Social ethics

Sometimes, the morality of certain people or societies perplexes or troubles me. This is because I honestly believe that social ethics are codes of behaviour which have been created by people to make life simpler for themselves. If we actually think about social ‘rules’, they don’t all make sense and they largely promote ideas of ownership (people in power protecting their possessions). Some of these codes translate into individualistic notions like, ‘keep out of my space’, ‘this is mine and you can’t touch it’ etc. We get married and think of our other half as another possession, which is why it’s so important for us to make sure s/he does not care for anyone but us. We see how damaging this ego-centric system is only when it’s too late: when people get old and they have no one to care for them because they kept everyone at a distance, or when a person dies and no one realises they’ve gone.

I have just had a debate with a friend about social ethics versus ‘natural morality’. I think that natural morality is doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, because basically, whatever you give out will return to you in some way. But my friend believes that the little codes of behaviour are really important, like the code of privacy which means you should never pry into another’s affairs (harmless curiosity can become harmful sometimes, I guess), or the code of etiquette which means you should always ask the person ‘in charge’ before you do something, even if you know what their answer would be. These are certainly cultural codes, but they have become so ingrained that in our society we are outraged if someone reads our personal e-mails; we have so many secrets and we think they could be used against us. All of this despite the fact that many of our e-mails are checked by certain organisations, without us knowing. They do it because they don’t trust us, and we despise such voyeurism because we don’t trust them. So, really, some social ethics are necessary because we live in a society without trust. That’s why morality is so complicated. How do you know if something you did is REALLY wrong, or if it’s just a little bit wrong? I think it comes down to the ‘Harm Factor’: could the action harm someone? If the answer is no, then it is likely to be, at the most, a bit wrong. If you INTENTIONALLY harm someone then it’s very wrong.

Sometimes, you are not the best person to judge the harm factor…

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The confusion of sexual relationships…

Our species has a real problem with sexual relationships. Other animals seem not to have this issue. They just do it with whomever they want and they deal with the consequences however they like; they go with instinct and their instincts more or less follow the pattern of nature.

But we, on the other hand, have this thing called a ‘developed’ mind, which creates all kinds of issues. For instance, attraction is instinctive, but there are so many considerations that we can’t follow through with just instinct. If you are committed, you STILL get attracted to other people but you pretend not to. You try not to act on it. This is because our society needs stable units (couples, family) for order. That’s why we’ve created a sense of possessiveness over our partners and religions with crazy commandments. So, that’s probably why 50% of couples have affairs and the divorce rate is rising (you have to hide your instincts, but you can’t hide your affair forever). Those people who are NOT having affairs are probably past being repressed and have reached a state of true contentment; these people are few and far between.

It’s really a lot to do with sex. We love sex because we love feeling desired and forgetting our limited realities. There’s nothing wrong with that unless it becomes an addiction. It’s ok if we do it, but we can’t tolerate our partners being attracted to someone else. This is pure ego; our little self feels threatened. Also, we need to keep a false sense of order in society by thinking that ‘free sex’ will result in STDs spreading like wildfire; this is an important consideration, but will making things TABOO actually stop them happening? More likely, those instincts will STILL manifest but in a worse way, because they happen out of desperation and guilt. In a society of open education and informed freedom with regard to sexual relations, there are likely to be fewer negative consequences.

So, I think we should all just chill out about sexual relationships, be honest, open and informed. Two consenting adults who engage in a relationship that is non-possessive are more likely to be independent and fulfilled rather than desperate and needy.