Understanding Morality; Existing Above the Law and Why Justice Is A Fluid Concept

Before I begin typing an article, or anything that I write and publish, I force myself to reproduce my ideas through pen and paper so I’m capable of determining how an idea can and will work out. I set this restriction in place so that I, when I do begin typing, have an idea of what to type, and what point-of-view I’m going to take to insure that an article doesn’t sound like nonsensical rambling. At the same time, this restriction exists because I have a notorious problem with procrastination that, if not restricted and controlled, would lead to me accomplishing absolutely nothing and would end with me spending hours on various websites doing absolutely nothing.

In this way, the restriction I’ve set out for myself has a clear precedent and, if my procrastination is not regulated, the results disappoint me. In short, I created this rule because I understood exactly what happens when it isn’t in place, something that’s becoming less and less common within the society and culture we exist in.

Certainly, there seems to be an abundance of rules, restrictions, and regulations, but a stunning lack of understanding as to why these rules exist. Worse yet, there appears to be something of a consensus that, thanks to the rules that are in place, common sense is neither necessary nor beneficial thanks to a fascinating hypothesis that one doesn’t need common sense when there are rules to fill that void. Obviously, there are reasons that laws exist; at the turn of human sentience, it became clear that morality was fluid and, to avoid the loss of an individual’s possessions, laws came into effect to protect one human from the immorality of another.

Laws exist to regulate human immorality and though the origin of law is frequently debated (much like every other aspect of human existence), there can be no doubt that common sense cannot fill the void that lawlessness would leave. After all, the question isn’t what’s right or wrong, so much as how does one go about punishing the wrong? Does a society resort to mindless brutality for stealing bread to feed a hungry family? Are the hands of a thief chopped off? How does one treat justifiable crime? What is justifiable, really? If it’s carried out for the greater good? What qualifies as the greater good? No, certainly, laws exist because common sense is a fluid concept and my sense of what is common will differ greatly from that of my Somali counterpart, or my Japanese one for that matter.

The common sense issue is great enough to warrant notice, as the law changes from country to country, and it’s why organizations like the ICC exist. To make sure that universal crimes like theft, and murder are judged equally on a global level, universal organizations exist to make sure a person doesn’t lose their hand for embezzling billions, or their tongue for sanctioning the deaths of millions. It’s a matter of accountability, though I do digress because my issue is not with the upholding of the law, but with the existence of the law; specifically, why rules and regulations are created and, on a more detailed level, the understanding of why rules and regulations exist.

I suppose, on the most basic level, rules and regulations (laws, warrants, orders, edicts) exist to combat the basic concept of immorality. Rules and regulations exist to insure that the immoral are reprimanded for their lack of conscience, and they exist to insure that the moral are not subject to the various dealings, transactions, and interchanges of the immoral. The law exists so the good are protected from the bad and, therefore, so the bad act good. Obviously, this is where the tension escalates, and where the subject is broached (it also happens to be the point where the fluidity of the concept comes into play) because good and bad, morality, right and wrong, and justice are all fluid concepts. What one individual calls good, another calls bad; freedom becomes oppression, tyranny becomes just rule, an absolute monarchy becomes the dissolution of a citizen’s rights, and opinions become skewed to suit the best or worst possible outcome. Effectively, rules becomes skewed because two or more individuals cannot agree on what is right or wrong; it’s why people end up saying things like “We don’t need common sense when we have the law.” On one hand, it’s completely giving up free thought and, on the other, it’s choosing to live with the law because that’s the easiest, safest, and simplest option.

Between arguing on end over what’s right and wrong, or simply choosing to believe that the law is the only possible right, arguing is the more difficult choice. Applying this principle to a smaller example yields the truth that it’s far easier to tell a child that stealing is wrong, then explaining to them each case where stealing would be acceptable and each subsequent case that speaks to the contrary. It’s far easier to say that something is, simply because it is, instead of explaining why it can be believed that something is. As such, the understanding of rules and principles becomes diluted to nothing more than “This is true because it’s always been true” or “This is true because it is true.” Certainly, these outcomes can and will be true, but the process to which these truths have been determined will often be completely ignored.

Social convention is the most straightforward example. Much of what one considers social convention is often completely misunderstood, and only exists for the purpose of remaining politically correct. Yes, it’s absolutely rude to completely undress in public, but not simply because it’s rude, but because it’s a matter of shame; human society has evolved to the point where certain actions are considered shameful, like completely undressing in public. One might ask, why is it shameful? To which another could respond, “It’s a matter of embarrassment. I feel embarrassed when someone undresses in front of me in public, and therefore I think it’s shameful to undress in public, and therefore it goes against my interpretation of social convention for someone to undress in front of me.”

The reasoning is straightforward and unambiguous and, as such, undressing in public can be considered rude (it simply depends on the venue; beaches are perfect, playgrounds are not). It’s an extreme example, absolutely, but it illustrates the point of social convention entirely; it exists so people feel comfortable around others so they can function as a society and a culture. Social convention doesn’t just exist because “Certain things are wrong,” social convention exists because “Certain people feel certain things at certain times are unacceptable.” Much like undressing in public, there’s a time and place for everything, and social convention exists to insure these times and places aren’t confused.

However, this understanding is becoming less and less commonplace, and being slightly less apropos or more forthcoming than “Normal” is considered wrong only because it is wrong. There is no understanding behind why it’s wrong, or why it should be wrong, or why it’s wrong given the situation; it is wrong, because it is not right, and therefore it is wrong.

This, ultimately, begs the question, who decides what is right and wrong? On the most basic level, who decides what is socially acceptable, what is unacceptable, what is just, what is immoral, what is rude, and what is appropriate?

In short, I do. In long, we all do. Even longer, it is our responsibility as a sentient species to determine what is right and wrong, depending on those involved, depending on the location, depending on the situation, and depending on the circumstances. The ultimate critic of morality is myself, and while laws exist to insure I don’t act immorally towards others, and to insure I don’t harm others, ultimately, the only people I must answer to are myself, and my conscience. Some will misunderstand my point and argue that I’m advocating a selfish sense of being above the law, to which I will say yes, I am advocating a selfish sense of being above the law.

We must all be above the law, because the law is designed to restrict and regulate members of society who would otherwise act out selfishly. We must be above the law in the purest sense of the term; not so we can act immorally, but to act in such a way that universal harmony and coalescence can be achieved without the need to set up restrictions for otherwise obviously immoral behaviour.

We do not exist above the law to break it, or to take consequential matters into our own hands; we exist above the law to insure that our actions are carried out with logic, common sense, and more than just a little bit of thought. We exist above the law to insure that upholding the law is unnecessary, and this can only begin by understanding why something is right, and why something isn’t.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

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