I read an op-ed this week by one of my favorite opinion writers, David Brooks of the New York Times. He was talking about how many people thought that becoming unmoored from religion would lead to a less judgmental society. Yet the opposite seems to be true — people are getting more concerned about morality rather than less — just that there is no longer a standard, agreed-upon code that the Judeo-Christian ethic once provided. And so the conflict level has risen as people seem to be debating from a multitude of standards, unable to find resolution since the standards differ.
David goes off in a direction with his article that I don’t want to focus on here, but his identification of the problem I thought was very insightful and spurred a thought or two of my own.
Why didn’t society settle out at a “you do you and I’ll do me” framework? I suppose that at some level of interaction, we did. But the problem is that this only can work in the personal sphere (if it can work at all), and even in that sphere seems to result in distant relationships because people relating on this basis have trouble doing anything together except when it is in each person’s self-interest. Fundamentally, intimacy is about doing things for the sake of the other person, out of love.
However, in the public and political sphere, to accomplish anything at all there has to be a way to make joint decisions since there are limited resources and since the biggest issues require some kind of agreement as to how we are going to do things.