my Trade Tripper column in the 18-19 December 2015 issue of BusinessWorld:
The past few weeks saw an interesting development in popular discourse: rather than the pettiness of who slaps who, it was a practical discussion on the proper role of morality in political debate and of hypocrisy. Interestingly, it was raised by singer/dancer Mocha Uson.
Ms. Uson, it seems, supports Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte for president and was defending the latter against charges of immorality raised by some other celebrities. In response, Ms. Uson had this to say:
“Moral standards mean different things to different people according to their belief. What is morally right to you might be morally wrong to me, and what is morally wrong to you might be morally right to me.”
She actually presents an internally coherent argument, which riffs off the secular progressive position of morality being relative to one’s individual circumstances and choices. This places emphasis on the Left’s definition of “freedom” or individual autonomy.
Accordingly, if I, as an individual, believe for example that pre-marital sex or any form of consensual sex or contraception or divorce or gay “marriage” or assisted suicide to be right, then who are you to tell me otherwise?
So as to charges that Mr. Duterte allegedly killed, had adulterous relationships, and so on, Uson puts forward a consistent thought: who are you to say that Duterte was wrong to do what he did, given the circumstances and choices that were specific to him and not to you?
Put another way: if you’re a “progressive” who believes in profanity (as freedom of expression), most forms of consensual sex, contraceptives, gay “marriage”, divorce, abortion, and assisted suicide, then you can’t criticize Duterte for immorality without being a hypocrite.
This is because Duterte is simply and logically following through on the progressive relativistic morality founded on individual autonomy.
The point here is that if the ethic is based on individual choice, then the proscription against killing or adultery becomes ultimately a random thing when set alongside “gay marriage”, divorce, or euthanasia.
Of course, one can say that the people Duterte allegedly killed did not consent to be killed.
But one can counter-argue on two grounds: first, by committing crimes in Davao, then they did consent to be killed (since Duterte allegedly warned them beforehand). And, finally, because many in Davao (and apparently so do many others in the rest of the Philippines) seemingly agree with Duterte’s acts.
So, again, if you’re for profanity, contraceptives, gay “marriage”, divorce, abortion, and euthasia, then what would be your rationale against Duterte’s alleged killings, adulteries, or cussing? Because you say so? But Uson and Duterte think otherwise. Because contraceptives, gay “marriage”, etc., are allegedly accepted by a majority? Well, many apparently agree with Uson and Duterte.
The ethical framework of conservatives and generally religious folk, of course, reject the relativism of progressives.
Morality cannot be anchored on individual autonomy or even by will of majority because such will necessarily be arbitrary or changeable.
Instead, reference is made to a comprehensive and consistent set of objective moral standards independent of human decision based on reason and experience, a “natural law” proceeding from a specific understanding of human nature as being both a physical body and intellect.
As such, Aristotelian thought would then tell us that humans are geared for a purpose: succinctly termed as “eudaimonia” or “happiness” (or “human flourishing”).
Accordingly, certain acts, from the use of contraceptives to extrajudicial killings are deemed “immoral” for being against human goods that ultimately prevent an individual from achieving “human flourishing” and society the “common good.”
Hence, why Duterte -- who says he extrajudicially kills, is for contraception and gay marriage -- should be anathema to conservatives, particularly Christians.
Progressives, on the other hand, except for clear-minded people like Ms. Uson (and there is absolutely no sarcasm here), have painted themselves into a corner -- confronted as they are with the logical conclusion of their thinking that is Duterte (whom many progressives seemingly detest).
Leaving us with Uson’s final point: on the nature of hypocrisy.
Again, she’s right. Albeit, safe to say, inadvertently.
Only a person with moral standards can be called a hypocrite. People without standards can never be hypocrites. Duterte cannot be considered one. For the simple reason that he appears to have no moral standards. Except himself. And that is no standard at all.
Note, however, that those with moral standards will, without exception, by ignorance or weakness, repeatedly fall short. That is why for Christians, as example, to keep up with moral standards is a daily (even hourly) struggle. To stumble or fall is not hypocrisy. That is being human.
Instead, hypocrites are those that uncompassionately demand others to do something that they deliberately and consciously don’t require of themselves.
True hypocrites include “progressives” that preach for a society of ostensible individual freedoms and yet condemn or insult a person for having different beliefs. Or because that person doesn’t come from the right family, school, social class. Or just because.