Friday, January 03, 2020

The Value of True Morality

One would think that if I blog and intend to produce a podcast on the nature of value that I should be able to say something about the value of particpating in such a podcast.

Let us assume that you are working for a company that is seeking to relocate you and your family to a new city. They are giving you an option as to which city you would like to move your family to.

Option 1: This office is in a community of individuals who are well known for their kindness and helpfulness. Its citizens not only help others at times of need, but they seem to genuinely enjoy doing so. They get along peacefully with each other and experience little violence - though they are intent on defending themselves and others when people threatening violence appear in their community. In fact, stories of individuals stepping up to defend those who cannot defend themselves are quite common. If they make a promise, they are inclined to keep it unless something truly significant prevents them from doing so. They have similar attitudes towards repaying a debt and fulfilling their side of any bargain or negotiation in good faith. They actively dislike taking advantage of others and prefer to deal honestly and openly.

Option 2: This city is filled with people like Donald Trump. They lie constantly, borrow money with no intention of every paying it back, engage in bargains with no intention to living up to their part of the bargain if they can get away with it. They engage in acts of cruelty and abuse at a whim, and even seem to enjoy their cruel and abusive treatment of others as expressions of their own worth and power. You can count on them to ignore any plea for help, being fully confident that they will give you aid and assistance only if and insofar as it is profitable towards them. Though, do not pay them in advance for helping you because once they get the payment then they will recognize no obligation to help.

What is the value of Option 1 over Option 2?

We do not actually have much of a choice over which type of community to live in. But we do have a choice as to what type of community to make for ourselves and our friends and family. The question of which is better - Option 1 or Option 2 - is not a question of what type of community to move into. It is a question of what type of community to create.

Also, we should acknowledge that this our choice is not between one community or the other. These represent end-points on a continuum. We cannot create Option 1, but we can nudge the community in that direction. Alone and individually, we can make but a small impact (though, importantly, we will have that impact on the part of the community closest to us, which is a point in its favor). Yet, when we combine our efforts with the efforts of others, we can move some pretty heavy loads. No single worker could move the stones that made the Great Pyramids of Egypt. However, when you get enough people pulling in the same direction, you can do quite a bit of work. We all have reasons to pull together in building a community built on honestly, kindness, trustworthiness, helpfulness, peace, and justice.

Or, we could build a community of lies, corruption, dishonesty, brutality, and exploitation. That's certainly an option. I wouldn't recommend it. In such a community, there might be a few people "on the top" who get to profit from their lies, corruption, dishonesty, brutality, and exploitation. However, the vast majority of the population will be those who are abused and exploited by corrupt officials at the top. So, there are far more of us with far stronger reasons to prevent building such a community than there are with an interest in building it. Though, unfortunately, those who are interested in building a community of lies, corruption, and exploitation seem to have power that is out of proportion to their numbers - as any student of history can attest.

This is about building a better community. Insofar as this is our goal, we have reason to get together to discuss and compare notes about what such a community would look like and the best ways to go about building it. Naturally, we are going to disagree. But no one of us has perfect virtue and wisdom. Consequently, we have something to gain by getting together, comparing notes, sharing what we know, and seeing how we can work together so that our children and grandchildren, at least, get to live in a community that is closer to Option 1 than Option 2.


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