“DO ASK, DO TELL IV”: MORAL REDUX, PART 4
MARCH 20, 2016 LEAVE A COMMENT EDIT
The last story in my DADT-III book starts with a reference to someone like me as a “Pharisee”. I’ll come back to that.
The simplest formulation of personal morality in modern western culture is simply personal responsibility. One is responsible for the outcomes of the choices he or she makes, insofar as they affect others. Harmlessness, in a direct sense, can often defend otherwise gratuitous behavior. This is the simple libertarian outlook. But it is modified by the idea that one has to make a living, so one will need to perform services or goods that people need and will pay for. That provides some practical incentive to be temperate in choices, as well as the development of self-discipline necessary at least to hold down a good job. Indeed, this libertarian formulation can often take us quite far.
But sometimes people have to respond to external threats of influences that they would not have chosen to be placed under. Often this requires working together in new ways and the ability to make sacrifices, to defer to the needs of others. This kind of development tends to call for social conformity, and taxes those who perceive themselves as “different” more than others.
I am indeed “different” in a sense that is meaningful here. My own goals tend to be self -expressive. Yes, I like recognition, or at least the belief that my writings make a difference in the outcome of debate, that my fiction and later my music can have emotional impact. I am probably seen as aloof and diffident, and unresponsive to many personal situations that normally require more emotion from others. In my sexuality, there is a lot of upward affiliation and fantasy, which sometimes can set up situations that can actually work. There is a tendency for me to believe that my interpersonal choices and decisions really do matter to others, and have an expressive effect.
In the New Testament, the Pharisees liked to be heard for their much speaking. But they were also socially cohesive as a religious group. I don’t represent any particular group.
Even given the legitimacy of my purposes, I am capable of ineffective choices. But, over the years, and especially in recent times. The bigger people of properly belonging, of being prepared to share community risk with others, has grown as a moral issue, compared to “personal responsibility” in a narrower sense. This is partly because of the occurrence of external events and demands as they affect me, and as a result of threats to our way of life as a whole, particularly from force and possibly terrorism. Indeed, the “doomsday prepper” mentality has some effect; is it morally sufficient to assume that the “system” will always work for me when it hasn’t for others?
This is a disturbing observation: politicians often push the idea that they can achieve more social and economic stability by advocating more personal discipline from the outliers of society, expecting them to stay in their proper place. It’s upsetting, maybe offensive, but I do get the point.
“Moral principles” would refer to things we must do, or avoid doing, in certain contexts. We sometimes do have to respond to “knocks on the door”. Although actual incidents are rare for most of us, how we respond to combativeness of others, when we could indirectly endanger others, is a critical moral issue that we must all own individually.
Before going on, let me give a couple specific references from Blogger that prepare this argument; one from today and one from January 11
So what are these Extended Moral Principles that should apply to “someone like me”?
In math, you start out with definitions and postulates, and then prove theorems.
I’ll start out with a few postulates.
(1) Subscription to a specific religious creed (concerning the nature or wishes of God/Jehovah/Allah is not by itself a moral issue. These principles will probably comport with moderate forms of most faiths, and comport with the idea of people living together in as much liberty as is possible and sustainable. The underlying operating principle is “karma”.
(2) One starts out in life by inheriting some moral responsibility for what his “family group” did, particularly if one benefits at the expense of others outside the family group.
(3) “It is what it is” and “You are where you are” when you start. If you start in terrible circumstances (as many people do) it is up to “you” first to pick yourself up. Then, others may gradually occur moral obligations to help you.
(4) Related to the idea above, there is nothing inherently honorable about victimhood. Even though an aggressor may and should be brought to justice separately, the “victim” still continues to experience the cost of what was inflicted as part of his or her reality. Two wrongs don’t add up to a right.
(5) It is morally legitimate for families, groups, tribes, religious bodies, and countries or nations to be concerned for their long term sustainability and viability. Within reason, legitimate political authority may try to implement these goals upon citizens.
(6) It is legitimate to be concerned about personally evasive behavior that is likely to be enticing or set a poor example for others with fewer advantages and following normal ideas of immediate self-interest.
(7) It is legitimate for families (and above) to be concerned with the purposes of unusual behavior, or with what makes someone “tick”, if the apparent endpoint appears to be destructive.
(8) People will have their own personalized challenges to step up to. In civilization, there is no way to remove this kind of “inequality”.
So I’ll jump to some conclusions first. The post following this will enumerate some principles that constitute a kind of “proof”.
Here they are:
(1) It’s important to meet the real needs of others with what one does. This is obviously a lot easier to reconcile with personal expressive goals for some than for others, and a lot of it depends on native talent as well as practical skill levels.
(2) If one has benefited by the unseen sacrifices others (from within or without the group) then one will need to “give back” later in life when having the opportunity to. This is a concept some people call “rightsizing”. The opposite would constitute permanent mooching.
(3) In a free society, it is difficult to criticize the “freeloading” of someone else without being guilty of the same sins oneself. But a proper free market will encourage “giving back”, and in recent years generous behavior has become much more associated with ultimate economic gain than used to be the case in the past. Those with inappropriate gains, however, sometimes find that what they have gets expropriated, by those (“revolutionaries”) not concerned about legal penalties themselves, and in these cases, such persons are unlikely to recover their losses.
(Published: Sunday, March 20, 2016, at 11:45 PM EDT)