PQ 9.7 — Am I being asked to participate in, or be complicit in, something I consider dishonest or unethical?
“I don’t like being negative,” I say. I’ve just finished complaining about something another person did that really bothered me.
“It’s hard having morals,” he says.
I laugh. “You think morals are my problem? That’s a novel idea.”
“Not a problem,” he says, “but it tends to make it more clear to you when others misbehave.”
“I just don’t think of myself as a moral person, so that’s interesting,” I say.
“Oh, you’ve got morals. Just not traditional ones,” he replies. “Like you have a well developed sense of right and wrong and can articulate it well.”
I wonder at this.
Perhaps it seems that way from the outside, that my moral sense is well developed or easily articulated. But from the inside, my conscience feels like the swirling jetsam of case by case basis. Comparing the current situation to a past miscellaneous one. Anecdotal template matching.
I can’t point to underlying principles or guidelines, save for maybe social reciprocity. The belief that when one person gives, it’s reasonable to pay them back in kind. And if we don’t, it’s reasonable for them to stop giving. But even the application of this is messy. What happens if a person gives in a way that is coercive? Why if they give you something you don’t want in order to exact a repayment of their choosing later? What happens when a gift is made in bad faith?
All of these scenarios hinge on intent of course. But how are we supposed to determine intent anyway? Is that even possible? Beyond observing a person’s pattern of behavior (actions are usually much more instructive than words, when the two don’t match) and making an educated guess?
I feel like a moral person would have answers — where mostly I have questions.
The fact that I operate more through questions than answers and tend to solve issues according to their particular context has in the past led me to feel that I am ethical rather than moral.
And maybe there’s some truth there. But does such a distinction really matter, ethical versus moral? And am I really either?
Everyone’s the Hero (or Anti-Hero) of Their Own Story
The trouble is that everyone is the hero of their own story. Even if sometimes we consider ourselves more of an anti-hero (think Clint Eastwood, Blondie of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns). The camera’s following us around. The action is filmed from our point of view.
And the sharpest minds can find a way to justify, or criticize, anything.
This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions & answers, please see this indexed list.