Thursday, June 07, 2007

Moral Indecision

Having been born and (mostly) raised in South Africa during the 1980's and early 1990's prior to 1994 I have had the opportunity to see and experience the dramatic changes both positive and negative but mostly positive that have occurred in South Africa.

Now, having got that out of the way one of the things that really used to irritate me when I was travelling overseas pre 1994 was how fellow travellers used to do two things. Firstly, they assumed that since I came from South Africa I was automatically racist, no questions asked and secondly, they assumed that they weren't, again, no questions asked. I always got the impression that somehow, they thought they were on this higher moral plane than I was and I couldn't understand why because at the end of the day, people are just people.

After a while it dawned on me that the reason that they could project this higher morality was mostly that they came from an environment where their attachment to their morals was never put to any kind of a test and their morals certainly didn't come at a price. It really struck home one day when I was discussing a moral question regarding red people oppressing blue people in narnia and it was really, really easy to take a principled moral stand and I suddenly realised that the main reason was not that I am some kind of moral hero, it was that I was totally free of consequences of any kind. I really could just say what I thought was fair and right.

Moving closer to home where the red people are oppressing the blue, if you're a blue and take a principled stand that takes moral courage because when the consequences of your stand may entail loss of income, loss of family and friends, prison and worse, one tends to think about the stand a whole lot more carefully.

Again, closer to home where the red people are oppressing the blue, if you're a red and take a principled stand that takes even more moral courage because the consequences of your stand may entail an even more drastic loss than if you were a blue.

So what is my point from my soapbox? My point is that as an outsider, taking the moral high ground and bludgeoning a red is really easy and doesn't take much moral courage at all. Being a blue or a red however, and taking the moral high ground takes real courage and people who do this are to be admired. This is not to say that one must just keep quiet just because one is an outsider, on the contrary, one must speak up but all the while remembering that if one was a blue or a red one might not think the same way.

I have kept referring to red and blue but I am really referring to any group that is prejudiced towards another group. This would include gender, colour, religion and any other group that we care to create.

Phew, I think that is enough moralising for a year or two.

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