How our Universities Harm our Children
By Geoff Bloch
We may be relics from the past but our children live in a post-modern, post-Zionist world in which traditional Jewish values are being progressively rejected as archaic and irrelevant. As our children leave the protective cocoon of our day schools to attend tertiary institutions or leave our homes to make their own way, they are encouraged to question previously held traditions and beliefs and to decide for themselves where they stand on a wide range of political, social and religious issues.
Our children’s mentors are likely to be inspirational and influential academics who have selflessly devoted their lives to educating others; who are inevitably intelligent and articulate and who seem to be genuinely open-minded, clear-thinking and compassionate. Why then is there any cause for concern?
I generalise, but academics, particularly in the social sciences, hold views which can fairly be described as secular, humanist and to the left of centre. With some notable exceptions, academics rarely defend Israel in these times of unprecedented hostility, instead blaming Israel for the ongoing conflict with her Palestinian neighbours, sometimes even calling for divestment and boycotts. Tragically, Jewish academics are in the vanguard.
This is largely due to an ideology which is both seductive and damaging as I will explain. Our children ’s prolonged exposure to it cannot be a good thing at a time in their lives when they are working out where they stand on so many issues, including their own Jewish identity.
Defining the ideology
Modern humanism espouses the laudable objectives of fraternity and benevolence contending that these can be achieved by the use of man’s inherent power of reason coupled with his supposed innate ability to act ethically and justly, but specifically rejecting religious doctrines as a basis of morality and behaviour.
Our children are encouraged to draw upon their own goodness and logical reasoning to form opinions on social, political and religious issues. The ideology appeals to their vanity by flattery, because it suggests they are innately able to be moral arbiters between the great social polarities of right and wrong.
A deeply flawed ideology
Ironically, secular, logical reasoning, rather than religious dogma, exposes the fundamental flaw of humanism. The secular argument is this: “In the absence of an absolute moral code, there IS no right and wrong. Everything becomes a matter of opinion and what is moral and ethical will simply move with the vagaries of the times and/or from society to society.”
This is easily proved by giving examples from the real world. (1) The Arab mother who joyously and proudly celebrates when her son blows himself to bits murdering innocent Jews hardly regards herself or her son as immoral or unethical. Nor does the society in which she lives. (2) The Nazi soldier who gassed innocent Jews did not regard himself as immoral or unethical. Nor did the society in which he lived. In both cases, if children grow up being taught that Jews are vermin and ought to be exterminated, then doing so is not only socially acceptable, it is a moral imperative.
These examples prove conclusively that (1) what man understands as ethical or moral is relative; (2) it is impossible for certain modes of behaviour to be universally rejected as unethical or immoral unless measured against a universal and absolute moral code; and (3) that code must be taught because ethical and moral behaviour is not innate.
Humanism and moral inversion go hand in hand
Because one of the core principles of humanism is the erroneous belief that all men have an innate ability to act ethically and justly, a humanist is faced with a paradox. How can this core principle be reconciled with the fact that the world is awash with what we traditionally understand as unethical and unjust behaviour (the homicide bombing of innocent Jews for example)?
Such behaviour can more readily be understood or reconciled by the humanist by attributing to the perpetrator a valid reason which justifies or apologises for it. In short, the victim is blamed for being victimised.
This moral inversion is a means by which the secular humanist can explain away real evil while preserving his core beliefs.
Humanism and moral equivalence go hand in hand
Because humanism espouses universal fraternity and benevolence, all peoples must be regarded as equal. No religion or culture may be regarded as superior or more generous than any other. The humanist is therefore faced with a second paradox. How can this core principle be reconciled with unprovoked violence and brutality by any one particular religious group? Indeed how can it be reconciled with the humanity and generosity of another group, such as Israel sending medical emergency teams to Haiti, Rwanda and Turkey?
In order to preserve this unsound core belief, violence and brutality are summarily dismissed and excused as part of a “cycle of violence”, a pernicious term which attributes equal blame and similar behaviour to the victim without any honest attempt to analyse and attribute blame where it is due or to investigate whether the behaviour of one group is truly reciprocated by the other. The expression “cycle of violence” is a good barometer indicating that moral equivalence is “in the air”. Moral equivalence is the inability to draw a distinction between (hence equating) an immoral or evil act and a moral or justified one. A good contemporary example is the clear distinction between the intentional unprovoked rocketing by Hamas of Israeli civilians and the tragic and unintentional deaths of Palestinian civilians brought about by defensive measures taken by the IDF.
But religions and cultures are not of equal value as can easily be proved by example. Suttee was a widespread religious funeral practice among some Hindu communities in which a perfectly healthy widow, either voluntarily or by coercion, was immolated on her husband’s funeral pyre. Colonial powers (Portuguese, Dutch, French, Danish and British) recognised the practice as barbaric and primitive compared with their own religion and culture and had the moral courage to ban it.
We are supposed to live in a more enlightened age, yet where is the outcry against other barbaric and primitive practices, such as female circumcision, honour killings or the subjugation of women in many Islamic communities, to give but three examples? The core humanist belief that no religion or culture is superior to any other helps explain the deafening silence.
“But I know deep within myself that I am a moral person”
This is humanism’s narcissistic mantra. But today’s humanist was raised by a generation which was steeped in Old Testament values hence his own subjective notions of right and wrong are likely to be consonant with traditional Jewish values. The same cannot be said of tomorrow’s humanist who will inhabit a different world in which those values are progressively disappearing. Tomorrow’s humanist will therefore be less likely to be able to discern actual right from actual wrong as those polarities are traditionally understood.
Which absolute moral code?
A secularist might argue: “We do not need a document thousands of years old to serve as a moral code in the modern world. Even if a code is needed, our existing laws can serve as that code.”
The law cannot satisfactorily serve that purpose because the law is no more than a reflection of society’s temporal social mores and customs. Laws are constantly amended or repealed and new laws enacted. Even the pernicious Nuremberg Laws were lawfully enacted. We need something far more enduring.
That is why some avowed, but intellectually honest, atheists have concluded that our religious moral code should be retained because, ironically, it safeguards the stability of modern secular society. For example, in Dr. Anthony Daniel’s words (aka Theodore Dalrymple) “it is impossible for us to live decently without the aid of religion…(t)hat is the ambiguity of the Enlightenment.”
Conclusion – What can be done?
As with most problems, one can look for a cure or take preventative measures. A cure is problematic because secular humanism at universities is so rife. Even were our community and generous benefactors to take steps to attenuate it, it cannot be completely overcome.
Education is the best answer. Our children should be provided with the intellectual tools they need to meet and resist the collision of ideologies which awaits them. Our schools, our youth movements and our homes all have important roles to play in such combination as best suits each individual child so that, as we all hope for, our children can face the future with pride in Israel and in their heritage.
Geoffrey Bloch is a Melbourne based barrister.