By Steve Weatherbe
The “goodest country in the world” is Ireland, says a British consultant named Simon Anholt, and I don’t disagree. He and “a team of experts” have rated all the countries using some objective criteria they assembled to assess how altruistic each country is towards people outside its own boundaries and Ireland comes up as the most selfless.
But there are two things that ought to appall Christians in the TED talk Anholt gave to an adoring audience about his annual goodness rating. First, he appears to believe he has “discovered” a new idea—that countries ought to do good in the world and not merely act out of self-interest.
This is not new: it is the Christian ideal of statehood and international relations. This ancient view sees states bound by morality as they act as individuals, as parents, really, protecting their own children first, while acting towards other individuals with loving kindness. Just as parents might have to resort to violence to defend themselves or their families, or others, from harm, so governments must go to war to protect their citizens—or their allies. Just as parents give generously in service and money and prayer to other individuals and families in need, so states help those beyond their borders. So it’s not new, Simon Anholt.
True, Machiavelli promoted the idea of the amoral king and state and he was backed up by philosophers like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Today this view of the conduct of states is still popular. It even prevails. But it is not the Christian view. It is appalling that a well-informed person and one self-billed as an international advisor would not know it, or, knowing it, would conceal it.
The second appalling thing is Anholt’s view of morality. His goodness criteria has “nothing to do with morality,” he reassures his Ted audience. It has to do with altruism. My confident guess is that he thinks morality only deals with sex, possibly along with other things his parents forbade him to do when he was a kid—smoking? Slow dancing? Of course, altruism is a form of moral behaviour, called charity or caritas.
In separating the two, he expresses the popular view that we can cherry-pick morality, and that the way the people of a country choose to behave in terms of sexual morality has no impact on their conduct in other areas. We think this is wrong.
So here is a man with good intentions and even a good point to make basing it all on an exceedingly shallow understanding of morality, political thought and history. Apparently, he has simply excised Christianity from his understanding. He typifies our intelligentsia in the media and university.Can much good come from this?