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Contempt. It's all in how you look at it.

In my last post, I wrote about the need to reconfirm universal truths.  The story I'll talk about tonight has to do with just how far we humans can go in losing our grasp on those universal truths, on how contempt is viewed from the eye of the beholder.

It seems that a town in England, Rotherham, for 16 years has permitted wholesale abuse, rape of some 1,400 young girls by gangs of men, despite repeated outcries from the girls and from their parents.  Sometimes, if the parents complained loudly and often enough, they were fined for disturbing the police.

Check out the article from the NY Times on the subject: "Years of Rape and Utter Contempt in Britain." 

When you read the article, if you are like me you are left with a sense of utter incredulity.  How could the authorities in this town allow this to happen?  This is so obviously, horridly wrong.  You have to ask, what were the authorites thinking?

Such is the depth and certainty of humanity's shifting moral compass, no matter how wrong. Without universal truths we can become completely convinced that the victim isn't worthy of our concern. It seems we can accept virtually any conduct. History certainly bears that out.  Unless we have hard and fixed rules about how we treat each other, universal truths, it seems we are capable of anything.

In the Rotherham situation, the police just knew that a girl had been "100% consensual" in her sexual activity with five men. She was 12.

In family law we encounter the problem of societal and individual certainty all the time. Not that long ago, in my lifetime, we had miscegenation laws.  Now, most of us are quite aware that those laws are ridiculous, morally outrageous.

Not that long ago, we learned of Matthew Shepard's murder.  Not that long ago, we read about a man drug to death behind a truck in Texas.  Not that long ago, we heard about an unarmed, young man gunned down by police.  All of these acts were not terribly far outside of acceptable society, at least the society of not that long ago.

In society today we still fight bias against women in casual slights about men being powerful but women being bitchy.

In society today we still fight bias against men as providers, not nurturers since we all know that men can't care for babies.

In society today we still fight the bias that two consenting adults can marry, but only if they are of opposite sex, whatever that means.

We certainly need universal truths.  But one man's universal truth might be another's dictate from the pits of hell.  Gun ownership as a right granted by God is one example.

It seems that coupled with a philosophical determination that universal truths are a good thing ("We hold these truths to be self-evident...") we need a method to enage in vigorous introspection, objective contemplation and honest communication to arrive at those truths.

We need a way to identify and root out an errant premise that causes the entire edifice to fall.

We don't have a situation as serious as Rotherham, or at least we don't know about it.  But certainly we must admit that in some areas we are conveniently blind. Where do we condone abuse, misuse, corruption? What don't we see, even when it is right in front of our face?  What do we view with contempt, even though we are certain we only see with rose colored glasses?

I vote we find it and root it out.

Michael Manely

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