If basic values are all much the same universally and different challenges bring about different morals and laws needed to address those challenges, then where are we today? Have we messed up big-time or are we just in transition? Are we more evil these days or more good?
Let’s first check on what those basic universal values are. I alluded to survival in the last blog as a basic ‘value’ or instinct. But there are more. In fact, S.H. Schwartz’s study concluded there are ten. His list is: power, achievement, hedonism, stimulation, self-direction, universalism, benevolence, tradition, conformity, and security. If you read a bit more on the subject, more ‘definitions’ and words are added depending on the author. But the point is that however they are listed, they are all much the same…..doing the right (and human) thing is a universal value. And that suggests inherent.
Mind you, if you talk in terms of universality, evil seems to manifest that way, as well. Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. They are everywhere. Are they inherent, too? I do not think so. They are learned from experiences gone wrong.
I think that is why the US Declaration of Independence is so magnificent. It addressed the human condition, albeit from just a noble point of view. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
My own list is NOT the same as Schwartz or even the Declaration but that difference is really semantics. My noble-values-only list would likely read: 1. a sense of justice (includes: truth, honesty, peace, conformity, respect and empathy). 2. personal freedom/survival (includes: power, self-direction, life, liberty, achievement, pursuit of happiness) 3. belonging to community (includes: respect, hard work, courage, duty, security, cooperation, conformity, responsibility, loyalty, sharing and empathy) 4. love (includes: universalism, acceptance, respect, compassion, benevolence, kindness, gratitude and more empathy).
Note that ’empathy’ keeps showing up. Empathy – the ability/tendency/feeling/understanding and accepting of other’s experiences. (Oxford: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.) Empathy is likely the next key to building morals – along with building community.
“Unh, Dave, aren’t you off on a bit of a tangent?”
Yes. Sorry. I’ll get to the point…….. The greatest ‘disruptor’ in our moral fabric – the ‘fabric’ being based on the above VALUES – in recent years has been the advent of social media. To be fair, all modern media has rattled the status quo in our everyday morality but social media is the latest and one of the most influential change agents. So, what has it done to us, morally speaking?
(Quick aside: the biggest and still most relevant influence on common morality is/was the church(s) and then it shifted to secular Economics/Capitalism. But the latest big one presenting now is Social Media.)
Social Media has allowed and accelerated the proliferation of lies and truths. It has provided community and succor to disparate/different/deviant elements (i.e. extremism) but it has also built community in the larger one (i.e support for the persecuted, social issues and even Ukraine). It has connected people and divided them. It has taught and it has deceived. Social media is a highway on which good and evil are both traveling (just as before) but they are both going much faster.
Frankly, I am mostly optimistic about it. ‘Truth will out‘, Free speech’, ‘Shine a light‘ and all that sort of thing. But there is no question that the bad guys have a new stage, a microphone and a spotlight now, too. Evil seems to be always front and centre these days. That is a propaganda boost for the bad guys and, as Trump has proven, ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity.’
Regarding the influence on our collective morals from social media? Conclusion: I’d call it a tie for now with, perhaps, the edge going to GOODNESS. Why? Because we/I believe that empathy and community are foundational to goodness. And nothing has done more to promote that than social media.
“So, Dave? That’s it? Your conclusion for a better, moral world is community building and greater empathy?”
When you put it like that, it doesn’t sound like much, does it? But let us summarize that a bit differently. Religion and Economics are still major influences on morality and are in desperate need of updating – they are hoary and rigid and the times they are a changing (as they always do). Social media is a new influence on an old medium and we should skip the hoary and updating step sooner simply because everything is moving faster, especially in that area.
I mean: we should push for more social responsibility in our social media. See values above.
But really, all that structure (religion, media, economics) is a function of community and empathy, (albeit the larger one). Build community and empathy (love one another) and the hoary old institutions will be dragged kicking and screaming along with the improvement.
Suggestion: start small. Big doofuses currently run the larger-now-dysfunctional communities.
“Where does all this nonsense come from?“
Well, as stated, I think it is inherent in all of us. I am no exception. But, to stick my neck out like this, I’d suggest that it comes from having been a mediator for twenty years. Mediating is a discipline that not only requires but demands empathy. ABOVE normal empathy! Empathy is the language of love and acceptance. And, as a beautiful by-product of becoming more empathetic, one’s community just naturally builds. And a good community is how we survive and thrive.
“OK. But exactly how do I start small?“
That’s the easy part. Or, better put: part three.