For years, CESJ’s chief volunteer was a Southern Lady (note the capitalization) who, on occasion, was wont to make a comment or two about persons who lacked what she called “standards.” Generally this was in response to an enquiry about why she chose not to associate with certain individuals or groups. Her almost inevitable reply was, “I have standards,” implying that they did not.
This had nothing to do with race, creed, color, or belief in the Great Pumpkin. Her “standards” consisted of having a consistent code of behavior, some kind of predictability in what one considers right and wrong, true and false, or anything else, a way of determining which way something is going, whether up or down, according to some objective unit of measure.
She didn’t have to agree with you, but she could get along with you, even become very good friends, if she could figure out where you were coming from and where you were going. She, whose grandfather was in the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee, could be friends with someone whose great-great-grandfather was in the Army of the Potomac and died in a Confederate POW camp. She knew where you stood.
This is perfectly rational. You don’t have to agree with someone to get along with him or her. You do, however, have to know what the standard is for relating to that person, letting your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. That’s from Matthew 5:37, if you were wondering.
This is the same in everything. Regardless what you are measuring, you have to have some standard of measure that everyone dealing with whatever is being measured agrees on. If you’re buying yards of cloth, but someone is only selling ells, you probably won’t come to an agreement. Or, if your yard has 36 inches, but the other fellow insists that his yard is 42, 27, 18, or even 12 inches, there won’t be a meeting of the minds, and thus no contract. Let your yard mean yard, and your ell mean ell. That’s not from Matthew 5:37, if you were wondering, but you get the point.
The bottom line here is that if you don’t know what the standard is, or what a word means from moment to moment, your relationship with whomever you’re trying to communicate or deal is going to fall apart. Fast.
If a society has no standards, then what you have is chaos. This could be as simple a thing as a unit of weight or measure, or as complex as the code of moral behavior. Once fundamentals are thrown into question, then everything falls apart. After all, if you don’t know what anything is, how do you know that it is?