Ack, it hurts so badly, I cry, and then I cry some more. Travel is fantastic, yet it also makes it possible for all of us to live apart. And we do.
Archives for August 2013
This thought-experiment shows you the social practice of truth-telling has great value both generally and personally. You benefit directly from the practice. But how does this fact of personal benefit translate into a personal moral allegiance to veracity? The fact that a system of truth-telling benefits you enormously doesn’t by itself justify your adhering to the Principle of Veracity. After all, if personal benefit is all that counts for you, then why not reap all the benefits that a system of truth-telling brings, and then reap a little bit more by lying for personal gain? Which is exactly what is done in so much of all business in America – take advantage of the concept of truth to sell to unsuspecting Americans. For example, we use a television doctor in commercials for stomache ache medicine.
Of course, you couldn’t announce your policy to the public; it would have to remain your secret. You don’t want to undermine the practice of telling the truth. Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to gain anything from your lies. And you don’t want people to distrust you. A lie is advantageous only in circumstances where people will believe it – only where a practice of truth-telling generally prevails. Such a practice prevails only when most people are doing their part to support it – that is, when most people are telling the truth. The liar, then, wants to be a free rider. She wants others to do their part to maintain a system, while she skips doing her part.
A lie is advantageous only in circumstances where people will believe it – only where a practice of truth-telling generally prevails. Such a practice prevails only when most people are doing their part to support it – that is, when most people are telling the truth. The liar, then, wants to be a free rider. She wants others to do their part to maintain a system, while she skips doing her part. She reaps the benefits of the system without investing the reciprocal sacrifice of supporting it.
Now, what gets you from the fact that a system of truth-telling benefits you personally to the further fact of subscribing to a moral principle against lying? The answer: a simple egalitarianism. You can’t see any reason why you are special, why you are different from all the rest of mankind. Yet you have to view yourself as different if you think a different rule applies to you than applies to everybody else. In wanting there to be a system of truth-telling and in wanting also to lie whenever it benefits you, you want to make an exception for yourself. However, if you are unwilling to make an exception of yourself, unwilling to believe you are more special than everybody else, then Sissela Bok supplies you all the argument you need to see why you should adhere to the Principle of Veracity: telling the truth is just your doing your part to uphold the practice you benefit from.
So, there are two steps to defending the Principle of Veracity: step 1 depends the fact that you personally benefit from a system that you want others to do their part in maintaining; and step 2 invokes a principle of reciprocity or fair play, requiring you to do your part in maintaining the system if others are doing their part. And herein really lies the problem, shall we do our part to uphold society and therefore be duped by a society that maintains no interest in the veracity of truth? That to do anything simple like open a bank account or see a physician we must first complete a dissertation of research to locate the correctly honest bank and the fairly competent physician (who would not tell us his errors in the first place), we must work hard to search out the truth.
The Principle of Veracity is a moral, and not just a prudential, principle because it tells you not to lie even when you could get away with it.
I have to tell you that while she was making the decisions she made, they were the right decisions, but afterward, my mother was angry and resentful. I know that in the universe of today, no woman would allow a priest to tell her to -not- use birth control, but in the world of 1960, it was reality. Abortion did not exist in rural Louisiana in 1960. Choices were not made by women, they were made by society and often, the choices did not benefit women.
We moved to Florida in 1966 and we never attended church again. She allowed my sisters and I to go to the Baptist church with neighbors, but she scoffed at any Christian discussion. There may be more, there may be less to the story, but Momma never forgave the Christians and that was the end of that.
I also realized that people want jobs with authority because they feel so special as a result of having these jobs. This is ironic because as every “working stiff” in America knows, you do not have to be special or superior to gain a manager’s job. In fact, very often, the exact opposite happens. I was reading the other day (on Linked In) an article about executive recruitment, which stated that 40% of new executives fail. There are the statistics, beyond our own experience with bosses, that really, a promotion does NOT say that you are special or superior in any way. Promotions are often timing and have very little to do with objective measurements of intelligence or knowledge, or any of the other 100 desirable traits that a manager should have.
If you realize that these things are true, it may open up a world to you. You can also see that no matter who you meet in this life, they are not ‘better’ than you are. Even though people will try and try to demonstrate their superiority, you can know that it is not real. You do not have to be special or better to get a promotion, often, all you need is to be in the right place at the right time.
Authority does not mean superiority. Often (not always), gaining authority is non-sensical and undeserved. Using authority to gain ‘specialness’ or ‘superiority’ is falseness that no one should allow. Authority must be given by the people that you have authority over, they may grant it, but it equates to nothing else – not specialness and not superiority.
It is also important that I add this: there is nothing wrong with being just like everyone else, it’s okay, it’s cool, you can still be loved. We don’t have to gain individuality at anyone’s expense, we can be individual without declaring superiority over some one else. Authority does not buy us anything except responsibility, so beware.