Lately the world has much to worry the masses over. Most people know it only from minute glances at the news channels. It only takes a second to see bad reports covering everything from guerrilla wars, ethnic cleansing, arms races, earthquakes, world poverty, and of course the largest oil spill in human history. However, course there have been beautiful shining star examples of hope and love in the past few years of humanities compassion for each another. Just a few examples are when Americans pulled together after the September 11 World Trade Center bombings, the humanitarian aid which poured in after the countries after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the aid which reached the Haitian’s after that countries 2010 earthquake, the global effort to contain the pandemics of SARS and H1N1. In the past few years, we have seen brilliant minds come together to drive scientific progress toward cures for HIV/AIDS, cancer and in the elimination of Malaria.
However, it seems the world has always been pulled toward both good and bad. We tend to act like double-edged swords toward ourselves. If you were brave and you asked someone would you rather help someone in need or hurt them, do good or bad of course, a rather redundant question the answer would be something along the lines of, “Well, I would never hurt someone, at least not intentionally.”
Then why is there so much damn suffering in the world? Why do people hurt each other; tribal wars in Somalia, with Apartheid in South Africa, the crisis in the Balkans, landmines that still blow up little children in Vietnam, the ethnic cleansing in Darfur, the regime of North Korea where death by starvation is commonplace, or the wholesale annexation of Tibet by China? Why do people start wars, commit fraud, create massive Ponzi schemes steal or just plain hinder progress?
One of the many reasons might be how easy we are swayed by popularity, group pressures, the need to be wanted, the need to succeed, the wants of pride and wealth. We think either we need to go along or we want to in order to get. What if we all were to say no to following the crowd? What about that stuff that is deep inside us? What drives our soul, our ethical fortitude? Let me explain. How strongly do you believe in what you believe and why? Do you know what you believe before making certain actions; before you have to decide to do or not to do them?
Ask someone what he or she believe and they will usually respond by mentioning their faith, religion or philosophical mindset. They may mention they are Christian, Atheist, naturalist, evolutionist, Pagan, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Hindi, Islamic, Buddhist, Taoist and the list can go on. Maybe we would not have so many conflicts if we could all realize that although religions, faiths and philosophies differ in many ways, each of these have as their foundation fundamental ethical truths that we can all agree on and make decisions on. If we believe these as truth then we can make good ethical decisions together. The other option is gridlock, strife and turmoil. We have all seen where that leads this world. If you have a faith or prescribe to a religion, a type of ethical lifestyle, how accurately do you adhere to its principles, its morals and its rules? If you are an atheist what moral laws do you align your actions to? I mean how closely do any one of us follow what we believe when we make everyday decisions? Can we voice our beliefs in words? What disturbs me is the answers to any one of these questions, because more likely they will be pretty vague. You cannot compromise with others if you do not know what you are willing to give up, what you are not willing to give up and what you are willing to take. You might get a muted response to the above questions, something like, “Well I just like to do good things for people and be a good person?” Ah, but what is good? How would you define it? Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t cheat, don’t murder and so on.
Pin this dilemma on someone and you might understand my point: What if you pose this hypothetical situation to deal with to someone: It is World War II and a Nazi SS troop is going house to house looking for concealed Jews. You have hidden a Jewish family in the attic of your house. An SS soldier enters your house and asks, “Where have you hidden the Jews?” Would you lie and say, “I have not hidden anyone.” Alternatively, would you tell the truth knowing that the family would face certain death at the hands of the Nazis? Most people, including me would lie to save the hidden family from the SS soldier. Does that mean I or we advocate lying? -No, not really. Okay for conditional lies? Then well, how conditional? Should you lie to save your job? What if you had to lie to prevent yourself going to jail?
In society today we seem so much more in a permanent state of chaos, upside down and constantly changing, if we all had a more unified view of what is morally right and morally wrong it would bring this world a bit closer together. Can we lessen the polarization between us all that apparently has caught us by surprise in the last twenty years? Thought common understanding I think so. Are there truths we can all agree on and act on? Can this world gather around small truths so we can agree to stop fighting each other, stop ourselves from all this war? I believe we can. In the second installment of this series I will cover major moral philosophical theories based on two of my favorite books on morality:
What does this have to do with our Children? Would you want to raise your children in a world constantly at war with itself? Would you want your grandchildren to grow up in a world full of disease and hunger?