I have long held the belief that an unnatural division between personal and public morality had utility when dealing with political issues. Politics often require compromises which conflict with our sense of morality. As a practical matter the Christian idea of brotherly love or the oriental concept of peace and harmony and the Humanist ideal of individual rights and potential reflect great personal morality that consistently come into conflict with the need for political expediency. Confining our understanding of morality in politics to the considerations of social order and continuity appeals to me. As an example the moral collapse of the roman empire had more to do with the decline in a commitment to social order than an increase in sexual excess, drunkenness or decline in personal character. Attempts to suppress Christianity seen in this light could be considered the "moral" alternative for the leaders of Rome. I admit that without personal morality and character social order is impossible to maintain but all attempts to legislate morality seem to be less than effective or even counterproductive. The question then is how do we maintain social order if the character of the individual members of society is questionable?
Typist it hasn't worked very well. Religion, and it's effect on politics even in todays world has lead to what many would consider immoral acts. What I have defined as public morality may be just as difficult for individuals to agree on as what I have labeled personal morality. Making the necessary compromises to form a functional society may not be as difficult if certain religious beliefs, and customs are put aside.
Public and private morality are not different. They're mutually complementary and support each other. As long as they're working. It doesn't matter what the political system is, or what the religion - as long as the leaders practise it and most of the people believe in it, it works.
When (not if) the elite start cutting corners, taking liberties, skimming off more than their share, paying lip service to the principles of the society but behaving differently in private, the rot sets in. Soon, the upper middle class begins to imitate the elite - always, inevitably - and cheating on its obligations, then the middle class follows suit. They can keep the workers and peasants honest a bit longer, but the legal system will begin to unravel, with police trying to contain popular unrest rather than upholding normal order, and factions contending one with another, and nobody trusting the government.
Let's use some examples. On a personal level I find easy access to gambling facilities immoral, especially if their sole justification is taxation. On the other hand if there are sufficient safe guards against abuse, and programs to help those that develop personal problems from gambling, then I have to agree to their existence. I may agree for no other reason than participation in the political system allows me to help insure they remain regulated as best they can. While I'm somewhat liberal on the use of illegal drugs I concede for the sake of social order that some enforcement is necessary and that legalization of the less harmful variety is secondary to the interest of the state. I have chosen rather mundane examples on purpose as to not illicit strong reaction or to go astray on side issues.
One concerning trend I have seen is that a large portion of the younger generations, here in London atleast, base their values less and less on the values of older generations, and more and more on things from media or the internet.
When young people are genuinley getting their values from places like MTV or SpiffTV (an example that's popular in London), then questioning the resposibility of various media outlets and being serious about the role they actually play in society (just entertainment or something more?) may do more regarding this issue than some form of policy change regarding gambling or drugs ever could.
Maybe not what your looking for Wolfhnd, but there's my thoughts.
Interesting comments Whut. It is true I was thinking more along the line of what some might call hypocrisy but your comments do relate to that issue as the young often think that not following your heart is a form of hypocrisy. As we grow older and hopefully wiser it is easier to see the limitations of our own reason and the sincerity of others.
The Internet does at least offer some hope that the unavoidable propaganda of the establishment can be minimized in it's influence. That is not to say that the hypocrisy and manipulations of the older generation are without good reason occasionally. All freedoms including the free exchange of information over the Internet must come with a sense of responsibility that youth is loath to shoulder. I would love to hear more about your views on the effect the Internet may have on undermining the morales of the younger generation.
Recall ancient Rome, where watching people being slaughtered in the Colosseum was all in good fun.
An entirely valid critique of the worst aspects of modern Christianity arises from a moral foundation that Christianity itself helped to build.
This moral foundation has been laid down layer by layer by layer for over 2,000 years. In western culture, we're all essentially Christians, even if we hate Christianity. We're so far in to it now that we can't imagine what we would be without it.
It doesn't have to be Christianity, other religions can perform the same function. But without some kind of deeply rooted moral sense underpinning society, things aren't going to go very well.
Evidence you demand, where's the evidence? It's simple, most successful cultures all over the world have some kind of religious foundation.
So the question becomes, can we create this same deeply rooted moral sense without religion? Humanists will say YES!, we have reason and science etc.
Here we encounter the ironic fact that it is religion that is the clear minded realist, and reason worshipers who are the idealistic dreamers.
Humanists aren't loyal enough to reason to realize that reason is just a thin veneer coating the surface of the human mind. It's kind of like an M&M candy, with reason being the thin hard shell on the outside, and irrationality being the much larger and softer middle.
We can take an example from say, politics. As we can see in the current campaign, political ads driven by big money are a decisive factor. We can very reasonably ask, who the hell decides on a candidate based on highly emotional and factually distorted TV ads???
Most of us, that's who.
Why? Reason is a thin veneer, it's not really in the driver's seat.
Religion is an ancient enterprise, senior to modern reason by thousands of years. Over all the many centuries religion has developed a realistic understanding of how human beings really work. Not how we say we work. Not how we wish we worked. But how we really work.
Without something like religion, we'll find it difficult to impossible to dive down below the surface to where people really make their decisions.
Want an even easier example? Just turn on your TV. Watch it as if you were an anthropologist from Mars, able to observe us objectively from a distance. Watch the shows, watch the ads. Understand that billions of dollars in research have gone in to understanding exactly what it is we really want to watch. TV is like a highly polished cultural mirror, and in that mirror we can see the real us.
Typist I was actually thinking of Rome and the misery that might have been prevented by it's decline if Christianity had not undermined the established social order and Pax Roma. Personal morality does not in and of itself prevent decline of social order. While the argument is made by religionists that the loss of personal morality is the major factor in social instability the evidence is not convincing to me. Beyond this controversial issue of personal morality and political stability there is the ever increasing diversity of moral standards. If this diversity of standards prevent reasonable compromise then social desolation is unavoidable even if the individual members of society are basically moral. Historically and today uncompromising religious standards often paradoxically leads to acts of violence and other actions I would consider immoral. Morality in the public sense is only vaguely connected to personal morality and I grant that one without the other is unlikely the divergent focus of each will unavoidably cause internal conflict. Do not reply with the statement that it is an issue only if the individual's sense of morality is skewed as I would consider that off topic.
Personal morality does not in and of itself prevent decline of social order.
Agreed. Economic collapse can do the job etc.
While the argument is made by religionists that the loss of personal morality is the major factor in social instability the evidence is not convincing to me.
"The major factor" could be a stretch, agreed. A significant factor seems reasonable.
Beyond this controversial issue of personal morality and political stability there is the ever increasing diversity of moral standards. If this diversity of standards prevent reasonable compromise then social desolation is unavoidable even if the individual members of society are basically moral.
Which is perhaps why some religions attempt to enforce a unified all inclusive moral code.
Historically and today uncompromising religious standards often paradoxically leads to acts of violence and other actions I would consider immoral.
Agreed again, me too, the Taliban etc. But where did our sense of morality and judgment come from? To a significant degree, from religion. To be clear, I'm not selling religion here, but trying to understand the role it has played.
Do not reply with the statement that it is an issue only if the individual's sense of morality is skewed as I would consider that off topic.
Do not reply by telling me what to write and what not to write, as I would consider that an appetizing challenge. :-)
wolfhnd wrote:I would love to hear more about your views on the effect the Internet may have on undermining the morales of the younger generation.
I'll share some of my views, but this is a very broad subject imo and I find it almost impossible to put it succinctly in any way while sticking to key points, never really tried before though I'll give it a shot.
I think young people getting their values from the media is nothing completely new, I grew up in the late 90's and 00's, and things like that seem to have been around already. I suppose it really begins when TV first came about, atleast I find it hard to see how it could have been this way without it. Before that I imagine people's only basis for values was their parents, religion or a group of friends, perhaps the radio or magazines would have an effect. Point being, community values would have had more of an effect than today, or rather should I say what we would call community then would have been very different than what community means today.
I'm sure the notion that things like TV (e.g MTV) affecting young peoples values is also nothing new, infact we may have heard people complaining about how things like rap music affects young people so much it seems futile to even bring up now. (damn, there was a great documentary about all this, in the context of MTV and kids values, but I've forgotten what it's called, ring any bells for anyone? ;/)
The problem is that when your parents or community teach you values, its simply that, you get values that have been around because they work, if your parents tell you something or lead by example, it's because they want you to have good values. Where as if your getting your values from your favorite rapper, the rapper in question doesn't exactly have your upbringing in mind, the label is selling what sells, what's profitable, that's it, if it leads to bad values, well so what? We're a buisness, bring up your own kids! (etc.)
Moving on, you said the internet does at least offer some hope that the unavoidable propaganda of the establishment can be minimized in it's influence, and while I also see hope in this, i've yet too see it (well, perhaps I see it in regard to political things, but then again I just think we have more veriaty of propaganda now, maybe I don't have to listen to British or American propaganda, but Russian propaganda aimed at the west still seems attractive to a young liberal...but that's besides the point).
What seems to be the case now, is that instead of young people here getting their values from some american rapper, for easy example, they now get them from local rappers, who got their values from some american rapper anyway. However, now it's a lot more close to home, a lot more realistic.
I can remember when I was like around 13-15, there was a time where it seemed like everyone in school was a rapper. This had a lot to do with mobile phones that could carry music and take videos etc. When this technology first came about, this culture seemed to emerge that was like everyone could be a star in their own little area. Such easy access to computers and media software meant anyone could create their own music video, or recording. You didn't even need a computer, you could make them on your mobile phone. (It was like the whole basis of the Grime genre http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grime_(music) , I suppose it's like rap, in many ways the UK's answer to rap, but with a faster pace, now a days though the young ones seem into a more american form of rap, the grime people around my age moved onto either that or Dubstep)
Happy slapping was a fad in the UK, in which someone assaulted an unwitting victim while others recorded the assault (commonly with a camera phone or a smartphone). Though the name usually refers to relatively minor acts of violence such as hitting or slapping the victim, more serious crimes such as manslaughter, rape, and sexual assault have been classified as "happy slapping" by the media.
Without youtube/mobile video tech it certainly wouldn't have become a fad. I'm sure random acts of violence happened before this, but before this it was just random acts of violence, now there was atleast some point because many found the videos entertaining. Why would they find it entertaining you might ask? Perhaps Jackass on MTV had something to do with this. I think so.
I could type about this stuff all day I think, but should wrap it up, it's also intresting how this effects things like the London riots etc. As it's the same generation, the rappers and happyslappers, that were rioting. I'll think about this some more and make a post another time with something that's a bit more focused with some key points. One of the main things I'm getting at here is that with the internet, it becomes a lot more close to home.
It's no longer some famous rapper who's just a person on our screens (example):
now it's a group of lads down the road who you actually know of and see about (an example from my area):