Evolution of humans is a travesty. Over the past several thousand years, we have progressed from being nomads to building civilizations with common social, moral and cultural constructs. We have created a community where we each fit into a capacity and are able to reap benefits that would otherwise be impossible individually. We are capable of reasoning, reflective learning and possess the ability to communicate feelings, thoughts and opinions through a rich language and several complex artifacts. The kind of immense power we silently carry with us is exhilarating.
As a side effect of being validated as the most intelligent species on the planet, we feel indestructible, like the universe owes us everything we demand for, including immortality.
However, in the process of getting really far really fast, we left a chasm in our ethical ideologies.
As kids, circumstances hound us into either bullying or being bullied. I was bullied, for the most part, by girls or women. In an attempt to trim the fat, the tyrants of the lot tend to submit everyone through the process of natural selection. You either survive and make it to the other side, or you fail horribly and crawl back into the grave you dug for yourself. I had made my peace with the latter. I have come across three kinds of tormentors.
Girlfriends who silently hate you.
Mean girls whose holy grail is making you miserable.
Professors who exhaustively ridicule you.
The upside to being railroaded through ages twelve to sixteen was that I managed to hit rock bottom quite early on. I couldn’t possibly have sunk any lower. But I managed to scrap together some will to rally on.
As we try to squeeze into a self-created hole in today’s social syndicate, we find ourselves in situations where we are forced to make ethical decisions. A general observation I have made growing up was that our framework for choosing right over wrong is conflated. As a society, we may advocate or prohibit certain kinds of behaviors we deem appropriate or sinful. But, we fail to address the full range of choices we are faced with.
Being a woman is hard. I know that it sounds like a blanket statement. For the longest time, I was told that I am too man-ish to sustain female friendships. People around me were more at ease with a world where I only socialize with men. I was ostracized on account of a false notion. And it really didn’t help that I had short hair.
Setting foot into adulthood, I was faced with more excruciating trials. I was forced to interact with chauvinistic imbeciles with a straight face while they bad-mouthed my merit or my body. I was always too fat, too perceptive or way too vocal to be a woman.
Morality is a concept that transgresses the boundary between society and rationality. Most of us, tend to rationalize a move based on the outcome. We are wired to throw punches before we question if it is the right step forward. Deontology preaches that the morality of an action should depend on the action itself and not its consequence. This should ideally be as simple as applying a set of rules. It completely eliminates any subjectivity and essentially, dumbs the decision-making down for us. And yet, we fail to make ethically valid choices.
When I graduated from USC, I ended up moving to Seattle and hitting refresh on my social circle. I reconnected with a fellow classmate and decided to get coffee with him. I don’t remember having spoken to him more than once in college. However, being the polite doormat I was back then, I quietly let the mind-numbingly boring conversation consume me. Just when I thought it was over, he threw my feminist supersenses a bone with a complete tangent.
“I cannot believe so many of you actually have a high-paying job.”
I watched him point at me as he said that, but I kept complete calm. I could have gone ballistic or snapped back at him with a wisecrack. But, I didn’t. I didn’t believe I could get through his thick skull in the short duration I had with him.
I realized that he, like most of us, didn’t exhibit ethical behavior when faced with this situation because his intellectual makeup didn’t find any of the necessary conditions for it.
He couldn’t anticipate the outcome of him saying it to me.
He didn’t see a value in trying to please me.
He didn’t possess the competency to choose an alternative course of action.
So, what can we expect from mankind?
We can identify attributes unique to our personality that could motivate us. We could set a benchmark for the person we want to be and help that drive our actions. We could force ourselves to think ahead, chart out the aftermath in our heads. Right and wrong aren’t as gray as we hold them to be. There are gestures that are objectively unseemly.
A good starting point would be establishing precepts for the black and white. Societal, religious and cultural pressure leads to contrasting ethical views in us. Some we are coerced into believed. Some we eventually start believing to be true.
With radical changes, we need to be badgered and held accountable for our actions. We each need to find the right purpose to fight for. It may be gradual, but finding our voices to exact change is pivotal in the eventuality of a morally aware world.