What is legal is not always moral or ethical, and what is moral and ethical is not always legal. We live in a society that likes to walk the line of thought that says if it’s legal it’s okay, and if it’s illegal it’s not okay. Of course I’m simplifying an extraordinarily complex issue into something easily handled, but this is a blog, not a film directed by Sidney Lumet, so I can afford to be a bit more artless about it.
I believe one should always do what is ethically and morally correct despite what is and is not legal. I realize that puts me in more than a bit of a quandary because society loves its rules, but I will not lie: I would break any law necessary in order to protect and/or save the life of another human being in need, depending upon whether or not I felt the need was that immediate, or if I found that, contextually speaking, those who could also fulfill this need are unavailable or would take too long to engage the process.
I believe it falls upon all of us to do the right thing when we reach such an intersection of decision. I would like to say we *must* do that thing, but I would not pressure anyone to do it unless they felt that they could.
So what am I saying? Am I saying that despite what the law may be in your particular area, should you dismiss it if the situation calls for it? Maybe. I won’t give the affirmative for a reason. Not a cover your ass reason, either, because too many people choose to cover their ass instead of just saying why they would or wouldn’t do something. I don’t give the affirmative because it all comes down to whether or not you are in a position to actually effect change without harming another.
That leads to a second question: Am I saying to flout the law entirely? Hell, no. Laws exist for a reason, and for the most part were created to protect people. There are times, though, where laws interfere with the protection of others, and they must be pushed aside.
It is not easy for me to type this, but I feel I must, because I believe I found the roots of my torment, the reasons why I had 14+ heavy anxiety attacks this week. I had them because I believe in doing the right thing, when that need presents itself, instead of ignoring it and letting others handle it further down the line. This is how I have always thought, but for years I have fought that thinking, because the law says one thing, the environment in which I live says another, and they all clash.
Why is it okay to let homeless people die in back alleys, while punishing people who want to give them money? Why is our collective sentiment “they had it coming” when someone is raped while wearing a skimpy dress? Why do we do this and still call ourselves a just and moral society because it falls well within the legality of our arguments?
The homeless man’s plight is sad, but I’m sure he did something to deserve it. Don’t give him money, he’ll just spend it on booze. He deserves what he’s got.
The rapist was wrong, but hey, the woman shouldn’t have worn that skimpy dress. She was kind of asking for it.
That black kid getting shot in the back while running away would have been sad, but he *did* have a criminal past, so he had it coming.
See this? You will hear this sentiment echoed from the top of our social chain all the way down to the bottom, and everywhere in between, by people who abide by the law in public. I say in public because no one abides by the law 100% of the time, because our legal system is a labyrinthine web that crisscrosses and contradicts itself depending upon where you are, what you’re doing, and who you are.
We watch as the cruel mete out “justice” under the name of the law. They attack those who fight to protect those they refuse to protect or are incapable of protecting. It is something that makes me angry, because in a court of law, the brute who wears a badge will handily defeat the citizen who has nothing to support him or her but their own personal ethical guidance.
We marvel at our military prowess, we fetishize stormtroopers and weapons of war. We are aroused by symbols of patriotism that ring hollow in our ears and hearts, but give us the motivation we need to stay in line, to do what we are told, because we believe that the higher, moral authority is the eye of the overseer, the one who claims to protect while also harming those sworn to their “care.”
I have wrestled with these thoughts for years, and kept them tight under wraps because the timbre of my thoughts and opinions are unpopular here in the United States, especially now, now in an era where we are seeing draconian desire writ large, a lust for wild law, and unremitting obedience. “If you just do what you’re told, you won’t die” have become the whispered watchwords riding the foreboding winds on a coming storm that will not be satisfied with keeping to one city, one state, one nation.
I believe the vast majority of people are good, and that includes our law enforcement. The problem is that a few bad apples spoil the bunch. The greater problem is those bad apples are either moved to a different bunch if they spoil the barrel, until that bunch, too, is spoiled. The very few that are tossed out are only done so once the damage has been done, and what’s worse? They all look alike on this side of the market stall. From here, they all look wholesome and shiny. You are told they are, that there are no bad apples in this bunch, so if you DO find a bad apple, it had to be something you did to find it, because until you did something, it didn’t exist.
We had the stone, bronze, and iron ages.
We had the dark ages.
We entered the Renaissance.
Then there was the industrial revolution.
We followed with the space age.
Then the information age.
Now we have entered the gaslight revolution.
We now live in an age where everything is wrong unless you’re told it’s right, and nothing is right unless it’s the right kind of right. Facts, truth, all meaningless here. You will be told exactly what your itching ears need to hear, so that you will go back to consuming. Your heart will be assuaged so that you will continue to push the lever that turns the gears which power the wheels of industry, of authoritarianism, of a so-called justice system, and all the while, the collective voices from the very top cry out “all who are crushed underneath had it coming to them.”
What’s worse is that most people will nod their heads and agree without question.
Look at the state of our incarceration system here in the United States: 1 in 31 U.S. citizens are either incarcerated, being paroled, or on probation. The United States has the largest prison population in the world.
You would think it would give people pause. You would think someone would say “well, even if they were a criminal, surely that didn’t mean they deserved to die.”
You would be wrong, but you are picking up what I’m putting down.
Instead, any kind of criminal history, especially if you are a person of color (and persons of color are *overwhelmingly* misrepresented in the prison system), seems to give anyone carte blanche to see you die, to see you suffer some awful fate.
I can only speak for what I see in the United States, but what I have seen so far is that no matter what you do, no matter for what reason, if you are found guilty, you had it coming to you. By “it” I mean whatever the people want to fulfill their bloodlust: whether it be shot by an officer while running away, hit by a car, raped in prison, all of these things are fitting for whatever you’ve done, even if what you have done doesn’t involve physically harming a single person.
I realize no other nation is perfect, either, but there are countries that have a rehabilitative system: no matter what you’ve done, you enter the system and attempts are made to change your behavior, to help you enter society on the positive side of it, rather than the negative. I understand that there are harsher punishments for some things, like rape and murder, as there *should* be, but even then an honest effort is made in the name of rehabilitation.
The U.S. justice system exists to punish, only to punish, and not just once, but over and over and over again. We create lists, and registries, and we make sure that even after people have served their sentence (whether warranted or not), they are followed by their crime forever after. They are told where they cannot go, what they cannot do, and you would think “if they cannot be trusted to be rehabilitated yet, why are they set free?” and the answer is simple: they were never rehabilitated, nor were they intended to be.
Here in the so-called Christian nation of the United States, your sin is with you forever, no matter what you have done to rectify it. Well, it is unless you have the wealth or influence to get out from under it, like our current President, and much of his staff.
Keep in mind, keep in mind, that all the while these things are going on, you are being told that what is legal is good, and what is illegal is bad. What is the law is ethical and moral, while what falls outside the law is immoral, and evil. You, that applies to you, citizen, and only you.
I would like to take a moment to elucidate on a few other things as well: Firstly, I am not in favor of some kind of anarchy. Anarchy is foolish. With anarchy, you replace a governing body having full authority with millions of governing bodies full of their own authority. I’m not in favor of a lawless frontier, nor am I in favor of people deciding to mete out punishment for those they feel are breaking the law. That is a surefire way to chaos, and while I think we have become far too authoritarian, I am in no way in favor of the kind of chaos those choices would bring.
What I am saying is that we need to stop looking at the law as if it is a moral arbiter, because it truly isn’t. Look at our history here in the U.S. We should know better than this. We should know better than almost anyone else (save a few other nations) what happens when we equate morality with legality.
If you have read this far, by the way, thank you. I seem to be venting my spleen, as I only planned a few words on the subject, and as of right now we’re on word number one thousand nine hundred and six.
Of course, some might wonder where I’m going with all of this. If things are so bad, what do you propose to do about it? Honestly? There are many things we can do about it, but it has to involve the fully informed collective will of millions of Americans who would step out of their comfort zones and embrace a change that would ultimately lead to a society that does not punish based on perception, and that enriches all lives regardless of their ability to return that generosity in kind, doing so without caring about what they may acquire in the process.
Yeah, you can see why this is a touch depressing. It’s anathema to the bulk of the state of this nation today. As of right now, we seem to have three pressing needs:
- Entertain me.
- Fulfill all of my basic needs.
- Give me want for things so that I work willingly to acquire them.
Note how I placed “Entertain me” at the first position? I do so because we desire to be entertained above all else. I believe a starving man would give up a basic meal in exchange for a vision of something tastier.
So what does “fulfill all of my basic needs” even mean? Sure, you can guess it means food, shelter, clothing, and such, but what else? Can you list any? I’m sure you could name me 5 other things right now you would consider a basic need.
The truth is that you need what you are told you need. Every single moment of every single day you are told what you need. Some of it you can push away because it’s so blatant that it doesn’t make it past the very first barrier of reason. The more insidious messages, however, burrow deep down into your brain, and become a part of your dreams. You realize it’s something you must have, something to which you are entitled, which leads to #3.
“Give me want for things so that I work willingly to acquire them.”
Now that you have your need, and your needs turned to dreams, you want to achieve them. The idea of achieving your dreams is a wonderful concept, one that I embrace because we all have dreams: dreams of finding love, of living in a happier world where the people we care about have what they need.
The need that burrows into your brain, however, is not a part of this wholesome concept. Rather, it is a manufactured need, one that can only be achieved by following a path laid out for you by those who really only want the money in your pocket. If you don’t have the money to achieve those dreams, they’ll supply you with other, more affordable dreams, and if you don’t have the money for that, well then you get to become the lesson for those who don’t try to follow their dreams.
You become the punishment, and punishing people is something we love to do here in the United States. We do it from on high, we do it from below, we do it to one another on whatever level playing field exists, and we do it with delicious malevolence.
Commit the sin of falling outside of the authorized moral and ethical boundaries (keep in mind that being poor is a moral failing in our society), and you will have wound up in the “they had it coming to them” camp. There is much suffering in this camp. Here you will find no joy, no peace of mind. You will be reminded every day that you caused your downfall, and that you deserve to stay there and rot, or worse. If your downfall was coupled with committing a crime, well all the more reason for you to stay, say those sitting on the legal (the always ethical and moral side, remember?) side of the system.
Perhaps you deserve worse. No, you do deserve worse. How can you eat, monster? How can you sleep, inhuman garbage? You deserve death. You deserve to be cast out of humanity. Why? Does it matter? You broke the law, or you became poor, or you did something that put you at odds with the holy patriotic vision of all that is good, moral, and just (for now).
We have moved into a dangerous age. Now, dangerous ages aren’t new, human societies go through them every so often, but this one is a bit different. Here, in this age, the danger is accompanied by the power of our technology: facial recognition, thumb print analysis, voice recognition, microphones and cameras everywhere, trackers, trackers, trackers all over everything. They can say where you are, and what you do, but they can’t say why, but then, here in the United States, we’ve grown kind of tired of asking why, and have decided there doesn’t need to be a reason, because one will come when it needs to come, and it will almost always reinforce the notion that the person in question had it coming to them.
Right now, we’re watching Nazis march in the open. There are police officers who blatantly murder, with full evidence on display, and are found not guilty. People in positions of authority who discriminate against people of color, against immigrants, against refugees, and they are given free reign to continue engaging in these practices, while still enforcing the letter of the law against the rest of us.
How much longer until it grows worse? Because while there are people fighting, they are outnumbered by the complacent, by the people who only wish to have their 3 greatest requirements fulfilled: They wish to be entertained, to have their basic needs met, and to be given wants in order to chase as their own, working as part of the machinery to keep those at the top sated, and those at the bottom starving for crumbs.
John, what do we need to do? How can we change things for the better?
We need compassion. We need to stop judging without mercy and start listening. We need to see people as worthy of love, of second, third, fourth, fifth, tenth chances.
We need to stop obeying the letter of the law, and embrace its spirit. We need to do what is right regardless of the legal complexities, and we need to understand that just because something is legal or illegal, does not make it moral or immoral.
We need to realize that it costs to do good, and that the system will sometimes punish those who do good because the system lacks the nuance necessary to understand it, or because the system is too old and out of date to address it.
We need to help our brothers and sisters up, not push them down for our amusement. To borrow a bit of religiosity on this one, we cannot ignore our sins while also crucifying people for theirs.
We need to stop constantly wanting. Our greed and lust has helped build this system, whether it be a lust for money, power, sex, blood, or distraction.
We need to ask questions. Don’t just assume, don’t just condemn, ask why. Find out the reasons behind the actions people take. Part of our problem here in the U.S. is that we want action now, and to hell with putting thought ahead of it.
There are some of you who will read this and might agree with some or even none of it. There will be those who will rush to judgment and use terms like “snowflake,” “liberal,” “socialist,” “bleeding heart,” “SJW,” or any of the other terms created to turn compassion into a crime instead of a virtue. I reject that perversion of virtue.
It has been in me, my entire life, to do good. I once told someone that should they ever find themselves in danger from those who seek to bring harm, to get behind me, and I would shield them from the danger. I do not take those words lightly. I realize that some day those very words, that very action I take every day, may come back on me and cause me great harm. It may tarnish my reputation, destroy my good name, or even kill me.
Even so, I will never stop doing good, and even should all of the world hate me, should they believe the worst of me, should all of the principalities and powers come down upon me, that it will still not deter me. I will never stop doing good. Please think on what I’ve said here today.
Don’t let them gaslight you.