In way over my head (part two)

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.

10 thoughts on “In way over my head (part two)

  1. I also normally prefer the dogs, whales, boats & Sally, but this is turning out to be an interesting series. When is part 3 out?


    • Dunno, JW. I am kinda making it up as I go along……I really need to do some boat work but, in the am tomorrow, I may make another stab at this weird-but-timely topic. Glad you hung in there so far. Thanks.


  2. Wholly Crap!
    I get busy with work for a few days and your Writers Block is dynamited and the words flow like a river that’s just had its dam deconstructed.

    Gun control.
    Full disclosure.
    I own firearms. Handguns , rifles, shotguns.
    Some acquired before I moved to the city, some after.
    Mostly as a hobby and sport/target shooting.
    I like to disassemble things and put them back together again.
    Guns are part of that hands on “tooling”
    I haven’t fired any of my firearms in over 2 years.
    Once again Trudeau has jumped on an American media frenzy with his own political posturing.
    Canada has some of the strictest gun laws in the world ….and…. they….. work.
    To acquire a firearm license in Canada.
    You must take a Mandatory Firearm safety course.
    If you want to hunt you must take a Hunting safety course.
    Firearms must be stored in a locked room. In a locked cabinet or locked case and the triggers must also have a lock on them,.
    Ammunition must be locked in a separate area from the firearms.
    To acquire a handgun ( restricted) license.
    You must take a Restricted Firearms course.
    You must fill out a 14 page form answering such questions as ” Have you or are you currently in a common law relationship in the past 5 years? Please provide the name , address and number of the person you lived with.
    Please provide your address for the past 10 years.
    Have you been convicted of a criminal offense?
    Have you been depressed, treated for depression, suicidal thoughts, etc. If yes please provide the name of the medical person you are seeing.
    Are you currently taking medication? If yes list all medications.
    Are you divorced.? If yes please provide name and number, etc etc etc.
    Much more intrusive than an application to get a Passport.
    You must supply the RCMP a list of 2 friends who have known you for at least 10 years who are willing to be interviewed for approx 30 minutes each.
    You will also be interviewed for approx 30 minutes.
    You must renew your license every 5 years.
    Handgun owners must belong to a gun club.
    If anything changes, it may be revoked.
    A police officer can enter your home without a warrant and seize your firearms if they believe fireams are being stored improperly or you are a threat to yourself or others.

    I hear of almost daily random stabbings in Vancouver,
    Its a rare shooting by a legal firearm and a registered gun owner.
    The majority or shootings ( 95%) are criminals /gang related and with illegal firearms.
    Which this legislation will do nothing to solve.

    Trudeau is posturing for votes and if his new law in enacted….it will cost taxpayers millions ( billions?) more in bureaucracy and gun by backs.
    Criminals will still want and get guns….illegally.

    P.S. Can someone please tell me what an “Assault Style” firearm is?
    Is it a semi automatic? Or anything that looks “military”?
    My grandfather had an old militray Lee Enfield rifle (semi auto, iron sites, wood stock dinosaur) that shot 6 rounds very effectively at deer at up to 300 yards. A very Lethal firearm.
    I have a modern Ruger that looks like an AR-15 that is a bolt action target shooter only.
    A “plinker” that fires .177 rim fire rounds ( smaller rounds than a .22 rim fire) maybe 100 yards at paper targets for fun.
    Take a guess at which firearm would be banned under the new legislation….
    “Assault Style” is a vague description that gun manufacturers will quickly redesign around.
    Banning modern designs and leaving the “old style” wood stock semi autos….makes no sense. , Far be it for me to suggest our Prime Minister is standing on another soap box promoting what he needs for his next election platform..
    Assault style sounds sexy doesnt it?


    • I agree. I am a deep-green-tinted, bleeding heart Pinko and I agree. Admittedly, no one needs an automatic (exception, perhaps, are handguns) but, if the rules are so rigorous, I am OK with it. One can kill their neighbour with a chainsaw, BBQ tongs or an axe and there are no restrictions on them. Still, it is a hill I do not need to climb, let alone die on. I also agree that Trudeau is showing his shallow, sycophancy and ‘woke’ feminism rather than common sense. Am I against being ‘woke’ or even feminism. Of course not. But, when trotted out for public posturing rather than real reform, it nauseates.
      Even the words ‘assault style’ are annoying. They will MAKE those words mean something but people have been assaulted in numerous ways for centuries. There is no style. It is barbarism, plain and simple. The tool/weapon/rock used makes no difference.


  3. “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. ”


    What ever happened to Freuds’ “Oral” and “Anal” hypothesis?
    Simpler times.
    I don’t disagree with your list. It just about covers most of society.
    I guess none of that will happen unless there is “Good” government.
    Russia is run by a corrupt dictator who changes the rules at his whim.
    The West has, Laws, The Courts, Legal ownership, that , while sometimes perverted, usually prevails.
    Moving forward.
    As our media is being replaced by 10 second sound bites and the people ( politicians, criminals, etc) who have mastered it…..
    The internet has much much much more sway.
    Time to reign them in with the same liable Laws that the rest of us must follow.
    Anonymous rumours, lies, and stories….need to be flagged and pulled down.
    But by who?
    Who gets THAT power?


    • “I guess none of that will happen unless there is “Good” government”. Au contraire, my armed and dangerous friend. It cannot happen by way of government. That would be impossible. A sociopathic institution cannot reinstill humanity – they are the ones that take it away. A politician-cum-orator may inspire leadership and involvement in community but that is about it. Give the government an inch in your community and they’ll take more, give nothing, hire friends and the community will sit back and ‘let them do it.’ And we all get another trough-feeding boondoggle. And that is the exact opposite of what might work. Don’t forget: Government does not lead. Politicians follow. Institutions follow. Little people LEAD. Little local people lead best locally.


  4. part 2 deepens the discussion, and can’t wait to read part 3, after you have worked on the boat, one still needs to get his priorities straight. I made a comment on part 1, don’t know if I should also add it here?
    I also do not believe that the needed changes will come from any current government, but I wonder if “little local people” can start the much needed evolution/revolution. We might need a strong leader again like we had in (recent) past, someone who can rally the small communities into one big global movement


  5. Hi Dave. Your last three blogs – are enjoyable and thoughtful. I provided a challenge and you exceeded expectations.

    Aristotle suggested that we acquire virtue through practice. By practicing being honest, brave and just we develop an honorable and moral character.. Virtuous habits lead to right choices when facing ethical challenges.

    I like virtue ethics for it gives us a guide without giving us specific rules for solving ethical dilemmas. You pointed that out – you can’t make a law or regulation that would produce people who are generous or friendly.

    So where did we gain empathy I wonder- as you write. Aristotle said a ‘fruitful’ communal life allows ethical development to proceed. I wonder if your off grid community provides that for people- more than city life.


    • Virtue ethics sounds like value-based ethics and, if so, I concur. Even tho ethics are further down the scale, they are manifestations of basic values. Another way to see that kind of ethics is described as Situational Ethics (vs, cast in stone, inflexible ethics). SE: Situation ethics teaches that ethical decisions should follow flexible guidelines (values) rather than absolute rules, and be taken on a case by case basis.


    • Interesting. Some research made a particular point of that. Urban, Suburban and Rural morals, rules, etc. I suppose that could be another TOME to wade through but this one is likely enough for most readers.


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