A dogma is an opinion that is stated with authority and that is held as binding by those who adhere to that authority. Dogma is big in ‘think tanks’, the current repositories of secular faith. But also among our scattered fuellers of civil discord. The Oxford English Dictionary has for dogmatic: ‘Asserting dogmas or opinions in an authoritative or arrogant manner.’ If someone says that you are being dogmatic, they are not paying you a compliment. Rather, they are suggesting that you are too heavy handed in the way you hand out your views and seek to impose them on others.
The quote above is from a book I wrote with Chris Wallace-Crabbe called Language, Meaning and Truth. Dogma may be necessary for faith or football, but it seldom helps thought. There’s a fair bit of it about at the moment.
The ‘fuellers of civil discord’ are hard at work – on all sides as Mr Trump might say – in the debate, if that’s the word, on marriage equality. The church relies on dogma, without querying its moral right to inflict its articles of faith on others. The no-sayers on Sky stand by their trademarks of leering, sneering, and jeering, while handing out coat-hangers. Mr Bolt says his side is being bullied by the Left. This is all very sad, because it debases sound secular dogma – that we are all equal under the law.
There is a debate, too, about the spate of hurricanes in the U S. They appear, to put it softly, to be influenced by an increase in sea temperatures. But that won’t wash with Mr Trump or his supporters. This is not so much dogmatism as intellectual blindness induced by tribalism. If the supporters of Mr Trump share his world view, truth simply doesn’t matter. Others can prove what they like; they just solemnly keep the faith. To that extent, the marriage equality and climate change debates have something in common.
There has been a curious failure of dogmatism in Texas, the throne room of capitalism. People there are compelled by law to insure against flooding through a government body. That sounds like the ‘socialism’ involved in Medicare, the Antichrist of Ted Cruz and other Republican senators.
But some Republican Senators have stayed true to their dogma. Some actually voted against government relief to victims of the weather. There has always been a curious reluctance to legislate for the welfare of the citizens of the United States. Section 8 of the U S constitution may therefore come as a surprise to many Europeans and Australians. It provides: ‘The Congress shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises to pay the Debts and to provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.’ The anti-Welfare dogmatism of Republican welfare-deniers strikes not just at sense but decency.
Finally, we have our Prime Minister invoking Stalin because someone complains of an untrue statement about the inscription on a statue, and his government denouncing the Opposition for ‘socialism’, whatever that means. They are issuing their denunciation while they endeavour to regulate every aspect of the power, energy, and banking sectors. And they are engaged in seeking to regulate markets and the way trading companies run their businesses because they are incapable of devising much less implementing a political program for our welfare at least on energy and the environment. Most electors know that the failures of government on energy are driven by dogma on coal and renewable energy. Sane people are mystified that otherwise intelligent people can get dogmatic about coal or issues of fact that can be tested by accepted empirical means. What has faith got to do with coal?
Poet of the month: Emily Dickinson
“Houses”—so the Wise Men tell me—
“Mansions”! Mansions must be warm!
Mansions cannot let the tears in,
Mansions must exclude the storm!
“Many Mansions,” by “his Father,”
I don’t know him; snugly built!
Could the Children find the way there—
Some, would even trudge tonight!