Events like the massacre in Paris yesterday make discussions of moral relativism easy. There are two cultures of people in the world: those that leap to stop Ebola from killing millions, even when most of those people are different, poor and far away; and those that want to kill other people out of a twisted sense of moral righteousness. Our students will will wrestle with this duality in their future lives because they have no choice.
Are radical terrorists like a viral plague? I am sure there are arguments both for and against that association. But it raises again a real puzzlement. When Africa has an outbreak of Ebola that threatens the world, it is America and Europe that send in the money, doctors, and troops to stop the threat. When a cultural virus like ISIS rises, countries like Saudi Arabia and the rest of the immediate neighborhood, with all the financial and military resources necessary to take a leading role, barely stick their finger in the dike. And that is why, on days like this, “we” are “better” than “them”. I hate to even think this way, but at least I am honest with myself.
It is days like today that one wants to put a big fence around that part of the world and let them have at it. But then one remembers that, like Ebola, we have yet to find the fence that is impermeable to this kind of infection, an infection that lies dormant and rises through the march of human history, and made more effective, more “spreadable”, with technology that allows messages to spread around the globe and weapons that allow fanatics to keep their fingers on the trigger.