Bugs In Our Moral Code

cheating

Cheating At Life

Many could care less about moral codes as long as they feel they’re getting ahead in life. Thing is, getting ahead means nothing if you then fall far behind.

The current economic crisis is a good example—many people cheating and others looking the other way—all to get ahead—an example of institutionalized cheating that blossoms into international crime.

It’s easy to find studies and articles about cheating, from ways to stop it to ways to regulate it to the whys of its happening.

What’s very hard is finding ways to implement possible solutions to the obvious fact of wide-spread cheating…

An important consideration in any exploration of cheating or moral action is to be clear about why we even have such codes or laws in society.

Consider:

The word cheat comes from roots that mean to “fall away” and moral comes from “character” and “good”.

There’s a strong emphasis in those words on the group or social unit. There’s also an interesting perspective from which to discuss the social value of unbridled independent action. But that’s a subject for a future post…

The following video is a fascinating exploration of cheating, morals, and economic crime by a behavioral economist. Quite informative and also entertaining:

Spiritual Quote:

“The endowments which distinguish the human race from all other forms of life are summed up in what is known as the human spirit; the mind is its essential quality. These endowments have enabled humanity to build civilizations and to prosper materially. But such accomplishments alone have never satisfied the human spirit, whose mysterious nature inclines it towards transcendence, a reaching towards an invisible realm, towards the ultimate reality, that unknowable essence of essences called God….No doubt some observers would disagree, observing that religion has sometimes retarded, instead of advanced, social progress. In our view, such cases represent a distortion of religion.

“We would strongly suggest that this and any discussion of social policy give recognition to the role of spiritual principle in the functioning of society and indeed of government. Neither in theory nor in practice, should we separate material and moral affairs in a dichotomous way. The moral capacities and strengths of a nation — and of the global community — may be regarded as its ultimate form of wealth. Deficiencies in this form or wealth too easily lead to material effects as, for example, an unfair distribution of resources or, in the case of war, the near or total destruction of the physical infrastructure.”
Bahá’í International Community, 1987 Sept 09, Social Progress

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Dangerous (?) Youth . . .

youth
What makes a youth go bad?

Why do youth so often seem to act in a contrary way?

What can make youth want to be supportive of productive change?

How can we harness the vast energy of youth in the most important causes of our time?

Why are the youth in Greece so mad?
From Fox News: Renewed Riots Break Out in Greece as Protesters Clash With Police

From Le Monde Diplomatique: Mass uprising of Greece’s youth

Spiritual Quote :

“Man must walk in many paths and be subjected to various processes in his evolution upward. Physically he is not born in full stature but passes through consecutive stages of fetus, infant, childhood, youth, maturity and old age. Suppose he had the power to remain young throughout his life. He then would not understand the meaning of old age and could not believe it existed. If he could not realize the condition of old age, he would not know that he was young. He would not know the difference between young and old without experiencing the old. Unless you have passed through the state of infancy, how would you know this was an infant beside you? If there were no wrong, how would you recognize the right? If it were not for sin, how would you appreciate virtue? If evil deeds were unknown, how could you commend good actions? If sickness did not exist, how would you understand health? Evil is nonexistent; it is the absence of good. Sickness is the loss of health; poverty, the lack of riches. When wealth disappears, you are poor; you look within the treasure box but find nothing there. Without knowledge there is ignorance; therefore, ignorance is simply the lack of knowledge. Death is the absence of life. Therefore, on the one hand, we have existence; on the other, nonexistence, negation or absence of existence.

“Briefly, the journey of the soul is necessary. The pathway of life is the road which leads to divine knowledge and attainment. Without training and guidance the soul could never progress beyond the conditions of its lower nature, which is ignorant and defective.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 295

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Values for All of Us

workers

Tomorrow is Labor Day in the United States–a federal holiday that began as an honoring of workers and has become a summer-ending Party . . .

From MarketWatch: Labor Day 2008: Building a New American Dream for America’s Workers

From the SunSentinel: Labor Day in Florida: Working class dreams are dying

From khsltv.com (California): Violent Crime Spikes in Chico Over the Labor Day Weekend

Holidays just aren’t what they used to be. Even if some folks celebrate Labor Day as honoring America’s workers, it’s usually honoring them as the most cherished workers, worthy of regard above any other workers. Some are, I’m sure. Yet, what about the World’s workers–those paid so little they work as slaves, those who work at staying alive–whose work is dodging bombs and guns . . .

Putting Americans, the workers or the massive parties, on a pedestal is counter-productive for America’s future–it’s globally dissonant–causes strife and contention from other nations.

This globe will never solve its problems as long as nations keep playing their trump cards against each other. A favorite American saying is, “United we Stand, Divided we Fall”.

Should a united America stand so tall she encourages a divided world?

Today’s Spiritual Quote:

“We assert that the emerging global order, and the processes of globalization that define it, must be founded on the principle of the oneness of humankind. This principle, accepted and affirmed as a common understanding, provides the practical basis for the organization of relationships between all states and nations. The increasingly apparent interconnectedness of development, security and human rights on a global scale confirms that peace and prosperity are indivisible — that no sustainable benefit can be conferred on a nation or community if the welfare of the nations as a whole is ignored or neglected. The principle of the oneness of humankind does not seek to undermine national autonomy or suppress the cultural and intellectual diversity of the peoples and nations of the world. Rather, it seeks to broaden the basis of the existing foundations of society by calling for a wider loyalty, a greater aspiration than any that has animated the human race. Indeed, it provides the moral impetus needed to remold the institutions of governance in a manner consistent with the needs of an ever-changing world.”
Bahá’í International Community, The Search for Values in an Age of Transition, p.3

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Punishment and Mercy


From Reuters: Suspects on run from Yugoslav war crimes tribunal
“Radovan Karadzic, one of the world’s most wanted men, has been arrested and is facing extradition to the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague on two counts of genocide.”

From the New Zealand Herald: Bosnian Serb war crime suspect Radovan Karadzic arrested
“If Karadzic is extradited, he would be the 44th Serb suspect extradited to the tribunal. The others include former President Slobodan Milosevic, who was ousted in 2000 and died in 2006 while on trial on war crimes charges.”

Whether or not this man committed these crimes, the importance of this story is that there is an international body that can (like a local judicial department) remand individuals to trial. We can only hope the standard of justice is higher than many local and national tribunals . . .

Edmund Burke once said, “All that is needed for evil to prosper is that good men do nothing.”

Some folks, living on a byway of the pacifist movement, feel we shouldn’t have criminal courts. What they propose we do with inveterate abusers of human rights can vary widely from individual to individual.

Here’s what Wikipedia gives as varieties of pacifism:
“Pacifism covers a spectrum of views ranging from the belief that international disputes can and should be peacefully resolved; to calls for the abolition of the institutions of the military and war; to opposition to any organization of society through governmental force (anarchist or libertarian pacifism); to rejection of the use of physical violence to obtain political, economic or social goals; to the condemnation of force except in cases where it is absolutely necessary to advance the cause of peace (pacificism); to opposition to violence under any circumstance, including defense of self and others.”

Obviously, some forms of pacifism can tolerate judicial proceedings.

My best analogy for why such institutions are needed is straight from child-rearing.

If a child killed a cat, should the parents just be really extra nice to the kid and refrain from punishing him?

Well, if parents want to protect the cat community, not to mention other humans (there are teens who’ve been sent to prison for murder), it may be the highest form of mercy to use caring but strict punishment…

Do we just look the other way if a human is suspected of murdering thousands of our fellow humans or do we put that individual on trial and, if they’re found guilty, punish them for the sake of the Human Community?

“It is perhaps a truism to say that the exercise of unfettered national sovereignty is a major obstacle to the safeguarding of the human rights of all peoples… Despite the establishment of international standards for human rights, many nations cling to the view that respect for those rights should be granted or withheld at the discretion of national governments.
“A second obstacle is the lack of adequate mechanisms to enforce adherence to the provisions of the Conventions. International human rights standards are not legally binding on all governments, and compliance, even by those states that have ratified specific conventions, is voluntary… In addition, international criminal jurisdiction for crimes against humanity and for flagrant violations of internationally recognized human rights should also be invested in a permanent body.”

Bahá’í International Community, 1993, Jun 09, Obstacles to Progress in Human Rights

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No Peace Without Justice

ROTTERDAM, Jul 15 (IPS) – “Human rights organisations all over the world will celebrate the tenth anniversary Jul. 17 of the adoption of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC is the first and only permanent international criminal tribunal to prosecute individuals accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Interview with human rights promoter Dorota Gierycz: “…I believe that yes, there is a very difficult initial period when there is this kind of tension between justice and peace, but in the long run there can be no peace without justice, and if we just keep pushing things under the rug there will be no room for genuine understanding and consolidation of the society and democracy.”

Pushing things under the rug is an age-old activity of humans when they wish to commit a crime or when they feel they just need a break from moral responsibility.

Holding things high in the full light of the sun can be painful. Making the effort to use tact and diplomacy while still pursuing rigorous truth is hard work. It seems mere humans can’t regularly accomplish these desirable goals.

Well, I’m here to say that humans can’t accomplish peace and justice if what they depend upon is just their human powers.

We have more than animal bodies for a reason. Our bodies (and our minds and hearts subjugated to the body) will always vote for the easy path, even if it leads to war—war between nations, members of a family, neighbors…

So, where’s the “instruction book” so many people claim we don’t have?

“The Heavenly Books, the Bible, the Qur’án, and the other Holy Writings have been given by God as guides into the paths of Divine virtue, love, justice and peace.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 61

“The fundamental spiritual truth of our age is the oneness of humanity. Universal acceptance of this principle — with its implications for social and economic justice, universal participation in non-adversarial decision-making, peace and collective security, equality of the sexes, and universal education — will make possible the reorganization and administration of the world as one country, the home of humankind.”
Bahá’í International Community, 1993 Apr 01, Sustainable Development and the Human Spirit

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Our Responsibility to Society

map of archetypes

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Don’t let that image fool ya. This post is about our riotous internal lives, not some bone dry realm of abstract psychology.

Even though my highest allegiance is to my Faith, I have studied quite a bit of psychology. I found my most impressive psychologist while I was studying Tarot, Astrology and the I ChingCarl G. Jung.

You can inhale the fragrance of a “Jungian” view of your personality from the site below (this is a simple test but seems to be playing in the right ballpark). Here’s my own result:

INFP – “Questor”. High capacity for caring. Emotional face to the world. High sense of honor derived from internal values. 4.4% of total population.

Free Jung Personality Test (similar to Myers-Briggs/MBTI)

Basically, according to Jung and his theories of the unconscious, there’s a whole zoo of characters beyond our innocent faces. And, the Major task of life is to integrate this menagerie into a Self…

In a previous post, I pointed toward an important paper about treating our own internal realm as a “community”, an approach that lets us be kinder and more compassionate toward unregenerate aspects of our Whole Self.

So, what I’ve been trying to approach in this rather rambling post is an attitude toward our own internal self that lets us relate to others authentically. In the highest sense, we can talk about progressive stages of identifying our “self” to larger and more complex levels of “organization”–an ascending spiral of blossoming compassion.

Every imperfect soul is self-centred and thinketh only of his own good. But as his thoughts expand a little he will begin to think of the welfare and comfort of his family. If his ideas still more widen, his concern will be the felicity of his fellow citizens; and if still they widen, he will be thinking of the glory of his land and of his race. But when ideas and views reach the utmost degree of expansion and attain the stage of perfection, then will he be interested in the exaltation of humankind. He will then be the well-wisher of all men and the seeker of the weal and prosperity of all lands. This is indicative of perfection.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 68