Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sunday Morning Morality

I noticed this over at Chaotic Utopia -

The Story of Schrodinger's Apple

Some questions that were raised -

If each is guided by a code of self-responsibility, encouraging the promotion of existence, then individually we will enrich our existence, and find the path of evolution a fairly smooth one. However, if we try to assign responsibilities and blame beyond the events we are directly involved in, we will make any change or improvement difficult for others and ourselves.

...So, going back to dreaming of Eden, was this always true? Or perhaps, did we once understand basic values, and take their complexities for granted?

Somewhere in our earliest civilizations, while doing the firsts of many things, writing, farming, and more, humans began to argue over which code of morality (along with which creation story, etc) was most correct. Even 10,000 years later, no one can seem to agree on a solid solution. Perhaps, after all this time, we are finally starting to rediscover the nature of values and uncertainty.

...We began to ignore the complexity of values which made the existence of an object possible. Is it possible, then, with language, to return to an Eden in which we never fight over values? Probably not. Perhaps, at least, as we come to appreciate complexity and uncertainty in nature, we can glimpse the beauty of Eden.

- Chaotic Utopia


My response (more or less - I added a couple things for clarity)

I am also interested in the ideas of chaos and morality. I think that people are persuaded to adopt a "moral code" that is often in their own best interests - but that people allow themselves to ignore the consequences to others. Sort of like the lioness and the antelope. Like when Americans use the cheap labor of people in China and places like the Marianas Islands - US territories exempt form US labor laws. It benefits them - they ignore the cost to others. (The "morality" where if someone can get away with taking advantage of others - it's considered fair game).

I think you would enjoy reading Adam, Eve, and the Serpent by Elaine Pagels. She goes into - among other things - different interpretations of the Adam and Eve story. How the versions that were more favorable to women - like by some of the gnostic groups were successfully squashed.

Another good book for considering how morality has been shaped to suit a particular world view is The Chalice and the Blade By Riane Eisler. (A snip from Ms. Eisler - see link for full essay).

"For perhaps the most critical fact emerging from the new view of our past and potential future made possible by the study of society from a perspective that takes into account the whole of humanity, both women and men, is that all the modern movements for social and economic justice are neither radical nor new. Rather, such seemingly diverse progressive movements as the "rights of man," utopian and scientific socialist, abolitionist, and feminist movements of the 18th and 19th centuries and the anti-colonial, peace, ecology, civil rights and women's movements of the 20th century are part of a resurging thrust towards a social system that is not geared towards man's conquest of women, other men, or nature...

Indeed, the struggle for our future is not between capitalism and communism or between religion and secularism. It is a struggle about what kinds of relations we have, be it in our intimate or our international relations."

I think that the prevailing "morality" that many have adopted is one of exploitation of others. I don't think that is the only possible one. I think that more cooperative moral systems were able to be advanced in places where there was little outside threats from other groups - way back when when there were far fewer people on the planet - or more recently where groups of people are isolated from others - deep in some rain forest or other.

When the defense of the group becomes the main value - then the people and resources that accomplish that become glorified - often to the detriment to many within the group. (And most offense is sold as "defense" - so that the group will accept it). I think that the US is engaged in overkill in many ways these days. The military is receiving a huge share of the resources - the US military costs as much as the militaries of the rest of the world combined. We are engaged in overkill when it comes to using the world resources like energy and other things. We are engaged in overkill when it comes to consumerism and consumption and how much stuff most people think that they need. And the more stuff - the more value a person is thought to have by the society.

Our overkill is responsible for much loss of life - unnecessarily. It's like the lion and the lioness are killing all the other animals and hanging the heads from the trees as decorations - not killing out of need. It is absurd to think about.

So I definitely think that our currently accepted morality needs to be questioned.


P.S. When you accept the exploitation of others - you can get in the extreme case - the 5 year old Cambodian girls who are sold by their parents for $10 and who are forced to "have sex" (ie - be raped) 30 times a day for pennies.

At what point is exploitation acceptable? When the person is an adult? - 18 - in our society.

I find it hard to believe that people cannot be given fair wages for work - while it is acceptable for CEOs to make 2000 times as much and have far more than they need. It may be little different from Kings who amassed outrageous amounts of property and riches while peasants went hungry - but that doesn't mean that it is the best way for a society to operate.

Of course many of people with an abundance of money and resources balk at "redistribution of wealth" through taxes - but there are so many inequities in the system and so many ways for people with certain advantages to exploit those without those advantages - that it is only sensible way for a capitalist society to operate - IMO.

Why should hoarding and waste NOT be seen as immoral - is the gist of it. There is intense propaganda that says otherwise.


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