judging from the mainstream media, Hollywood, and my college freshmen, in contemporary American culture “good” usually means “whatever makes me feel pleasure” and bad “whatever is unpleasant.” Very few people feel comfortable even acknowledging the possibility of true evil.
Many people even wanted to exonerate the 9-11 hijackers, they weren’t evil, just oppressed.
If anything is acknowledged to be evil it is American imperialism. Evil is not a moral issue, it is a kneejerk political reaction. But it seems to always be self directed: we are evil because we used to have slaves, we are evil because we let genocides happen in other countries, we are evil because we try to impose our ideas on other people. Notice the self-contradiction… some of our ideas are good and some are not. Never mind that slavery has existed in many times and places and it is only Western, christian-derived culture that ended the practice of slavery, of genocide, and which decries terrorism. We are the only culture that has ever declared: all men are created equal. Because we fail to live up to our idealism, we must be evil. While everyone else is excused because toleration has become the new “good”.
I don’t understand why tolerance in itself is a good. BLind tolerance does not distinguish between good and evil. Should I tolerate a murderer just because he was raised to think killing people is “good”? No, there has to be a universal, objective standard of Good.
The ridiculous thing about relativism is that at the root none of us is truly relatavisti. I think of the philospohy professor who had a student in his class who argued all semester for a relatavistic point of view. He gave her an F on her final essay, even though it was well-written and fulfilled the assignment. She protested that it wasn’t fair and he replied that by her argument there is no objective standard of justice. She conceded the point.
But goodness, justice, beauty, truth, and yes, evil, are not just abstract concepts that exist in a sort of socially constructed limbo. Justice isn’t one thing in one time and place and another in another. Evil is always evil. And we all know this, except we choose to pretend we don’t.