Saturday, October 28, 2006

To Hate or not to Hate

Hatred is the drive, ignorance is the grease, together they propell a person to commit attrocities in the name of right. Ignorance and apathy are not the sole causes of mob justice, for hatred and fear are also powerful motivators. For the sake of safety, one will forgoe the processes of accurate inspection in order to more expediently reach a state of action. In matters of morality, caution must be allowed. All possible avenues of thought must be explored meticulously, leaving as little room for error as possible. The measure of a person's devotion to their cause can be determined by the amount they are willing to sacrifice for it. This can also be used to measure personal righteousness. How much are you willing to sacrifice for your cause? If a person is willing to give their life for their cause, then it is certainly just (at least in their eyes) and worthy of inquiry. Great wrongs are more likely to be commited by someone in power, who faces little consequence for their actions. If there are no consequences, then one can pursue their selfish desires unhindered. How many so called crusaders would risk their lives in pursuit of what they call righteousness?
What is right? Is not right a variable factor? Right is less of a standard, and more of an ideal. It characterizes justice, the proper and correct course of action for any situation. But on what standards to we base our definition of right? It is a very vague term, and so I prefer the standards of preservation and destruction. These can be easily reasoned, does something work for the preservation or the destruction of humankind or to the relevant society? Without logically demonstrated foundations for right and wrong, it leaves it as an undefined quality, dependent on religion, culture, social class, etc etc. When we determine right not by introspection, but by popularity, we give more power to the mob mentality. Many attrocities have been commited at the hands of entire populations, either directly through interaction, or indirectly through willful ignorance. According to mob justice, as an idea gains in popularity it gains in momentum, and as a result becomes accepted solely on the merit of acceptance. People will allign themselves to this moral concept out of a desire to be accepted and avoid ridicule. Thus it becomes a small matter for a great injustice to occur, due to the hive-mind of the people.
How can this be avoided? By encouraging an individual to create their own moral compass, and determine for themselves what constitutes right and wrong, we can decrease the likelihood of them accepting the values of another at face value. To this end behaviours like dissention, and questioning authority should be encouraged. However the present state of American culture discourages such acts with mandatory education, the structure of the work place, and the overwhelming atmosphere of "conform or fail" that is suffocating in our youth and still present in our adulthood. Since our youth we are taught by the abuse of our peers and the scoldings of our teachers that fitting in is the proper course, and that a life of self-dedication, safety, and security are paramount to all other priorities. The virtues of compassion, benevolence, and honesty are veritably unheard of in comparison to the lessons of 401k plans, college educations, and life long jobs to ensure the longevity of your family and your easy transition into retirement. Our life is planned before we even have a chance to figure out what its about.
Is it any wonder at our difficulty to learn, to accept and understand? All our lives those which are different have been dangerous, and because they were feared, they were persecuted. But this mindset must be broken, and we must relearn the virtues of our fathers, for we are again falling into the errors that had brought their predecessors to destruction.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Crime of Deviance

American's have always been a violent people, quick to judge, and slow to accept. Our history displays a vast array of legal debates, with the common effort of legislating popular opinion. Disagreement even now is viewed as undesirable, and people will shun their neighbors for a difference of opinion. But most volatile amongst these differences are those of a sexual nature. We feel somehow offended that people are allowed to express themselves in manners which we do not share a desire for. There exists no concept of neutrality, and an adherence to one side or another is considered a given. If you do not share one's desire, then you must violently oppose it. There is no live and let live. We almost enjoy the illusion of safety our laws bring us. Its as though deviant choices are not allowed. But what is the alternative? Unfailing conformity? A world in which all were forced to live nearly identical lives, free of variation, would destroy individualism, and in its stead, create a herd. Why does the spirit of judgement so quickly overcome us? In the interest of preserving our neighbors, we should admonish them in the spirit of compassion and not strike at them aggressively. Even acts of destruction should not be enacted for the purpose of destroying that which is evil, but for the purpose of preserving that which is good - a minor shift in mindset that can affect a great change in critical processes and hopefully results.
Fear shows its place here as well. The reason for such violent rejection of the choices of others could be because we feel that there deviant decisions somehow threaten our lifestyle or choices. When a person espouses a different view, they then find an enemy in a person of opposing view, and instead of further deliberation and mutual enlightenment, seek to destroy each other, out of a conviction that they're opinion is absolute. In the service of this conviction, a person will find themselves commiting acts that violate their own moral code, and pursuing what they would consider dishonorable courses of action, all in order to eliminate what they see to be the 'greater threat'. And so those possesed with conviction will violently reject differing opinions as they feel threatened by their mere existence.
The solution to the error of judgementalism can be found in indecisiveness. By not taking sides and continuing in our deliberations even during the call of action, we can more effectively search for the truth. When the time comes to act on our opinions, we should still never cease our deliberations and always be mindful of all knowledge. For ignorance is the enemy of truth, but through the earnest pursuit of knowledge it is obtained. When diverging opinions emerge, each side should be tested thoroughly, being ever mindful of emotions such as fear and pride, which may cloud our judgement in the face of danger and cause us to act hastily. A closed mind sees only its own path, but an open mind can see paths other than its own, and decide whether its path should change.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Social Inequality and Prejudice

To judge a person by the qualities that do not reflect their character.

Prejudice is the grounding force of social inequality - within it lies its strength and origin. The division of our people has its place in the mind of the individual, and so in order to eliminate it and bring our society to an ideal of equal opportunity - we must reach the minds of the people. What causes prejudice to arise? While it has been attributed to military rulers who have ruthlessly forced their opinion on their subjects, the reasons for their emergence have also been surprisingly well intentioned. Fear and self-preservation are themes here as well. As a person is persuaded that their person, family or class is threatened, they then take steps to eliminate that threat - a very plausible and understandable course of action. But the error here is selfishness, considering only the needs of the party relevant to oneself and refusing other perspectives. By eliminating other views the person adopts a form of willful ignorance, and will continue to act without further thought. Action without thought always produces unforeseen consequences, whose harm may not be felt by the perpetrator as much as by the parties excluded. As one family gains wealth, another is made poor. As one group gains power, another is held under that power.
So what possesses one people to exalt themselves over another? What sense of self-worth convinces them of their right to take away another's? The purposes are not so obviously malevolent. Stripping a group of their rights can be justified in many ways, but the most common theme, is protection. Were oppression to emerge according to its true nature, it would gain no acceptance among the people, and so it must be concealed, under another, more benign purpose - one that passes at a glance so that a frail justification may be created. But under closer scrutiny these poorly constructed facades fall. All that is necessary is a blinder, the shimmer of reason, so that they may hastily proceed to action and quench their urges. On these slopes the momentum of conformity can slide from one mind to another, quickly engulfing people in a cause which they do not understand, and probably wouldn't support had they taken a second glance.
Then where does one draw the line at oppression and protection? Both can have different motivations, but the same result. One people are relocated - for their protection. They end up in camps. People are told to stay in their homes at night - for their protection. They sacrifice their freedom. The difference between oppression and protection is when the person being protected is denied the right to refuse that protection. The impetus for oppression may not necessarily be malevolent, it could be supported by the interest of safety. In an oppressive society people are denied the exercise of their will at the benefit of preserving their physical well being. But it could also be argued that life is nothing without the drive to live it, and that depriving a person of their free will is also harmful.
This brings up the issue of superiority. As one group believes itself superior to another, it then assumes the burden of the lesser groups decision making - effectively stripping them of the exercise of their free will, and controlling their lives. Here we see the question of power and unjust power. If a group who posseses power weilds it responsibly, should they not retain that power? In the case of a monarchy, the government is only as good as its monarch. But in our modern age this view has been cast aside in favor of divided power and power has been distributed to its lowest and most undeserving levels, the uneducated masses. Should we trust a panel of highly educated wisemen to make our decisions for us? Or do we believe that we should have the power over our own lives, to do with them as we see fit? One may be better for our safety, while the other is better for our freedom. It seems that one can not be had without the exclusion of the other, and in an increasingly fear driven society, bodily health is becoming a far greater priority than principle. Is the purpose of life safety or happiness? It is only when we have lost our freedoms that we appreciate how much they meant to us. Then we realize how much we would give, even our lives, to have them.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Social Inequality

A government occassionally is instituted by force, in which sense the people have less control over its affairs, but still are not without a degree of power, however ungranted. In the American system of government, this is not the case. Through voting and passing legislation we form the laws that govern our society. And so in our instance the government is the product of the people to a greater extent than in a usurping government. Those in power can still exercise a level of manipulation however, in the form of information control and deceit, which could be considered even more dangerous than direct applications of oppression -in that the people are unaware of the motions being taken against their power. During the Allied invasion of Germany, soldiers would take civilians out to where the Jews were being burned and demanded how they could have let it happen. More than once came the reply, I didn't know. But we are not defenceless against these forms of deception, for ignorance has some footing in the minds of the victims. By refusing to investigate we allow for ignorance to set foot. We do not have to allow attrocities to occur, we can simply not take an interest. And so the veil silently falls.
In society there exist attitudes torwards the rellevant political issues of the time. While some have stayed the same, many have changed over the course of human history. These attitudes often affect the legal state of that society, its number of laws, and what those laws restrict. Because of this it is the mind of the individual that in effect forms the society in which that individual exists. Among the issues that have been generally universal are the issues of theft and murder. Issues that have demonstrated extreme variance are those that affect sexual practices, lesser groups of peoples (slaves, races, economic classes), and women. In America the attitudes on these vary greatly, as within the separate states their lies a great range of people stemming from cultures all around the world. In the case of women, many legal stances have been changed, even if the social ones maintain a great divergence. This illustrates an ideal of freedom, allowing disapproval, without denying the right to practice. As laws have changed to allow the existence and freedom of the aforementioned groups, the attitudes have remained long after they fell out of power. But with the emergence of those formerly oppressed as dominant, they have instead become the oppressors. Adopting the methods of their predecessors but changing the content. When a group emerges, it hails the banner of tolerance and acceptance, to allow their views to be discussed. So the information flows freely, things are discussed and not idly dismissed and a truth is realized. But once the desired truth has been reached, the discussion is no longer welcomed, the lines of information are closed, and the banner of intolerance is once again instituted. The path of truth is not found by the narrow pursuit of a single ideal, but through exploring all ideals, and gathering all information possible, so that one may best decide based on the information available. The quality of our decisions is dependent upon the quality of our information. In the case of women, blacks and all other civil rights movements, the old attitudes are shunned and met with violent disapproval. We fear the resurgence of the old attitudes and their subsequent rise to power followed by all the suffering they entailed. How quickly we forget, the truth is not found through ignorance, but by the earnest pursuit of knowledge. Could not the method that brought the truth to light also be used to keep it in the light?
In this age it seems that our attitudes, more than our reason, are used to determine our morals and subsequently our laws. We supplement thought with emotion, but where thoughts are complex, emotions are simple, being selfish and seeing only one direction. Emotions do serve a purpose as motivators, however, and are not entirely without merit in our daily situation. When we are in need, we suffer and feel misery, this misery inspires us to change those circumstances which led us to feel it, thereby improving our situation and alleviating our suffering. Like wise happiness drives us to further those conditions that drove us to happiness, so that we may further enjoy our lives. Emotions are the keys to actions, but without deliberations, our actions have no aim, no reason, and instead of humans we revert to animals, selfishly pursuing our own desires without regard to those around us, and in the case of humans, the lone specimen quickly falls. Humanities strength lies in its cooperation and unity, for together we accomplish great things. Through thought and self-less reason we can consider the needs of the whole of society, and in finding a better future for our fellows, we find a better future for ourselves, for all parts of a society are intertwined. Once we use reason to find our aim, and the most beneficial course of action, we can then follow that course of action through the drive of our emotions to its just end.