In my last post, I talked about how, culturally, we don’t even care what the truth is anymore. We’re happy to let everyone have their own “truth,” especially when it comes to the big questions in life. But the little things? We’re very worked up about those.
We’re all tempted to believe that our own preferences and choices are inherently superior. (Because obviously, if I would choose it, it must be the best, right?) They’re not of course, and until recently it seems as though most of us understood that. More and more though, we are seeing the absolutizing of that which isn’t and the use of moral language to describe non-moral issues.
In the (internet) circles in which I travel, I see this mostly in the realm of parenting topics.
An acquaintance posted an older article about the alleged “moral imperative” to end sleep training. (I’m not linking to it, because it’s junk science and has been rebutted in it’s details thoroughly. But if you really feel compelled, you can find it easily.)
You guys. MORAL IMPERATIVE. Not to end poverty, not to eradicate disease, not to eliminate war. A moral imperative to end sleep training. I just can’t. This is not a moral issue. Different families have different bedtime routines. It’s okay. Moral imperatives do not abound in bedtime routines.
Because I am a big girl who is learning to keep on scrolling, I mustered the self-restraint to shut up and mind my own business. Also, because sometimes People Are Wrong On The Internet and your husband doesn’t appreciate it when you engage them and then rail at him all evening about it. Hypothetically.
But because I am a glutton for punishment, I had to lurk a little, just to drive myself crazy. In the comments, several women suggested the OP block/defriend a girl who thought the article was silly. Because, you know, if someone lets their baby fuss in their crib while learning to sleep independently, it means they are a reprehensible person who you don’t want in your life.
I have seen some of these exact same women aggressively defend moral relativism in contexts like marital infidelity. Ideas like; if your spouse is not meeting your emotional needs, it’s totally fine to seek an extramarital relationship with someone who will, if that’s what’s best for you. Because it’s your body and your choice, and you should speak your truth. Or something.
But if you sleep train? There is a MORAL IMPERATIVE to stop you.
So, to summarize: You are allowed to destroy your family for the sake of your “needs,” but you absolutely must rock and nurse that baby to sleep/all night long or you’re basically Pol Pot.
(If you’re not a parent, you’re probably like, “What is she talking about? People argue about this stuff?” Yes, yes they do. Endlessly and viciously. Feel free to substitute another topic wherein people assume moral superiority- food and dietary choices spring immediately to mind.)
This is why relativism is not a protector of tolerance and diversity, but a tool for totalitarianism. It allows us to make our personal prejudices and whims normative for everyone.
Why is this happening? Why are we obsessed with the minute details of the way other people put their kids to sleep, even though we affirm their right to dispose of those children if they choose and to structure their family in any way they see fit?
Because when you embrace relativism with respect to actual moral issues, you begin to impose moral judgment on things that are non-moral.
We are moral agents by nature. Because we have free will, we are responsible for our actions and authors of the story that our actions tell. On some level, everyone knows this and wants to be part of a compelling story.
Have you seen the, “A woman’s place is in the resistance” meme? Or people using the hashtag #resist when posting in opposition to some Trump administration policy?
This is not, of course, THE Resistance. People in the actual Resistance risked and often lost their lives working to save others. If they had indulged in just one public objection, the SS would have been at their door. Outraged social media posts that risk nothing are not remotely comparable to participation in the Resistance. Could you blame surviving members of the (actual) Resistance for being irritated by this appropriation of the name?
People are moral agents. We want to be forces for good (even if we’re confused about what that is, exactly). We want to be a part of the story and we want to be the protagonist. So we overstate our role, claiming both the moral high-ground based on how we put our kids to bed and membership in the Resistance based on our tweets (#irony).
The problem is that when we don’t care about the truth, we make ourselves the arbiters of good and evil and our penchants and prejudices the standard. Members of the (actual) Resistance could tell us the story of how that ends.