Friday, December 23, 2005

the practicality of free, individual choice

In the absence of any objectifiable criteria of right and wrong, good or evil, the self and its feelings become our only moral guide….But while everyone may be entitled to his or her own private space, only those who have enough money can, in fact, afford to purchase the private property required to do their own thing.” Robert Bellah et. al. Habits fo the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life.


Peter. said...

A first thought on universal morals that comes to mind is the Japanese case; they don't have universal morals on what is good and what is bad; their culture is based on shame and losing face.

It explains some of the atrocities that were committed by them during WWII; apparently, they didn't have an 'inner moral voice' that told them not to mistreat people; their being out of their usual surrounding meant a vacuum was left (no peers to judge them) and their prisoners were considered 'faceless' pigs/cowards, not worthy of living and too cowardice to have died.

Had to dig quite deep for this (the things you learn on a course on Japanese quality management :-) ) but it provides an explanation.

This comment (mine) can be viewed in the light of your friends holiday? And what might happen to mankind without universal morals.

Free choice/individual choice is a major part illusory, I think. I've noticed in my own case that I was 'rationalizing' some of my own decisions; i.e. a feeling caused me to do something, which I later tried to justify by ratio. Like why I liked or didn't like a particular person.

BTW, the 2nd part of 'personal space, and it being expensive' is very true. To me. I know many people in my surrounding who are perfectly happy in a crowded city; where they hear the neighbours flushing the toilet, or can hear what TV program they are watching. Lived like that for 6 years in Rotterdam, being a 'country boy'. City life is not for me. However, most people I speak say they don't mind living crowded. On the other hand, all people I know who can afford it buy a house in the country. Will too one day, I hope.

Still, I wonder about the quote. Is the writer saying there are no longer clear criteria on right & wrong? Disagree. He says the 'self becomes our moral guide', but I have trouble linking it to the statement that follows: '...But [...]' Morality has very little to do with the ability to buy a house or land, IMO?

And if he were implying that people living in the country or escape hectic city life are (or may be) moral-less, I disagree even more. But perhaps this quote has another meaning than I think it has when seen in context of the rest of the chapter/book?

Off topic from your comment on individuality:
Other point: just found out what 'menn.' meant in another statement in this blog. About a year ago I saw a (Danish/Swedish?) documentary on a religious community somewhere in Sout-America. At first I could show respect for these people (even while disagreeing with their beliefs), but when they showed kids sneaking out for alcohol, boys & girls 'fooling around', car races etc., esp. the fact that the elders seemed to tolerate this behaviour on whatever ground ticked me off. Linked to the hypocrisy-statement in another post. Also, the mother of the family had a terribly infected wound on her leg and wasn't allowed to seek medical attention; gangrene was already present or on its way. However, they did accept the medical help (bandages, plasters, desinfectant, etc.) of the two reporters. Not meant to be a rant against these people. But if you claim to be on high moral ground, and hypocrisy in your behaviour will be observed closely and used against you.

Quote (by guess who...):

There is no hope of joy except in human relations.


On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur, l'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. (Saint-Exupéry)

espíritu paz said...

As for the Mennonites you refer to…hmm. Must be like that neighbor of yours over there, whom I saw on the tele too :)

I suppose I don’t understand or know why you would be so preoccupied with hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy, none-the-less based on a presupposition that all those of a particular name are the same.
Aren’t all snowflakes different? One can grab handfuls to form into a snow art. Some snow coheres more readily than other. Some snow flakes are brushed off/fall off the work of art. Inevitably it all melts and is cycled into cloud, rain and possibly snow again. We call it snowflake/snowman/slush/groundwater/cloud.

FYI: I don’t believe I’m claiming moral high ground. My intention in this blog is to demonstrate difference, struggle and even ambiguity in as much as creativity allows, through parable.

...even with story of partying friends. I could have written a similar one of driving a car to the market, unveiled, with a national neighbor, in Yemen.

Peter said...
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