Monday, September 3, 2012

Lacking confidence in their convictions

In reading "Coming Apart", by Charles Murray, I finally made sense of something that has long bothered me: Why don't those who constantly preach tolerance here seem to notice or care  about intolerance elsewhere?

Murray thinks it goes back to an idea of Arnold J. Toynbee:
"The growth phase of a civilization is led by a creative minority with a strong, self-confident sense of style, virtue, and purpose. The uncreative majority follows along. Then, at some point in every civilization's journey, the creative minority degenerates into a dominant minority. Its members still run the show, but they are no longer confident and no longer set the example. Among other reactions are a 'lapse into truancy'--a rejection of the obligations of citizenship--and 'surrender to a sense of promiscuity'--vulgarization of manners, the arts, and language--that 'are apt to appear first in the ranks of the proletariat and to spread from there to the ranks of the dominant minority, which usually succumbs to the sickness of 'proletarianization'" (p 286)

Murrray applies the idea as follows:
"The code of the American gentleman has collapsed, just as the parallel code of the American lady has collapsed.

In today's new upper class--what Toynbee would surely see as a dominant minority--the code that has taken its place is a set of mushy injunctions to be nice. Call it the code of ecumenical niceness. Children are supposed to share their toys, not hit one another, take turns . . . to be nice. And, by and large, the children of the new upper class grow up to be nice. But they are also taught that they should respect everyone else's way of doing things, regardless of gender, race, sexual preference, cultural practices, or national origin, which leads to the crucial flaw in ecumenical niceness. The code of the dominant minority is supposed to set the standard for the society, but ecumenical niceness has a hold only on people whom the dominant minority is willing to judge--namely, one another.
...
Nonjudgmentalism ceases to be baffling if you think of it as a symptom of Toynbee's loss of self-confidence among the dominant minority." (pp 289-90)

In other words, it indicates our civilization is in decline.