Thursday, September 28, 2006

Who Directs Our Moral Compass?

Does understanding good and evil mean we must first understand what is right and wrong? Or do they all come hand in hand? If we try to understand right and wrong, who has the authority to impose their moral beliefs and claim that certain things are right, while others are wrong? Archbishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa believes we have moral compasses that guide us away from what is wrong. He states the people of South Africa have lost their sense of right and wrong because they lost their morals compasses. How does one lose that sense and how does one get it back? Tutu is trying to shed light on the growing problems within South Africa (an increasing crime rate, the killing of innocent people, raping children, etc.). Can one man bring others to realize their “wrong” behavior? Unlike many others who sit and watch while evil overcomes, Tutu, a Nobel Prize winner, is taking an initiative to illustrate how one might become evil and must change to do what is right. Will it help?


Jay C. said...

The line between good and evil doesn't run between one person and another. It runs through your heart. Some things we find in our hearts are indeed good, and some are evil disguised as good. This means that you can talk yourself into anything, and think that it is good. I’m sure that all of you have experienced this at one time or another.
Everyone is born with a conscience, but it gets formed and affected by our experiences through life. This is how there can be cultures that are, for example, very courageous, and live in harmony with the earth, yet batter women and children. Men's consciences can be formed when they are young boys that beating women is acceptable. They don't do it in a sneaky, guilty way. They can dish out this abuse with a clear conscience, because that's how their consciences were formed.
Think about the Holocaust. The people of Germany thought of themselves as decent, extremely disciplined citizens, not monsters. They couldn't question what they were doing because, well, it was them doing it, and they knew they were fine folks. The scariest thing about this is that they weren't bogeymen. They weren't that different from us.
So if we can't trust what we automatically find inside as a good guide, how can we know what principles to live by? I think we have to seek out the values that are timeless, the elements of justice and moral behavior that have been upheld by the broadest range of humans across cultures, throughout time, and around the world. What emerges over and over again, wherever humans are found, throughout history?
I remember learning as a child that there was one message that all religions taught alike: Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you. This so-called golden rule is stated in just about every ancient writing (including the New Testament, Koran, and the writings of Confucius). This is the timeless value of all of our moral compasses and ultimately we must direct them.

stacy h said...

Because we each have moral compasses, are we each individually responsible for losing them? Or are our parents or government responsible for not educating us about our moral compass? When it comes to doing evil, it can sometimes be a complicated issue to figure out who is responsible. Who really is at fault? The individual, the group he/she belongs to, or both?