“I’m non-judgmental”

Among the dumb things I hear with some frequency, that statement is one of the most perplexedly annoying. It’s intended as a sort of mushy shorthand for being acceptant of diversity. But it only really “applies” when there are no difficult (and specific) value choices at work.

What does the “non-judgmental” person have to say about the actions of the infamous Russell Williams? Can one just shrug their shoulders and refuse to comment on how someone “gets their kicks”? Not likely. The mildest possible reaction for the (otherwise) non-judgmental person is horror and revulsion.

Things get a lot more interesting when longstanding practices of other cultures are put under the spotlight, say, female genital mutilation? Does one chalk that up to “When in Rome,…,”? Is this just another case of cultural relativism? Usually, no, but the condemnation is surprisingly mild, as if voicing a direct opinion condemning the cultural validity of the practice is somehow intemperate.

The real issue seems to be whether people in this day and age are willing to actually articulate the specifics their values. While there are plenty of Pollyannas humming John Lennon’s ¬†perfect world “masterpiece”, there’s little recognition of the reality that barbaric practices arise from barbaric values. To fail to roundly condemn them is, as the saying goes, “to promote what you permit”.

Supposedly “modern” (secular) values seem to have reached a kind of philosophical and logical dead end, at which point it becomes almost inevitable that adherents must, in effect, adopt a tolerant attitude to a lot of noxious things, including intolerance itself.

But what it comes down to (eventually) is that in order to have values, one must make choices about “right and wrong”. If not, at some point in time, your world with “no heaven” might collide head-on with one just the other side of which await 72 virgins. It won’t be pretty.

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