22
Aug
12

absolute standards

I’m in kind of a funny position right now. I can’t write about any of the stuff that has been filling my days or what’s top-of-mind.

Yesterday a cop told me there weren’t any laws on the books to put away a suspected child predator, and yet there are laws on the books for prosecuting children and others who draw pictures on a sidewalk with chalk or open a sidewalk lemonade stand. Last week I read a story about a guy who has been jailed in Phoenix for holding prayer meetings in his home because his gatherings were in violation of some zoning ordinance.

Two nights ago a friend told me something which makes me suspect that her ex-boyfriend is trying to get her murdered, but instead of protecting her, the courts in that jurisdiction are protecting the ex-boyfriend and his criminal family—and my friend is prohibited from leaving that jurisdiction and taking her child with her to safety.

But I can’t write about these things now because the time is not right. Yet believe me, these things are on my mind and I am dismayed and, as much as is possible for a guy living in paradise, troubled.

All day long the radio has been playing stories of our “leaders” yammering about this and that, and all the while it seems like whatever they are talking about is beside the point. It is like the politicians and officials and corporate honchos don’t even know what the point is.

From my perspective here, it seems like so many things in the outer world make absolutely no sense and are teetering on the brink of collapse. It seems like so many important and vital things, and the welfare of millions of people, rely on a delicate balance in the status quo which cannot be sustained.

Something critical appears to be missing and thereby ensures this imbalance. That something is Morality. Our laws and governments and the people who run them lack absolute moral standards. Without Morality a fatal wobble is introduced to the movement of the spinning top. It is not a matter of “if” but “when.” It is only a matter of time before it topples.

It is amazing to me that things in the big cities haven’t already devolved into chaos. It is surprising to me that people continue to have any confidence whatsoever in our national currency or in the authority of the state. But not everybody does.

Yesterday a friend told me that she knows her vote doesn’t count and hasn’t voted for years. She doesn’t trust our governments at any level and as a matter of course takes certain matters into her own hands. She has a creative (versus consumer) mentality.

For example, she has been investigating a particular wrongdoer for a year and a half with the intention of seeing that justice is done, even if the police and courts are unwilling or incapable of doing so. She has a large network of influential friends who feel much the same and help. Pity the criminal who comes under her scrutiny.

Not all of us can take such an activist stance. Yet all of us must do something—but what?

I believe that something must be to bring morality—absolute standards of morality—into our daily lives and interactions with all the people with whom we deal. Absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness, love, and loyalty.

It may not save the world and prevent the inevitable collapse, but it will help us create islands of stability around ourselves and help us salvage the best that can be from whatever the future may bring.

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to Aretha Franklin performing “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”


6 Responses to “absolute standards”


  1. 1 Jeanne
    August 22, 2012 at 8:29 am

    I was thinking the same thing recently. With so many bad things going on in the world and so many people in need, I questioned my ability to make a difference. It then occurred to me that absolute morality is needed in the world, and in me. If I can provide to one person a vision of hope through the qualities associated with morality, that person can receive it, understand it, and pass it on.

    The world would be a better place if we created laws with complete moral intent. I believe the makers of the constitution were superior thinkers of their time. Their intent had great moral value. We need to seek leaders that have these qualities and are not afraid to voice what they believe to be “morally sound” when they are confronted. In the end, the legendary leaders of our past are held in such high esteem today because of their moral values. They were so compelled to change the wrongs in the world that they voiced their concern publicly. Once they voiced it, people were unafraid. Change occurs when our moral beliefs are considered so essential that we are fearless.

  2. 2 Frank Manning
    August 22, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    One of the great persons in my life, the eminent philospher Prof. Kai Nielsen, explained this law and morality thing back in the Fall of 1969 in his Ethics and Morality class at New York University. That was a momentous year for me, and Prof. Nielsen was one of the giants among the academics who were opposing the Vietnam War and questioning the ethics and morality of the U.S. administrations–both Johnson’s and Nixon’s. I was in awe of him and oh-so-grateful for being accepted into his class. He explained the difference between law and morality in this succinct way: The law is impersonal and therefore amoral. The law is absolute, morality is relative. Sometimes they overlap, but most of the time they don’t. So putting morality into the law requires that the people who make and execute the law be morally upright, ethical people. Every once in a while we get one of those. But not very often.

    And if the truth be told, morality and law can be a dangerous mix. Just look at alcohol prohibition and show no mercy to juveniles who kill. “Good” moral intentions (stop crime at its very roots), catastrophic consequences.

    Can I as an individual make a difference? I think so. I vote because my vote does count. When 68 percent of the people here in Washington state voted to uphold equal rights for our gay citizens I wanted my voice to be part of that loud shout. Yeah, you can’t hear me individually, but over 600,000 people just yelled all at once, and I’m part of that yell. So yeah, I still vote, although sometimes I fill in the write-in slot and write in Neither. On the everyday plane I strive to make a difference by working one on one with my “angels” down at the reform school. When I get one of those boys to think something through in a sensible way, I’ve made the world a better place!

    • August 22, 2012 at 11:07 pm

      I agree that your examples of alcohol prohibition and showing no mercy to kids who kill are examples of something very dangerous. But these do not illustrate morality as I understand it. Morality is a standard we impose on ourselves, not on others. Our freedoms, which are so highly cherished in our legal tradition, depend on the exercise of self-responsibility. Once we allow ourselves to be regulated by outside authority, we are no longer free and therefore incapable of becoming as much as we can be.

      • 4 Frank Manning
        August 22, 2012 at 11:35 pm

        At the very beginning of his course in Ethics and Morality, Professor Nielsen posed the question: “Why be moral?”. His class would be an exploration of answers to that question. From the “God will punish you” answer of the Hebrews to the social contract of Montesquieu and Thoreau, we went the course through Plato and Acquinas and Erasmus and Descartes right down through Marx and Marcuse. In the end the answer became self-evident: We as social people are moral because it is in our enlightened self-interest to be so. I treat you in an ethical way because I want you to treat me in an ethical way. We impose morality on ourselves, as you say, but we also expect it from others. Most criminals and politicians conclude that their selfish ends justify any unethical or immoral means they use to gain those ends. A good example is an ambitious deputy prosecutor who destroys the lives of juvenile offenders with adult trials and long prison sentences in order to advance his goal of being elected district attorney. Sadly, too many people are blissfully unaware of their own self-interest and suport law-and-order candidates who don’t mind sacrificing a bunch of their kids to gain a position of power and control.

      • August 23, 2012 at 12:00 am

        I think we agree, Frank. A deputy prosecutor who sacrifices a child to further his/her career and power is acting immorally because he/she is acting in a selfish and unloving way–and probably twisting the truth in the process.

  3. 6 Jeanne
    August 23, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    Like, for example, some politicians in Pennsylvania!!!


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