Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk


September 1996

What is happening to our kids? We keep hearing stories of juvenile crime­ even murder. Is it because of all that violence on in the movies, or in pop music? Is it because parents are too busy to care, to love, or to discipline? Or is government to blame, because Justice Minister Rock doesn't have the good sense to really toughen up theYoung Offenders Act?

I can see some heads nodding out there. Yes, maybe it's all these things. But maybe something even more sinister is leading our kids astray. Something that has invaded all of society.

Our kids are the most obvious victims of the new relativism-the belief that there are no absolutes. They're lost, they're angry, they're looking for answers to questions about who they are, the meaning and purpose of life.

And what has our answer been to them? Just do it. No consequences. No responsibility. If it works for you, go for it. When we teach our kids that right and wrong, good and bad, are decided individually, why are we so surprised that some of them choose to do things that horrify us? Ideas have consequences.

We also shouldn't be surprised that we have no means of resolving conflicts over issues such as abortion or euthanasia. According to Alan Borovoy, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, "a secular society like ours cannot invoke God to resolve such conflicts. We have no reasonable alternative to the perpetual exercise of balancing competing values and weighing competing risks -- all without absolutes.”

The question, of course, is who will do the balancing? Every group under the sun, everyone one with an opinion will do all they can to tilt the balance in their favour. Perpetual balancing really means perpetual power struggles.

The key assumption made by Borovoy, and most of our intellectual elites, is that ours is a secular society. Hardly. Our heritage our laws, even our Constitution are founded on belief in God. Why should the secular religion --the belief that there is no God -­dominate public policy discussions?

Borovoy wrote: “In in a pluralistic society of colliding values, reliance on God is unwarrantedly dangerous. We have no way of divining the Divine Will without reposing unwarranted faith in our own powers of discernment."

Yet Borovoy obviously does not have a problem with his own powers of discernment. He can discern that God should not be allowed to enter public policy debates. He can discern that his faith --the secular faith -- is the only basis for resolving issues. And he has unlimited faith in mankind's ability to discern answers to controversial questions.

Most of us don't have Borovoy's  powers of discernment. But we have been taught right from wrong. More importantly, we've been taught that there is a right and a wrong, because there is a law that is not dependent on our likes and dislikes. Killing isn't wrong because I think it's wrong, but because it is wrong. The secular faith and its law can't say that. It can only answer that killing may be wrong for you and me, but not for Jack Kevorkian.

As adults, we find it all too easy to decide that shortchanging employ­ees is okay for us, that sleeping around is harmless, and that lying our way out of a jam is easier than owning up to our responsibility. And we've had the benefit of growing up in a society that taught us absolute values.

We can't morally have our cake and eat it too. If our only standard is that there is no standard, we better prepare for the consequences. Because we're not just talking about mom's cake. She can bake another. We are also losing any standard for deciding life and death issues. Worse, we have no absolute standard to tell someone that what they are doing is wrong, no matter how horrific.

Those who are absolutely sure that there are no absolutes, need to be reminded that such an idea has consequences-absolutely.

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