization. One of the contributions to the Law and Order Party victory was their opposition to refugees entering and living in Poland. They want to tax banks to pay for improved childcare and free medicine for people over age seventy-five. The Civic Platform Party, which lost, is pro free market capitalism, and while in power it allowed free movement across Polish borders and allowed thousands of refugees to come live in Poland. In the U.S., support for traditional morality is coupled with opposition to increasing government, which makes sense according to Rubin’s view of things. Also in the U.S., some of the leaders of the Republican Party, which represents conservatives, are anti-immigrant. In Poland, on the other hand, traditional morality is coupled with big government efforts to redistribute income from the wealthy to the poor. And the Law and Order Party which supports this combination is anti-immigrant. On the other hand, the Civic Platform Party which supports free market capitalism allows citizens to make their own moral choices even when they are contrary to traditional morality.

Chili is another interesting example, which Rubin mentions in endnote 51 of chapter five, but does not write about in the main text. Rubin says that Chili “has the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the Western World, as well as the most restrictive laws regarding divorce,” (page 395). Unlike in Poland, in which the political party most strongly allied with the Catholic Church advocates big government social programs and is opposed to the political party favoring free market capitalism, in Chili conservative Catholic morality, enforced by law, is joined to the most pro-capitalist free market regime in Latin America. Chili has for decades been influenced by economists from the Chicago School, and even long ago, in the early nineteenth century, there were economists in Chili who used and taught Adam Smith’s book The Wealth of Nations. At that time, The Wealth of Nations was allowed in Spain only in abridged form, with parts deemed offensive to the Catholic Church deleted. For two hundred years, therefore, Chili has been more capitalist than other Spanish-speaking nations, and today their capitalism is allied with a powerful Roman Catholic Church, which is the inverse of the situation in Poland.

I explain the different political combinations in Poland and Chili to make the point that while what Rubin writes may be true about the United States, it is not universally valid. In Poland, big government and conservative morality are allied, not opposed as they are here. He states from the start that his book is concerned only with ‘Western’ society. I would say, however, that it is narrower than even ‘Western’. The things he writes are true only in the United States, and to a lesser extent in Western Europe, but false elsewhere, including Eastern Europe. On page 238, for example, he tells that the care adult children give to their elderly parents has not changed very much since premodern times, and the belief that it has changed is wrong. Both today and in centuries past, elderly parents took care of themselves as long as they could, and only in the minority of families did adult children invite their parents to live with them. I read The Origins of English Individualism by Alan MacFarlane. According to MacFarlane, England differed from continental Europe in that in England individuals lived alone, whereas in continental Europe extended families lived together. Rubin’s book claims to be about ‘the West’, but I would say that it would be more accurate to say that it is about Anglo-American culture.

The Case of Margaret Singer and Planned Parenthood

Margaret Singer was born in New York State in 1879. In 1914, she began to publish a newspaper titled The Woman Rebel in which she “railed against the evils of capitalism and religion and hailed the benefits of contraception,” (Architects of the Culture of Death by de Marco and Wiker). Note here that, in typical American fashion but contrary to the situation in Poland, capitalism and religion are together, and the enemy of one is likewise the enemy of the other. Singer was an important figure in the transition from the old morality of higher purposes to the new morality of self-fulfillment. In her newspaper, she manifested her belief that women should live with a higher purpose: “A woman’s duty . . . to have an ideal,” (ibid. 293). That ideal, which it was a woman’s duty to seek, was the gradual improvement of humanity by eugenics. If defective individuals ceased spreading their defective genes, then the human race would improve with each generation. “The most urgent problem to-day is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective,” (Pivot of Civilization by Sanger, page 25). When she founded The Birth Control Review in 1917, Sanger stated that its purpose was “To Create a Race of Thoroughbreds,” (de Marco and Wiker, ibid., pages 297-298). She seemed unconcerned with the self-fulfillment of the individuals who would be prevented from having children; if it was necessary to sacrifice some of their happiness for the good of humanity, then so be it. She also wrote, however, that “Rebel women claim the following Rights: The Right to be Lazy. The Right to be an Unmarried Mother,” (ibid., page 293). This advocacy for the right to not contribute to society, because of laziness, and even to harm society by having children and them not raising them in a family, as an unmarried mother, is clearly part of the new morality of self-fulfillment in which the happiness of the individual is valued without regard to its effect on others, as long as it does not interfere with the rights of others. More than anything else, her view of sex fits into the new morality, not the old. Though she believed in eugenics and wanted to prevent defective individuals from reproducing, she advocated contraception and if necessary forced sterilization, not sexual abstenance, for such individuals, “We prefer the policy of immediate sterilization, of making sure that parenthood is absolutely prohibited to the feeble-minded,” “Birth Control . . . is really the greatest and most truly eugenic method, and its adoption as part of the program of Eugenics would immediately give a concrete and realistic power to that science. . . The most clear thinking and far seeing of the Eugenists themselves as the most constructive and necessary of the means to racial health,” (The Pivot of Civilization pages 101-2, and 189). Preventing some individuals from reproducing, while allowing them to have sex, made sense to her because according to her the purpose of sex is not reproduction, but rather the fulfillment of the individual: “Genius is not some mysterious gift of the gods. It is due to the removal of physiological and psychological inhibitions and constraints which makes possible the release and channeling of the primordial inner energies of man into full and divine expression. The removal of these inhibitions . . . makes possible more rapid and profound perceptions, - so rapid indeed that they seem to the ordinary human being, practically instantaneous, or intuitive;” and “Through sex, mankind may attain the great spiritual illumination which will transform the world, which will light up the only path to an earthly paradise. So must we necessarily and inevitably conceive of sex-expression,” (The Pivot of Civilization by Margaret Sanger, pages 232-3, and page 246). If sex, rather than family, is the key to self-fulfillment, then forced sterilization would not prevent those affected from living happy lives. Singer explicitly stated that she wanted to replace the old morality with a new morality, getting rid of “the vague sentimental fantasies of extramundane existence,” and replacing them with “our paradise, our everlasting abode, our Heaven and our eternity,” (ibid. paged 275-6). She wanted the new morality of self-fulfillment, but she wanted it in a way that followed the old morality of higher purposes: she wanted to improve humanity, making this earthly life a type of heaven. Rather than living in her present, and encouraging others to lead fulfilling lives every day, Sanger looked to the distant future, and encouraged her followers to work to bring about a utopia which they would never see.

The beliefs of Margaret Sanger on eugenics should be understood in their proper context. In 1932 eugenics was popular and so it was widely believed that defective human beings should not be allowed to reproduce. On the other side of the Atlantic, Adolf Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that disabled men should heroically choose to abstain from reproducing. A decade later he abandoned this call for voluntarily abstenance and instead murdered or sterilized hundreds of thousands of disabled individuals in hospitals and institutions. The crimes of Adolf Hitler were so heinous that now almost everything associated with him is rejected, but prior to World War II eugenics was generally accepted in the U.S. and the U.K.. “Its character as an alternative morality of higher purposes is not as evident today, primarily because Adolf Hitler gave it such a bad name. He was clearly a lunatic and perhaps the most bloodthirsty person who has ever taken control of a large country. But the excesses of Nazism, although impossible to forget, should not be projected backward into the period before they occurred,” (page 155). In my opinion, the most blaring evidence of the acceptance of eugenics in the early twentieth century is the book Eugenics and other Evils by G.K. Chesterton. In this book, Chesterton argued against the notion that governments had the right to decide who had the privilege of reproducing, and who not. Reproduction is a natural right which government does not grant and does not have the right to take away, except in extreme cases, in which it would be obvious that the individuals should not have children. An example of an extreme case would be one of a White boy and a Negro woman. Another extreme case would be a hunchback who wanted to marry. That such people should not have children is obvious, according to Chesterton. So even in a book the purpose of which was to argue against eugenics, there is an acceptance of the ‘obvious’ fact that eugenics should be practiced in some cases. Eugenics could not have existed had it not been for the morality of higher purposes. Instead of each individual caring exclusively about his honor, as in the Early Middle Ages, or exclusively about self-fulfillment, as in High Modern Times, people strove for higher purposes which would be achieved after their own deaths. Eugenics purports to improve the human race over the course of several generations, by helping the natural process of evolution to move forward in the right direction. Those who worked to promote eugenics knew that they were working for the future of humanity, which they themselves would not live long enough to see.

Margaret Sanger founded the American Birth Control League in 1921. At that time, the links to eugenics were strong and clear. One of its goals was “Sterilization of the insane and feebleminded and the encouragement of this operation upon those afflicted with inherited or transmissible diseases, with the understanding that sterilization does not deprive the individual of his or her sex expression, but merely renders him incapable of producing children.” The name of the organization was changed to Planned Parenthood in 1942 because the United States was at war against Nazi Germany and eugenics was associated with Nazism ( Today, advocates of Planned Parenthood do not openly advocate eugenics, thus eliminating the vestige of a morality which called for a higher purpose. Now, the freedom of individual women to live as they please is the only reason why Planned Parenthood exists. The old morality’s demand that we should sacrifice now to achieve a higher purpose in the future has been jettisoned, while the new morality’s demand that in all matters we should be pro-choice rules without opposition, at least among those who support Planned Parenthood.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the A.D.A., claiming that it would help disabled people to work to support themselves and contribute to society. At that time, the old morality of higher purposes was still strong, so disabled individuals, especially men, suffered psychologically from their inability to support themselves and contribute to society. Now, twenty-five years later, the new morality of self-fulfillment pervades society, and the belief that a man should take care of himself and contribute to society has faded. Technology has diminished the disadvantages of disabled individuals as compared to able-bodied individuals when competing for jobs. Thanks to the internet which makes it possible to work and communicate without leaving home, and other technology which aids blind and deaf individuals, people who in the past were unable to work can now do so. Educational opportunities have also increased for disabled individuals, so that many are better trained for professional careers than were in the past. But the number of people receiving disability payments because officially unable to work has increased every year since 2000. In that year, 5 million 42 thousand Americans received disability payments. In 2014, 8 million 954 thousand Americans received disability payments ( Because of the increasing number of people receiving disability payments, the whole federal program is scheduled to run out of money by the end of next year, and Congress is right now debating what changes should be made to prevent this program from ceasing from lack of funds.

The United Kingdom is experiencing similar problems. The Conservative government of David Cameron is encouraging disabled individuals to get jobs so that the government can cut their payments and thus reduce expenditures, but handicapped people have protested, and have sent a formal complaint to the United Nations, which conducted an official investigation of the possibility that reductions of payments to the disabled in Britain might be a violation of their human rights ( 2015/oct/20/un-inquiry-uk-disability-rights-violations-cprd-welfare-cuts). This is an indication of how far the pendulum has swung from the old morality of higher purposes to the new morality of self-fulfillment. Equality and the freedom to make choices without consequences are the two foundations of the new morality. Governments, therefore, are expected to compensate for the inequalities of nature, bringing the living conditions of disabled individuals up to the same level as those of able-bodied individuals. If disabled individuals choose not to work, then it is a violation of their human rights to force them to do so. The belief widely held in 1990 that it is wrong to survive without purpose, receiving from society what one has not earned, and the consequent belief that government should make an effort to help disabled adults work, has been forgotten, replaced by the belief that every individual has a right to be supported whether or not she or he chooses to work.
“Freaks” and Reality T.V. Shows

The 1932 movie “Freaks” is a classic which I highly recommend. It has been popular since its re-release in 1960, but when it was first released in 1932 the protests were so vehement that it was pulled from the cinemas. Even before its release, censors made them delete large parts of the film, so that what we have now is significantly less than the original. The greatest protest in 1932 was against the portrayal of circus freaks marrying and having children. This was largely due to the popularity of eugenics, about which I spoke above. Eugenics was not the only thing that caused opposition to the movie “Freaks”. Another cause of indignation was the very notion that the freaks involved were showing what they should have wanted to hide. The circus freaks shown in the movie earned their livings not from doing anything admirable or entertaining, like the circus performers, but just by allowing people to look at their unusual bodies. That their bodies were unusual is undebateable, but that it was believed that they were not just different from the norm, but inferior to it. (Aside, about ten years ago a Polish delegate to the European Parliament was censured for saying that homosexuals are
abnormal”. The word ‘abnormal’ means unusual. At least ninety percent of human beings are heterosexual; people who have a quality found in at most ten percent of the population are unusual. Censuring someone for making that statement indicates that some adherents of the new morality do not know the meanings of words.) It was felt at that time that inferior qualities should be hidden, because showing them off is contrary to the dignity of the persons involved. That attitude has strong foundation in The Bible (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:23).

According to the new morality, which is egalitarian, there is no reason to admire one person and despise another, because all are equal. In the same way, there is no reason for an individual to show off his admirable qualities, but hid his contemptible ones, because no quality is really better, more admirable than any other, nor is any quality worse, more contemptible than any other. All is equal, according to the new morality of self-fulfillment, for every quality of a person is part of his self, which is the ultimate good. Just as in the previous morality it was believed that God is the absolute good, and nothing of Him can possibly be bad, which is manifested in the practice of showing that Jesus did something in the Gospels and taking that as proof that such an act is good – W.W.J.D.? -, in like manner the new morality claims that any quality that is part of the self is necessarily good, and merely proving that it is part of the self precludes the possibility that it might be evil. So there are reality shows about abnormal people. I watched some of these, but I found them boring. The folks depicted in the shows were not extraordinary. They were rather ordinary people whose only reason for being on television is their physical oddities, much like the circus freaks of a hundred years ago. In 1932, it was thought contrary to human dignity for individuals to make a spectacle of their bad qualities, but now since all qualities are deemed to be equal, making a spectacle of anything is not contrary to human dignity, as long as those involved freely choose to do it.