Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Morality & Rights

If we were to live alone by ourselves in isolation in the middle of nowhere, we can practically do anything we like and we will not bother anyone else. Except probably ourselves only because, maybe, we want to live long - but how long is long we would not know if we were to be all alone - or even healthily, if we know what it is to be healthy if we were to be all alone. There will be no morality and we will have complete rights.

Morality is an issue that comes up when we try to live together in peace and harmony with each other. We try not to offend others nor do we want others to offend us. That is why all communities have their own sets of manners and courtesies and customs. The social rules are usually not made up artificially but after many years of trial and error and the consent of generation after generation.

A community will develop along a strict code of conduct when somebody decides to put down all the commonly acknowledged rules on paper (or carved in stone). This strict code of conduct is likely to be biased, religiously or politically. It will be followed until it reaches its golden age. This happens in the high societies of India, China, Europe and even the more ancient tribal societies of Africa, South America and even Asia.

In their golden age, the societies stagnates because they could not change anymore. Everything has become so rigid that every deviation is immediately eliminated. The form of social manners is unchanging.

This stagnation can go on for a long time, but eventually it will break down. The gene pool deteriorates and society degenerates. Or, new thinking is introduced through interactions with different societies. New ideas are formed that either challenge the existing orthodoxy or new ideas that no one has ever thought of before. The line between right and wrong becomes thinner and blurrier and sometimes disappears completely. As this happens, there is less compulsion from the moral police and more exertions of individual rights.

In modern societies, it is the sacred right of individuals to defend common sense and fight against the tyranny of the ignorant. The ignorant are usually self-serving persons who exercise the little power that they have to the great annoyance and irritation of everyone else whom they can bully. They do not know what they are doing but they wish others to know that they are important because they have this power, small though it may be.

Ignorance is everywhere and the only solution is honesty, integrity, and common sense which all together comes under the word "wisdom".


Minhao said...

This reminds me of the Robbers Cave Experiment conducted on twenty-two 11-year-old boys who've never met each other. They were brought separately to a 3-week camp, and put into 2 teams that lived away from each other. Eventually, they created their own set of cultures and were subsequently brought closer together to observe their interesting interactions, much like what you illustrated about two societies meeting, each with their different moral codes.

walla said...

"Occasionally, even today, you come across certain people who seem to possess an impressive inner cohesion. They are not leading fragmented, scattershot lives.

They have achieved inner integration. They are calm, settled, and rooted. They are not blown off course by storms. They don’t crumble in adversity. Their minds are consistent and their hearts are dependable. Their virtues are not the blooming virtues you see in smart college students; they are the ripening virtues you see in people who have lived a little and have learned from joy and pain.

Sometimes you don’t even notice these people, because while they seem kind and cheerful, they are also reserved. They possess the self-effacing virtues of people who are inclined to be useful but don’t need to prove anything to the world: humility, restraint, reticence, temperance, respect, and soft self-discipline.

They radiate a sort of moral joy. They answer softly when challenged harshly. They are silent when unfairly abused. They are dignified when others try to humiliate them, restrained when others try to provoke them.

But they get things done. They perform acts of sacrificial service with the same modest everyday spirit they would display if they were just getting the groceries. They are not thinking about what impressive work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all. They just seem delighted by the flawed people around them. They just recognize what needs doing and they do it.

They make you feel funnier and smarter when you speak with them. They move through different social classes not even aware, it seems, that they are doing so.

After you’ve known them for a while it occurs to you that you’ve never heard them boast, you’ve never seen them self-righteous or doggedly certain. They aren’t dropping little hints of their own distinctiveness and accomplishments.
They have not led lives of conflict-free tranquillity, but have struggled toward maturity.

They have gone some way toward solving life’s essential problem, which is that, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put it, 'the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart.'

These are the people who have built a strong inner character, who have achieved a certain depth. In these people, at the end of this struggle, the climb to success has surrendered to the struggle to deepen the soul. After a life of seeking balance, Adam I bows down before Adam II. These are the people we are looking for."

(The Road To Character - David Brooks, 2015)

walla said...