zondag 24 mei 2015

Where do universal values bring us?

I sense in myself an alarming degree of ruthlessness and cynicism. But I cannot get rid of it. When the misery of this world comes to me on this scale on rickety boats I feel in myself: this is too big for us, just capsize. That’s what I mean by alarming.

But I really don’t manage to believe in the universalism of the pope or of human rights fundamentalists. Rather that in theory everyone has equal dignity – it’s not that hard to agree with that. But not that everyone who actually wants to go here would be welcome by definition.

If you think that, like the pope or enthusiastic utopians do, then you have no idea what it takes to keep a society like ours going. Because what are we talking about? About a messy conglomerate of innumerable and sometimes heavy conflicts for which on a daily basis large amounts of ingenuity and energy are needed to steer them into acceptable and reasonable channels. Via jurisdiction, health care, political compromises, scientific research work. Often in a difficult, sometimes embarrassing way, but it works.

This delicate social fabric can only be exposed to brutal disturbances from outside on penalty of total disintegration. Not to want to acknowledge that, I consider a reproachable failure of utopians. If it is true that not to absorb refugees can be considered a crime - and I think that's the case – then for me that holds equally true for persevering in a blind utopian simplification. A crime of which I am sometimes tempted to accuse pope Francis and other human rights fundamentalists.

With absolute, universal values one doesn’t get far and that is certainly tragic. But it is our responsibility to recognize that. Trained in the perverse discipline of history, I agree with Luuk van Middelaar when he says: “The moral right of the Good Samaritan endures as long as everything stays organized. It can not draw the line between ‘You In’ and ‘You out’ - and in our finite world such a limit always presents itself”.

The utopian philosopher Bernard-Henry Levy too might do well to rethink his 2011 appeal for an Allied invasion of Libya. To that apply the words of another columnist, Rob de Wijk: “Randomness may certainly be the outcome when our moral compass is more important than the law”.

Also see Acceptable cynicism