The Debauchery of Morality
Morality, as many would agree, is a highly subjective term. It depends on many factors and, like a fingerprint, is unique to the individual. Being only human, of course, we tend to dwindle this huge, varied and virtually indistinguishable concept to karmic black-and-whites: right and wrong or good and bad.
The human race is a bunch of morons judging the moronic behaviour of other members of their species.
Think about that for a moment. No matter how perfect a person is, they will never be universally perfect. 99.9 percent of humanity may adore the living beans out of them (that percentage will never be accurate, or even close. Ever), but there’s always that 0.1% (again, never!) that doesn’t feel the same way. They don’t even have to hate them, or feel completely at odds with their stance. All it takes is a little deviation, a slight bend in character, a notion that while their ideas are brilliant, it can be improved just that bit further.
Heck, maybe being perfect is exactly what they take issue with. Nobody’s meant to have this ability.
Sound familiar? It should, because that phrase has begun to leave the pages of science-fiction (and other genres where it appears). We live in an age where we rapidly assume forces and abilities previously associated with deities’ mood swings. We integrate these previously magical (read: heretical) abilities into our daily lives, even at the lower ends of the digital divide.
I find this picture particularly illuminating:
With that in mind, a person from the past would expect us to have accomplished tasks quite mundane by comparison, at least to them. You can fly around the world in mere hours? You’ve been to the moon? You can operate on a living human brain?
Of these questions, however, one strikes me really hard.
You have access to the history of people living thousands of miles outside your home? (I didn’t say the question was catchy)
Why is this important? Perspective. It seems so few of us have it these days, or even pay attention when it stares us in the face. Prejudices and negative biases are often the things that most come into play when making judgements, not the aloof overview that we are supposed to emulate.
As a psychological defence, we choose to conveniently miss out little details that should otherwise show up in the role-playing game that is your life’s inventory as Yellow Flags of Hypocrisy. We see one side, and that’s the side we were taught — whether we taught ourselves or not.
In other words (so my headlining image makes more sense), we often hold on to our morals with squished fists, and be damned with whoever doesn’t share the beliefs you do. That’s not even a jab at religion. Whatever the context, the way of life a mind has been conditioned to accept will be upheld to the harshest extent of cerebral law as much as possible.
The belief that a ‘race’ of humans is inferior due to their skin colour, for example.
Or my favourite: The belief that your unfounded beliefs somehow trump that of others and that the brain you were gifted with is not allowed to debate these bred beliefs.
I apologise, though. Religion is by no means the problem I want to raise hell about. In the grand scheme of things, it is one manifestation of a psychological phenomenon affecting much of the human race.
To put it bluntly, when we think about saving the world, we often don’t catch ourselves thinking about saving our part of it. Go on, visualise it, right now. You saved the world. What do you see?
Climate change notwithstanding, what do you see? A receding picture of the globe? Fire and flood waters fading away? Perhaps some background music with heavy bass and trombones? People you know cheering you on? If they’re strangers, I bet the place is in a well-used Hollywood locale, a scene right out of a movie with you superimposed into the adoring crowd.
Even so, we know so little about people who live in conditions or styles different to ours. Sure, we know about their landmarks, what languages and faiths are popular there and even some points in history (where they intercede with ours). We ‘know’ what movies and other media tell us (unless you also watch documentaries). However, we are quite poor at empathizing.
And that is one of the human race’s greatest faults.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. We still have wars, for heaven’s sake.
Morality is subjective in its nature, but we hardly seem to make allowances for different perspectives. Some are just plain bad, I’ll admit, but what about the ones that don’t harm anyone? No, not even the ones you can fear-monger into hating. No higher power worth respecting would allow you to vilify a person simply for the state of their existence, especially when that existence does no harm to you.
In this age of burgeoning technical capability, we remain dormant within our social circles. A few, a precious few, look at the square minds around them and ask themselves to believe in better. To make change. That being only human does not give us an excuse to act like resource-sucking parasites, whether we gnaw at the Earth or at the rights of someone else to think what they will. That doing nothing only enables those that do worse. Morality that works positively for as many people as possible.
A moment of petty hope: It would be nice if people stopped doing things that make me wish they automatically lost their right to breathe.
I’ll leave off here, before I ramble too much (probably passed that line a long way up already). Just go do some good in the world. Try not to be a hypocrite.
Avaaz.org is organising a march to show public support in lieu of that climate change conference. Start with that, maybe. It would be nice to not live in a new Ice Age while humanity grows up.
Relax that squished fist and breathe in values that do more than pat your high horse. If you can do that, my high horse would like to meet yours someday.