Normative thinking in the balance
Cultural biases play a part of who we are and the direction we want to head in. We can see prescriptive “normative” attitudes and structures as both comforting and stagnating simultaniously. We need to look at the legal and ethical principles which underly the state. When we accept that no one culture is the “answer” for everyone on the planet, and since cultures are interwoven in various nation-states, we need to seek a less exclusionary world view.
The planet is struggling to develop guidelines, laws, which will not be involved in value judgements and active effort has ensued to ameliate bias. Empirical analysis uses knowledge from experience, observations and experimentations. Patterns of behaviour can be quantified revealing uniformities, similarities, uncovering facts and predict behaviour to make wise laws the community needs to calmly have peace, order and good governance.
The difficulty with this is that representatives appear rudderless and more charismatic leaders with a less wholistic agenda easily pick up the vote and the electorate begins to wallow in helpless apathy. Efforts which are not laced with value language are considered irrelevant by many.
Metaphysical approaches can be misappropriated and we discover the weakness in democracy – not everyone is capable of thinking through the religious rhetoric thrown at them but any symbol of being faithful seems to satisfice and it is the charismatic or religiously symbolic people they follow. Con artists are everywhere. Abuses are in every area of life. Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” are viable candidates for the path of light, goodness and love.
The Liberal Party of Canada has a policy that individual members are not to abuse their position of power in flaunting their personal religious system as provincial or federal representatives in a multi-cultural and multi-faith society. This leaves an erroneous impression that there are no “Christians” in the Liberal Party which oppostion parties can take advantage of in their open faith declarations and garner voters who do not examine the consequences of these professing politicians’ policies. We know that Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau had a strong personalist Roman Catholic faith from journalists and writers, not directly flaunted by the man himself or incursioned as a law to be followed. Heart decisions were left to the individual in honour of free will although that is not the language employed. It pained M. Trudeau to go against his faith culture but he knew that to be truly free in a multicultural world choice must often remain with the individual. It took some decades to come to full intellectual and emotional understanding and acceptance of this approach. It is a journey we all needs must make.
Particularly after 9/11 in 2001, facts and values, science and prescription, the mundane and faith, are being brought forward into the public arena. I have seen Liberal politicians make simple language changes that offend no-one but are declarative of faith non-the-less: they are declaring in their introduction of others that they are a “blessing”. A simple thing like this in the forum of needing to keep church and state separate is profound. It is simple yet effective.
It remains that we give value judgements after examining and consider, not throw out, all the facts. One example of this challenge is with capital punishment as a great deal is quantifiable.