Laws and Morality

I had an interesting twitter conversation yesterday about law and morality.  It went like this after I replied to Sir Scott @realscottposton and then continued between me, Milo @MiloBurns837 and Mark Hamblett @ttelbmah57:

Scott:  You can not legislate MORLITY…

Milo:  Actually laws are determined by cultural morals.  You can’t change morals through legislation.  That would be attempting to change culture.

Mark:  Laws have nothing to do with morality.  They may coincide at times, but that is coincidence and nothing more.  Morality is for ur soul.

Mark:  I could point out many immoral laws

Milo:  Perhaps you could point out where laws come from, if not from the mores and values of the society that produced them.

Mark:  Moral laws, prohibition liquor marijuana prostitution in my youth all stores and gas stations closed on Sunday Laws r meant to order society

Milo:  All those laws came into being because of the beliefs of the majority of society at the time.  Yes, order society to conform to culture.

Mark:  Milo do u need any law to know what is morally right?  Moral laws come from puritanical past.  They r laws where holier than thou people

Milo:  No, morality changes faster than laws.  New laws are made to meet new culture.  Diferent cultures have different morality and so dif laws

Mark:  We will just have to agree to disagree with me knowing u r wrong.

Milo:  And I know you are wrong but two wrongs don’t make a right but three rights make a left.

(Mark posted a like to the last one. Thanks.)

The problem with Twitter is that it is impossible to convey an idea in 140 characters, even conversationally.  But the question remains:  Where do laws come from and what differentiates moral laws from immoral laws?  And, back to the original statement about legislating morality.

All of this is my opinion and, generally, applies to democratic societies.  In dictatorial forms of government laws ARE established prior to culture.

First, culture develops whenever a group of people agree on the major similarities of their lives.  As other people join the group, certain standards of conduct are established which the group, as a whole, finds acceptable.  Morality within the culture is synonymous with standards of conduct.  As the group grows, those standards of conduct are developed into laws.  Therefore, it is my contention that laws are simply a culture’s attempt to maintain itself.

I think here I should talk a little about morality.  I think there are many people who believe that morality is a fixed value that cannot be changed.  Prime current examples are the attempts to vilify our heros of the past because the were involved in the owning of slaves.  While slavery is immoral by our current standards, it was not by many earlier standards.  That doesn’t mean it wasn’t wrong, (at least by today’s standards) but those who were living at the time thought it was perfectly moral.  Likewise, people of those times would find our current styles of dress, or undress, exceedingly immoral, yet we, for the most part, find it perfectly moral.  A more extreme example was the Aztec practice of human sacrifice.  Obviously immoral by today’s standards, but perfectly acceptable by their standards.  The tendency today to judge other cultures and history by our current morality standards is to place ourselves as superior beings.  Not just more learned beings, but divine beings endowed with final judgement.  This arrogant view is not dissimilar with early Western religions that sought to judge and convert people to their way of thinking through any means, including violence (and is still an aspect of one current religion today).

However, cultures change but in an organized government laws are often behind the times when it comes to the accepted morality of the culture.  Hence the assertion that laws come from a puritanical past, which they do.  Those laws were not attempting to legislate morality, they were reflecting the morality at the time they were made.  At least the morality of the majority of people who elected the officials that made the laws.  But morals change and so, eventually, do laws.  And it is often not an easy transition because while the majority seeks to change the law, a minority will attempt to keep the status quo and resist that change.  An example would be the Civil Rights Laws of the ‘60s which met violent resistance but the majority eventually won out.  A current example is the LBGT laws that are being enacted and are meeting some resistance from religious groups which consider them morally wrong but which some consider a moral imperative.

However, there are often attempts to legislate morality by a minority, such as late term abortion which polls show are opposed by a majority of the public.  But then that brings up the whole mess of whether polls are accurate and/or manipulated to meet an agenda by the Main Stream Media.  That’s a topic for another blog.

So, to try and wrap this up, people come together and decide what they believe to be moral and then that is reflected in the laws they enact.  But as a culture matures the lines between current laws and current morality will become blurred or inconsistent.  But to counter the original statement that you can’t legislate morality I say legislation is based on attempts to maintain morality even if that morality is behind the curve of the current morality (with a caveat that there are exceptions).

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Culture

We  hear a lot about culture these days, especially in the context of “cultural diversity”.  Ironically, though, those pushing cultural diversity can’t seem to understand why we, as a nation, are so divided.

There seems to be a disconnect when it comes to what culture is.  Too often, the term culture is used to describe tribalism and tribalism is a dividing concept.  While culture defines the mores and values of a community, tribalism separates cultures from one another and values exclusion over inclusion.  The United States has always, up until recently, a nation that welcomed other cultures, at least philosophically.  There have been exclusionary principals applied regionally and socially.  The degradation of the Irish in the 19th and early 20th century comes to mind, but eventually those false stereo types were abandoned, except for a few which still are humorously resurrected for St. Patrick’s day.

But when a culture, as a whole, becomes defensive and exclusionary it becomes tribal and the natural result is hate between it and other cultures.  Recent complaints of “appropriation” of culture are a prime example, such as non-Mexican heritage people celebrating Cinco de Mayo being denigrated because they are “appropriating” the Mexican Culture.   But, beyond just complaining about appropriation, it has reached complete segregation such as where recently a college celebrated a “Day Without White People” and banned Caucasians from being on campus and one professor was severely ostracized when he had the audacity to point out they were being racist.  Black people worked hard to obtain the Civil Rights legislation passed in the ‘60s (which, by the way was done by Republicans and vigorously opposed by Democrats).  Yet, today the tribalism of the Black community, with organizations such as Black Lives Matter, has caused severe damage to those gains that Blacks worked for since the days of slavery.  Vilifying those you are trying to win over to end racism does nothing to promote inclusion and acceptance.  Egotistic self-righteous exclusion asserting that any wrong that happens is racist “white privilege” can only make things worse.

However, the biggest tribalism threat to world peace today is Islam.  While the other main religions in the world promote peace and an attitude of acceptance of differing religious views, Islam teaches that violence is an acceptable, if not required, method of conversion.  Islamic tribalism is totally non inclusive, even between the different sects of Islam.  Unfortunately, a culture that celebrates tribal violence is incompatible with any other culture.  I see no path of inclusion in Western society for the Islamic culture until it, as a whole, undergoes a reformation and rejects the violent teachings of Mohammed.  But then it wouldn’t be Islam anymore and I don’t see that happening.

The United States has, in the past, truly been a “melting pot” of cultures.  A unique example in history of acceptance and tolerance.  But tribalism has turned us into a nation of special interests with no tolerance for alternative cultures.  The irony is that the sector of our country that professes to be the most tolerant is the one that promotes tribalism and separation of cultures while the section of the country that is demonized as the most intolerant works to break down those barriers of intolerance and tribalism.  Who is the most acceptant of other cultures – those who promote separation or those who promote inclusion?  If you are thinking you are on the Left side of American politics I contend your views toward culture and inclusion are more tribal than inclusive.

Pessimism vs. Optimism

There can be no doubt that racial relations in this country have improved dramatically since the days of Jim Crow, yet there are many, such as those in the Black Lives Matter movement who argue things are actually worse.  Never mind that they were not alive during those truly discriminatory days.  The Black community seems to have divided itself into two camps, the pessimistic who believe everything they see is racial and the optimistic who can see their way to giving the benefit of the doubt.  And, except for the few who have succeeded on pure talent such as actors and sports celebrities, it is the pessimists that find their way to success blocked by racism.  And yet there are many successful Black people who have become very successful, either in wealth or just in how they live their life, who made it using and optimistic outlook and overcoming adversity.

This whole concept of success through optimism and failure through pessimism can be applied to the divide in the whole country today.  Everything I see coming from the Left/Progressive/Democrat side of the isle is pessimism while just the opposite is coming from the Right/Conservative/Republican side.  The Left sees graft and corruption behind every program and deceit behind every word.  But the Right forges ahead relying on personal responsibility and innate ambition to allow people to reach their potential.  Perhaps the Left is projecting their own graft and corruption onto the Right.  People do tend to believe others are like themselves.  The graft and corruption so blatantly apparent in the Obama Administration and the Clinton campaign/Foundation can easily be transferred to the Conservatives.  After all, if we are doing it they obviously must be doing it.  And, yet, no graft or corruption has been found in the Trump administration or campaign after a full year of obsessive looking for it.  Every rock has been turned over and nothing substantial has been found.  A business man who has global dealings must have been influenced by a country he does business with – surely.  And if we haven’t found it after a year of looking, it must just be buried deeper.  The pessimism has reached a point where if something is not found, something will be manufactured.

I am confident that in the long run optimism will win out over pessimism.  This country was built on the idea that people have the individual ability to succeed.  Yes, we succeeded as a nation working collectively, but it was done through individual effort working toward a common goal and ideology.  We cannot sustain it through a pessimistic, multicultural/multi-ideology, equal outcome philosophy.  America succeeded because we were a Melting Pot with common goals toward our future, not an insoluble collection of rocks.  Pessimism keeps people from joining the Melting Pot of ideas while optimism welcomes ideas (better known as Free Speech).  Optimism is the way to the betterment of mankind.  Pessimism holds us back and makes slaves of us all.