Sep 092014

SupermanReturnsShield1This started off as a reply to the previous post, but it’s sorta grown since then.

In the justly-famous “All Debates Are Bravery Debates”  Scott starts with the story of a friend who was helped by reading Atlas Shrugged because “he’d been raised in a really strict family that had told him that ever enjoying himself was selfish and made him a bad person, that he had to be working at every moment to make his family and other people happy or else let them shame him to pieces. And the revelation that it was sometimes okay to consider your own happiness gave him the strength to stand up to them and turn his life around.” I am not that friend. I’ve never met Scott IRL, though I really hope to some day. But I have a very similar story.

Since then I’ve become suspicious of moral codes that can only be upheld by gods. They will break men, I’ve watched it happen at least once, and I narrowly escaped it myself. The system is vast and terrible, and to fight more than a human-sized piece of it requires more strength than any mortal has. That’s the domain of fiction, not reality. I will try to focus on the parts I’m most concerned about, and admire and say nice things about others who are fixing other parts of it. But I can’t take responsibility for the whole damned thing.

When people look back on the past and say “OK, those guys were fixing one thing, but if they were so great why did they still have slaves, which we all know is the most awful thing ever?” they are saying that from within a system which already strongly supports their abolitionist views, and has come down on slavery like a ton of shit. It’s EASY AS HELL to be anti-slavery in this system. That part of the system is (finally!) already fixed. Back then, fighting slavery was as hard (or harder) than trying to ensure you never use any products created in sweatshops. People who internalize that sort of shame and hatred will not end up making even a small piece of the world better, they’ll end up paralyzed with self-loathing and possibly dead. Those past people had a lot going on already, what with fighting a war, forging a loose union of bickering states, and trying to implement a new form of largely untested government. If they left some parts of the social fixing to other people, by monkey, cut them some slack! I’d rather have a group working on democracy and ignoring slavery, and a group working on slavery but ignoring democracy, than two groups in existential torment deciding only purging the world in fire can have any effect.

In short, stop demanding moralities that destroy those who adopt them.

  4 Responses to “Too Moral”

  1. Satisficing beats maximizing, don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.

    • I’ll be honest and say you may as well be speaking in another language for all the sense your statement makes to me. Is it possible you can re-phrase that so that a layman can understand please?

  2. Nice post. It isnt my intention to demand that anyone destroy themselves. It’s more pointing at people and labeling them good and making justifications for the things which they did wrong (and we will all have those somewhere in our life) can lead to people doing some pretty strange mental gymnastics.
    * If you tell people they are evil, you’ve simply made an enemy. If you show them they have been misguided by self-indulgent or hypocritical rulers, they may someday become allies. * In particular this comment kind of strikes a note in my head. It could be construed as taking the onus of good behavior away from someone, and placing it someplace else.
    Expecting me to perfectly explain myself whenever I am talking to someone about a moral issue, and being blamed for their morality if I don’t…. That is what I wish to avoid. I also think in general people are a bit too keen on dealing in absolutes. I’m mostly a good person, but not all good. I prefer to label the bad things I do as bad things and take full responsibility for them morally (of course I tend to try and avoid negative consequences for the bad things I do too). Having a moral code I don’t always live up to doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to me. Gives me a goal of sorts, and helps tone down my arrogance a little bit (i like to make myself believe it does… sigh my brain)

    • Yeah, we can all do better. :) And it’s important to keep trying. I just don’t want to browbeat everyone’s favorite aunt along the way, I think that may be counter productive. But yes, taking this too far can certainly result in making excuses for behavior that shouldn’t be excused.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.