MORALITYrnOut of Orderrnby Terence GallagherrnWhen Aeneas lands, after sevenrnyears of wandering, shipwreckedrnon the shores of Africa, his great concernrnis to discover the nature of the countryrninto which fate has cast him, and therntemper of the people who live there. Hisrnfears are put to rest when he stands in thernrising city of Carthage and sees on thernwalls of a temple the depiction of hisrnown story, of the siege and downfall ofrnTroy. He knows then that he has arrivedrnat a place where “there are proper rewardsrnfor the praiseworthy, where therernare tears for the world’s affairs and mortalrndeeds touch the heart.” In otherrnwords, he knows he will be treated justlyrnbecause he is in a country where peoplernrecognize things for what they are andrnreact accordingly to them. If somethingrnis honorable, they honor it; if somethingrnis tragic, they weep for it. One might callrnthis the capacity for proportionate reactionrnto moral reality. “Cast away fear,”rnsays Aeneas to his companions, “yourrnfame here will bring you safety.” Aeneasrnis confident that when the people ofrnCarthage recognize who the Trojans are,rnthey will treat their visitors with honor.rnConversely, a wanderer wrecked onrnthe shores of a country where no proportionrnis shown in moral reactions wouldrnbe well-advised to retain a good dealrnof healthy fear. An Aeneas lookingrnabout him in contemporary Americarnmight have felt less sanguine about hisrnprospects of honor and safety, for publicrnlife has become a forum for ever more inappropriaternresponses to ever morernbizarre forms of behavior. The wince ofrnrecognition has become familiar, so familiarrnthat example seems superfluous:rnthe lawyer for the Menendez boys has jurorsrnover for milk and cookies after therndeclaration of a hung jury; Amy Fisher’srnmother gains a sympathetic ear for herrnlaments that her daughter will be unablernto enjoy Thanksgiving at home; SusanrnSmith kills her children and becomes thern”victim” of the pressures oppressingrnwomen today.rnThere was the New York Times’ picturernof O.J. Simpson’s lawyer Robert Shapirornwith an arm fondly draped around DennisrnFung’s shoulder at the conclusion ofrnMr. Fung’s testimony: the photo’s captionrninformed us that Mr. Simpson himselfrncordially shook hands with Mr. Fung.rnNow, put this in perspective: Mr. Simpson’srnlaw)’ers had just spent a great dealrnof time attempting to demonstrate thatrnFung had participated in a scheme tornframe O.J. for murder, so what possiblernpurpose could the concluding love-in,rnconducted in full view of the jury, be intendedrnto achieve? Well, because Mr.rnShapiro had been guilty of making a jokernabout Mr. Fung that appeared to be inrnpoor taste, it then became important forrnMr. Shapiro to convince both the jurorsrnand the public at large that he was not arnbigot; in the face of this need, the questionrnof who may or may not have hackedrntwo people to death, and of who may orrnmay not be framing an innocent man forrna capital crime, faded into comparativerninsignificance.rnSuch behavior reflects not only thernloss of a capacity for morally proportionaternreactions but also the primacy of politicalrnbehavior. When society loses thernbelief that there is intrinsic meaning residingrnin things themselves and hence arnproper, and an improper, way to view reality,rnthe resulting confusion is a perfectrnfield for the assertion of political power.rnPeople simply do not know how to act,rneven when they have been personally injured,rnand it is left to those with thernloudest and most persistent voices to tellrnthem. This accounts for the extreme, almostrnhysterical touchiness, exhibited inrnour society when confronted by thernmildest example of “racism,” or “sexism,”rnor “homophobism.” The reactionsrnare not proportionate to whatever offensernis committed, but rather proportionaternto the public profile of the offendedrngroup. Thus, the Menendezrnboys claimed the mantle of child-abusernvictims; Amy Fisher and Susan Smith arernfemale and therefore, according to therntenets of feminism, more sinned againstrnthan sinning.rnIn the absence of a sense of ordered reality,rnthe power of politics (which in ourrndemocracy means the power of organizedrnspecial-interest groups) is unlimited,rneven to the extent of blurring the distinctionrnbetween man and the lowerrnanimals. When a California woman wasrnkilled by a mountain lion last year, andrnthe lion subsequently destroyed, thernwoman’s children and the lion’s cubsrnwere both left motherless; donations forrnthe support of the cubs far exceeded donationsrnfor the support of the children.rnIn an earlier incident, when a five-yearoldrngirl was severely mauled by anotherrnmountain lion, to the point of sufferingrnbrain damage, there was widespreadrnresistance to killing the lion; the caller tornthe California Fish and Game Departmentrnwho said that humans are alwaysrnreplaceable, whereas mountain lions arernnot, gave expression to what is rapidlyrnbecoming common educated opinion.rnThese are the reactions of people whosernconsciences have been completelyrnformed by politics; they simply dornnot know that people are intrinsicallyrnworth more than animals. Animal rightsrnadvocates, environmentalists, conservationistsrnall speak for animals; there isrnno group that speaks for people-whohave-rnbeen-mauled-by-animals. Lackingrna public profile, such people are simplyrninvisible. Among the truly civilizedrnit is considered grossly offensive to implyrnthat there is any primacy to be accordedrnto humans—such bias is labeled “speciesism”rnand filed with all the otherrnabhorred biases.rnWhen people lose all belief in arnmorally ordered reality, there can be nornlacrmae rerum because there are nornlonger any real things, any res of independentrnmeaning and value, to inspirerntears. To many, the abandonment of thernconviction that some intrinsic meaningrnresides in the world’s affairs and commandsrnhuman feelings rather than beingrnsubject to them, no doubt seems like arnliberating thing. On the contrary, whenrnthe human understanding of realityrnis cut loose from its moorings to truth,rnpeople become completely subject tornthe shifting demands of politics. Thernpersonal judgment of human beings,rngrounded in each person’s understandingrn(however dim) of a real moral order,rngives way to pressures brought to bear byrnwhoever happen to be the current rulersrnof society, who assign value by sheerrnforce of will. As a result, human moralrnreactions and beliefs must submit to arnmaster that is tyrannical, completelyrncapricious, and inevitably unreasonable.rnTerence Gallagher writes from Bayside,rnNew York.rn48/CHRONICLESrnrnrn