The Misplaced Quest for Righteousness

It seems that lately people are trying really hard to prove their moral worth outside of traditional religious frameworks.  I don’t know if it’s happening more or I’m just noticing it more, but I’m definitely noticing it a lot.

And it just so happens that Theodore Dalrymple is noticing the same thing, and pointing it out in the provocatively-titled article Our Contemporary Sanctimony Puts the Victorians to Shame:

Now that you’ve got me going on the subject of contemporary sanctimony, how about this for a provocation? I received today an email from a very large and successful form of lawyers asking me for my opinion in a medico-legal case. Appended to the email (after the obligatory bit about the environment, the whales, the dolphins, and the worms) was the following nauseating statement:

Out partnership is committed to eliminating discrimination and promoting equality and diversity in it own policies and procedures. This applies to the firm’s dealings with employees, clients and other third parties.

What, actually, does it mean? Does it mean, for example, that the lady who cleans the offices at night after the partners have gone home, will henceforth be paid the same as the partners, that is to say hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars a year, because of their commitment to equality? Good luck for her if so, but I suspect not.

No, he suspects the same thing that I suspect:  that the statement appended to the email was just another way for this law firm to demonstrate that they’re the right kind of people.

Even though they may not be “religious,” a lot of people still have the need to be “holier than thou.” A very public hyper-vigilance about things like eco-friendliness and multiculturalism give them the chance to fulfill their craving for piousness and still be cool.

I think this is a side-effect of our built-in craving for righteousness, for Godliness, and, ultimately, for God.  But when God is taken out of the picture, it mutates into moralistic posing.

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