Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why Should I Listen to You?

So you think things like private property and free markets are heartless barbarity.
Why should I listen to you? You’re nothing but an overdeveloped monkey. And if I try to tell you you’re anything but an overdeveloped monkey, you’ll pull out this chart

and tell me I’m an ignorant Neanderthal.
According to your system, for almost five billion years there was no moral system anywhere in the universe besides might makes right. If you’re going to say that the God of the Bible is too violent for your liking, I suggest you follow a bunch of wolves, lions, robins, or amoeba around and tell me you didn’t see the kind of predatory behavior you condemn the biblical Israelites for.
B-b-b-b-but,” you say, “we’re supposed to be beyond that. We’re humans, not animals. We have moral standards.”
Ummm, my friend, look again at the chart. In your system we are animals. What you call moral standards are simply a survival strategy. Instead of stripes or venom, we have a uniquely human means of manipulating the chemistry of other humans’ brains. At some time in the past, someone to the right of center of that chart – probably someone who could not survive in a might-makes-right world – got the idea that he could get other humans to suspend the might-makes-right system long enough for him to exploit them by extending the common terms good and evil to include not only that good things were desirable, and not only that sometimes it was good to give up a small good now for a larger good later, but that even things that were good could be bad if he didn’t get a share of it.
Think that’s crazy? How else do you explain the difference in ethical systems today? Two hundred years ago, Indians – both dots and feathers – condemned new widows to death. New Guineans kill people they think send their spirits to kill those who die of anything but armed conflict. The Israelites stoned blasphemers, and Muslims still do. Within my father’s lifetime, rational people looked objectively at the evidence available to them and concluded that the root of their problems – and they had problems far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced – was Jews, and the best way to make the world a better place was to kill all Jews. Most Europeans today consider all such practices barbaric. If morality were anything but a survival strategy – if there were anything to prove its existence – there would be one standard of morality that we can all agree on, methinks.
In short, you can talk about morality all you want, but it’s still all might makes right. And your cure for the ills of private property – participatory democracy – proves it.
Every democracy on the face of the earth came about by armed conflict at some stage. And every election is simply a way of deciding who looks down the barrel of the gun and who looks up. Don’t believe me? Try not paying your school taxes and see where that gets you. And, of course, those who are better at might makes right have less subtle ways of making life miserable for the rest of us.
Only if we have something outside our universe saying, “This is good and this is bad” do the words good and bad have any real meaning. I’m not fond of everything in the Bible, and some of it looks a lot like might makes right in the name of a God who supposedly doesn’t work that way, but I’d rather start with “Love God and love your neighbor by doing for him what you would have him do for you” and try to make sense of the things that don’t fit in neatly than to start with a system that is might makes right from the get-go and try to use it as the basis of an ethical system that contradicts both logic and history.

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