Friday, March 6, 2009

The disconnect between our morals and our actions

Friday, March 6, 2009

Yesterday, I reviewed Island of Exiles by I.J. Parker.

As I said in the review, there was a character in the book who thought that if he killed anyone by his own hand, he would suffer in another life. But if he sicked his army on them, he was in the moral clear. Or if he killed them by working them to death in the mines.

I have a couple thoughts about all that. First, the man was more serious about his religion than some people I know. Most people I've known would have just invented a religious loophole, created Purgatory or something, and gone on and done the murder themselves. Don't get me wrong. I know murder is a mortal sin and you can't squirrel out of it with Purgatory, but surely we all know there are other rationalizations many folks would use. Some states kill people all the time. They call it the death penalty. There has to be some kind of religious loophole in the thinking that leads to capital punishment.

But there's another issue too. We often operate with a disconnect between our morals and our actions. That's what makes it possible for CEOs who are taking multi-million dollar bonuses from almost bankrupt companies to lay off tens of thousands of people, to cause large numbers to suffer without much twinge of conscience. It's just business, after all.

It is also the kind of thing that leads people to stuff money in places like the Cayman Islands to avoid taxes. Those same people claim to be among the most patriotic of citizens. They just don't see paying their fair share of taxes as a part of the patriotism. Again, there is some kind of disconnect.

How many times have you heard it said, "Well, he or she may have ponzied people out of billions, but the man or woman I knew was a good religious person." Such people have created some kind of loophole.

Books lead us to a lot of thoughts, even mystery novels. There are psychotic killers in some books. We usually understand that there is no moral rationale behind what those people choose to do. And there may be other kinds of reasons to kill, reasons other than usual self defense, etc., which some people do see as exceptions to the moral rules (not the Brethern or the Mennonites).

We've all read of people who think racial or religious killings, for example, are not only morally justified but demanded by God. Osama Bin Laden is a prime example, I suppose.

So mystery stories, some of them at least, make me consider questions of morality. I don't read mysteries for that reason, but sometimes they do affect me that way.

There can be a disconnect between our morals and our actions. We always need to remember that before we act.

PS Come to think of it, feeling righteous because you are killing innocent people with your army but not killing them yourself, is a moral loophole! There are so many ways around doing the right thing.

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