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On Morality

2012/11/07 - Author: Marco Neves - No Comments

Morals are a special type of traditions. What sets morals apart from other types of traditions is that they divide things and, specially, behaviors in right and wrong.

A cookbook is a collection of traditions, a long list of ways to prepare food, but each person can choose the dishes (s)he likes (or prefer) and only cook those. There are no right or wrong recipes, only preferences. Some may be more popular, other less, but they are all acceptable.

However, a man wearing a skirt is wrong in most western societies. Not going to church is wrong in most catholic communities. A woman using the hair short is wrong in some communities.

Even if not all morals are born equal – a woman having short hair is probably easily accepted than not going to the church in service day.

Nothing wrong with morals by themselves, but in the global and diverse society most people live today morals are often doing the opposite of what they were initially supposed to do.

Morals, like most traditions, started as a way to protect the community and the people in it, as well as a way to make sure everyone knew what to expect from everyone else.

Some rules were created in the mist of power games that never served the community (or the society) and were kept in place the same way. But most of them – I believe – were born from good and recognized practices – guidelines, if you wish – and after some time the surprise of seeing someone doing things differently resulted in a “that’s wrong” judgement – our mind likes right and wrong a lot – and with that a good practice becomes a moral rule.

Left unobserved our mind judges most things pretty quickly. Right and wrong, good and bad, love and hate, us and them… Dividing, judgmental labels are favorites of our minds.

Even today that ability of our mind to make a quick judgement about almost anything is an important skill to our individual survival.

The quick judge that today makes us cross the street because he doesn’t like the group in front of us, avoiding with that being robed is the same that kept us safe from predators and enemies across the millennia.

However, in our current society, us and them is a lot more complex division then it used to be.

Today, most of us are part of a big enough number of groups that very fast not a single person we know is part of them all.

And that is one of the reason why so often a lot of subjects are taboo, not open for discussion. Because we now know that a lot of people don’t agree with us and we don’t want to be wrong.

That is often true for religion, but religion don’t have the exclusivity on taboos. Also sex, money, politics are often taboo topics, and some others.

Our main problem is not that others do things in a different way than we do – or that they do different things or have different believes. Our problem is our always quick judging mind, jumping to conclusion – were no conclusions are deserved or necessary – and saying that our way it the right one and that any other way must be wrong – and, so, other are wrong.

For some time I believed that this was something that happened a lot more with older people, or with less educated people, that us, the newer generations, us who grow up with the computers, with the internet – we know better – I believed – but no, that is not true.

We may know that there is a social context that may have a big impact on what people believe, on how they present themselves, on what they eat or how they speak or spend their free time, but, still, we jump to conclusions, we label them ignorant, or stupid, or gay, or …

We know people that have different sexual orientations, people that choose to be single or non-monogamic or monogamic – but still we keep pointing them apart from those who made the same choices we made.

But not only that. We also assume. Even if we know that we are different from everyone else, until something tell us different we project our choices on everyone else.

But we are not running away from wild predators anymore, so it is time to train our brain to just make a simple judgement – is (s)he dangerous at this moment? If not stop judging and let us ask – let’s ask what they believe in, what they love, what tell them apart from us, but more importantly what get us together.

There is nothing wrong with our believes, there is nothing wrong with our traditions, there is nothing wrong with our choices. But it is time to stop expecting everyone else to believe the same, do the same and choose the same.

It is time we – as a society and as individuals – understand that each and everyone of us had a unique live, that resulted in an unique experience, unique believes, unique ways.

It is time we give ourselves permission to be wrong, to learn, from others, but more than that, to be different and be ourselves.

And it is also time that we stop expecting others to be the result of our lives – and that is the only way they would be like us.

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