Goodness me

I can’t help thinking I’m an egalitarian. The word seems to connote more or less what I stand for, morally speaking. It cements the aims of all those who want to lift our species out of the life old Hobbes described as natural: ”solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. But ever since the Americans crystallised the principle – ‘all men are created equal’ – plenty of gainsayers have ensured that some are more equal than others. They have used pseudo-science, pseudo-religion and pseudo-economics to justify their belief in the subjugation and humiliation of other races and creeds. Not to mention politics where we witness so-called social democrats identifying members of their clubs who have unsuitable views about equality.

Of course the best strategy for my opponents is to deny the principle – which in their book gives them licence to deny their hypocrisy, their dressed-up inhumanity, their sense of innate superiority. Their  tribes just play their cards more skilfully, they’ll say; and devil take the hindmost. But I can’t hope St Peter will deal with them in the end; so many of his adherents agree with their flawed conclusions. I just want them to know they can’t fool everyone with their arguments.

Author: janus

I'm back......and front - in sunny Sussex-by-the-sea

14 thoughts on “Goodness me”

  1. Maybe some of us do not agree with the notion that the human race is naturally “nasty and brutish”. I’ve just been round Europe, where I have seen the most incredible evidence of mankind wanting to honour the spiritual.

    I might (and indeed do) consider that the money spent on those edifices might have been better spent on helping the poor in days gone by… but they seem to me a lasting legacy of the desire to overcome the ‘brutishness’ in humankind… even I, an agnostic, could not fail to be moved by so much beauty – and acknowledge their worth in showing that humankind is capable of raising itself up.

    May I remind you that the American declaration that ‘all men are created equal’ left out one half of the human race (women) and didn’t include anyone with skins of another colour to theirs (white). A declaration of egalitarianism? I don’t think so. With all due respect to our US contributors – I don’t think the USA is concerned with ‘equality’ anymore now than it was in 1776.

    I have no problem with discussing ‘morality’.

    But we need to define our terms. What exactly do you mean by ‘Egalitarian’? Because I don’t think we mean the same thing at all.

  2. Boa, yes, the awful irony of Franklin’s words! His contemporaries were more equal than women and the slaves; but the sentiment remains valid. I mean the principle that every human being deserves an equal chance in life. That’s not to decry the value of fabulous monuments and architecture – only to demand that their spiritual meaning should not be the be all and end all, ignoring the stated mission of the churches which is to help everyone.

  3. Boadicea: At the time, those churches were the only places that could provide some solace. Life was overwhelmingly miserable and being able to see the grandeur of the lights, the sweeping columns and archways, was a way to escape, even if only for a short time, from the hell that was life. To paraphrase what a professor once said about Tzu Hsi and her infamous marble boat, the marble boat is still with us and we can marvel at it. If that money had gone to the navy, the Japanese would have sunk it, anyway.

  4. I ticked “post comment” too soon. For the 18th century, the US Constitution was a great leap forward and the US extended universal voting rights to men sooner than most countries. In this respect, it didn’t do so badly — nor did it do that badly in terms of women’s suffrage. The first states started in the 19th century, in 1920, it was universal. Compare that to, say, France which didn’t get on with it until 1944, Greece in 1952 or Switzerland in 1971 — 1990 if you count regional elections and that was only by court action! (Okay, so strictly speaking, this was only the case in one canton, but…)

  5. “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator”. That second clause, is to me, the whole crux of the matter. Jefferson (not Franklin, though the idea was not entirely original) assumed the existence of a Creator, and that adds a very different perspective to the concept of equality and, therefore, morality. We may all be equal in the eyes of God, but we are certainly not equal in the eyes of each other. Without a Creator, morality is meaningless. Mankind is no different to any other living organism in respect of its destiny to (strive to) obey the fundamental law of genetic survival.

    In the absence of God, lofty talk of morality is a human conceit. What people call morality is merely a behaviour that will either enhance or inhibit the survival of a community or even a species.

    Speaking as an individual belonging to a certain race and ethnicity, my ‘morality’ is not global, but rather specific to my community. My people are ‘more equal’ than others. And I will try harder to ensure their survival and mine than I will the survival of those who do not belong.

    My being agnostic makes me amoral.

    As for egalitarianism, and Like Boadicea, I am not sure I truly understand the meaning, I cannot see how it can possibly benefit mankind. Only by following the Olympic ideal of ‘faster, higher, stronger’, does mankind progress. If it were our mantra to all hold hands as we crossed the finishing line, we would not have evolved and would still be tree-huggers. Literally. Though I am not sure apes are particularly egalitarian either.

  6. Sipu, there is no logical basis for the existence of a ‘Creator’; nor is morality logically dependent on its existence. Your stance -that you defend your community’s interests in order to survive – is only laudable if you acknowledge your obligation to defend the interests of all communities, both locally and in general. That mantra is what distinguishes us from the animals – and is a plank in any moral construct. All your neighbours deserve the chance to achieve and enjoy the same standard of life as you. That is egalitarianism, a convenient label. Your denial of it suggests that your community’s progress is inevitably at the expense of others’. No doubt your opinion is influenced by your family’s involvement in the Empire and the history of your chosen country of residence. But thankfully, the rest of us can see the value of moral behaviour. And we don’t have to be believers or agnostics or atheists to appreciate it.

  7. Janus, you do alarm me sometimes.
    It is irrelevant whether or not it is logical for a Creator to exist (though more of that later). What is required is for belief in a Creator, and that is certainly logical. A child who is told by his parents that the presents that appear under the Christmas tree are delivered by Father Christmas, will believe that Father Christmas exists. Similarly, there are all sorts of reasons why people will believe in a Creator and clearly billions do and did, including Thomas Jefferson, whom you quoted with such enthusiasm. God may not exist, but belief in God does.
    And while we are on the subject, such beliefs can prove to be a valuable survival mechanism. The extraordinary faith of some people, misplaced as it may be, helps them to tolerate the most ghastly situations and persuades them to conform to the moral norms of the society in which they live. Religion brings hope and hope brings survival.

    But back to morality.
    Wikipedia says:
    Morality (from Latin: moralis, lit. ‘manner, character, proper behavior’) is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper.[1] Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion or culture, or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal.[2]Morality may also be specifically synonymous with “goodness” or “rightness”.

    Without a Creator, there is no divine or absolute purpose and therefore no absolute law of right and wrong. If there is no absolute arbiter of right and wrong, it is plain, therefore, that morality is a human creation and therefore entirely subjective. What may be morally acceptable to you may be morally unacceptable to me. Some people, including atheists, deem it morally wrong to consume alcohol or meat, while others partake with enthusiasm and clear consciences.

    Certain morals are more instinctive than others. Some are taught, enforced even, and some come naturally. Some are acquired later in life while others are lost.

    Given morality’s subjective nature, there is clearly a host of factors that determine any individual’s moral stance as indicated in the definition above. Religious beliefs aside, cultural norms, environmental factors and personal circumstances all play their part. But ultimately an individual is going to decide whether or not he is justified in behaving in a certain way based on whether or not he is going to benefit or suffer. He will adapt his morals to suit his circumstances. As cynical as that may sound, consider what one might call the “Does-my-bum-look-big-in-this moral dilemma”.

    Yes morality exists, but don’t think your morals are the same as those of other people or that they are any better or worse. They are unique to you and as such they are nothing more than a set of personal rules that you have chosen to adopt in order to survive, or at least make your life as comfortable as possible, which is the same thing.

    As I understand it, your original post points towards the hypocrisy of many whose behaviour belies their public morals; modern day Pharisees. I would share that view. But I would add that there are many whose behaviour you might abhor who do not consider their actions immoral. I live in a hunter gather society. What is the norm here is very different to what you might find in northern climes. For example, attitudes towards personal property are far more relaxed than they are up north. People refrain from taking what does not belong to them, not because they deem it wrong, but because they do not want to get caught. It deals with another issue altogether, but you may find this article interesting.

    Moving on, you maintain that there is no logical base for the existence of a Creator. While I have argued that is an irrelevant point of view, I find it curious that you think that logic, another human invention, would be applied to something that is supernatural. By definition, it is beyond logic. So again, your point is irrelevant.

    It may be that you are fully conversant with scientific minutiae pertaining to the Big Bang Theory but are you able to explain what happened BBB (Before the Big Bang)? Stephen Hawking appears to have believed that time began at that moment.
    “In in a lecture on the no-boundary proposal, Hawking wrote: “Events before the Big Bang are simply not defined, because there’s no way one could measure what happened at them. Since events before the Big Bang have no observational consequences, one may as well cut them out of the theory, and say that time began at the Big Bang.””

    I am sure Hawking is absolutely right, but I can’t help feeling it is something of a cop out. Essentially Hawking is saying we cannot know what happened earlier, so let’s ignore it. That the universe exists is obvious, or certainly it is obvious to a logical human mind and I am perfectly happy to accept that the universe as we understand it began with the BB. But where did the energy/matter, in all formats, come from that led to that giant, intergalactic pop?

    If you can explain, in a logical manner, the course of events that led to the BB, I am pretty sure there will be a Nobel Prize in it for you which would raise you in the esteem of your Scandi friends. And if you cannot, I suggest that there is currently no logical explanation for it, and yet the universe exists. If it works for the universe why not for a Creator?

    Personally I am with Julie Andrews on this.

    As for the rest of your comment, all I can say is bolleaux. The comment is already much too long for me to expand, but just think back to your days in the advertising industry and ask yourself if you ever competed against other agencies and whether you every tried to promote one product ahead of another. As for going to Oxford, did that not give you greater advantages than others? And did you not strive to give your children every advantage that you were reasonably able to provide? How many refugees have you taken into your home? It is all about survival and if that means competition, so be it.

  8. Sipu, you persist with your special pleading. Logic plays no part in your arguments. I’m afraid your next move is ad hominem. Btw I did not work in advertising. And I do not subscribe to your ‘I’m alright, Jack’ mantra.

  9. Hi.
    Good to see that the Janus/Sipu lovefest is still a thing.

    For what it’s worth, my moral code is derived from Charles Kingsley’s ‘The Water Babies’. I would, of course, prefer to believe that I’m totally led by the example of Mrs Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By. In truth, I’m probably a bit driven by the thought of avoiding Mrs Be-Done-By-As-You-Did.


  10. JM, I see you have a hanging ‘I’! Can you share that hovering thought?
    Negative mantras have their appeal as one ages. For example I am compiling an inverted bucket list, which crystallises things I plan not to do a second time, morally speaking.

  11. Janus, I’ve written at least four answers to this post – but every time I come back to your comment:

    the best strategy for my opponents is to deny the principle – which in their book gives them licence to deny their hypocrisy, their dressed-up inhumanity, their sense of innate superiority.

    And I’ve scrapped my comment.

    That remark reads to me like all ‘PC Propagandists’ who maintain that they, and they alone, hold the high moral ground and anyone who disagrees with them is a ‘very nasty, uncaring, mean and despicable individual’. It’s not the way to invite any sort of meaningful discussion.

    Did you really mean to come across like that? Well, whether you did – or not – you did. And, I’m not going spend time answering a question where I’m probably going to be damned on my first sentence because I don’t find the answer simple!

    And just by the way to both you, Janus, and Sipu, I see nothing ‘logical’ or ‘illogical’ in affirming that there is or is not one or many deities.

    For me, and I speak only for me, the most logical answer to the question of whether there is or is not one or many superior beings that rule this world is – I don’t know – anymore than anyone else on this planet ever has known or now knows.

  12. Naeh, I’m a sweetie, honest! 🤓
    I’m saying that if you ask (eg) an obvious racist why, the reply can only be irrational, not logical. Similarly with antisemitic ‘arguments’.

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