Published by The Freeman Center
The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
Relativism, the Mental Disorder of Democracy*
by Professor Paul Eidelberg
In my semi-autobiographical book, An American Political Scientist in Israel (Lexington Books, 2010), I examine the writings of various clinical psychologists and psychiatrists and demonstrate that moral relativism, which flourishes in democracies, leads to a mental disorder I call "Demophrenia." Demophrenia exhibits certain symptoms of schizophrenia, which I will not discuss here. Instead, I will consider only the common sense consequences of moral relativism, a doctrine that denies objective norms of human behavior and which therefore leads to the bizarre behavior we now see in Israel and throughout the democratic world.
Relativism is a university-bred doctrine. It infects the minds of countless students, some of whom become politicians and judges.
Thus, while Jews were being reduced to body parts by Arabs suicide bombers, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in an April 2001 interview with Ha’aretz that his son Omri taught him “not to think in terms of black and white.” Omri and his father were tainted by relativism. This doctrine, I contend, deterred Sharon from publicly denouncing the PLO-Palestinian Authority publicly as “evil.” Contrast Ronald Reagan who referred to the Soviet Union as the "evil empire" and was psychologically as well as morally committed to bringing down that tyranny. This cannot be said of Sharon's attitude toward the PLO.
Had Sharon and his predecessors called the PLO "evil," they could hardly have pursued the fatal Oslo peace process in which Benjamin Netanyahu is still entrapped. They could hardly have pursued a policy of self-restraint against Arab Jew-killers. They could hardly have released hundreds of these Jew-killers as "confidence-building" gestures. Relativism stultifies the mind and shrinks the chest. It inhibits moral outrage; it emasculates.
Relativism has infected Israel's Supreme Court, especially its former president Judge Aharon Barak. His mind-numbing relativism induced him to quash indictments against Arab MKs who incited Arabs to kill Jews. The same emasculation underlies his legitimizing homosexuality and gay marriages. Another sign of this mental disorder occurred when he nullified a law permitting the Film Censorship Board to ban pornographic movies by ruling that nothing can actually be declared pornography, as “one man’s pornography is another man’s art.” Imagine how many art museums would thrive if the likes of Judge Barak were their proprietors?
Hardly ever noticed is that relativism is a denial of ethical monotheism and must thus be deemed a tacit form of Jew-hatred! This is why Israel-bashing is rampant in the academic world where relativism reigns. This is why Leftists in the democratic world have formed an unholy alliance with Islam where Jew-hatred is endemic. Whereas the God of the Jews represents freedom and reason, the Islamic deity represents absolute will and power, hence absolute determinism. Note well that Islam regards the concept of man's creation in the image of God as blasphemy.
Here we behold two contradictory doctrines—relativism and absolutism, both at war with Judaism. Just as Muslim absolutists shamelessly cheer suicide bombers, so relativists foster shamelessness by rejecting objective standards of decency.
Evident among both is Jew-hatred because Judaism rejects relativism as well as absolutism. Both are man-made doctrines or forms of idolatry. Islam is simply a political doctrine parading in a false theology. Democracies steeped in moral relativism lack the concepts and stamina to overcome Islam. With precepts such as "resist not evil," "turn the other cheek," and "love thine enemy," Christianity appears an apolitical creed unable to cope with Islam.
Judaism, however, can transcend Islam and democratic relativism. This is one of the conclusions of my latest book which bears the title America's Unknown Hebraic Republic: A Goal for the Almost-Chosen People.
Now I want to offer a preliminary approach to combating moral relativism. There are two ways of seeing, one with the eyes, the other with the mind. Take a doctor and a layman, looking at the face of the same person. Whereas the layman sees nothing wrong with that person, the doctor sees the onset of a serious illness. Unlike the layman, the doctor sees with his mind as well as with his eyes. Similarly, when a scientist and a layman look through a microscope or a telescope.
Now, just as the mind must be trained to recognize the early symptoms of a disease, the structure of a cell, the order of a galaxy, so the mind must be habituated early in life to seeing goodness and badness, the beautiful and the ugly.
An individual raised in a brothel is not likely to praise chastity or modesty. Don't expect youth who watch pornographic movies to be refined in speech or in conduct. Studies show they become more prone to using obscene language. They have been exposed to the reduction of what is distinctively human to the animal level, where love is reduced to sex. People so educated are not likely to appreciate what is refined or noble. Their respect for the sanctity of human life will gradually evaporate. Paganism follows.
The Jewish people are known for being kind, modest, and merciful. Notice how the rules of engagement of the Israel Defense Forces are designed to minimize Arab casualties, even at the risk of endangering Jewish soldiers. Although I deem this policy immoral as well as foolish, contrast the behavior of the people of the Koran. Notice their cruelty, not only to Jews, but even to their own children. Some 10,000 Iranian children were used to walk over and explode mine fields in Iran's war with Iraq in the 1980s.
I said relativism thrives in democracies. There the principle of equality extends even to the mind, such that all opinions regarding how man should live are deemed equal. If so, why should American youth risk their lives to spread democracy in the Arab Middle East? Would it not be more sensible to pursue "peace"? Of course it would if Arab-Islamic culture renounced the ethos of Jihad, which has a 1,400-year history. Muslim children are weaned on this murderous ethos.
Seeing the world in this light, a student tainted by relativism may begin to suspect that his relativism is not a doctrine he adopted as a result of his own independent, philosophical inquiry. He may see that relativism infected him by a process of osmosis perhaps beginning in the classroom. The truth is that people have been brainwashed by the media of education, especially by the social sciences and the humanities where relativism rules. Imagine parents raising Omris under this insane dispensation.
To call evil good and good evil—the consequence of relativism—is a mental disorder. It is not only a democratic disorder, since this disorder can also be found in Islam. By excluding freedom and reason from the godhead, Islam's deity is beyond good and evil.
To cure the student of relativism, he should be informed about Abraham, the first Jew. Abraham rejected polytheism, which is theological relativism: all gods are equal. The Midrashic story of Abraham smashing the idols of his city represents his smashing the false gods of his time. He discovered the one and only God, the God of Israel and what we now call ethical monotheism.
Abraham was indeed the first Jew. The Jew is that world-historical personality who stands apart, who preserves his intellectual and moral integrity, who is not corrupted by the power-lust of human beings that produces false gods, even if some are outwardly beneficent. This is what nettles tyrants and Jew-haters. The Jew can stand apart because he has the Book of Truth, the standard by which to judge the ideas and actions of others.
My book Jerusalem versus Athens (1983) rejects the leveling or democratic doctrine of subjective relativism, which renders all life-styles equal, and offers what I call objective or hierarchical relativism, which evaluates the diverse ideas and values of men and nations from the absolute and uniform perspective of the Eternal as crystallized in the Torah. We can then ascertain the relative validity of a doctrine or way of life by determining the extent to which it is consistent with the Torah. Accordingly, it is obvious to the present writer that America's foundational documents, the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution, on which I have written four books, are very much based on Hebraic ideas. I regret to add, however, that America's foundational documents are far more consistent with the Torah than Israel's Declaration of Independence as well as with Israel's system of government!
Therefore, although moral relativism permeates the universities of both countries, it poses a greater threat to Israel, since a small country like Israel is more endangered than America. Israel's survival depends not only on military weapons but also on her people's confidence in the justice of their cause—and this confidence is undermined by moral relativism. I'll have more to say about this subject in future reports.
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*Edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, January 3, 2011.