Archive for November, 2007

Moral Objectivism – A Realistic Nightmare

I came across a piece of information today that struck my philosophical side. It’s a Wikipedia entry on “Moral Objectivism.” And it started me thinking.

I follow a religion that is filled with absolutes. I consider myself a Christian–at least, that is the way I was raised. In the Christian Bible, there are ten simple rules which are ABSOLUTE. These, of course, are the “Ten Commandments.” Now, it’s interesting to point out that these laws were given to the Jews as Absolute Commandments … rules which were to be obeyed at all times and in every way throughout a human being’s lifetime. If any one of these rules is broken–EVER–from the time a person’s born until that person dies, his or her eternal spirit is condemned to spend eternity suffering in a place of horrible torment. These laws are absolutely given, absolutely enforced … and absolutely impossible to obey every day for the entirety of a human life! In other words, for the believer in Jesus Christ, “Moral Objectivism” literally means “If you’re born, you are damned to eternity in hellfire” and there’s just no way out of it–at least, not unless you become a Christian and get “Saved” from the flames, etc…. This was my original exposure to “Moral Objectivism.”

Which is part of the reason so many people choose to REJECT Moral Objectivism entirely. The bottom line seems to be, that if, in fact, there are truly any absolutes in Moral reasoning, then the practitioners of some one religion is going to go to some form of Paradise, and everyone else is going to burn. Now, this could be Christianity; or it could be Hinduism, or Paganism, or Buddhism, or Zen, or Mormonism, of the Moonies, or Opus Dei, or even the “First Preslyterian Church of Elvis the Divine” for all we know! And, in fact, this line of reasoning has lead to quite a few wars; even today, there are nut cases who strap on bombs and grenades in order to break my aforementioned Commandments in subservience to a twisted form of somebody else’s Moral Absolutism.

BULLSHIT! There CANNOT be more than one “ABSOLUTE” Right-and-Wrong. If, in fact, there are any absolutes at all, say the Moral Relativists, then there can only be ONE set of “Right-and-Wrong” for EVERYBODY–EVERYWHERE. And there obviously isn’t. (They say.)

What a pickle.

On one hand, we seem to know “just by instinct” that some things are Wrong. And yet, the next thing we know, there’s some [insert your own demeaning slang here] person doing Exactly what we instinctively Know is wrong. How can They know right from wrong, when they don’t even know that [insert your own taboo here] is wrong! (Add lots of exclamations for emphasis….)

Well, I’ll try to explain it all. The truth just got a whole lot more complicated. Point of fact, none of us truly know right from wrong to begin with. And if we did, we’d probably find out to our horror that every damn one of us is WRONG!!! If you happen to follow the Christian doctrine, like I do, you’ll quickly find out that no matter what you think, you’ve already done it wrong, and it’s a serious enough mistake that no other consideration matters. Absolute truth means absolute damnation, and it makes no difference whether I try to be morally wright or turn to the foulest of evil. Damned is damned, end of argument.

Christanity is not alone in this “Bang! You’re damned” approach to winning converts, either. I think most other religions have some similar set of “Absolute” truths that can only be relieved by serving the tenants of the faith obediently until salvation, release, or some sort of “Nirvana” is achieved.

So as human beings, we find ourselves left in a world in which there are indeed “Absolute” right and moral actions; we just can’t achieve them. That forces those who wish to embrace the ideals of all people to reject absolute truths by the very principle of it. Because unless group “A” believes in the same standards of right and wrong as group “B”, we cannot entertain Moral Objectivism without condemning the other group. I disagree. I say you CAN embrace the other group if you are willing to accept that it is your own beliefs that fall outside the “absolute right.” As a Christian, I am well aware how hard it is not to do or say anything that my God told me not to do or say. I CAN’T. But, I CAN try to love my fellow person. I can do that. And I won’t try to reject the idea that some things are just “Right” whether I think they should ought to be or not. We are still responsible for the consequences of our actions, objective, relative or otherwise.

I not only throw out the baby with the bathwater in this case, I throw out the entire concept of this acid wash reasoning. “Morals” can, are, and must be the domain of individual and personal responsibility. Because we are a race of “Sinners” as it were, we have no foundation to hold others accountable for what we ourselves deem to be “Moral”. Collectively, and individually, we are immoral beings, that’s just all there is to it. “For ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God” reads a passage in the Christan Bible. Each and every one has sinned, will sin, and our perceptions and morals are twisted by sin for as long as we continue to be human. “Morals” must never be used as a criteria to judge a Human being. The Christian God has already done that … and every last one of us born of human fathers has failed that test forever.

The conflict is absolute. Morals cannot be objectively judged by human beings. What’s more, the idea of morals must never be fully rejected by a human being! We NEED our morals to help guide us to do what is (mostly) right to one another! But for objective, multi-cultural and cross-class relationships, we must use other means to judge the goodness or badness of individual actions. Absolute wrong is absolutely useless. My morals can never be yours or anyone else’s to judge.

And with that, I wash my hands of “Moral Objectivism” versus “Moral Relativism.” These ethics cannot function in a polytheistic or multinational environment. We have reached a threshold in which we must choose an alternative means for building the standards of our society. Moral anything will no longer cut it.

SASS has spoken.

Good night.

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Sunday, and a Terrible Premonition

I was listening to music today.  One of my favorite songs happens to be U2’s “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”, and it played.  But I’ve never really gotten into the story behind the song–how it came to be.  So I checked it out on Wikipedia.  Here is the Wikipedia article I read … it originally refers to two incidents in Northern Ireland, one in 1972, and another in 1920, both called “Bloody Sunday,” in which people were killed in clashes with British authorities over the status of Irish Autonomy.  The song tries link the sacrifices of these people to the death and resurrection of Jesus, which also took place on a Sunday.

But it was a specific version of the song that really caught my attention … and that Wikipedia article sealed the deal:  their song, written in the early 1980s, was bizarrely apocalyptic, a pseudo-prophetic riff that would explode right under the hands of Bono on a Sunday very much like those others … on November 8, 1987.  U2 was scheduled to play at Red Rocks in Denver, Colorado.  Back in Ireland, it was “Remembrance Day.”  In both places, it is a day Rock & Roll will never forget.

The foundation for the Remembrance Day Bombing lay in part of the factionalization of the IRA and other Irish revolutionary forces.    One such faction, the Provisional Irish Republican Army, a left-wing faction of the IRA, had intended the bombing as an apparent protest against the British government using Irish nationals as cannon fodder during war.  The bombing not only backfired, but it so marginalized the IRA even in the eyes of the Irish, that the “revolution” fizzled over the next few years to virtually nothing, and the rish have mostly enjoyed a lasting peace for many years.

But in November, 1987, all Bono knew was, the song that he’d been singing for half a decade was now front page news.  “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” was today, and he had a concert appearance that night.  Opening up before a massive crowd at Denver, Colorado’s “Red Rocks” ampitheatre, Bono introduced his and the Edge’s famous piece:

“Well here we are, the Irish in America
The Irish have been coming to america for years
Going back to the great famaine,
When the Irish were on the run from starvation
And a British government that couldn’t care less

Right up to today you know,
There are more Irish inmmigrants here in America today than ever
Some illegal, some legel
A lot of them are just running from, high unemployment

Some run from the troubles in Northern Ireland
From the hatred of the h-blocks, and torture
Others from wild acts of terrorism
Like we had today in a town called Inniskillin
Where 11 people lie dead many more injured
On a sunday bloody sunday…”

And then he went into the most powerful rendition of Sunday, Bloody Sunday ever recorded, a song that made it onto the Rattle And Hum album and CD, and has become a mainstay of classic rock on the airwaves ever since.  Who can forget Bono’s powerful, pleading, almost agonized scream of “Fuck the revolution!” or the cheer that arose from the crowd that gathered to hear that very song.  Fuck the revolution indeed.  These events were so powerful, and the performance so stunning, that Bono couldn’t bear to play the song again, and it would be another ten years before it began to reappeasr in their live performances.

Until I read that article in Wikipedia, I knew none of this.  I knew I had the lyrics from the Denver performance – I’d tucked these away in the Lyrics3 tag of my copy of the song, complete with the opening passage, which does not appear on the Rattle And Hum audio CD.  But I never knew how that the song had become so dramatically real, so spectacularly NOW for these people–until today.  Today, I listened to the song again, from a new perspective … and I wept.

And then I went looking for the video.  It’s not too hard to find–from Google I made my way to a link to the file using BitTorrent, and I started to download the DVD of Rattle And Hum–all 4.3 GB of it–but that wasn’t what I wanted.  I just wanted that 1987 performance of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.”  But after a bit of searching, I found it on YouTube; and I embedded it here: 

In fact, after  little tweaking and digging throu my cache, I snatched it from YouTube, and tucked it away forever with the rest of my ill-begotten pirate gains.  (I won’t tell you how I did that, though, because, first of all, I support YouTube, and second, it’s illegal, wrong, and a pretty dirty thing to do when I can just embed the YouTube player right here, neh?  But if you know how to poke around in your browser’s temporary file storage, you probably don’t need me to help you steal streamed video content anyway.)

And now, I’ve watched and listened to “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” more than a dozen times.  I’ve cried out with Bono when he screams “Fuck the revolution”; I’ve nodded in agreement when he says “Where’s the glory in” killing and injuring innocent people who’s only crime was to commemerate their participation in two world wars, and the sacrifices of their people.  And I have reaffirmed my own stance that there are good, valid reasons to fight–and there are plenty of reasons to fight and kill that are neither good nor valid.

When British oppression leads to harship and suffering, as it did in Ireland in the 1920s, anbd again in 1972, and also as it did on our own shores in the events leading up to July 4, 1776, fighting is probably good if it ends the oppression and the suffering.  But when violence begets only more suffering and death, whether from terrorism, poor coordination and planning, or just a false sense of what’s right and valid, then that violence is invalid and wrong.

In short, I’m talking here about the opression of the Palestinians by Israel, the war in Iraq, and the violence in Northern Ireland.  Next to nothing has come from the violence, and in each case, great strides have been achieved through negotiation and good faith cooperation.  As Bono sang, “No more – No more – Wipe your tears away.”  This violence has got to end.  Sunday, Bloody Sunday should ALWAYS be a memory–not some horrific pseudo-premonition, as this song ultimately became, under the tutelage of Edge, Bono, and the men of U2.  “Wipe your bloodshot eyes”–it’s time to end this.

SASS has Spoken.

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