The mirage of morality

It is most unsettling to hear people speak of how morally guided the “war on terror” is. Perhaps the greatest ill America suffers in the post-September 11 era is the loss of reason-one of the key aspects of western civilization.

More often than not, we hear right-wing commentators rant on and on about the great evils of Islamic terror, weapons of mass destruction, rogue states and any other “greatest-threat-to-civilization” they come up with. Canadian and American newspaper columnists have brazenly proclaimed in the face of moral relativists that evil does indeed exist and it must be destroyed.

Most people will agree that evil does undeniably exist. Potential evil permeates us everywhere-whether it’s drugs, prostitution, massive economic inequities, terror or tyranny.

But that’s not the type of evil found in the op-ed pages of the National Post or Calgary Herald. They speak of entire political movements, governments, religions, nations and peoples as being inherently and inexplicably evil. It’s as if September 11 blew a hole in space-time and sent North America back to a Dark Ages mindset full of chivalrous knights slaying demonic Saracens.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand the realm of politics and war is driven by the simple concepts of greed and power-it is universal. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an American military campaign or an Islamic jihad.

Many in history have lamented ignoble savages, subhuman races, great Satans, evil empires and the latest, axis of evil. And all of these belong to garbage bin of meaningless yet dangerous rhetoric.

Trying to cast military campaigns like the “war on terror” in moral overtones and dividing the world into good and evil is nothing more than propaganda and incitement. This may seem obvious to many people but more and more North Americans appear to be spell-bound and convinced that we are indeed fighting evil.

The realms of politics and war are not arenas where people come to rid the world of evil.

September 11 may have changed history but not human nature. The force of good does not manifest itself in countries or political parties. Being evil is not the result of being disliked by certain powerful nations.

Today’s moral absolutism in politics is dangerous and we should not get into the habit of labelling every group that doesn’t do our bidding as evil terrorists plotting to blow up the world.

Why? Because if we do it can be assured that the world will be a much bloodier place in the future. Once this hate and false sense of righteousness is instilled it is hard to remove and America will be even harder to control. It is the belief that one’s political cause is supremely righteous and others who oppose it are supremely evil that led to planes crashing into the World Trade Center. It is this kind of political self-righteousness and lack of reason that has caused religion to take on such destructive forms in the past and present.

Believing that you are uncompromisingly correct in politics or war will cause you to act in the same uncompromising manner. In short, it is the root of fanaticism and violence.

A bloody future of constant American warfare is undeniably detrimental to the overall well being of the U.S. and western civilization as a whole. Such instability will only accelerate the West’s fall from military dominance and economic splendour. Europeans were right to criticize the Americans for their hostile and jingoistic rhetoric. And the time has come for Canada to stop playing follow-the-leader and start giving some constructive criticism to our powerful neighbour.