Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Learn the five moral foundations

There is a very enlightened theory circulating that morality has several central themes that cross all cultures and explain the differences worldwide in how liberal and conservative thinking individuals interpret morals in society. But what is extremely interesting is that understanding conservative interpretations of morality will help you identify the reason why a person believes the way they do which is a very powerful thing to know.

Does that then make their belief acceptable? Not at all, but it will make more sense in the context of the moral foundation why someone takes a particular stance.

Five Moral Foundations

Moral Foundations Theory was created to understand why morality varies so much across cultures yet still shows so many similarities and recurrent themes. In brief, the theory proposes that five innate and universally available psychological systems are the foundations of “intuitive ethics.” Each culture then constructs virtues, narratives, and institutions on top of these foundations, thereby creating the unique moralities we see around the world, and conflicting within nations, too. The foundations are:

1)Harm/care, related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. This foundation underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.

2) Fairness/reciprocity, related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. This foundation generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy.

3) Ingroup/loyalty, related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. This foundation underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it's "one for all, and all for one."

4) Authority/respect, shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. This foundation underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.

5) Purity/sanctity, shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. This foundation underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).

Liberal and conservatives usually support number 1 and 2 alike, and that is where liberals tend to focus their attentions in modern society. Conservatives go on to incorporate numbers 3-5 in their regular belief systems and. it could be argued, that they do so to the detriment of logic, science and basic reason.

Liberal thinkers can utilize 3-5 also, but chances are they consider proof to the contrary before blindly following along...which is what trips up conservative thinkers. Perhaps having a religious mindset means that you can't go against the ingrained priniciples of "group think" that is necessary to these tenets.

And then there's sex! Number 5 seems to be a huge issue for many religions and uptight pious people. In fact, some of them seem to abandon 1 and 2 altogether as long as they are controlling the sexual behaviors of society. But that's another blog for another day.

But think about it and see if this theory helps you to better understand why a conservative thinker you know has a certain opinion. It just might make you better able to argue to their concern and point out contradictions in terms they can grasp. At least it's worth a shot.

Happy Human Light, Winter Solstice and Holidays!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Health you feel lucky?

Okay, here's something that I think we need to talk about in our country:

We're all going to die someday.

What? Should I say it again? Did you think you heard me wrong?

We're all going to die someday.

I wish I had better news, but it's a fact of life. Some Americans pretend it only happens to other people AND the unluckier ones at that. But if luck does have anything to do with it, you and everyone you know and love will die in their sleep peacefully at a very old age after a very rewarding and interesting life. Not of a terrble illness or in terrible pain.

But I have news for most of the people who seem to rally against basic health care in this country. That scenario doesn't usually happen. Along the way some of us will have accidents, illnesses and especially not after we've retired. Because that's how life is.

Car crashes, freak illnesses, falling off ladders, you name it....that's part of the human condition. Statistically speaking, it's a crap shoot that any of us avoid these things (knock on wood, right?) And yet the people who rail against a "public option" seem to to think that basic health care by itself is something that we can't improve upon or even treat as an element of a decent life. No one should go bankrupt because they couldn't avoid the accident or illness. It could be anyone of us, including these tea party idiots and their families.

But there's one thing no one wants to talk about and it's that IF we muddle through and come up with something better for our nation's health care system, someone, namely millionaire physicians and insurance executives, will have to make a little less money.

Will they have to sell their homes and country club memberships? No. (Okay, maybe the third home in the Caribbean.)

Will their kids have to do without private educations or go hungry? Probably not.

But they will have to settle for a little less. And that less still looks pretty damn wonderful compared to the average American's income and expectations. But it will take some sacrifice and alter the obscene excesses some Americans have been fortunate enough to think that what is the norm for them is the same for the rest of us. Uncovering that falsehood scares the hell out of them. (And their real estate agents and decorators, too, of course.)

So when your neighbor or cubicle mate says we just can't help the average people simply because they were unlucky enough to be in a car accident or to get sick, remind them that what is good enough for the unlucky among us is good enough for them.