A Comment On Ethics

Tremendous growth within the the realm of the physical sciences has completely changed the way Human Beings interact with their environment. The possibilities and potential that the direction of our growth has brought to the world have come quickly it seems, and as a result we have had a hard time integrating these new found treasures into our lives. Our aquisition of this hearty knowledge-base has come begrudgingly for sure. After centuries of blood and sweat. But somewhere along the way a threshold of sorts was reached, where we went from acknowledging the causes of "higher" powers, to focusing on our assumption of material causation.

This new method of living we have embarked upon has risen simultaneously from our hard-won scientific knowledge and the diminishing role of the religious life that was once the center of our communities. One might say that the one lead directly to the other. Most of the intillectual underpinnings that the various religious attitudes were based upon stand in direct conflict with the view that the scientific method has afforded us, and this has damaged our ability to take these sentiments seriously. Individuals may or may not hold private thoughts on the matter but at the levels of institution and community, reasons of God have become displaced.

As a society, we went from riding on horses to space flight within a scant few generations. Instantaneous communication, air travel, nuclear physics, our knowledge of organic chemistry, etc... have all given rise to a scene that is totally different then the one our parents told stories about. One that has taken hold only recently from the perspective of history, and this has had an incredibly disorienting effect on our concept of the Human place in the world.

If one were to think about it, most of history's spiritual masters have based their claims of transcendental reality on a personl, and introspective view of the world. Prividing what amounts to anecdotal evidence to back their arguments. All the while our new scientific method has come to use finely tuned instruments to extend the range of Human senses. From the perpspective of science, anything that is to be recognized must first register on the appropriate instrument in order to be counted and qualified. The rub being that "Spirit", and "Divinity" are not among those classes of being that register on a machine.

This is important to point out not as a defense of the type of life a sense of God opens to us, but because of the sheer contrast between this older view of the world and the modern approach we now take. The main consequence being just *where we place ultimate responsibility for the state of the world. For the shouldering of responsibility comes with it the authority and power commensurate with the task. And with the dampining of our view of a transcendental causation the onus has fallen into our own lap. Communally, we went from recognition of God, to recognition of our own selves as stewards of the environment and this has had a profound effect on our concept of ethical behavior.

This change we have undergone is not disimilar to the change that any individual person undergoes as he moves out of childhood, into the world of adult community. Where once everything began and ended with a nod from the parent, now begins to come from the adolescent themselves, and ends with the recognition by that individual of the consequences as they effect their Human society. Not how some other, seperate entity sees it. As someone ages, in otherwords, they become more able to make their own decisions and bear there own responsibility. So it is with the maturation of the Human species.

Collectiviely we have gone from complete deferal to "greater" forces, to the beginnings of an understanding and recognition of our *own powers. To continue with the anology, the state of Human affairs in general is alot like that of a person as we find them in their early twenties. Old enough to be out from under the thumb of his/her parents, but not quite experienced enough to make wise choices. But we must be careful with this necessary transformation that we are undergoing. This flowering of individual conciousness if you will. We must not forget where we came from.

What has lagged behind this growth in *sheer ability is our underlying moral-sense of right and wrong. This is important because it is precisely this sense of value that guides our behavior. We (as Americans anyhow) have lost our moorings and begun to worship our own selves in place of the Gods we have turned out. And as a result we have become drunk on our own power. With this older style of thinking, as superstitious as it was, there came with it the potential for a certian humility that is lacking within us today.

This humility. This lack of arrogance is found by comparing the human condition to that perfection of Divinity. The "religious persepctive" helps keep a person, and whole communities for that matter, from dangerous acts of huberis by providing a perspective that allows us to see a wider picture of the world then merely the Human place within it. And this engenders the thought, behind ones own motive, that as Humans, we natuarlly have limitations. And its ok to be limited... That is the order of things. We stand above the animals, and God stands above us.

Now that these concepts are no longer seen as guiding lights, the eye we've previously cast toward the authority of higher purpose has been closed, and another has opened to a sense of our own granduer.

Our means, our methods and our motives have up only until reacently been steeped in the Judeo-Christian set of morals. This is significant because, as alluded to above, the answers each one of us provides to the "big questions" are the basis for our behavior. Who are we? Why are we here? What are our purposes? What is appropriate for a Human Being? And because the communal mind functions as the underpinning of an individuals Psyche, without the support of the wider community to which all people are beholden there is always a sense within the person of not being able to fully find integration into the ordered whole; there is always a sense of being a rogue or "on the fringes." And this has the effect of a slow poison on the sense of self.

Although it seems that the advance of scientific thinking has lead directly to the retreat of our sense of Spiritual matters, this adjustment of the object of value, from something supernatural to something concrete and of-this-world, has not come without a certain benefit. The advances in communications technology, methods of transportation, and knowledge of the body and of medicine, etc... that have been made possible by our devotion to this method, point to necessary improvements in our condition. As do the glory of spaceflight and the marvel of the internet revolution. That a large portion of this effort has been put forth by entities that owe there existence to the capitalist system must also be recognized, but it has come with a very high cost. We have been guilty of "throwing the baby out with the bath water".

The change in perspective brought about by science has made it impossible to see beyond that which science itself has illuminated, and that means it has become impossible to see beyond what we already know. A catch-22. Ironically, through the shift in our object of worship to our own selves, Human intuitions, feeling, and judgment have become suspect. And all-but-completely the reign of numbers and "cold fact" has taken over and this has reduced decision making to one of mere calculation.

This state has been described as ironic because the way self-agrandizement has lead to a weakening of trust in that which was once held in esteem (i.e. Nature herself). The only convincing argument has become one that can be rendered with facts and figures and compassion has taken a secondary roll. The roll of intuition, and this non-quantifiable sense of compassion have been thrown by the way side in favor of mathmatically rendered arguments.

An example, if you will, of the way things have changed and how we've become totally divided from each other: By the creation of lives that are too *individual in perspective and sense-of-value. The information revolution has created a world where one neighbor can steep his own self in a completely different virtual world then the other people he shares actual *physical space with. With a completely different profile, if you will, of information that he consumes he habitually puts himself in different mental "space" and over time develops thoughts and feeleings that his neighbors would find alien to there own minds. They themselves picking and choosing a completely different set of information to base their own lives on. And this seperates people from each other. This directly causes people to distrust each other for lack of common ground on which there minds can meet.

This scenario is made possible by the loss of a communal standard of *transcendental origin. The emphasis on a code of conduct that exists outside of our ownselves is necessary to insure individual persons don't become lost in the various worlds of there own design.



A Comment On Privacy

The topic of privacy has always been an issue that has received much attention and debate. Why is it so important to individual lives and to the life of a community? As we progress even further into our modern age there has been an incredible push by certain peoples to strip more and more of our private lives away, and to shine the spotlight of public awareness and opinion into areas that were once held as personal and confidential. Just how far should we take this as we grow into the future? Should our entire lives be made a spectacle and splashed onto the web for others around the world to scrutinize? How much authority should our political administarators have to interject themselves into the business of the citizenry?

Imagine if you will, a world where a person is watched as they used the bathroom, or while they were having sex, or visiting there doctor, or having a candid conversation with a loved one. Should a person be allowed to have a diary or write in a private journal? Consider also whether a company should be allowed to keep a secret, or if a government should be allowed to keep things from its constituents? These are all fundimental questions, and turning them over, one can't help but wonder whether there needs to be retained a place somewhere for people and orginizations to occupy that this spotlight isn't allowed to shine. Essentially, where does individual privacy end and public scrutiny begin? These have always been difficult questions to answer, and with the rise of our technologically amplified world, have become necessary to answer again in our modern age.

One of the longest standing issues within the debate surrounding privacy exists between the rights of an individual to keep there own affairs private, and the right for the public (i.e. government) to gather information about these people. This, traditionally, has been debated in the context of law enforcement as well as political dissent. The American constitution, for example, set up specific provisions for how authorities could collect information and materials from a private citizen, and the specific circumstances where these things could then be used against that person while prosecuting an offense. Of course these regulations were written well before the advent of microphones, cameras, and the internet, but still hold signifigance even today. What did the framers of our society have in mind by limiting this type of power? It is important to articulate because the answer to this question is the same as it is to the question first asked at the beginning of this article. Court oversight is needed to prevent the abuse of power. People in general are too unwilling to entertain this idea. The idea that too much power concentrated in the hands of too few people tends to have a corrupting influence on those people. It is quite true, and almost literal, to say that people who have authority over others can and do become intoxicated by that power. Because of this it is necessary to have the right to a certain amount of privacy and to be able to assert this right in the face of an unlawful order to divulge yourself.

Now, it must be recognized, when a person chooses to go out into public and interact with other members of the community a certain standard of behavior must be adhered to. This standard is necessary in order to maintain the health and harmony of that community. This is to be expected, and it is an issue of an all together different variety then the expectation of privacy specifically. The scrutiny necessary to maintain this standard of behavior, and thus public security, should stop somehwhere though, to make sure that no one in authority over steps there mandate and responsibility.

Consider the phrase: "those who havn't done anything wrong have nothing to hide." What a thorny concept to those who value there privacy. This simple sentence has been used as leverage to obtrude on the lives of people ever since it was first conceived. On the surface it seems reasonable, but the way it is used to manipulate a person and strip them of the freedom to be secure in there own affairs should stop and give one pause. Police use it on the side of the road to force consent to search a car. Employers use it as a way to justify invasive background checks. Jealous lovers use it as an excuse to search the cell phone of there mate, and each an every instance results in the development of mistrust and malcontent. The reason for this is because it makes a person look guilty merely if they try to assert themselves, and sets up an air of mutual suspicion right off the bat. The onus should be on the suspicious party to provide evidence that a search is necessary and only then should it be conducted. Not the other way around. Using a phrase like this to manipulate others is very similar to the way a person can justify themselves by saying: "when we look back on this at a future date, history will show that I was correct in the way I acted." Both statements can be used to gain legitimacy for anything they are applied to, anything at all, and contribute to the potential for abuse. There is no limit what so ever to the circumstances which either could be applied.

Beside the ever present threat that people in positions of trust will overreach there authority, there is another major reason that a certain amount of privacy should be maintained as we move forward into our electronic age. This reason revolves around the Human need for belonging, and the attendent fear of being rejected by those with whom you want to associate with. This need for community is why we spend significant mental energy creating and maintaining what psychologists call a social mask, or persona. We do this because we want other people to like us, plain and simple, and it hurts us when they don't. We as people have tendency to ridicule and demonize others who aren't like our own selves and each one of us is almost required to expend energy in defense of this. Just like we are required to defend ourselves from any physical attack. Say, from a vicous dog or an aligator. This basic tenet of the Human constitution also gives rise to the various mental defenses we utilize throughout our day with the attendent expense of ego-energy to sustain them. Because of this, a person needs a place where they can take there "mask" off and let down there guard if you will, without fear of reprisal. This is important because, periodically, a person needs to cease this expenditure in order to rest and rejuvinate. Just like with any physical activity, where after a certain amount of time spent doing it, fatigue sets in. Having to maintain these mental structures too will also lead to fatigue, and if pushed for to long will lead, inevitabley, to failure in the effort and anti-social behavior.

The debate about privacy is a perennial topic. Advocates of breaking down any semblance of private life rely mainly on the argument that secrecy has the potential to allow people to act in malignant fashion. Ironically though, a lack of privacy can have the same effect. Without a place to step back from the world, a feeling of being chronically on one's guard can lead to being overwhelmed and produce simillarly horrible behavior. The solution to this is to set up and maintain enclaves of privacy where one can cease the endless efforts to defend and appease. The obivious place for this respite is within one's own home or household, and this is precisely where it has traditionally been centered. But another not so obvious place where unwarranted intrusions could become possible is within one's own mind. As of writing this, machines capable of reading a person's thoughts havn't been invented yet, but one must ask: will there be a time when they actually have? What would a world like this look like and what type of ramifications would it have on a person's private life? Previously, decades ago, this type of speculation would have been dismissed off hand but now it seems like an actual possiblity. Could mere thought be used against someone in court, or for that matter by an employer or mate? Tough questions indeed.

Even without intending too, different cultures with different standards of acceptable behavior invariably generate negative judgements of people from other places. Even when those people are well within the limits set by there own societies, the global reach of our awareness has the effect of setting up a clash between people who don't understand the alien behaviors of other societies. Couple this with the ability of those peoples, in there ignorance of the ultimately arbitrary nature of cultural values, to use the electronic tools we now have to speak there minds freely and for all to see. Unjustified persecution can result simply because we know too much about the activities of other people. Not necessarily because those behaviours are inherently dangerous or violent, but simply because they are different. A private life is necessary to protect the social creature from these harsh criticisms. As well as to protect the individual from the overzelous activites of an authority intoxicted by its power.