Moral Values

 

Alexander Liss

 

11/03/97 (12/19/04)

 

 

Many Sides of the Human Being.. 2

Stable Structures.. 3

Protection of Procreation.. 3

Degree of Enforcement.. 4

Dangers of “Moral Extremism”. 5

Moral Reaction on Transgressions.. 6

Charity.. 7

Parents-Children Relationship.. 8

Family and Protection of Children.. 9

Equality and Equal Rights.. 10

Moral Values of Transition.. 11

Pluralism... 12

Reminder.. 13

Respect.. 14

Respect for parents. 14

Respect for Children.. 15

Respect for Strangers. 15

 

 

 

     There are moral values, which existence and usefulness can be explained based on some obvious assumptions. This is not a full justification of these moral values, but this is what logical mind can and should bring to achieve better understanding.

     Here we discuss moral values, not the low. The interplay between the moral and the low is a separate subject.

In a totalitarian society the low and a special enforcement system protects social structures. In a free society, individuals make decisions based on their moral values, and the society trusts them to make moral decisions in particular circumstances.

 

Many Sides of the Human Being

 

     A human being belongs to many different structures, which sometimes contradict each other. One is a part of Nature, a part of a procreation tree, a part of a social group, where he communicates, shares ideas, learns values, and on which he relies, when makes decisions. One belongs to the society in general, etc.

     From many respects, it is useful to say not that one belongs to the Nature, but that the Nature is a part of him – his biological level. Say not that one belongs to the procreation tree, but the parents and children, grandparents and grand children are part of him. Say not that one belongs to the social group, but that the group is a part of him.

     The scientist would rather say that the human and its social group are interrelated. The philosopher would say that the concepts of the human being and the society are interrelated. However we prefer the shocking terminology from above. There is a reason for that. The side of us, which is separate, is handled at the conscious level – it is in a process of the fast change and development; the conscious level does it better. The other sides, which are connected to the Nature, society etc. are handled by the subconscious level – they are more stable and rich in the complex interrelations – subconscious level does this better. Hence we need a terminology, which pulls us from the natural way of thinking, because we want to explore the subject, which is about impossible to explore with the natural way of thinking.

     Here we are – we define a human being in very unusual terms, as strongly connected to, even in some respect containing inside self the Nature and society.

     However, we need all this mental work here only to prove one point – the human being by the nature is inclined to protect the Nature and the society, as he protects something he identifies with his own unique structure. This is a self-preservation instinct, preservation of own integrity.

     The moral values are conscious concepts, which reflect this subconscious drive. They are not well defined in general; however, they are very clear in each particular situation. Hence, we can analyze moral values, by analyzing Nature and social structures.

 

 

Stable Structures

 

     Developed stable structures – this is what distinguishes living creatures from non-living nature, conscious creatures from animals, society from the pack of animals. Stable structures survived the trials of time; they are the organization, which stands against the random chaos. Stable structures present an ultimate value.

     We can reverse the reasoning. These structures are stable, because they have the qualities, which allow them to survive, to reproduce themselves again and again, to withstand attempts to change them.

     If those are social stable structures, they are something we identify ourselves with, something we perceive as a part of our identity. Something we protect.

     Something that allows the society to survive in the long run, the system of self-preservation of the society as an organism is reflected in our conscious mind as moral values.

     Now we have some basis for the initial study of moral values.

 

Protection of Procreation

 

     Living society can not recreate itself without strong protection of the Procreation. Protection of the offspring is embedded in the biological makeup of living creatures (these are ones, which survived), the animal pack protects offspring collectively. The society extends this protection.

     The society does not have too many tools, which can be used to protect it in this area. Boundaries are placed, where they can be maintained:

     The inbreeding is genetically dangerous – the sex between close relatives is not permitted.

The youngsters are weak physically and mentally – the society protects them, particularly against sexual attempts of adults.

The sexual indulgence of homosexuals removes important part of the members capable of procreation from the process of procreation – society views it as immoral. Society can allow it in very limited by their nature groups. Any attempt to expand it, to make it widely accepted, often leads to a strong backlash, which can not be explained reasonably – a society protects itself.

     Ideas of the need to limit births viewed as immoral – until there is a way to engineer an automatically working stable society with this limitation, there is no way we can see this limitation as moral. However it can be excused as a temporary measure.

     Abortions are viewed as immoral – a society protects its ability to survive. A society can excuse it as an extraordinary measure in particular circumstances, but not as a rule.

     Once again, this protection is reflected in moral values, and until someone engineers a stable society without the need for this kind of protection, there is even no reason in trying to test these moral values.

 

Degree of Enforcement

 

Basically, moral values take care of themselves – in a society, which is able to survive, all members of the society are bearers of moral values. However there times, when the society wants to use some additional measures to enforce moral values, and there are societies, which rely on permanent enforcement of them.

The sad part is that moral values get enforced, when a society enters hard times, but after these time pass, the society does not bather relaxing the enforcement (it is hard to find the justification for such relaxation), and slowly but surely the society moves to rigid form with enforced moral values.

There is a case, when moral values do need enforcement – when the society is in the stage of its initial creation. Not so many cases in history, when social engineering was successful for a prolonged period of time. The last examples were communist countries, which as we know did not live long (at least in historic terms – it was too long in terms of personal life). United States is a successful example. This country still goes through a carefully and consciously guided engineering process, when the general ideas formulated long ago are implemented as steps of concrete measures, which shape the mentality of the society. A consistent implementation of the idea of equal rights is a good example. However, this society also faces the problem of “left over” lows. When the social structure has taken hold and moral values became a part of the mentality of the great majority of the members of the society, there is time to relax lows and let it work automatically.

There is a great disadvantage in enforced moral values. The low or any other form of enforcement makes the rule external, not internal as moral values are and should be. External rules we obey to avoid punishment. Internal rules are rules of “self-preservation”. External rules do not constrain our imagination, our thought and our desire. Internal rules stop the thought or desire in the very beginning of its formation. In some respect, externally restricted slaves have much less internal constraints, than free people, who have all these internal constraints, which allow free society to function. Enforced moral rules slowly but surely are perceived by members of society as a burden, against which they revolt quietly first and openly later until the society falls. That process was one of the major factors of the fall of the USSR – moral values deteriorated to the degree that the social structure simply crumbled without any serious external event. If it were having the external threat, it might stand longer, because the danger to the society often produces the “instinctive” protective reaction and surge in the strength of moral values.

 

Dangers of “Moral Extremism”

 

     The moral values by their nature are something people carry inside as boundaries of their own activity. When it comes to other people, we should not expect them to have the same system of moral values – they might come from different social group, with different system of moral values, nevertheless effective. The attempt to see them having the same system of moral values is an attempt to see the world, as more predictable and more controllable, than it is in reality.

     As a human being matures, he expands in the obvious physical sense, expends in the sense that the area of his control expands, but the most important, he expands as a social being – he incorporates the society as a part of him and he starts to protect the social structure. A child reacts only on immediate danger to his limited world. This has nothing to do with moral values. When an adult sees an immoral behavior, he has a feeling of the danger for his world, which includes the society. From the other hand, he sees the other being, which is a part of the same society, as a part of himself. He sees a part of himself doing something self-destructive. This other vision moderates the reaction, because we always look first for an excuse for our behavior, even for behavior of our relatively distinctive part - the other member of the society. If the person’s reaction is extreme, and we know that the person is not hard on his own moral transgressions, then something is wrong with this reaction – this is not a reaction motivated by the moral values only, something else is in play here.

     The mild form of the Moral Extremism is hypocrisy, which gives the hypocrite a tool of pressure and control over people – the authority earned as the “protector of the society” is used to get some personal advantages.

     The similar system works with religious extremists – the power, the control are their hidden final goal. When they succeed with one of their demands they are ready with the other until they get the power. From that point, events usually go sour, because religious extremists have neither knowledge nor real moral values, which are needed to be a successful leader of society. The history repeats itself again and again. However, the rise of religious extremism is a sure sign of imbalance in the society. In some respect, this is a radical way a society tries to save itself. Hence, the best way to work with religious extremism is fixing problems, which gave rise to it. This is a prudent approach any way.

 

Moral Reaction on Transgressions

 

     This is a difficult problem: how one has to react, when one meets a moral transgression of another member of the society. This problem is so difficult that any developed system of moral values handles it as a moral problem.

     The proper reaction depends on the society, on the state in which society is in the moment, and on other circumstances, as one could expect from a moral problem. For example, an immoral behavior during a war can be extremely dangerous for the society with an appropriate reaction by the society – marauders are often shot and this is accepted as a proper action.

     What is proper reaction in a stable free society? Distance yourself. Why? Because this is how this stable social structure, called free society, functions. As simple as it sounds it is a difficult concept. It takes a long time for children to grasp it. It is a role of the school to teach it.

     Children, who have so little experience and little accumulated system of concepts, tend to rely on the logic, when they make decisions. Learning the moral values is a difficult task for them – so many rules without logical justification even without a hope to have any logical justification (this text is not a justification at all; it is a hint for ones, who know). For them, it is difficult to learn, that in this society, not as in other societies, the proper reaction, when someone is doing something “wrong”, is not to force him to do right. And this is just the opposite of the case, when this “wrong” is a violation of the low – here we have to force this someone to do right. A complex society has a complex system of moral values.

 

Charity

 

     In the communist society, as former USSR, charity was non existent. Even the primitive forms of help, when children help parents, were not developed. There were lows, which forbade charity, but the main cause was in the core structure of the society – if the government takes care of everyone, then when the problem arises, one has to ask the government to solve it. These tendencies exist in any society – how many times we hear complains that the government does not take care of homeless, poor, etc., from people, who do nothing to help them.

     The underlying social need for charity is simple. Changing society in changing circumstances time after time enters the situation, when some part of it is in a danger of distraction. The society has to help this part to survive through harsh times. There is no way to predict, where the problem strikes next time; hence, we have general moral values, which demand to help people in need. What it means “in need” we define according to circumstances. Some try to delegate this work of definition of what it is “in need” in particular case and actual help itself to special organizations. It seems as a way to cheat and avoid doing, what the moral call asks to do.

     It is helpful to look at the ways the ancient low in the Bible treats this subject. In the ancient Holy Land there was no problem in identifying, which one needs help. The life was not easy, and each seventh year the agricultural activity stopped. People, who did not have enough to live through this year, were poor. The Bible offers a few layers of charitable activity. One relied on activity of ones, who are in need. The land owner, farmer, did not take his entire crop, leaving some part of it for poor to come and gather. Another relied on feeling of close connection. A person, who had more than enough, always had some people, who relied on him one way or the other, and in the day of need, these people were recipients of his help.

     In the terms of the modern society, it would be giving an opportunity to make money, paying higher salaries or not firing workers, when an economic situation calls for cost cutting.

 

Parents-Children Relationship

 

     Moral values related to the Parents-Children Relationship are among moral values with the deepest roots. They are tested again and again always with dire consequences.

     Let us start with simple facts, which on the surface look contradicting to all these moral rules.

Usually, children are smarter than their parents are - they adapt faster to the changing word, and their mental abilities are on the rise when parents’ abilities are on the decline. Children know more, because parents make so much efforts to make it happen, and because they have access to better sources of information, than their parents. Children have more energy and ability to experiment, and they do not carry the fear of their parents; the fear, which has nothing to do with wisdom and only suppresses the ability to make decisions in situations, which have nothing to do with the original fearful experiences.

Do parents instill the concept of the respect for parents in their kids to be able to exploit kids, when parents get old? Why do parents support kids well beyond the obvious need, only because they have this irrational feeling of love toward those creatures that took their best years?

     The narrow point of view does not allow answering these questions, we need the wider one.

Parents are the major part of their child; the child is an extension of parents, the extension, which continues to live, when the “original” parents’ bodies go away. In some respect parents and children are parts of one organism, and the war between them is a self-distracting activity.

We need to specify more precisely how this organism works.

     We should not underestimate how much of parents are included in their child. Kids do not learn, what their parents say. They observe their behavior in different situations and absorb everything as a sponge, mostly without judgment. Many things, which parents identify as something they are, they can see later in their children. This something continues to live with their children. Parents are as a foundation of the building – can not see it, but can not remove it ether. The child has plenty of room to build the building on this foundation, but if a child is busy destroying it, then there is no time and there is no base left to build something on it.

     Sometimes parents are not satisfied with their natural role of foundation and want to be an architect. In this case, all facts we had mentioned before come to play – they are much worse architect, than the child himself, whatever amount of time they had spent dreaming of opportunities they had missed.

 

Family and Protection of Children

 

     The society, which creates a protective cocoon for the children, gives new members of society a possibility to be better adapted to the uncertain future; hence, the society as a whole is more stable. There are many ways to develop this cocoon; the most important one is a family. This is a cause of moral values, which create a “safe haven” for children in the family. Children are protected from the attacks and exploitation from close and distant members of the family, particularly sexual exploitation. The family protects children from the outside word.

     Being an important element of social structure, the family carries a lot of functions, creating: a “safe haven”, tools of cooperation, elements of the economic structure, etc. Still, protection of the procreation is a main function of this structure.

In the modern society, the property management functions the family often gets on the way of the main function - the protection of children development. Family structure as a tool of property management was used from the ancient times. In the Medieval Times it was used to protect the existing social structure - the aristocrat-father had to pass the great majority of has possession to the oldest son. All these worked quite well, while cases of divorces were rare. In our times, when divorces happen so often, the battles over the division of property damage the kids.

     There is a trend of destruction of family, as we know it. It has to be reversed or a new structure protecting procreation should be established.

     There are a few factors, which cause the destruction of the family structure. First is a badly structured welfare, which encourages families without father. Second is less need for the family-protector, because civil society and prosperity take care of it. Obviously, the society did not find yet a stable state, where women are actively involved outside family.

It is possible, that society is moving to less rigid family structure, where parents live apart, after living together during formative years of kids, but still take care of kids jointly in a civilized manner.

     There is some support for this scenario of social development in the history. In the early years of the society, the tribe was a rigid structure, where people identified themselves as tribe members more than individuals. Eventually, the structure became more complex, where the big family became a main unit of the society, and the tribe was kept together by the moral values. The next step is where a society is based on a nuclear family, and the members of society recognize themselves as individuals. It is possible that moral values alone without a rigid family structure can successfully protect society and its procreation. However, no one can know, because the society is so complex that one cannot anticipate all possible interplay. Broad experiments in this area are extremely dangerous.   

 

Equality and Equal Rights

 

     The concepts of equality of the members of society and the concept of their equal rights are opposite concepts. They reflect two different possible social structures, which hardly can coexist.

     People are very diverse; they have different skills, different mentality, and different desires. To make them equal means a careful perpetual control, which equalizes them. This is achievable for some groups, when the group is kept in isolation from the rest of the world. The group can be a small one as a cult, or an agricultural community, or it can be a big one as a socialist country. In some circumstances, such group can be more effective than the other groups organized differently, for example when such group is an army. However, this kind of a group can not develop effective economy, because it is too rigid and it does not allow the flow of creativity and experimentation needed for the successful economy. As a result, this kind of the society is good enough to satisfy basic needs of its members (food, shelter and safety) and does not do much beyond that for its members. It can carry out other goals, though.

     This social structure produces moral values, which prompt members of the society to “cure”, anyone who wants to be an individual, who wants to be outstanding. If the society is closed and the member resists, then the society has a tendency to eliminate such member – to kill him.

     The society, where equal rights is a basic social concept, produces extreme inequality - on the equal playing field members of the society with different skills, different support from the family, and different life in the childhood fare differently. Inevitably, this kind of society is extremely stratified - there are a lot of different social groups, however, only a few of those are adequate for a particular individual. This type of society can survive only when all these different groups respect each other. The task of finding the proper group is the individual's task, not a society's task. This kind of society gives a lot of development opportunity for well-off members of society and does little for other who does not have enough to satisfy basic needs. This part of society – the bottom, presents a perpetual challenge for such society. This challenge has to be met, otherwise the society cannot survive.

Particularly, the problem of the support of members of the society, who happened to be in need of food or shelter is solved by the society with the moral values of charity, when one gives without examination of the receiver “worthiness”.

 

Moral Values of Transition

 

     Fast changing society has its special problem – old social structures go away and replaced by new ones. Hence old moral values get into the clash with new ones, and this is not a clash of different social groups, this is a clash inside one person. Market based society, which by its nature breaks boundaries between individuals creating more opportunities, creates moral problems. Old social structures, which were based on old boundaries, are going away, but the perceptions and moral values do not catch up as fast as the changes are coming. As a result, there are two sets of contradicting moral values in the person’s mind and there is no balance. Whatever the person does it goes against one of the person’s set of moral values and the person feels guilty. Proponents of the change make things only worse; they advocate new moral values and criticize old moral values, without giving time for a period of transition. Examples are aplenty – removing of barriers, as a result of the civil right movement; changing relationship between sexes; changing relationship between employer and employee, etc. all lead to the internal conflict of moral values.

     When we analyze the last example - employer-employee relationship, we see a different phases of it related to the phases of the development of the market based society. In the beginning, the businesses were creators of new social structures and the loyalty to the employer was needed to maintain these structures. Later, trade unions were creating new structures and the loyalty to the union was crucial to their stability. Now, when structures are stable, the employees hop the jobs and use resume as an advertising tool in the search for a next job; this is encouraged by the fast changing society, because it allows the workforce mobility without an increase in the level of unemployment. However, the international corporations are building new social structures and they need the employee loyalty again.

     This moral conflict hardly can be solved with the moral values – the consciousness has to step in to introduce the balance.

 

Pluralism

 

     Pluralism is an acceptance of logically contradicting systems of concepts coexisting in society, especially contradicting political systems of concepts. This can happen only in a morally developed society.

     Logic is the most powerful thinking tool we have. Each of us has a logically organized system of concepts, which supports decision-making. When all members of society share the same system – this is a powerful binding force and this allows effective communication – sometimes a hint is enough to exchange valuable information. The drawback of this form of social organization is rigidity – the system of concepts shapes the perception of the society and of each its member, and members can’t recognize new important factors, for which there is no place in their system of concepts. These factors can be dangerous to the society, and without seeing them the society vanishes in full internal harmony. Primitive societies, which binding forces are weak, can not afford the diversity of points of view – this diversity can break them. Hence, this kind of societies has to stick to the strictly maintained common system of concepts, where any deviation from it, even not expressed publicly deviation but rather something that can be sensed by others, should be punished severely. In primitive societies, this is a survival imperative, this is a moral value.

     A developed society can afford pluralism, because there are strong social structures, which prevent the society from self-destruction. Pluralism makes society more responsive, more flexible and more competitive. The society, which has structures supporting pluralism and which can afford pluralism, has more chances to survive.

     Support of pluralism is difficult. No amount of reasoning can build it, because it contradicts logic by its nature. It is built into the social structures reflected in moral values, and it is a precious thing, which deserves our conscious support.

 

Reminder

 

     There is a reason, why moral values are handled by the subconscious mind. It is dangerous to think that we understand the cause of one rule or the other and we can go around it. Unless one is an extremely asocial type (in this case moral values are irrelevant anyway), the one’s moral values are deeply embedded into one’s personality. Protection of them is in one’s best interests. This is not a superstition – this is protection of one’s internal structure. No amount of logical exercise can change this fact. What is written here does not give the independence from the moral values; it should bring the realization of importance of them for any individual, especially for an individual with independent thinking, who often has the tendency to experiment with things, which should not be a subject of experimentation.

     There is only one case, when the system of moral values can be changed – when the individual moves from one society to the other, uproots himself from one society and plants into the other, reinvents himself. The process take a long time and painful.

     It is possible, because there are many different stable social structures, and they are reflected in corresponding systems of moral values.

 

 

Respect

 

     Moral values are not limited to ones reflecting stable social structures. A good example of it is respect as a moral imperative. We should differentiate between respect for parents, respect for children and respect for strangers. They have different roots.

 

Respect for parents

 

     Respect for parents is rather a defensive measure. One, who possesses this defensive tool, can grow whole, free and independent. One, who ignores it, suffers from modifications of mentality, which are at best useless in his life and mostly handicapping.

     It works like follows. There is no more powerful creatures for a person, than own parents. The system of learning and adaptation to the life and society in particular is based on hungry absorption by kids of behavioral patterns and ideas from parents. Parents share subconsciously and freely with their kids all they know. This works up to the point, when kids become the problem, when they aggravate parents. At this point, parents “fix” the kid, mostly subconsciously; they “fix” the kid with some ideas, which make the kid less interfering with their way of life. This “fix” has little to do with kid’s future abilities to be a part of the society and a successful and happy part of it. As a result, a person carries these “fixes” the rest of his life, as a baggage, which limits person’s abilities. The system is subconscious and automatic.

There is only one way to avoid it. Kids should avoid aggravating parents. They do not know that from the birth – there is no such instinct. The loving parents should teach their kids this trick. This is not easy – it requires perpetual work, because kids tend to forget things, or they try to imitate disrespectful behavior of their parents.

 

Respect for Children

 

At least subconsciously, we perceive our kids as a continuation of ourselves. Nothing is wrong with it, because it reflects reality. This perception produces protective and controlling behavior, which kids need to learn to survive. However, there is an important kid’s need which we do not perceive – the need to learn how to make decisions and the need to make them. We mean real decisions, which carry serious consequences, decisions which adults make all the time, which no adult can avoid, and which adults do not want to avoid, because they are the essence of life.

It is very hard to limit voluntarily parental control, even harder to find the right balance – delegating to kids a proper amount of decision-making power. Usually parents wait until the kids are strong enough to take it by force. The moral behavior is to do it perpetually and voluntarily.  The benefits of such behavior are invisible; hence, we have a moral imperative to do it.

 

Respect for Strangers

 

Different societies have different interpersonal behavioral patterns. In some societies, people pay close attention to other people’s life discussing it, giving advice, insisting on acceptance of advice, helping without being asked. In other societies, people have “personal space", which is not violated – there is always an invisible boundary maintained by both sides. Both patterns have positive and negative sides. First is friendlier, warmer, but more conformist. Second fits well in the market-based society, allows more variety of personalities and ideas, but people feel lonely.

Second pattern reflects a special social structure, which is reflected in the moral values requiring “respect” for the personal space.

 However, we want to describe here the other respect, which is not a social imperative per se. We start with respect for enemies. Military know this well. Respect for the enemy allows looking at the situation with enemy’s eyes and predicting enemy’s next step. This respect does not allow assumption that the enemy will fall into the stupid trap, in which we wouldn’t fall. It allows us be more effective. However, this respect is not something natural, it is learnt. The learnt part is – the enemy does not need to prove that he deserves respect; he has our respect already.

Respect for strangers is similar to respect for enemies. There is no justification for that from a narrow personal point of view. The obvious idea that the person has to earn respect seems perfectly valid.

However, tradition or religion teaches this kind of respect as moral value. When we grant our unconditional respect, we at least do not place ourselves in any disadvantaged situation. Such respect in return gives us an opportunity to see the world through other person’s eyes. We do not need to accept anything in the other persons system of concepts and perceptions – they can contradict to ours completely. But we have the opportunity to know them.

This precious by itself, because learning is our major drive, and it is helpful, because it adds new survivability tools. However, the real meaning of it could be glimpsed from the broad perception of self as one, who includes the society as own part.