What we have here is bits and pieces of the foundation of Diamond Ethics. As with anything else, it really can't be properly summarized by a bit of text on a web page, but must be explored, thought about, and lived from day to day.
First Axiom: "You kill it, you eat it."
Second Axiom: "If it's not bothering you, don't bother it."
Third Axiom: "Sometimes, 'paranoia' is a survival trait."
Fourth Axiom: "Always try for a solid 'Reality Check' before you dive in. Sometimes clear pools are filled with quicklime..."
Fifth Axiom: "If you lie to yourself, you're a fool to believe it."
What sticks with you longer? Pithy sayings, or long treatises? The axioms that we use are meant to start the process of ethical thought.
It turns out that there is no one, single, unifying catchphrase that lies behind all ethical activity, although the carpenter from Nazareth comes close with "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Even that is an oversimplification: what if you enjoy really cold environments, and the person that you turned the heat down for gets chilled very easily?
The need for ethics is two-fold: self preservation and consideration for others (social responsibility). These sometimes are in conflict. Eating vegatables harms the plants who's seeds they are. Eating meat kills an animal. Swatting a mosquito totally destroys the mosquito's whole day, too.
When it comes right down to it, most of the time self preservation wins. Martyrdom is not a Diamond ideal. We leave that to that poor carpenter and his adherents. However, the individual can look past the now, and think in terms of the preservation of the species, a friend, or an ideal, which he or she can then choose to put above self preservation in that situation.
The Diamond trad tries to encourage a balance: the needs of the many and the needs of the one.
For example: if I am starving, and no aid is available, and I had no way to earn or buy it, I will steal food, from those who would miss it least. I will also look for other alternatives first, before violating the rights/property of another. If I got caught, I wouldn't deny it. I'd tell people why, and live with the consequences.
Some might call this "moral relativism", and wring their hands, moaning about the godless humanists, etc. Sorry folks, but that's too bad. This is "moral realism", and the underlying theme is personal responsibility. Situational ethics is the ability to decide consistently what is most ethical in the situation, and DO IT!
Yeah, yeah, I know. This, that and the other holy text, guru or shrink offer to help you avoid personal responsibility. Horse pucky.
Personal responsibility. You've got it. You were born with it. You are responsible for your actions. Not for anyone elses, and no one else is truly responsible for yours.
Oh, sure, others can make the price of doing something that you want to do pretty high, or limit your exposure to any alternatives (c.f. the Afghan Taliban). They can play some very intense conditioning games on you, and make you pay for every independant thought or action. You can be conditioned like Pavlov's dog to the point that your free agency is nearly extinguished.
Yet in the final analysis, it's you. Damaged, trapped, conditioned perhaps, but unless you lose your essential humanity, it's still you.
Others are responsible for what they do, to you, in reponse, or in prevention. They are responsible for the coercion, the lies and the games they play. But how we act in response (not feel, act) is very much up to you.
That's the bottom line. Deal with it.
So, you are responsible for what you do, or don't do, and others are responsible for what they do, or don't do. And if someone choses to put a limit on you without rhyme or reason, then you have to chose how you will respond: will you live with the limit (i.e. arbitrary laws) or will you defy it, knowing that there will be consequences.
You are responsible if you speed, and the cop is responsible for giving you a ticket. Yes, he chose you instead of the guy ahead of you, and yes, he can choose to be a royal jerk about it. You still get the choices of a) paying the ticket, b) fighting it in court, or even c) tearing it up and throwing it away. Each of these choices has potential consequences too.
Responsibility doesn't say anything about good or bad, either, it's all about consequences - cause and effect. If I get brainwashed into doing murder, I'm still going to prison, although I might get mental help and a shorter sentence.
If you believe that the Earth is in danger of destruction, then you should apply your best effort to saving it. But don't be a hypocrit: wailing about the ecological calamities caused by civilization while you drive to a store to get one item that you could have walked to just as easily. Or crowing about how mass transit is the be-all and end all solution to urban pollution while driving your car solo to work, passing busses along the way.
If you are going to profess a belief, then live it. If you talk the talk, walk the walk. Be consistant. If you are vegetarian because you don't like killing cows, don't wear leather shoes, either. It comes down to that personal responsibility thing again: you are responsible for your activities, AND your words!
Nobody, directly. Not gods, not demons, not anybody. But there is a little thing called balance, and action/reaction, and consequences that can add up and ripple through your life in very subtle yet butt-kicking ways. Some folks call it Karma, others harp on the "three fold law" (what law says to fold three times?). They don't always get the reality of it.
Taking and accepting responsibility for your actions gives you more control over your fate. It sounds like a no-brainer to say it that way, but if you think of the implications, and the concept that the universe itself strives for balance over time, the ramifications are startling. Think of an avalanche: often it starts with one stone.
If you are in the habit of thinking and acting ethically, and are responsible for your actions, you have the luxury of thinking about potential consequences BEFORE they occur. You can even make a habit of analysing the mistakes of others and learning from them. Again, it's observing cause and effect, on a macro scale.
Horse pucky. If you want to blame everything you do on an outside entity, go ahead - but make sure it's everything! Don't be a hypocrite, blaming the bad on some mythical oogie boogie, and taking the credit for the good for yourself. Fact is, you could "turn your life over" to <whoever> and claim to no longer be resposible for your actions because <whoever> is in control, but you'd be lying to yourself, as well as to the world, unless your <whoever> was always whispering in your ear on what to do (and that'll earn you a well deserved ticket to the booby hatch!)
I know this flies in the face of "popular" religious dogma, and makes its practitioners look like fools, but by Diamond standards that type of doublethink is self deception - lying to yourself - and you've seen what we have to say on that.
Not really. Practically, you are a free person, free to screw up your own life. But that's all that you have the right to screw up.
When you mess with others as well, things get much messier. Then you are messing with someone else's free will, and free choice. When you do that, I assure you that shit will fly. If you want to rob or con people in the name of some god, rape people while telling them it's holy or sacred, or other garbage like that, don't dare try to associate yourself with this tradition. Your actions will have consequences, and you won't like them. You will have to face the law, you will have to face the judgement of the community, and you will have to face balance/wyrd/karma or whatever you want to call it.
Again, this is not, per se, about what you think, it's about what you do or set in motion. This means words, too. The expression "The pen is mightier than the sword." has far more truth in this context than "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me." Words have power, specifically the power to evoke emotion and spur others to action. While those others bear the responsibility for their actions, you also bear responsibility for creating the climate that incites it - for saying the words without which it never would have come up. So yes, opening your mouth and letting hate and bile flow out is something you bear responsibility for too.
I will note here that I say "idle thought". An advanced practitioner's focused will and thoughts can become actions. The key is "focused". Quiet musing of a fictional nature will not suddenly become real, because I know, in my own mind, that it is never intended to be made real. (Even so, I seldom write fiction set in the normal here and now. It may be excessive precaution, but I don't want to have problems with it.)
Copyright 1998 - 2010 by Ravan Asteris. Please don't plagiarize - attribute and link if you want to quote!