[lit-ideas] Re: When a civilized society fights a barbarous one

  • From: Eric Yost <eyost1132@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2006 13:55:10 -0400

Judy: Those who seek to hold the US (etc.) to a high
standard, those who do not accept that it's right for
the US (etc.) to use torture because others use
torture, those who oppose the use of torture by their
government in the knowledge that it is often used by
other governments, patently obviously believe that
some cultures are different from others and that some
cultures are better than others.  It's slightly
worrying that West cannot see this.

We've had this argument before about "high standards."

One of my history professors used to make the point that the US high standards (The Constitution, for example) mean that US actions will ALWAYS fall short of expectations. Given the absolute language of the Constitution, the US will always be seen to fail. Other governments, and I believe he cited the British as an example, employ less grandiose language to their governments, and will always be seen to meet or exceed their claims.

His point is important. High ideals mean regular failure to meet them. The value of high ideals is in the direction of social evolution, not in their day-to-day realization.

So if a civilization is fighting for its right to exist against barbaric medieval Islamists, the failure to meet absolute standards on a day-to-day basis is MUCH less important than the overall direction of the civilization.

The direction of secular civilization is much more important than the lapses from absolute standards. That direction is toward greater fulfillment of human potential, and it has been empirically demonstrated in ending slavery (which still exists in Islamist societies) and enhancing equality for women (which still is hindered in Islamist societies).

We may fall short of our ideals but the direction toward greater fulfillment of human potential is obvious.

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