Here are the facts concerning the Roman Polanski case: Polanski gave a Quaalude to a 13 year-old child; instructed her to get naked and enter a Jacuzzi; refused to take her home when she asked; performed oral sex on her as she asked him to stop; raped her (no, not the “statutory” kind, the “forcible” kind); and sodomized her. In a plea bargain Polanski pled to unlawful sex with a minor.
As is common knowledge, Polanski has his defenders because he has made some terrific movies. For example, critic Tom Shales says: “There is, apparently, more to this crime than it would seem, and it may sound like a hollow defense, but in Hollywood I am not sure a 13-year-old is really a 13-year-old.”
Here’s today’s question: “Is it wrong in all times and at all places (even Hollywood) for a 44 year-old man to drug, rape and sodomize a 13 year-old girl?”
For our materialist friends who answer “yes” to the question (as I hope you will), I have a follow-up question: “How can you know that you are right and Polanski’s defenders are wrong?”
At first the materialists dodged my second (and much more important) question. But then a brave soul who calls himself “camanintx” took up for the materialists the gauntlet I had thrown down, and we had the following exchange:
Barry: How can you know that you are right and Polanski’s defenders are wrong?”
camanintx: Because the society in which I and Polanski (at the time) live in define it as such. Had Polanski lived in 6th century Arabia, he probably would have been treated differently, no?
Barry: Let’s assume for the sake of argument that drugging, raping and sodomizing a young girl was considered moral behavior in Arabia between the years 501 and 600 AD [I by no means concede that, but will accept it arguendo]. On the basis of your response, camanintx, I assume you would say that the fact that it was considered moral behavior in the society in which it occurred, is in fact determinative of the morality of the behavior, and therefore if Polanski had done what he did in that place and time it would have been moral. Is that what you are saying?
camanintx: Since morality is a subjective term, yes, that is exactly what I am saying.
Thank you, camanintx, for that enlightening exchange. Nietzsche would have been very proud of you for not flinching away from the nihilistic conclusions compelled by your premises. You have truly gone “beyond good and evil.” Roman Polanski was not immoral, must unlucky. Cruel fate dictated that by the merest whim of fickle chance he happened to live in a society that, for whatever reason, condemns drugging, raping and sodomizing young girls. If he had lived in a different society, what he did would not have been wrong. Fortunately for the rest of us, your views remain in the minority (at least for now), and for that reason moral progress remains possible.
I invite our readers to evaluate camanintx’s views in light of our own very recent history in this country. I grew up in the 1960’s in a state of the old Confederacy, and as I was growing up I heard about the condition of black people in earlier times. Even as late as 1955, it was taken for granted in the southern United States that black people are inferior to white people and therefore have no claim to equal rights under the law. They were turned away from the polls, made to sit in the back of public busses, and segregated into inferior schools, among a host of other indignities too numerous to catalogue here. Now, the majority of the people in the South at the time considered this state of affairs to be altogether moral.
Think about that. Under camanintx’s view the “is” of a society defines the “ought” of that society. I assume camanintx is not a racist and that he personally believes that the conditions under which black people were forced to live in say, 1955 Alabama, were intolerable. But if he had lived in Alabama in 1955 on what grounds could he have pressed for a change to the status quo? He would have been in a quandary, because his premises compel him to affirm – as he did in response to my query – that the present state of affairs for a society DEFINES morality in that society.
Therefore, according to camanintx, if he had lived in Alabama in 1955, his logic would have compelled him to affirm that racial hatred and intolerance is fine and dandy, morally speaking. The only thing he could have said is, “While I cannot say racial hatred and intolerance is in any sense “immoral,” I personally do not prefer it, and therefore we should change our laws and behavior to eliminate those blights on our land.” To which, the all-too-easy response from a southern racist would have been: “I prefer the status quo, and who is to say that your personal preference is better than mine.” At this point camanintx would have been struck silent, because there is no answer to the southern racist’s rejoinder.
Which brings us back full circle to Roman Polanski. Has anyone considered the irony of the materialists’ defense of Polanski’s actions? Both of Polanski’s parents were imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps. His mother died at Auschwitz. Never let us forget that the Nazis came to power in a fair election, and the people of Germany never revolted against their polices. The “final solution” was perfectly lawful in the sense that it did not violate the internal laws of the nation in which it occurred. Therefore, camanintx’s logic compels the conclusion that the “is” of the final solution defined the “ought” of the matter, and Polanski’s mother’s death at the hands of the Nazis was in no sense “immoral.” The irony is that Polanski’s defenders are bringing to bear the same moral relativism that led to the death of Polanski’s mother.
Sadly, I believe we are losing this battle. Views like camanintx’s would have been almost literally unthinkable 30 or even 20 years ago. Now they are commonplace. How long before they are the majority? The other day I saw a bumper sticker: “So many Christians, so few lions.” I am afraid; for myself, yes, but even more so for my children and grandchildren, whom, I fear, will grow up in a society where every last vestige of the Judeo-Christian ethic will have been jettisoned from our institutions. That bumper sticker was unthinkable 30 years ago. What will be “thinkable” 30 years hence that is unthinkable now? We are going to find out, aren’t we?