values353

What are yours?

Had an interesting response to Tuesday's post from a fellow named Joseph, who argues quite persuasively the "change" in the attitudes of men I noted on Grand Final day was, perhaps, "not an evolution but a regression to a personal, core and enduring common ground of values" ...

Wrote Joseph: "Hope I am doing justice to your article but to summarise it: attitudinal change has occurred through greater tolerance and compassion, which you've described as a form of cultural (and personal) evolution."

"You add we are now part of a world community of thoughts and attitudes as opposed to the smaller communities we used to belong to in yesteryear."

Which is pretty much the gist of what I wrote, however, Joseph had some further thinking on the topic.

"The 'world community of thoughts and attitudes' has the consequence of democratising thoughts and attitudes," he writes.

"It de-personalises thought. Taken to the extreme (which it has through technology and the internet) it inadvertently supports the absurd proposition that all thoughts are equal – when they are not."

"Democracy and equality in thoughts and attitudes is not necessarily a good thing. This is a dangerous assumption – some thoughts and attitudes simply prove themselves (quite objectively) to be superior to others.

"[Democracy and equality in thoughts and attitudes] creates trends in thought for no good reason. They get a momentum of their own. You end up being pounded by a massive attitudinal wave that may have originated with some well-intentioned but misguided act of tolerance," writes Joseph.

This idea of the "democratising thoughts and attitudes" reminded me of a refreshingly wry Heckler piece in The Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year by Lynn Van Der Wagen.

"As a teacher with more than 20 years' experience it is increasingly painful to read and listen to opinion in the absence of background knowledge, research or experience," she wrote.

"Past generations paid due regard to the expertise of the teacher and gained intellectual exercise by reading and (gasp) memorising important information."

She argued the "gargantuan rise in the younger generation's confidence in the value of their opinions" was a result of "parents and teachers alike" being "counselled to hold a young person's opinion in the highest regard".

Being someone who's paid for his opinion - this nifty observational jab lanced right through my defences because *newsflash*, I often bang on about subjects in which I have little formal education.

I am thus painfully aware of this weakness in others because I see myself in their obnoxiously ignorant pronoucements.

Some years ago, I was talking to a friend about Ernest Becker's 1973 classic, The Denial of Death, and she out-of-hand dismissed his theory - that humans are subconsciously driven by the fear of dying.

"I'm not scared of death. It's just one man's opinion," she said, neatly ignoring that "the man" was building on the work of towering intellects like Kierkegaard and Sigmund Freud and had won a Pulitzer Prize for his opinion.

She wasn't scared of death, so Becker, Freud and Kierkegaard were wrong. Every thought is equal nowadays, apparently.

Anyway, Joseph attacks this concept, arguing that tolerance of stupid, hare-brained, ill-informed ideas should not be seen as a virtue.

"Tolerance should never be an 'end' but should always be 'a means to an end'. Tolerance for tolerance sake is bad news," he says.

"There is such a prevailing sense out there that to be virtuous or righteous one must be tolerant to the 'needs' of others. We should never tolerate that which is wrong. Tolerance, when trendy, is simply a mindless act of conceding. We need something more fundamental to make those determinations," he writes.

And what is that?

Values.

"Values, as the end, selectively use tolerance, as the means to achieving them. Now, although we can obtain/share values from the community at large, they are intrinsically a deeply personal thing. They are fundamental," says Joseph.

"They should always prevail over the diluting, transitory and trendy 'world community of thoughts and attitudes' which you have relied so heavily on in your article as a mechanism for good."

I put to Joseph that "the question man's been asking himself forever, however, is 'what values, if any, are universal?'"

He replied: "I don't think the individual values have to be universal. The universality or common feature of values is they are 'valued' by those that keep them – irrespective of the source.

"Being valued, they are upheld and they endure. They have passed the test of time and have proven to be reliable yardsticks in driving our behaviour.

"By definition, you simply cannot have 'bad' values, for if they were bad, they would not have been retained in the first place. Values do not exist in a vacuum but are practiced.

"If one repeatedly gets a bad result when practicing an 'almost-value', it loses its value and is dropped. Bad 'almost-values' are dropped and good values are retained.

Thus, he argued, what I experienced "in that pub was not an evolution but a regression to a personal, core and enduring common ground of values".

"The shared thoughts of the community at large through technology and larger cities gives us access to more information but is not necessarily making us more informed," he said.

Now, was this just an excuse to cut and paste a whole lot of someone else's thinking into a post to save me writing one?

Sort of, but it's also been occupying my thoughts the last few days and I'd love to hear yours on the subject.

[Joseph, sorry if my editing has altered or misconstrued your argument.]

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