——Immanuel Kant (German Philosopher)
Oxford dictionary defines morality as principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior, but who makes those distinctions? Where and when do we develop the moral compass that takes us through our lives.\? Our parents must certainly have a major influence on what we deem as right and wrong, yet many criminals have children who are upstanding citizens.
While many people believe that some things are just plain black and white...killing someone is bad and honoring your parents is good...I see shading there too. Killing in self-defense is sometimes necessary, as is straying from a parent who abuses you. Our parents, teacher’s and religious leaders try to teach us right from wrong, but they are doing so through their own lenses.
When I taught the musings of Ralph Waldo Emerson to my classes, we would get into a discussion of right versus wrong. I would tell them that if they always did what they knew was right, they would never have to listen to anyone else. “Not even our parents,” they would try to get me. I explained that if they followed what they truly knew, and not what they wanted to believe, than their parents would never need to discipline them.
As an example I posed the question: if their parents forbid them to go out, and they think it is right to go out, would it be the moral thing to sneak out of their window. I would then explain that you might be sure that going out is the correct thing to do, but in your heart you know that disrespecting your parents is not the moral decision. If you choose to sneak out you will be going against your moral code, even if you think the act itself is okay.
That twinge of guilt that we all feel at various points in our lives, is our own conscience leading us in the moral direction. If everyone always listened to that twinge, we wouldn’t need police, gun control or even baby sitters. Have you ever watched a toddler trying to do something naughty? They will take two steps and then turn to see if mom/dad is watching. They know full well they shouldn’t take that next step, but it is so darned tempting.
...And there lies the rub. Temptation! Be it in the form of a gooey cake, a shot of scotch, a beautiful woman/man or the mighty dollar, temptation gets in the way of the morals that we all possess, and for some reason the more power one has the more difficult it seems to be to control those temptations. These last few years have been both nauseating and embarrassing as we watch the most powerful of politicians give in to the bases of temptations. Mayors, governors, councilmen/women, senators, representatives and presidents have been caught in the most compromising of positions. They risked their families and their jobs because they believed they wouldn’t get caught.
The #MeToo movement has caught many off guard, and some men of power will have to pay the price for their lapses. Bill Cosby has recently been found guilty on three counts of sexual assault. Each count could find him serving up to ten years in jail. Cosby is 80, so it will take a miracle for him to enjoy freedom again in this lifetime. Although he claims innocence, I imagine that twinge of his conscience is working overtime when the lights are off and he is taking toll of his moral compass. The problem isn’t that these man don’t know right from wrong, the problem is they don’t care.
I believe that we deserve better. I believe that our children deserve better. We have all become too accepting of what our leaders in industry, entertainment and politics pass off as respectable behavior. We need to demand more. We need to vote better. We need to boycott those who are leading by a poor example. We need to take back the moral high ground, so our children will recognize it when they see it.
Speaking of a moral conundrum, Never Goodbye by Adam Mitzner kept me wondering about good guy versus bad guy throughout the pages of his latest thriller. He brings back past protagonist, Ella Broden and pairs her with a new co-protagonist, Deputy Chief of the Special Victims’ Bureau, Dana Goodwin. These two strong female characters will definitely have you turning pages through the night.
As always, a complete review of Mitzner’s book follows this blog.