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.


Anne said...

"Why Does Wrongdoing Persist?" Maybe because there aren't enough models of Rightdoing?


Your decalogue, based on the principle of survival, is it one that is assumed for the common lot (not necessarily common good) of mankind or of the individual?
Did you catch the nine-day wonder, a few weeks ago, of the televised airing of a husband and wife who proclaimed to everyone on the news that they had done everything right all their lives and had paid their mortgage properly and didn't want to have to rescue all of those who didn't? All I could think of was *what* hadn't they done right...there had to be a flipside. Or that they were isolated from the rest of humanity. (I wouldn't have minded being able to punch their noses...not that I've ever punched a nose..)


To get back to my original thought, and hopefully to end my random rambling, those models of rightdoing seem to be few and far between. I can't seem to find anyone who thinks, lives and breathes like I do as far as my idea of ethics are concerned. I'm beginning to think I'm from outer space. Surely what I have sort-of contrived to be right in my life will be deemed wrong by others or that I'm just plain screwy.


Hendaque said...

Now we're talking. That old Cecilieaux cynicism is back. I was beginning to worry--- you weren't your old self for a while.

Nasty and brutish? For a few of us lucky, privileged few, we are the exception.