What is morality? Is it a set of rules we live by or a set of rules we pretend to live by?
We all like to think that we have moral standards don’t we, but morality is an ever evolving thing that changes through time. It differs from culture to culture and even person to person.
Here are some examples:
In war, both sides believe they are fighting for the good of their race, country or religion so it is morally acceptable to kill and maim ,to destroy countries, towns and villages. Both sides also believe the enemy is immoral for doing exactly the same thing.
Jews were persecuted through history, especially in the second world war and found sanctuary in Israel. But now some would say the Israelis are persecuting the Palestinians. The Irish were persecuted by the English for many years but many Irish, English and other nations migrated to America and persecuted the native Indians.
When one country invades another, there is normally extreme violence involved but the resulting society still has a set of moral rules (although not always morally governed).
Slavery is rightly, considered immoral today by most societies. But in the not too distant past it was considered morally acceptable by Western civilisations to trade people for profit. Some people would argue that it was of its time and it’s what made our nation what it is.
But how many victims of slavery would consider it to be morally acceptable?
Today, how many people would sacrifice their own lifestyle to redress the balance and give back what was plundered in the past? You could say that today we are still benefitting from slavery by taking advantage of cheap goods produced in poorer countries under appalling conditions. And in this country, farmers are forced to sell their produce to supermarkets for next to nothing – or not at all.
How many of us though would be prepared to pay more for goods that have been fairly produced and traded?
To many, it’s more important to appear moral than be moral and others would rather not delve too deeply into what other people get up to, preferring instead to believe appearances. This is how politicians can blatantly lie but still remain in power.
By the same token, there probably are not many of us who haven’t done something we would rather nobody else knew about!
To illustrate this, ask yourself this question :
Would you rather commit murder and get away with it or be found guilty of a murder you didn’t commit?
It may be harder to answer than you think!
It could be argued that complacency is a form of immorality. Slaves were cheap and convenient, goods are often manufactured by people under slave like conditions. Cheap meat is often produced under horrendous conditions but for many, economy rules.
Plastic, among other things, is damaging to the environment but also, it’s cheap and convenient so most people are happy to turn a blind eye and carry on using it. They are aware of the damage plastic pollution, for example, does to the environment and to wildlife, but it’s not (yet) affecting them directly so they are happy to put convenience before compassion.
Or they think “It’s going to take more than me to make a difference”, so they carry on buying plastic goods, things packaged in plastic and disposing of plastic irresponsibly.
Manufacturers continue to use plastic or package their produce in plastic because its more economic, or changing it would reduce their profits. But it isn’t morally, the right thing to do
Rainforests are destroyed, people and animals have their habitats destroyed. Oceans are becoming a plastic soup, full of microscopic plastic particles which sea creatures ingest. Or larger pieces which they get entangled in.
To live a moral life takes effort. You need to actively seek to do things that aren’t going to be harmful to people, wildlife or your environment.
It means making sacrifices. Isn’t it better though to do the right thing and have a clear conscience?