Sunday, May 31, 2009

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten


Ethics. Morals. Values. Principles. Right and wrong. Standards of behavior. Codes of conduct. Virtues. Dictates of conscience.


Yes, you can see it coming: yet another massive subject inappropriate for the limited confines of a blog. Yet, you would be right; he is about to start up again.


I’m not walking away from the Constitution posts either. But I think even I have come to realize that is really too big a subject to blog about. Several shelves in many libraries are filled with thick books about the U.S. Constitution and the philosophy behind it. Even the U.S. Supreme Court can’t agree on what it means half the time. So I intend to lower my sights a bit on that and only blog (at some future date) about socialism in America, and how the federal government has led us down that ten trillion dollar path paved with good intentions. Or how we have allowed it to lead us.


Not now, though.


::Scarlett O'hara: "I just won't think about that ten trillion dollars until tomorrow."::


Today, let’s talk about “society” (for want of a better word) and how we try to get along with one another, with varying degrees of success.


What are the “rules” of society? (Here I am talking about Western Civilization, realizing that the rest of the world doesn’t think the same way “The West” thinks, to say the least.) In other words, when I talk about something being “right” or “wrong” I am speaking in a Western context.


This is not something I am trying to “teach” here on this blog. Rather it is only intended to stimulate discussion, in an effort (as usual) to suck new information and ideas out of you to feed my insatiable appetite for new morsels of information and facts and points of view. I believe that the more options one is able to identify, the better are the choices one makes. And I believe options come from knowledge.

---------


If you are formally studing Ethics (Western Philosophy) at university you will soon come to the opinon that there are three main schools of thought: Aristotle (who speaks of “Virtues”); Kant (who speaks of “Duty”) and Utilitarianism (trying to make the most people happy.)


That’s pretty boring, though. I want to be more practical. So let me talk first and then you can attack.


::Climbs up on his imaginary blogger soapbox with the siderails which keep him from falling off in his excitement and agitation:: The following comes from me, and not from a particular textbook.


Why a formal code of ethics? Why not just do as you think is right? Live and let live?


That works fine as long as you are the only person living on the planet. But when there are two or more of you, then you need some rules. And we have a lot more than two now.


The word “ethics” means a list of moral principals which govern a person’s (or group’s) behaviour.


What is morality? What is a moral principal?


Morality goes deeper into human “character” than simple "rules" or societal laws. Morality addresses “goodness” and “badness”. Who defines good and bad? Who says killing another person is bad? Society says. The group of people you have chosen to live among, that’s who. So, I define “society” as a group of people who are living together and who are trying to get along with one another.


Right away, we can see that you don’t get to make the rules you live under, at least not the basic rules. If you want to be a pig and smell like a bear and push other people around, then go live in the mountains somewhere by yourself. But if you want to live around other people, then take a bath and watch your mouth and don’t push to the head of the queue.


And more. A lot more.


But beyond simple rules that help us get along with each other on a day to day basis, there arises the concept of morality: good and bad. Or as Dubya would say, “Good and Evil.”


I am not here right now to address the concept of “evil”, although that sounds like a really good argument for a future post. Evil smacks of religion. Of course I acknowledge the “input” of religion over the years in forming the ethical code of conduct we live under in Western Civilization. So I can’t promise not to talk about religion at all in these posts.


Ethics are more than just the ground rules that society says you have to live under. If the society you live in says “Don’t murder or we’ll kill you”, then don’t murder. But I would also hope you don’t murder because you think it is morally wrong to murder.


Some of you may notice I seem to be tap dancing around the terms “murder” and “kill.” This is because I believe murder is always wrong and killing is not always wrong. In other words, I believe that taking another’s life is wrong in some cases and not wrong in some other cases.


And this is probably a good place to stop the first post rather than raising a whole list of ethical questions. One is enough for now.


My thesis: “Murder” is unlawful killing. Unlawful killing is wrong. Legally wrong and morally wrong. Society says it is wrong and the philosophy held by Western Civilization says it’s wrong.


But there are times when killing is legal and therefore not murder. Society (that group of people we talked about earlier) has a right - both a legal and a moral right - to protect itself and to enforce the rules the people in the society have agreed to. Therefore, the soldier or the police officer does not do murder when they kill in the course of their societal mandate, and neither does the state executioner do murder when he kills at the direction of the state.


Murder is hardly the only subject that we can talk about when we discuss “ethics” or “morality” or “personal codes of conduct.” I have a lot more issues that I will bring up in later posts. Yes, indeed. The photograph at the top of this post, for example, suggests another question of morality, at least in the antebellum American South: how could one condone the institution of slavery and still claim to be a moral and upright person? And that, in turn, brings up another question of ethics (or at least situational ethics): how will we be judged by people 200 years from now? Or should each man be allowed to live in his own times and be considered moral if he keeps to the ethical standards of his own time?


Like so many of these questions, there are no cut and dried answers, but I hope much food for thought and conversation. And yet, is there not a common thread of morality that defines Western Civilization, over the ages, in a larger sense? If so, what is that larger, more general, set of values that define us as a people, regardless of the era we live in, and set us apart from the Eastern school of ethical thought?


I have a feeling that my views here are not the only ones that exist, and I have a feeling I will hear from you. But don’t just tell me that you think I am wrong. Tell me why.


::Carefully steps down off his soapbox as he wipes bits of spoiled tomatoes from his chin::

---------


The right to be heard does not include the right to be taken seriously. (Hubert Humphrey)


The First Amendment protects you from being dragged off to jail by your government for what you say. However it does not protect you from being booed and hissed in the comments. (Relax Max)

---------


All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten


Share everything.


Play fair.


Don't hit people.


Put things back where you found them.


Clean up your own mess.


Don't take things that aren't yours.


Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.


Wash your hands before you eat.


Flush.


Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.


Live a balanced life -- learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.


Take a nap every afternoon.


When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.


Wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.


Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup --they all die. So do we.


And then remember the Dick and Jane books and the first word you learned -- the biggest word of all -- LOOK.

---------


Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living. [The book is by Robert Fulghum. If you don't have it, you should have it. Peruse it here.]

---------


The photograph at the top of this post is an out-take frame or publicity still from the motion picture "Gone with the Wind", based on the novel of the same name by Margaret Mitchell. Depicted are award winning actress Vivian Leigh in character as Scarlett O'hara, and award winning actress Hattie McDaniel in character as Mammy. Miss McDaniel is the first African American to be nominated for, and win, an Oscar. Selznick International Pictures or its successors owns this motion picture and thus the photograph.

25 comments:

frostygirl said...

One extra thing we were taught in kindergarten was:

Treat others possessions better than you would your own

As you say ethics is a big subject and I think it really depends on your own character, your mindset and beliefs as how you would react to different situations.

In my life I made a few BIG mistakes when it comes to ethics and it BUGS me so much now, but there is nothing I can do about it now I can only try and live the life I believe in NOW and in future.

Many of the ethics that people lived by in the past have dissapeared and the young ones now days display a whole new life with very few ethics which is a shame.

A. said...

I'm really not sure which question you want answered here. All 18 of them would take some time.

Something that frostygirl says about ethics of the past having gone is quite a point, as you said it too. Would we have been any different 200 years ago? I find it hard to think I would have been indifferent to slavery, but are there things I do now that 200 years hence will be considered equally appalling? I believe capital punishment will be one of them, and that will probably include our complete penal systems too.

How will we be judged in 200 years? That is one single question. It's a post all on its own, Max. Could we pause for breath between questions?

Stephanie B said...

Intriguing. Rather than answer questions like I was back at school, I'd prefer to tell you my reaction.

I don't disagree with you on any points (with two possible exceptions which I'll go into later). I think the kindergarten rules are true (not sure if they're complete or I'd give the same weight to all of them, but they're good. I wish one addressing tolerance was included).

I'm not sure society really defines morality so much as vocal people do so and convince others that's appropriate. That does, however, touch on religion, so that can wait until another time.

I never saw why a universal code of ethics needed to exist to govern people's behavior or how that was different than morality. Perhaps I just missed it.

I believe there is such a thing as justified homicide, exonerating circumstances when one person takes the life of another. I'm not sure, without understanding your definitions of "murder" and "killing" if I entirely agree. I can think of some murders as justifiable homicide and some killing as justifiable homicide. Some killings are very sad, but not criminal (in my opinion - like accidentally forgetting one's child in a hot car), others are criminal if not intentional killing (vehicular homicide while intoxicated, handing your eight-year-old an uzi). Beating one's child to death is criminal if not premeditated (a condition of murder whereever I've heard the term used), etc. etc.

I think we actually agree on this topic in principle, even if we may not agree on the conditions that making a killing justifiable. But, without knowing how you define "killing" or "murder", I'm not entirely sure.

Relax Max said...

Here is a list, simply because A. likes lists.

1. I ask questions to stimulate conversation. If I were speaking to you in person I would constantly be asking you questions to draw you out and to learn from you. In neither case would my questions be an attempt to show you what I already know or to somehow grade you on a test like you were given when you were back in school. Stop trying to extract questions from my posts. Just comment on what you think is a point worthy of further comment or enlargement, or on what pisses you off.

2. If I ever get the urge to just preach to you and tell you what I know, I will turn the blog's comment function off.

3. I pride myself in communication. Communication requires clarity. I hate ambiguity. Therefore I use the dictionary's definition when I use words that are important to the context of my writings. As such, it is unproductive to debate meanings of words in my posts; it only diverts from the subject under discussion. A., I'm afraid this is mainly directed at you. So:

4. Killing means the taking of a life. It can be a human life, an animal life or even a plant life. Here I speak of taking a human life because this post is about ethics and that word doesn't apply to unreasoning animals or to plants. Homicide is the killing, legal or illegal, of a human being.

5. Murder is the unlawful taking of a life. Here, again, I refer to taking the life of human beings and not to, say, cutting down a protected tree. And, here again, I get my definition from the dictionary, so it is pointless to bandy words about words meaning different things to different people.

6. It doesn't matter if you agree with the dictionary or not. If we don't use the definitions in the dictionary, there can be no basis for debate. We must be held to our statements. We should try not to toy with language to make our points. It is easy to twist language and to say something means something else, or doesn't ALWAYS mean what you say it means. I will try not to do this. I dislike mincing words and I dislike the mealy-mouthed quibbling of lawyers. Therefore I will do my best not to be guilty of language twisting.

7. We need codes of ethics forced upon us because otherwise, if we simply do what we personally think is right, chaos will ensue and society will dissolve or at least degrade. History proves this is true. Some things are codified into actual laws, some not. Civilizations are judged by history on the quality of their codes of ethics, their enforcement, and their balance between need for order and desire for personal freedom. Study the rise and fall of the Roman Empire if you doubt a code of ethics doesn't determine the success or failure of a civilization.

8. There appears to be some concern with me quoting, at the end of my post, the credo from Robert Fulghum's book. I don't apologize for doing it nor do I make any attempt to defend or affirm the author's statements. I think if you read them closely you will find them a lot more all-inclusive than they seem at first blush. But that will depend on your ability to draw deeper conclusions from seemingly superficial things.

9. I think my desire with these kinds of posts is not to define murder (for example) but to talk among ourselves about what our personal reactions to certain events would be. That is really what would be interesting conversation, don't you think? We are seldom going to prove one person's opinion is better than another's anyway. But different opinions are fun to discuss.

10. There is not really a point number 10, but A. usually likes to have her lists in groups of 10 whenever possible.

11. So just to annoy her, I will include a number 11. Which is: I realize that even this comment looks like I am trying to preach to you and that I am trying to be some sort of know-it-all teacher or authority. Since I'm not, I remind you that these above points are also open to attack and rebuttal. Nothing is sacred.

Excuse my bluntness. Pussyfooting is not nearly as much fun. Or productive.

Sheila said...

"We ought to esteem it of the greatest importance that the fictions which children first hear should be adapted in the most perfect manner to the promotion of virtue. "
— Plato

I think he agrees with you, Max. ;)

Relax Max said...

@Frostygirl - I think that is a very good point to add to the list! I wish people who borrow my books would remember that!

Tell me about some of your big past mistakes...

::smacking his lips in anticipation::

:) :)

Relax Max said...

@A. - A is for anal.

I like your musing about whether or not we would be different in 200 years. It is a subject that has been brought up several times.

On the one hand, you feel you would have the same values as you do right now, as if you had merely been transported 200 years back in time: you would still abhor slavery, for example.

But our values are shaped by how we are brought up and by our experiences as we grow up, and the environment we were brought up in. So, one would expect you to condone slavery if you were born 250 years ago on a plantation in Virginia.

Or is that a mistaken belief too?

On the one hand I am tempted to give a person allowance for the times they were born in as long as they tried to the right thing as they saw it, but on the other hand I also believe in something called conscience. That might seem unscientific, but I think (without proof) that humans are born with some sort of innate sense of right and wrong that they sometimes listen to. How else can you explain the many people of the American South during that time period who opposed slavery and were vocal about their opposition? I am talking about Southerners.

I wonder if a person who grew up alone in the wild and was suddenly found and brought to "civilization" would pause before he took another human life? Even before he was told it was wrong to do so?

Surely in 200 years time, people will think many of the things we did today were barbaric. Do we "deserve" such judgement, if we are trying to do the best we can, trying to do what we think is right by our current values and learnings?

A perplexing dilemma. And one that might tell us to not be so quick to condemn the past by applying our own updated standards and learnings. Interesting.

@Stephanie B - Of course I agree with you that not all killings are on the same level as a premeditated murder. Not at all. As you say, some are sad and some are accidental, not intentional. I WOULD like to insert the concept of self-responsibility into your example of drunk driving deaths or not taking proper care of your children. The latter is not murder; the former might be in some places. There are whole special categories and special cases.

I said I thought we would be better off discussing our opinions about specific cases, so let me give you another real life example.

Where I live, a few years ago, a man who had past troubles with drinking and driving, got drunk again and managed to get on the interstate going the wrong direction and hit a family head on, killing the mother and the children and putting the father in a wheelchair for life. As is often the case, the drunk driver himself was not injured to any great extent.

He was a professional man, educated, with a family of his own. He was tried on a fairly new statute in my state called "depraved mind murder" which allows a person to be sent to prison even though their reasoning was impaired at the time of the criminal event. The theory behind the law is that any reasonable person would be aware of the possible consequences if they drank alcohol knowing they would have to drive after they drank. (He was 150 miles from home when he drank, and knew he would have to be driving home that night.) And that the "proximate cause" of the crime actually occurred before his mind was legally impaired.

There are other facts, but this is as simple as I can get it for this example. I'm not going to ask you to be on the jury like I asked with the other examples (this jury convicted him, he went to prison after a few years of appeals, is now out of prison and back with his family as far as I know.) I'm just wanting to talk about the generalities of something like this. Is it wrong, for example, to send him to prison even though his reasoning ability was impaired after he drank? Or fair to hold him accountable for his decision to drink, a decision he made BEFORE he was impaired?

Stephanie B said...

I wasn't being coy, Relax Max. My first husband was a cop. The legal definition of "murder" varies from state to state. The term "illegal" has no meaning when crossing state lines or looking at things from a different time or society.

If soldiers invade a nation, how can they avoid "murdering" people in that existing nation - I'd be most surprised if most places didn't have laws against killing the citizenry.

Perhaps you see my issue with the term "illegal".

Perhaps not. But I will not feel chastised for asking for clarification perfectly honestly.

Stephanie B said...

And I also try to be clear when writing. I consider drunk driving and vehicular homicide in that case criminal as opposed to pure accident.

I did try to make distinctions. The point I intended to make was that premeditation (which is part of most legal definitions of murder) can be present and it still be justifiable. In my opinion.

Relax Max said...

@Sheila - I'm not sure if Plato agrees with me or not. He is hard to understand. Why is he using the word "fiction"? But I'll take it! :)

@Stephanie - you hard to argue with because you are so off the wall. Find me someone else who believes that soldiers who kill people in the defense of their country are "murderers." Jesus.

Or convince me you don't really know what murder is. That the whole WORLD doesn't know what murder is. Why can't you just address the ethical issues instead of simply pulling out a dictionary or admitting you know VERY WELL what I am talking about?

If you want to debate the legal definitions of murder, from state to state, or from continent to continent, or from era to era, that will be fine. But the legal definition of murder is not an ethical question. Do your REALLY think your husband would have been committing MURDER if he killed someone in the line of duty? How can you even SAY things like that?

Relax Max said...

@Stephanie - But of course you have a right to clarification of terms.

"Illegal" is determined by the administrative authority in a given area, right? The law may be unfair, but that is not the point. And the thing may not be illegal somewhere else, say another state. But if the crime is not committed in that other state, it doesn't matter if you run to that state. States and countries have extradition treaties. States seldom can refuse; countries often refuse. So true.

I totally disagree with you, though, on the concept of "premeditation". Just because a soldier knows he is invading another country and may kill civilians before the battle is over, does not make the battle plan equivalent with premeditation. Killing civilians is part of war and why we should all hate war. It will never be avoided unless we stop wars. But thinking you can apply a legal definition to it and start trying soldiers for premeditated murder is, to me, absurd. We must guard against living in too much a theoretical realm, do you not agree? Reality is reality.

Stephanie, I don't know how to talk to you without driving you away. I would feel REALLY bad if that happened. I know I am walking a fine line with you when I talk like this, but I don't mean to be personally abrasive. I am just asking you to defend, with step-by-step logic, the statements you are making. Then I can maybe decide to change my mind and begin to see your points. It could happen.

Okay, let's stop this generalization and stick to murder. Let's please start with the soldiers committing murder. Please tell me YOUR definition of murder in that case and why it should be applied to soldier who are not renegades. Let's just start with that one. I seriously want to know where you are coming from and not continue to flail at each other.

soubriquet said...

Zowie! that's a big one...
Too much for me to take it all in.

Killing unlawfully includes manslaughter by negligence, say, the crane erector whose failure to properly tighten bolts causes the crane to fall and kill site workers. Not murder, no intent to kill, but unlawful killing nevertheless.

Soldiers committing murder.
To shoot an enemy, with whom you are at war, with is not classed as murder.
To shoot him after he has surrendered, is.

The wholesale killing of people judged by the German state during world-war II, was not, at the time, murder, it was thoroughly legal. Under that country's laws.
After that country lost the war, those 'legal' activities became illegal, and some, but relatively few, of the perpetrators were executed for following the orders they were legally obliged to follow.
German bombers came in waves over britain, and rained death and destruction over the multitudes below. Many, indeed most of the dead were not uniformed combatants, they were the men too old to go to war, those too young, the women, the children, nurses, priests, firefighters, schoolteachers. Was that murder? Was it murder to build bombs that were designed not to explode on impact, but rather to set a timer running, so the bomb would arm varying numbers of hours later. Then any knock or vibration or even loud noise would cause it to explode. These bombs were designed to kill rescue workers, returning civilians...
Murder? I think so. But the allies dropped the same sort of bombs on german cities. With the expressed aim of killing civilians to the point where the populace would no longer support their country's war effort.

How about the bombing by allied forces of cities in countries that were not enemy nations, but were occupied by german forces? Is it okay to kill Belgian civilians in order to damage a rail yard used by german supply trains?

Allied prisoners of war died in Nagasaki. I knew a survivor who cried as he told me of the scenes he witnessed.

He believed the bomb saved many millions of Japanese lives, but was itself a horrible wickedness.
The My Lai massacre was a war crime. Between 347 and 500 civilians were killed in a Vietnamese village by a unit of the American Eleventh Light Infantry Brigade, led by Lt William Calley. More would have died, but for the actions of another U.S. combatant, helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson, who set his aircraft down as a barrier, and ordered his door gunner to fire on any U.S. soldier who continued to shoot at civilians.

The later court-martial heard that "When Calley spotted a baby crawling away from a ditch, he grabbed her, threw her back into the ditch, and opened fire".
Out of 150 soldiers involved in the killing, 26 faced the court, only one was sentenced, Lt Calley,
"When the prosecutor made his final summation to the jury, he quoted what Abraham Lincoln said to the troops he commanded during the American Civil War: "Men who take up arms against one another in public do not cease on this account to be moral human beings, responsible to one another and to God."

The jury found Calley guilty of murdering 22 civilians at My Lai and sentenced him to life imprisonment. He served three days in jail, then three years of fairly benign house arrest at Fort Benning, after which he was released on parole.

I think what I'm trying to say here, is that there is no answer.
It is never right to take a life, but sometimes it may be the way to save more lives.

Perhaps... To shoot the kid who enters a school armed, and intending to kill? Yes, shoot him, if that will save lives.

soubriquet said...

THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS ON THE LAWS OF WAR, 1949

Article 3: In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion, or faith, sex, birth, or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment, and torture;
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

(2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for....

Relax Max said...

@Soubriquet - Somehow I doubt this is too much for you to take in. :)

Murder vs. killing: your point is well taken. There are certainly other types of killing besides murder which are illegal. I was concentrating too much on defining only murder, and not wanting all killings to be called murder interchangeably. Sorry to both you and Stephanie (she made the same point.)

Soldiers killing and murdering: What you said, plus I would add that acts of renegade soldiers (such as the rape/murder in Iraq or the Lt. Calley outrage you cited) are murder and sometimes even war crimes. My main point was to deny that soldiers engaged in a wartime operation acting under the rules of the Geneva convention (if applicable to the battle) and within their rules of engagement, do not murder when they kill, even if those killed are civilians. One other point being they are not bound, obviously, by the laws of the country they are invading.

Some outrageous acts of the Nazis in WWII were considered war crimes, even though they were "legal" as you say, under German law. The court of public opinion superseded the German law because the Germans lost the war. If there is such a thing as a moral on immoral acts, it might be: if you are going to line up civilians in France and shoot them down or if you are going to murder and cremate 6 million Jews, you had damn well better win the war or there is going to be hell to pay.

Many acts committed in war are murder when you apply the standards of normal civilization. But war is an exercise in retrograde barbarity, and we slip back more and more into the stone age when it happens. Efforts to supervise the conduct of war are almost always simply well-intentioned journeys into the Twilight Zone: once the beast has been released, you are not going to tell it not to bomb civilians. War is hell - literally burning aching sorrowful hell. Those who have never participated in it personally should try to grasp that concept if they can and refrain from judging in the abstract theoretical world where they are not in danger of being blown up at any minute. (My opinion.) Instead, direct your efforts to preventing war before it starts unless you are attacked or soon will be attacked.

Relax Max said...

@Soubriquet - The Geneva Convention (concluded after WWII):

I agree with what you quoted 100%. It provides that the benefits of the convention be accorded to any belligerent who is a High Contractor to the agreement, and assumes the battle in question is over and collection of the wounded is possible. The passage you site is intended to prevent war crimes after a battle, and, indeed DURING a battle when possible: if the enemy is laying down their arms, even if the battle is not fully over, you don't keep killing them. For sure. I don't think you can stretch this concept into not bombing civilians unless you know where civilians are and that the enemy is not among them. You didn't bring the following up, but I assume you agree that the Taliban and the Palestinians are not High Contractors to the convention, are not uniformed fighting forces engaged in the prescribed conventional warfare, and habitually use civilians as human shields. (Just so no one one gets confused here and thinks these people are covered by the Geneva Convention.) But, within the rules of conventional warfare, and indeed withing the constraints of a civilized country such as the USA, for example, these stipulations should be followed. They don't require your soldiers to be shot at trying to save enemy wounded or hungry civilians. I don't think.

Relax Max said...

Calley and his massacre at My Lai was such a disgrace. I think he should have been handed over to a world court. His soldiers, too. But I guess that doesn't happen if you are one of the world's major powers. Should have been though.

I didn't know the outcome of his imprisonment. Shame. Shame on us for not gunning him down when he was released, too.

A. said...

Going back to the 200 years from now situation, although our upbringing and experiences have shaped how we think, we do think, or we should. As you say, there were people against slavery in spite of having been brought up to believe it was acceptable. Surely all thinking people can know at some level when something is inherently wrong, even if they find it hard to admit and harder to find the means to correct the situation.

Stephanie B said...

Ah, Sobriquet made many of the points I was trying to make(apparently without success) and you, Relax Max, made the others.

My concern, which I clearly did not explain well, was that "illegal" was an amorphous term often determined in hindsight by the victors in a conflict and not necessarily for the right reasons. That's on the war side which I'm at fault for bringing into a conversation about murder - which is a separate but equally complex discussion.

My concern is that "illegal" doesn't always equate with immoral and immoral doesn't always equate with illegal. In theory, it should, but, in reality, it doesn't. Nazi Germany proved an excellent example, and I'm glad you provided it, RM.

A special thanks from me to Soubriquet for taking the time to make such excellent points.

I am more frustrated, Relax Max, by my inability to express my points without your reading something entirely different when you get them. As I, like you, pride myself on my ability to communicate, I am struggling to identify the disconnect. Either our use of language is so close but subtly different (which is much harder to correct than extreme differences) or your perception of me or my thought processes causes you to infer things about what I say that I cannot control. It may be a combination of both or more things I haven't thought of.

Since I have no real impression of you except as a thinker with a somewhat superior attitude when challenged (which might be an apt description for myself as well), I don't think it's animosity on my side. I will continue to try to express my thoughts clearly.

I think I'm more frustrated because I don't think we are so very far off as you think we are. I have never said that I think all soldiers are murderers, just that I couldn't say they are all innocent. You appear to have read an awful lot into unrelated topics based on your apparent shock at my unwillingness to provide a carte blanche.

Stephanie B said...

I think, A, that you are right to a point. I think there were people at every stage of history that would be appalled at the slaughter that went on in various parts of the world or always eschewed slavery or other obvious ills.

But, the subtle things, perhaps not so much. There were many in the 19th century, even in the abolitionist north, who while stanchly supportive of freeing the slaves, would have been appalled at the notion of giving them the right to vote.

I think, and this is just my opinion, that there will be some things that history condemns us in this century for: widespread and repeated famine in some places in the world where so little has been done to combat it, the disparity between the wealthy and the very poor (world-wide, not so much within a nation), intolerance, brutal fighting and expansion under the motto "might makes right," and a whole host of ills done in the name "justice". And, no, RM, that's not aimed at the US, but the world as a whole. There are people today that work to correct that and more, but history remembers the results as much or more than the efforts. And most of us (myself included), do too little to address these and other issues.

Janet said...

Good lord, Max, every time I go away for a little while I come back to find you've started another controversy. It makes me long for the days of the electricity lessons.
I have been educated with the past few posts and subsequent comments (albeit mine are not among them), but as I feel less than qualified to join the subject in the middle of the semester, I'll just henceforth sit back and listen.

Relax Max said...

@A. - "Inherently wrong"? I don't know. The concept that a person has within himself certain standards of right and wrong is pretty hard for me to swallow. Gulp. But I just did. :) That would mean babies are BORN with certain standards. Coff Coff. (I just coughed it up again.) No, I see what you are trying to say. I think. And that is the opinions we form about right and wrong are not TOTALLY a result of our upbringing and teachings and environment; we also have a free will or logic in our mind which allows us to draw our own independent conclusions.

Or maybe you DIDN'T mean to say that.
---------

@Stephanie B - Fair enough. I will try harder.

Janet said...

By the way, my ex-husband has a PhD in Ethics. It explains much.

Lady Sarcasm said...

The comments on this post.. wow. Good readin' in the post too. I can't add more then what people before me have already added, but I wanted to comment so ya know I'm still here and still a fan. :)

Relax Max said...

@Janet - I've never met one of those. There must be a story behind that choice of discipline. I'm guessing he is not much on the coal companies methods. Me neither.

@Lady - I am glad you are still passing by from time to time. I was getting worried. But then, I am not one to talk, since your own posts are hard for me to comment on. :)

Janet said...

You don't need a PhD in ethics to be against the coal company's methods. And his actual practice of life didn't always follow ethnical guidelines as much as how best to benefit himself. So, yeah, a lot like the coal companies himself.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin