Category Archives: Morality

You Will Not Find Me On Facebook

I have no Facebook account.

I will never have a Facebook account.

For years I’ve inveighed against what I sincerely believe to be the blatant immorality of Facebook’s business practices, which, true to capitalism’s two primary goals, seem to be:


Make as much money as you can, any way you can.

Grow as big as you can, any way you can.

Custom, tradition, ethics, law, morality, authority of government, common decency, the health of local or of global environment, or any other considerations are, as far as possible, to be disregarded or neutralized as restraints on the monomaniacal pursuit of maximum profit and of maximum growth for growth’s sake.


Facebook thrives on attention.

In general, the larger the audience the more effective the advertisement, which justifies charging high advertising fees.

So…how to generate a large audience?

So simple…let anybody post damn near anything, especially negative things, because negativity has been proven to draw larger attention than positivity.

This practice damages political processes, social cohesion, and the psychological health of large swaths of the human community.

These consequences are, I believe, acceptable to Facebook so long as it profits.

I sincerely believe Facebook to be a poisonous presence on planet Earth.

There are others who have concerns about Facebook’s impact on our quality of life.

Please see below.


First, a link to a recent Vox article.

https://www.vox.com/recode/22677911/facebook-scandal-research-teen-mental-health

Next, an article recently published by politico.

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/09/21/facebook-paid-billions-extra-to-the-ftc-to-spare-zuckerberg-in-data-suit-shareholders-allege-513456

Finally, a document published in 2019 by MIT Technology Review, and republished recently by Pocket.


Click to access oct-2019-facebook-troll-farms-report.pdf

 

Capitalism (8th)

A prominent economist, (Milton Friedman, I believe), once declared that the whole “social duty” of a corporation is to make as much money as possible for the owners.

Here’s a different viewpoint: “Corporate social responsibility is measured in terms of business improving conditions for their employees, shareholders, communities, and environment.”

“But moral responsibility goes further, reflecting the need for corporations to address fundamental ethical issues such as inclusion, dignity, and equality.” —Klaus Schwab

Which do you prefer?

Concerning Integrity

Commonly, integrity refers to someone’s honesty—to the fact that his or her word can be trusted.

Integrity can also signify that a person’s values and life style form an integrated, harmonious whole.

No conflicts.

No inconsistencies / conflicts among beliefs, work, diet, politics, relationships, use of money / free time, goals selected and pursued, any part of life.

For most of us, this is a tall order, requiring persistent self-examination, self-correction.


Regarding the above…

“Patience obtains all things..”—Ancient Egyptian wisdom

“There is no defeat so long as there is effort.”—Eastern wisdom, specific source forgotten.

“Excellence is not a gift given, but a skill perfected.  The key is self-discipline.”—Motivational poster seen in a variety store.

“Do you have yourself in your own power? Than truly you are more powerful than the one who conquers a city.”—Source unknown

A common definition of courage—aggressive self-assertion.

An uncommon definition of courage—absolute self-control.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”—Mahatma Gandhi

Thoughts on Abortion (2nd)

Is some of the uproar over abortion, birth control, etc. an attempt to regain lost power and influence?

These days religious freedom, that is, freedom to practice one’s own religion, does not give one the right to tell others what to do.

T’was not ever thus.

In past time, conservative religious groups held considerable power over the population as a whole, as well as over their adherents.

Consider these examples of power lost:

   ◊   Control of family life by banning abortion and birth control.  In disagreement, many people, and not just the irreligious, quietly, (or not so quietly), ignore the bans.

   ◊   Control of family life by banning or penalizing divorce.  In disagreement, people for the most part pay no heed to this.  They divorce at will for reasons such as infidelity, infertility, or infelicity, among others.

   ◊    Control of society through imposition of their views on human sexuality, which were encoded in secular law, which punished perceived moral infractions, and/or sexual activities that religious dogma found to be sinful, such as homosexuality.

   ◊   Let’s talk about influence on culture in general.  For long years conservative religious groups had sufficient influence to dictate what literature, movies, stage plays, and elements of fashion and even of speech were morally acceptable.

Exercise of these powers was defended with reference to perfect (?) infallible (?) sources of divine guidance: sacred books, sacred persons, etc.

On the other hand, exercise of these powers can be described as coercion of conscience—and as an example of spiritual pride—the notion that The Almighty, however understood, speaks exclusively to one’s group.

Exercise of these powers seems to be based on an assumption that freedom to make personal moral decisions, (and to live with the positive/negative consequences thereof), exists only to the extent that such decisions align with certain groups’ notions of right and wrong.

Is this real freedom of conscience? ¹

Some conservative groups seem to pay lip service to freedom of conscience, while denying it in policy and practice.

Is this hypocrisy? ¹

Does great moral urgency ² ever justify coercion of conscience—that is, compelling people to live their lives in obedience to someone else’s moral standards?

I sincerely believe that practice of one’s particular religion does not give one the right to tell others how to behave, still less to use any means, overt, covert, direct or oblique to compel specific behavior.


¹ These questions are not sly propaganda designed to lead readers to a specific conclusion. Make up your own mind.

² As found in the “pro-life” position, for example.

Thoughts on Abortion (1st)

Being against abortion means you’re pro-life ?

Consider the following:

I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion that that makes you pro-life.

I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed.

And why would I think that you don’t?

Because you don’t want any tax money to go there.

That’s not pro-life.

That’s pro-birth.

We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is. ” ¹


The crux of Chittister’s ¹ point is that there’s a difference between advocating for birth and advocating for that child’s entire life.

If antiabortion proponents are truly ‘pro-life’, then those same legislators would not argue for defunding programs like those that provide school lunches or health care.

Many people who oppose abortion also oppose access to contraceptives (!)

Antiabortion congressmen have consistently also advocated for defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides women with birth control options.” ²


¹ Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B., a Benedictine Sister of Erie, Pennsylvania, is an international lecturer, and award winning author of over 50 books.  Her multiple degrees include a doctorate.

² Quotations in this post appeared in:  https://www.popsugar.com/news/Catholic-Nun-Quote-Abortion-43096831 Author: Eleanor Sheehan—first published 02/01/17, republished 05/17/19

Our National Heroes

History – A Fable Agreed Upon By The Winners

On Columbus Day we celebrate a sort of Star Trek “boldly going where no one has gone before.”

Columbus discovered America!  He was a hero! 

Well, maybe not.

To begin, he wasn’t the first European to reach America.  Vikings beat him by a few centuries. 

And when he arrived he didn’t play nicely with the locals, the Arawak Indians, a tribe inhabiting the Bahama Islands.

The following quotations provide a grim summary of Columbus’ shortcomings in the hero department:

“The cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide.” ¹

“Endless testimonies. . .prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives. . . . But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy; small wonder then, if they tried to kill one of us now and then. . . . The admiral, (Columbus), it is true was blind as those who came after him, and he was so anxious to please the King that he committed irreparable crimes against the Indians. . . . ” ²

“What Columbus did to the Arawaks of the Bahamas, Cortés did to the Aztecs of Mexico, Pizarro to the Incas of Peru, and the English settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts to the Powhatans and the Pequots.” ³

Unlike some critics of prominent historical figures, I don’t advocate condemning them because, judged by our present day standards, they fall far short.

To judge past conduct exclusively by present standards is laughably irrational.

Historical figures should be judged first according to the standards of their time, and only afterwards by the standards of ours.

Columbus was no hero, but neither was he a total failure as a human being.

To sail westward into the vast Atlantic ocean with no reliable charts, in three little ships, (the largest barely one hundred feet long), with only the vaguest idea of where he would end up required superb seamanship and immense courage.

Re-evaluating our national story / heroes more realistically can’t hurt us.

Accurate knowledge of our past is part of a good foundation of national mental health.


¹ Christopher Columbus, Mariner, 1954,  by Samuel Eliot Morrison

² History of the Indies, by Bartolomé de las Casas, (a contemporaneous record)

³ A People’s History of the United States, 2003, by Howard Zinn

 

Capitalism (5th)

A Good Faith Mistake Or Deliberate Legal Corruption?

Corporations used to have privileges, not rights.

In 1886 the Supreme Court seemed to decide a case, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, in a way that gave corporations the same rights as persons.

Corporations are not real persons, born of a biological process.

They’re artificial legal constructions.

So, why did the Court reason as it did?

It didn’t.

J. Bancroft Davis, lawyer, diplomat, former president of a railroad, was in service to the Supreme Court as a court reporter while the above cited case was before the court.

One of his duties was to write what are called headnotes for Supreme Court cases. 

Headnotes summarize key points used by the court in rendering its decision, and are the court reporter’s personal interpretation of the case not official opinions of the court.

Lawyers use headnotes as a sort of “Spark Notes” to quickly review arguments and court judgements.

Before the above cited case, according to the Bill of Rights + the Fourteenth Amendment to The Constitution, corporations, among other entities, had privileges. 

Persons had rights.

The distinction is important.

Davis wrote a falsified summary in his headnotes:  “The defendant Corporations are persons within the the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to The Constitution of the United States, which forbids a state to deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

This legal creativity raised corporations from the ranks of the merely privileged to the ranks of real flesh-and-blood persons having actual rights.

Corporate rights were not even at issue in the trial!

Davis’ “creativity” perverted the intention of the Fourteenth Amendment.

This went unnoticed.  His fantasy headnotes were cited in later cases, thus acquiring the status of precedent law.

So corporations exist in society with the rights of real persons, but without the moral constraints that typically govern their conduct.


Disclosure:  I’m not a lawyer.  I have no political or financial interest in posting this article.  The foregoing is my opinion based on research.

 

Politics (4th)

Vote Suppression—A Tactic Throughout History,

In ancient Rome the patricians, (aka rich political class), wanted their own way and, among other tactics, sought to get it by ensuring that voting occurred in summer months when many lower class people were out of town, (thus away from polling places), earning money as seasonal agricultural labor.

A different tactic was espoused by Joseph Stalin.  He didn’t care who voted or how they voted, so long as he controlled the count.

A lesson of history is that politics of any kind are subject to ceaseless efforts at vote suppression/neutralization for the advantage of this or that group.

Recurrences are so numerous, so persistent, as to be almost boring.

Once again, in our time, people turn to a favorite page in a time-honored playbook of political skullduggery, once again running a belovéd play in happy anticipation of political advantages to be enjoyed by their group.

Be not upset at this.  These people may, for a time, seem to be very powerful and difficult to stop.

Over time, (sometimes a lot of time), their misconduct always generates their defeat.

Why?

Because “reciprocity” is the universal moral law.

It can be expressed another way:  “Put out what you want to take back.”  Another way  of saying the same thing:  “It is impossible to serve someone something without serving oneself the exact same thing.”  And the best known way, in our society:  “Whatsoever you sow, that surely will you reap.”

It is commonly believed that this law operates as a final judgement in the next world.

Whether or not that’s true, it operates in the here and now.

The consequence is inherent in the deed.

Ultimately, regardless of caste or class, nobody gets away with anything.  As stated in street language—”There’s no free lunch.”

So if your cause aligns harmoniously with the inflexible moral law of reciprocity, be in no doubt: there is no defeat so long as there is sustained moral effort.

Obviously, then, it’s better to lose a few rounds in a political contest that will inevitably be won, than to win a few rounds in a political contest that will inevitably be lost.

So let’s calmly, determinedly, shift into low gear, and recommit ourselves to the unending labor and vigilance that alone guarantee that “government of, by, and for (all) the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Fundamentalism

Not just Christians…

Fundamentalists, whether Christian, Hindu, Moslem, Jewish, or Buddhist, are conservative, in some cases even reactionary.  Why? ¹

Glad you asked.

Fundamentalists are certain beyond any possibility of debate that their preferred sacred book(s), inerrantly portrays God’s, (or the gods’) will, which is to be followed to the letter.

Because they’re so sure they’re absolutely right, its simple logic that they regard any differing positions as absolutely wrong.

Therefore, though it may not be legally justifiable, the more militant² fundamentalists feel morally justified in imposing God’s, (the gods’)  will on everyone else.   After all, God’s, (the gods’) will, perfectly expressed in (each group’s preferred) scripture, must not be defied.

Social change is strongly resisted if it doesn’t square with ancient patterns of social organization reflected in their scripture(s).  What was condemned, say, 3000 years ago in scripture is to be condemned forever, because (each group’s preferred) scripture is a once-and-done-for-all-time perfect reflection of God’s (the god’s) eternal will—hence the social conservatism or outright reactionary tendency.


¹ Fundamentalism crosses religious lines. Therefore discussion in the round is tricky because the subject is inherently complex.  This post, a first effort, may change to reflect  evolving understanding.

² Some fundamentalists are content to “stand on (their preferred) scriptural truth and love the sinner.”  Unlike the more militant strains, they live law-abiding lives.  They don’t riot, shoot people, bomb crowded pizza parlors, or otherwise shred public peace, dignity, or safety.  Neither do they conspire to do away with democratic traditions or institutions, the better to impose rigid theocracy on everyone.  Theirs is the lawful activism of the ballot box.  In short, their intolerance is tolerable.

Law and Morality

“Do you think you can separate law from morality?”

A defense lawyer was questioning me, “prospective juror no 64,” during voir dire.  That question produced bad gut feelings.

I felt that question was somehow wrong, but because I was a prospective juror in a court of law, (not of morality), I felt it was my duty to say I could.  I didn’t want to, and was relieved when I wasn’t chosen to serve.  That day, and from time to time thereafter,  I reconsidered that scene, remaining dissatisfied with my fantasy answers to the lawyer’s question.

A few years later I happily came upon the following line of reasoning:

1)  All morality can be summarized in one word—”reciprocity.”

2)  Reciprocity can be defined as, “put out what you want to take back.”

3)  Two rules derive logically from the moral principle of reciprocity.

1st rule  –  Perform all that you promise.

2nd rule – Do not encroach on other persons or their property.

4)  The above are the basic ideas underlying contract law and criminal/tort law, respectively.

5)  Therefore law derives from morality and cannot logically be separated.  Law is morality’s servant, providing application of the principle of reciprocity to specific situations.


Personal comments follow –

Laws passed in disregard of the principle of reciprocity may be called “Special Interest Laws.”

Said another way, such laws are “To-Hell-With-You-I-Want-What-I-Want-Laws.”

Each time the people permit passage of  Special Interest Laws, they get screwed.

Just now we need frameworks to help us make sense of all that’s happening in our world, and how to decide who has  better judgement, or a history of good, better, or best behavior.  Using the line of reasoning described above, it’s easy to gauge the morality of any act of a private person, of business, the government, the police, or the military.

Also, comes voting time, we’ll be less easily confused by all the slick professional psychological “manipulation of perception.”

Less comfortably for us, it enables facile evaluation of our own conduct.

What do you think?