Minister of education, science, culture and sports Žiga Turk a.k.a. superminister (due to many a portfolio that were joined together under one roof) recently held a speech where he touched upon what he called “the lost moral capital”. Delo daily ran the speech titled Why Nothing Happens and What Should Happen verbatim in its Saturday supplement Sobotna priloga and it definitely deserves to be commented upon.
minister Žiga Turk at a recent event (photo by yours truly)
First of all, it has been ages since this particular newspaper (or any newspaper worthy of its name, for that matter) ran a transcript of a politician’s speech. True, Delo once did that. Regularly. But in those days its tagline was “Workers of the world, unite!” and was officially still a socialist and party-sanctioned newspaper. In other words, running a speech by a sitting politician has an unwelcome taste of times past. One can hope the newspaper went with it for less obvious reasons, but still. A good three pages were spent on what was primarily an agenda-driven political discourse.
Because that’s exactly what is was. For what it’s worth, here’s a Google translation of the speech. In it Turk submits that the main problem of Slovenian society is the lack of moral capital and quotes Jonathan Haidt‘s Moral Foundations Theory to further his case. Bottom line? Moral principles are not only acquired, but mostly passed down genetically from generation to generation.
Now, we don’t have to spend a lot of time on whether Haidt is right or wrong. He is controversial, to say the least. The problem here is the approach minister Turk takes to explain the current sociopolitical situation in Slovenia. In short: it is a classic example of first defining a conclusion and then using whatever (pseudo)science there is to support it. The conclusion being that both sides of the political spectrum are equally right. Or, better, equally wrong. Also, morality of the right should be equally legitimate as morality of the left. And vice-versa.
Here, Turk enters the slippery territory of WWII history in Slovenia and declares that the fight against the occupation should be set apart from the social and political revolution that took place alongside it. To simplify: rebellion against Nazism and Fascism – good. Revolution – bad. And goes on to say that those who opposed the revolution were guilty of nothing more than a different set of morals. If it were only that simple. While there is no such thing as a clean war (and pengovsky wrote time and again that it is high time we bury our dead), fact of the matter is, that there was no middle ground in WWII and those who sought it usually made the disastrous miscalculation of “picking the lesser evil” which more or less amounted to (at the very least) tacit toleration of the occupation. Also, revolutions happen because the existing societal structure is not fair. They do not happen out of the blue.
Or, of you want a more recent example, Turk cites the Family code debate as a typical example of morals that neither right nor wrong. Just – different. Pengovsky, however, is still at a loss as to how exactly is “gays and lesbians do not deserve a happy family” morally equal to “everyone deserves a happy family”.
This of course is nothing more than the moral, social and especially political relativism which is at the core of neoconservatism. My morals equal your morals. Regardless of the effect they have on the society as a whole as well as on the individual. If right-wing morals are that some are by definition more equal than others, then – according to Turk – this should be accepted as a valid set of morals, no more right or wrong than the opposing set of left-wing morals that all people are created equal.
But all of the above is just a sideshow for the ultimate kicker: Turk adds that the left-wingers who (according to Haidt) subscribe to the first three moral foundations (care for others, justice, liberty) show disdain for symbols of Slovenian state while happily parading around with symbols of the old socialist state and that in this they are markedly different from right-wingers who (in addition to the first three foundations) also subscribe to loyalty, respect for authority and sanctity. In other words, left-wingers are unpatriotic and as such are not being constructive in the attempts to heal the state of the nation. Well, here’s a newsflash: This has nothing to do with (non)patriotism. Rather, it has to do with substance. Or the lack thereof.
You see, most people who today display the red star (or other symbols of the old regime) are doing it as a sign of protest. Just as they were defaming that very same red star and other symbols of the old regime twenty-odd years ago. The problem of this nation is not its inherent division, but a complete and utter lack of substance. Just as the old regime became a caricature of itself and needed to be mocked, so has this state become an empty shell, devoid of all inspiration, prospect and happiness. And this is where a large number of our elected representatives and other key players failed this country. Scattered across the political spectrum, too many of them are locked in a self-perpetuated power-struggle, suffering from a complete lack of imagination and – once in power – will pull no punches when their own positions are threatened. Even if it means shoving the country and its nation further down the drain.
Out of sheer benevolence, I will subscribe to the fact that Turk and people with whom he shares the reins of power these days genuinely want to do good. But this will not be achieved by wearing countless hats, switching at pleasure from role to role. A minister is a minister 24/7. He or she cannot choose to be a politician in the morning, a professor in the afternoon, a weekend economist and a moral philosopher on special occasions. Whatever a politician in office does, is inherently political. In fact, the more apolitical they claim it to be, the more political it is. They were elected and/or appointed to further an agenda. And if that agenda is not furthered or is having disastrous results, someone isn’t doing his or her homework. Looking outside for causes to this only makes it worse.
In fact, rather than “searching for moral capital”, the whole thing should be titled as “an apology of ineptitude”.