Monday, January 28, 2019
Very popular, again, is the view that there are no inherent moral truths. Various thinkers state that moral realism isn’t true, that sometimes lying is good, etc. Often this outlook on ethics emphasizes that the end justifies the means and that “love” is the only rule.
Unfortunately, words such as “love” are empty-bucket terms meaning contradictory acts and are almost meaningless. For instance, the famous Roman Catholic leader, Augustine, in the 4th century wrote, “Love and do what you will. (on the First Epistle of John, Homily 7 on 1 John 4:4-12)
But Augustine was the same Christian leader who brought hard determinism into the Christian religion, condemning all human infants as being guilty of Original Sin, claiming that only a limited number of humans were predestined to be rescued, billions of others left to damnation.
Augustine also used the power of the Roman state to persecute others. And he abandoned his common law wife/concubine of 10 years, and planned, instead, to move to Rome and marry a high-class lady. At least he didn’t abandon his son from his common-law wife.
Other Christian leaders have gone even further. Christian theologian, Episcopal priest Joseph Fletcher, in the late 1960’s wrote the book called Situation Ethics which claimed that loving could mean to lie, to commit adultery, to blackmail, even to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians!
According to Fletcher, “nothing is inherently right or wrong” (page 134). Allegedly, later, Fletcher promoted abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, etc. in the name of “love.” (according to Wikipedia)
Paul Tillich, the famous Lutheran philosopher and theologian, wrote that “love is the ultimate law” (Systematic Theology, Volume 1, page 152) then repeatedly committed adultery, etc. The long scholarly biography of Tillich shows how dishearteningly wrong Tillich behaved, like so many others, by holding to the semantically vague idea of "love" as the only guide.
Even many Christians who claim to believe in objective ethics (not situation ethics) argue for very strange moral views such as the American Christian leader who declared that the atom bomb is “God’s gift to America”!
Or the millions of Christians (over 78% of American Evangelical Christians) who defend President Trump’s forcefully taking little children under 4 from their refugee mothers and sending the crying toddlers off thousands of miles away from their mothers to U.S. government facilities!
And ALL of those ethically wrong actions happened because the American Christians lied about the nature of the refugees, claiming they were criminals, drug dealers, enslavers, etc.
Even if--let's hypothesize--no bad results came from lying (or what ever other violation of moral truths), that lying would still be contrary to what is good and right.
Tragically, humans who think that morality, justice, human rights, etc. are inherently real and true, not subject to situations seem, often, to be in the minority.
DISHONESTY/LYING is ALWAYS wrong.
Theft, adultery, infanticide, killing, and so forth are ALWAYS WRONG…
Meticulous honesty, sharing, generosity, infant care, compassion, justice and so forth are ALWAYS RIGHT.
1. Without meticulous honesty, fields and professions such as science, technology, architecture and construction, medicine, criminal justice, education, and so forth can’t function well or successfully.
Human history and current events are strewn with the millions of cases of scientists, law enforcement officers, politicians, architects, doctors, teachers, etc. who in the name of what ever ethics they followed, lied, deceived, or shaved the truth.
When a doctor lies, it might mean only deeply harming a patient. But when a scientist lies, it could wreak havoc on an entire society causing the suffering and death of millions of humans.
2. Unfortunately, the vast majority of humans have a penchant toward viewing the world from their own advantage point. We tend to justify what looks good for our group or our nation. Consider cases such as how the leading intellectuals and brilliant scholars of the various opposing nations of 1914 led us into the completely wrong Great War, which caused the slaughter of at least 15 million humans.
See Manifesto of the Ninety-Three German Intellectuals
See Preachers Present Arms by Ray h. Abrams
As various writers have emphasized the first fatality of war is truth. Lies are the immoral “body-guards” (to twist a phrase of Winston Churchill who infamously claimed that lies are bodyguards who protect truth!)
Another lesser case is the official lies—especially the Gulf of Tonkin lies-- told by the American government which led to over 2 million humans slaughtered in Vietnam including over 50,000 Americans.
Of course, most of these humans lied, deceived, were dishonest from the best of motives (though their motives you notice were based in the group egotism of their particular nation and society).
3. ALL lying, all deception, all dishonesty is to state contrary to reality. For instance, the construction boss needs to get the building finished by October 1st for many good reasons. Yet the inspector has been slow in coming out to certify, so the contractor hedges the truth. After all, in other situations, the minor deception hasn’t resulted in anything bad.
But regardless of whether or not his dishonesty catches up with the construction contractor (even though he meant it for good), the lie is contrary to what is true and real.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE EXTREME CASES?
Extreme cases are, admittedly, difficult. And so various thinkers have stated that honesty must be relative to end results.
People say, wouldn’t it be good to lie to a Nazi, to lie to a murderer?
However, as I’ve already pointed out, these extreme situations don’t normally happen. Yet they are often pulled up to justify more common situations in which many people think a lie is also “good” in their particular difficulties.
Second, lying is always wrong even in desperate situations.
But what if an abused child hides at your house?
Will you lie to protect the innocent child from the abusive father?
What if you can discover no other option?
In that case since no alternative seems available, you can't find a good way to deal with the crisis, then you may choose to do what is wrong, the least wrong action.
Notice, the lying, is still WRONG, BUT COMPARED TO A CHILD BEING FURTHER ABUSED, LYING IS THE LESSER EVIL.
And after the crisis passes, you well-meaning liar, will still need to admit your wrong-doing, and emphasize that you will make whatever amends you need to for your deception.
No where is any well-meant lie—itself--justified.
If only all humans would choose such moral realism, the vast majority of evil actions in the world would be lessened and eventually stopped.
Meticulous honesty, compassion, generosity, defense of human rights, etc. are ALWAYS RIGHT.
In the LIGHT of TRUTH,
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Saturday, January 19, 2019
Given that so many millions of Americans (both heterosexual and same sexual individuals and the Supreme Court), worked diligently for and came together in a vast movement to finally bring the good legalization of marriage for gay individuals, it is puzzling, disturbing, disheartening, and contradictory that now
so many Americans are rejecting monogamy and fidelity,
and, instead promoting,
and living in promiscuity.
Edna St. Vincent Millay, (a wondrous poet who could write about ideals powerfully
but who's private life was tragic, superficial and uncommitted like Earnest Hemingway, Diego Rivera,
and many other famous humans. The great Mexican muralist Rivera stated that sex is like pissing.)
True, billions of humans for many thousands of years have engaged in promiscuous behavior of various sorts, BUT in recent times, many humans have seen fidelity and monogamy as the ideal, what all people ought to seek.
Polygamy, one-night-stands, serial divorce, mistresses, pornography, prostitution, recreational sex, etc. have been rejected as immoral, unequal, unjust, and destructive.
Committed monogamy for many people replaced those unequal, unjust ways of history.
That is until the last 40-50 years.
Now many are celebrating promiscuity as a way of life, having multiple partners, talking about sex workers' "rights," even justifying one form of polygamy.
The Modern Un-Covenant
Of disengaged couples
Rail lines that never join
The banal and travail
Not personal union
Scabbed and only
Repeating ing ing
Copping a plea
The feeling of deeply
Not ultimate giving and receiving
Not the spurt and burst of life
Precious in the growing
Of the inner room
But passive ‘lost’
Over and over
Skinned rituals on
Repeating ing ing
Through the ‘mine’ field
Worn to the ‘marrow’
First pub. in The Cerebral Catalyst,
then repub. in Dead Snakes
This is a tragic reversal back to the unethical historic past when most humans rejected fidelity, and only a few humans actually lived in equal romantic monogamous relationships.
Which brings to mind the famous poem on romantic sexual love by Edna St. Vincent Millay:
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.
We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.
We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!
Edna St. Vincent Millay, "Recuerdo" from Collected Poems. Copyright 1931, 8 1958 by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Norma Millay Ellis. Reprinted with the permission of Elizabeth Barnett, Literary Executor. All rights reserved.
Source: A Few Figs From Thistles (1922)
Tragically, Millay seldom lived those idealistic lines, but instead, (like so many American writers and artists of the early 20th century), engaged in rampant promiscuity.
To Millay (too late), and to all of the individuals and thinkers I've dialogged with, here's my own poetic response to the contradiction between some of Millay's romantic lines versus her rampant sexual infidelity:
On Losing Recuerdo
dissipated by rampant
Back and forth
Back and forth
Who said the sad truth
Our allusions are truer than true
Back and forth, ritual rote lust
Millay so trothed to us
In Recuerdo love’s truth
Only to show and live in her life
Lust’s crusty lie, lying with every
Tom, harry, and dick
And not so merry’s too.
She burned her lifeline at both ends
A taper betwixt noxious flames
She lay, lay, lay New York,
Lay down on a steeple-top
Under neath her generation’s
Gin-jazzy, faithless moon.
How slow-slug tiring her girlish
Fetish for a boy poet Dillon
Not Thomas nor Bob,
But oh so tight drunk
And so loose
Wide her marriage
Eugenic barrenness aborted;
All so fair-less—her life’s subway,
Money given for less,
No lesson in her dissipation
And that sky dripped, slime
A thicket-full of yellow
And an apple vomit ate
In this garden gone to rot
Who gives a fig for these
Her thistle, Pulitzering
Caught in the snout of a swine'd life
CHOOSE the romantic love of Recuerdo, not its opposite, Losing.
For in the midst of many seeking to marry, to find one other person to commit to in romantic love and caring and fidelity,
there are so many millions of others who brag about,
promote, and live in
CHOOSE FIDELITY INSTEAD.
In the Light,
Thursday, January 17, 2019
Intensely Popular at present in American politics (as unwell as elsewhere) is the demeaning and name-calling of individuals on the other side. Each side makes extremely negative statements against the character and worth of persons of the opposition, those blanketyblanks----fill in the blanks from the daily news.
For instance, President Trump gives negative names to his opponents, "Crooked Hilary," Wacky and Deranged,” “a crazed, crying lowlife” and comparing another to a “dog.”
And individuals on the other side return the disfavor: Trump is "dumb, "an idiot surrounded by clowns," and so forth. Just read the daily news accounts.
But here's a few snippets from the media:
Against Trump: "...corrupt politicians deserve no love. They inflict greater harm, death and destruction than any one person calling them a ________[twisted obscenity] will do to them.
Civility is for those who live in a fairy tale dream that somehow you can hope the tyrannical evil will suddenly grow some empathy. It won’t work.
Call him a _________. He deserves worse but will likely get less.
Jesus can love him all he wants. The rest of us can energize righteous anger and use it to oust him and any other mad tyrants who think they can trample on the constitution and the people it’s written to protect."
"You don't hand matches to an arsonist, and you don't give power to an angry left-wing mob. Democrats have become too EXTREME and TOO DANGEROUS to govern," Trump tweeted, "Republicans believe in the rule of law - not the rule of the mob. VOTE REPUBLICAN!"
BUT, what we need to do instead is condemn actions, NOT attack the worth or intent of humans in opposition to what we think is true, good, and right.
Most humans of the historic past--creedal Christians including the ones who slaughtered millions in the Great War (First W.I) the U.S. and British Civil Wars, the 30 Years War, French and German Religious Wars, etc., most orthodox Muslim jihadists in the past and now, many doctrinaire communists, most Napoleonic soldiers, etc. weren't corrupt, vicious, or vile.
On the contrary, most true believers of whatever religion or ideology tend to be almost exactly like all of us! As I recall that was one of the central points of Eric Hoffer's famous book on the true believer.
When I stayed with a Muslim family in Nablus, Palestine, they were very generous, kind, and considerate.
Ditto for the Jewish people on the kibbutz where I worked,
and ditto for the Christian Baptist leader from Jerusalem with whom I spoke,
YET they all were involved in the intentional slaughter of each other because of their religion.
Even some Jewish secularists and Palestinian secularists were in favor of intentionally killing civilians.
Most humans aren't vile. It's their dedication to nation and ideology or religion that is.
Yes, there are sociopaths. When I worked in a mental hospital, I worked with at least one.
But generally most of the evil in history and now comes about because normal, somewhat civilized, humans go to war for their evil beliefs, and abuse, oppress, and slaughter millions in the process.
Look at the horror in Syria, where all sorts of ideologies are battling each other--secular Arabs, orthodox Muslims, Shia, Sunni, Russian, American, Turkish, Kurdish, Iranian, Saudi, Gulf States, Israeli (secular Jews and orthodox Jews), etc.
have caused the death of 1/2 million people, the wounding of millions more, and the displacement/refugee status of many millions.
As wrong and destructive as Calvinism, Roman Catholicism, Islam, Marxism, Hinduism, Atheism, etc. are I doubt that the actual individuals who grow up in those horrific religions and ideologies are they themselves vile, evil in intent. Many of them really believe they are doing what is good and right.
One of the most fanatical creedal Christians I ever met was a very mild, courteous, kind individual who was an airplane steward. If he hadn't happily consigned billions of us other humans to eternal torture--without any sense of guilt or sadness--
I would have never guessed that he would hurt a mosquito.
Vile ideas, not usually vile people.
At least that is my experience and my view.
Remember the essential words of Martin Luther King:
"Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him." Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Thich Nhat Hanh (the Vietnamese Buddhist nominated for the Nobel Prize), Bayard Rustin, and many other moral leaders point out what leads to harm, division, and destruction among humans is the claim of each side to be the good, dutiful, patriotic, honorable side.
But when one side claims to their enemies that they are are the only ones who are tyrannical, corrupt, and they deserve no compassion, no civility, then they have become like those enemies that they condemn.
I saw this when I lived in Palestine-Israel (where both sides demean, harm, and attack the others). And one can read of this lack of civility in American history and world history.
There are many tragic examples from American and world history where both sides held to be righteous and treated the opposite side as not deserving civility, kindness, hope because they were so bad.
However as the Russian great writer wrote, good and evil aren't on opposite sides, but both run through every human heart.
It appears that President Donald Trump bullies, constantly lies, intentionally harms millions, defends a murderous regime, the Saudis, etc.
But it is probably that Trump honestly thinks he is doing what is best, what is good. At least about 80% of Evangelical Christians think he is God's man for this troubled hour!!
Attacking the President personally, calling him bad names, etc. isn't the answer to this time of crisis.
Instead, our moral answer needs to be a very detailed documentation of all immoral and unjust actions. We need to work to bring good change based in human rights, not curse others.
One of the first rules of debate is that no matter how unfair, unjust, even evil the other side's views are, speakers should never attack the opposing speakers' inherent human worth. To do so is a denial of human rights.
In the Light,
Thursday, January 10, 2019
AGAINST the 400-year-old Anniversary of the Canons of Dort
my gramma’s beheading like the results of dort
my gramma grabbed that hatchet
and the white pullet
that bloody spurt or naught
that chicken head lay dead edged
in my 5-year eyes while that
silent squawking chicken’s body
(not elected for that select coop on the upper ledge
behind their barn)
ran circling 5 points round and round, by golly,
in its danced death-exit
ever present in my memory's
round the years--
400 including its 30 Years War--
of distress and despair caused by those Christian ‘apopletics,’
against the remonstrants
by those calvinist 5 sin’ods of dort,
those canons who beheaded van oldenbarnevelt
For those who don’t like analogies and word-play poetry, in plain prose here’s the ethical points:
THEOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY AND IDEOLOGY
Choose instead the Enlightenment of Reason, Justice and Compassion,
One of the central purposes of a nation is
BE A BLESSING TO OTHERS, ESPECIALLY THOSE IMPOVERISHED,
A nation can protect its citizens without building huge walls,
without demonizing refugees,
In the Light of compassion, generosity, hope, and help,
Friday, January 4, 2019
Let us move toward a healthy, kind, nourishing life-enhancing way of eating and living,