Monday, February 22, 2016

Maybe the world isn't hellishy terrible after all?

Ethics cannot be quantified. It is perfectly reasonable to have two competing, yet perfectly valid assessments of the world today. You can see goodness in people saving a wounded dog, or rescuing children from a burning building, just as you can spit on humanity when hearing about slavery in Sudan or the starvation of farmers somewhere in North Korea (or somewhere in America, probably).

But when if you COULD measure morality. And what's more, what if you did and you found that the earth - and humans - were getting better every year. There was a famous philosopher (I've been googling for 10 minutes and can't recall which one) who said that man inexorably moves towards morality. And that eventually, all people will be rational.

It seems impossible to believe this with even a cursory glance at the world. Increasing inequality gap in the U.S. ISIS' latest horrific thing. Unaffordable tuition. Billionaires controlling our elections. Plastic in the oceans. Anti-Muslim sentiment exacerbating already terrible refugee crisis.

All bad things. But one thing that isn't bad is that, generally, people agree that they are bad.

To measure something, you need to have a baseline. So let's look back at baseline morality through most of history:
  • Slavery = common
  • Women = few rights, not represented in government, seen as property (see above for that too)
  • Children = Seen and not heard, beatings common. Work in the coal mine, kiddo.
  • Colonialism = common. Kill, kidnap or educate the "savages"
  • Legal protection = Just for white men and / or rich people. I don't mean that rich people had BETTER legal protections (which they still do), but that they had pretty much ALL of them.
  • Gays = Not tolerated.
  • Knowledge = Owned by the few
Nowadays, more and more of these offenses are becoming intolerable. There will always be spikes of fundamentalism, fascism, and other nasties, but there is immediate pressure to stop these trends. They are globally vilified. The standard of morality, overall, may be improving.

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