Monday, March 12, 2012
The Social Underpinning of Morality - Please Ignore My Intent to Harm
In today’s world it seems that few are willing to do what it takes to live a truly moral or ethical life. That’s part due to changing definitions allowing behaviors previously considered outside the realm to be justified such that they can still remain within the magic circle. The other part contributing to this newly emerging narcissism is, well, let’s face it; doing the right thing can be really hard. And actually, the opposite can be said of some individuals, doing the wrong thing can sometimes feel really, really good. Especially, if we gain rewards for our words or actions, a result that we believe would never have occurred if what we’d done or said were really all that bad.
As we are social creatures the rewards are usually interpersonal in nature. Suddenly we belong to a group in a way we’d always pined for; we mean something special to someone we believe to be a person of worth, it gains us attention when don’t know how to do so since it was always automatic, a given taken for granted, but now we’ve lost the sources we’d relied upon.
So considering the significance of such magnificent rewards, some of which we may feel we can’t live without, is a little give here or there, a slight loosening of a boundary on this side or that really bad? How can it be if our behavior, despite having previously been convinced of its wrongness and if observed in another person still judged wrong, results in something we have convinced ourselves is necessary to our very survival?
Yet as a race, we weren’t always this way. At one time we understood that at its extreme there were times that in order to do the right thing we had to give up what we wanted most in life. And we did so as doing the right thing was what we couldn’t live without. We didn’t just believe that doing the right thing would make us happy; it truly did make us happy.
Yet that is clearly not the way today. We seem to have no qualms doing the wrong thing, even if it hurts someone else, wounds them beyond repair, as long as we can point to a justification repeated so often as to be delivered and accepted just as easy as you please.
Is there a way to undo this? Somehow turn back the clocks to a time when right was right and wrong was wrong, when we continuously attempted to see through others eyes, take their perspective before doing anything that might affect them, this an integral part of our moral code?
For morality is meaningless in a world of one. It is in the arena of human interaction where we can understand why it was accepted that the moral life and the pleasing life must go hand in hand. For when the pleasing life with all its desires and ego syntonic rationalizations slips the grasp of the moral life, it will repress the separation. And on its own, while there still may remain vestiges of its moral counterpart it develops its own definition of morality. Without its true twin to provide the way the version it comes up with is bound to be skewed and anything but moral.
I’ll continue this topic next post as there’s much to say and from what is shown on the news day after day, with all manner of violence, dehumanization and untold harm that we perpetrate against each other, we seem to have lost our moral sense of True North. There appears to be a growing tolerance in terms of what it takes to horrify us. Where along the way did what previously was considered entirely unacceptable without exception and enough to make us shudder in disbelief at the cruelty we were witnessing, become something we now respond to with little more than a halfhearted, “Isn’t that sad?”