Though of all Western countries only the USA has ‘pursuit of happiness’ chiselled in stone, most modern people would see it as a worthy lapidary goal.
Few stop to think that this desideratum, if left unqualified, is fundamentally nihilistic. Few would remember that, before Jesus Christ became a superstar, it had been assumed that people should seek to attain not happiness but virtue.
There was little disagreement on what virtue was, and none at all on its being distinct from vice. ‘Happiness’, on the other hand, makes no distinction between good and sinful, which automatically elevates tolerance to the status of not just the highest virtue, but the only one.
After all, one man’s happiness may be another man’s misery. For example, putting powerful speakers into a car boot, opening it and then driving around town with ‘music’ blaring at top blast may be the driver’s way of pursuing happiness. Few others would be equally happy. Even if we were to narrow the notion of happiness down to seeking money, the same applies: we can all think of numerous situations where one man’s fiscal happiness spells another man’s destitution (Bernie Madoff, ring your office).
Divesting happiness from virtue and vice deprives its pursuit of any moral aspect. This is as close to a reasonable definition of nihilism as one can get.
‘Anything goes’ is a necessary corollary to nihilism; it would wither on the vine without it. Thus tolerance and an open mind have to be definitely the most important, and arguably the only, virtues in a society devoted to happiness über alles. The coin is two-sided: modern tolerance of vice has to be offset by intolerance of any traditional virtue.
This is supposed to be our new morality, but in fact it’s neither moral nor particularly new. Back in the 5th century BC, Herodotus insisted on the importance of ‘respecting other people’s ancient customs’. A few pages later in the same book, he wrote: ‘Burying people alive is an ancient Persian custom.’
Today’s champions of multiculturalism would be well-advised to ponder this. Would they be prepared to accept not only couscous, but also female castration? Not only tandoori, but also suttee? If, as one suspects, most would answer no, they should then decide whether true multiculturalism, accepting all cultures as equally valid in their entirety, is either possible or indeed desirable.
Witness the Indian guru Asaram Bapu who yesterday added his rupee’s worth to the rape case currently drawing international attention. Six youngsters dragged the student Jyoti Singh Pandey and her boyfriend into a bus, where they proceeded to rape her and beat them both. The poor girl later died, and her friend suffered horrendous injuries.
The saintly man’s comment? According to him, Jyoti Singh Pandey was ‘as guilty as her rapists’. She wasn’t sufficiently kind to the murderous thugs and didn’t ask them nicely enough not to abuse her. Presumably, she also wore a revealing sari, inflaming the poor youngsters’ desire to rape and murder. The holy man refrained from specifying the guilt of the girl’s boyfriend. Were his trousers perchance too short?
One is beginning to feel that a lifetime of meditation may just fail to shape a personality in the same way as even the occasional prayer would. And then, at the risk of transgressing against modernity’s sole virtue of multi-culti tolerance, one wonders if the odd bit of intolerance, nay unequivocal rejection, may at times be acceptable.
Fair enough, both the crime and the cleric’s comments on it have caused an outrage in India, with crowds claiming that the country should review its whole culture, specifically its position on the role of women in society. Thousands are out in the streets, brandishing deeply felt but badly spelt posters. (‘Publically hang the rapists!’ – an ‘A’ for the sentiment, an ‘F’ for the orthography.)
But still, it’s hard to think offhand of a minister in any mainstream Christian confession anywhere in the West who’d be capable of making a similar statement. Nor is it easier to think that even such a sadistic rape in, say, Geneva or Bologna, would make thousands of people blame the vicious crime on the general failings of Western civilisation. That such an accusation can be made credibly in the second most populous country on earth should bring our commitment to multiculturalism into focus.
At an unguarded moment one may even suggest that other cultures, especially the more exotic ones, aren’t just different from ours but are indeed inferior to it. Therefore any attempt to toss them all into the same cauldron and boil them down into a single entity can result in one thing only: annihilating Western culture and replacing it with boldfaced, unapologetic nihilism.
All Western countries are making such giant strides towards this worthy end that one may get the impression this is the true goal of their governments, media and ‘educators’. Considering such a possibility, I can only repeat the same tearful plea as an American baseball fan directed at Joe ‘Shoeless’ Jackson, the player accused of fixing the 1919 World Series:
‘Please say it ain’t so, Joe!’