Bruce Kesler at the Democracy Project has a long essay on how academia has systematically failed to provide an ethical basis for life in a world where technology, mobility and free markets have allowed the individual to attain a greater measure of autonomy than ever before. At the precise moment when each person required an inner compass to guide him through his environment, his elders have pointed him in all directions.
But rather than resulting in a world of reasoned discourse between different moral points of view, the systematic teaching of moral relativism in the classroom resulted in its precise opposite: a culture of uncritical conformity in the guise of political correctness whose members, unprepared to think for themselves became fair game to any cult leader or demagogue who card to take advantage of the milling flock of sheep. Quoting Maimon Schwarzchild, law professor at Catholic San Diego University, Kesler writes:
Our civilization’s peculiar misfortune is to be under a double assault, physically by the undercivilized from without, and psychologically by those surfeited with it from within. And these last own the classroom ...
73 percent of the students said that when their professors taught about ethical issues, the usual message was that uniform standards of right and wrong don't exist ("what is right and wrong depends on differences in individual values and cultural diversity"). It's not news that today's campuses are drenched in moral relativism. But we are allowed to be surprised that college students report they are being well prepared ethically by teachers who tell them, in effect, that there are no real ethical standards, so anything goes.
The result is a civilization in the "process of committing suicide", whose dominant ideology is anti-anti-barbarism, where the highest value is not to oppose even the greatest evil. I found Kesler's observations interesting not merely in the intellectual sense, but because it bore directly on the conduct of the War on Terror.
Terror, if it is anything, represents the ultimate challenge of barbarism against civilization. And if the great centers of Western learning, the giant flagships of its literacy as represented by newspapers, magazines and television stations cannot rouse themselves to oppose terrorism then in some fundamental sense it has already pre-surrendered. And this ethos of surrender, this "anti-anti-barbarism" will inevitably manifest itself in all facts of public life; a life which has been converted into a moral vacuum. Polygamy, endogamy, special dispensations for cults, the inordinate fear of giving offensive; these endless and futile accomodations to maintain a void which is rapidly being filled not by the same indefinite vapor, but is instead being occupied by a very definite point of view. A point of view that stipulates when one must wash, pray or what one should eat; that knows even the genders of vegetables. When the moral relativists cast the truth table from their ivory towers they forgot that anti-anti-bararism = ~~(~p)=~p, where p stands for civilization. It is in a word barbarism.