Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why Does Wrongdoing Persist?

Bernard Madoff is probably the most egregious example, but let's not kid ourselves, wrongdoing large and small is pervasive. This fact rubs against the grain of my notion that the basis of all ethics is survival: are we all that self-destructive?

Now, granted, I never said that human beings were ethical. I merely suggested that if, out of curiosity, we wished to consider what we ought to do, human survival was as universal a principle available for discerning right from wrong.

On that basis I developed a decalogue, as if it made any difference, only to find myself waking up in this new era of deception and plunder to the reality that no one -- or very few -- takes ethics seriously. Unless they run the risk of getting caught and punished.

Frankly, I can't say that, when rubber hits the road, I'm any better. Boiling down l'éthique cecilieuse to its boy-scout-manual essentials, am I confident, sincere, joyful, respectful, nurturing, trustworthy, truthful, giving, loving, content? Not by a long shot.

Bless me, father, for I have been wracked with self-doubt, layered in pretenses, miserable, callous, lustful after what belongs to others, deceitful, grasping, selfishly licentious and chained to my artificial needs. This is why I will not survive.

Indeed, this is what dooms all humanity to a life that is, as Hobbes put it, nasty, brutish and short.
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