Never practice hatred or retribution/vengeance (see https://myriachromat.wordpress.com/2017/02/05/is-hatred-ever-truly-justified/), but protect people from those who might harm them. Maybe it’s good to do this by incarcerating criminals, I’m unsure about that, but I know there should be *some* consequence of hurting people, the least being to make the perpetrator aware of what they’ve done.
The problem with incarceration is that it socially separates wrongdoers from everyone else, so the fundamental ills of society (which produced the wrongdoers in the first place) can’t work themselves out via karmic interaction. The other problem, of course, is that it’s cruel. The benefit of incarceration is that it allows us to be safe by protecting people from the would-be actions of criminals. It also allows for civilization, as without law enforcement you can’t have laws, and without laws you can’t have civilization, at least not given the current moral condition of humanity. Perhaps law enforcement could be enacted by means of punishment other than incarceration in practice, perhaps not. Either way, those means would also be cruel.
Whether we should have civilization or not is an open question in itself. See things like essays on the academically popular opinion that the advent of agriculture was our biggest mistake, the Unabomber manifesto, etc.
Expressing anger is okay and even good, as it “discharges disharmony,” but do so without spite or the intention to harm (physically or emotionally). See https://meaningfulponderings.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/anger-is-a-healer-from-the-new-revelations-by-neale-donald-walsch/. I always say an excellent demonstration of anger without spite attached is in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring where Gandalf says to Bilbo Baggins, “I am not trying to rob you!”, which can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKaw5SjeHx0.
No victimless action should be considered immoral. This rules out a lot of religious dogma, puritanism and general sexophobia, homophobia, other instances of confusing personal disgust for immorality (such regarding consensual sex between siblings using a contraceptive, sex with willing animals, or sex with dead bodies), etc.
This doesn’t necessarily mean there should be no laws against victimless crimes, though. For example, driving is one of the leading causes of death in the US, and is the leading cause of death for people under a certain age. Driving, at least the way it’s currently done, is an objectively insane thing to do, but we’re all brainwashed by culture into doing it routinely, causing much remorse to the loved ones of tens of thousands of deadly auto accidents a year in the US alone, many times the amount of people who died on 9/11, so, if people aren’t smart enough to put their seatbelts on on their own, maybe it’s okay to legally mandate it for their own good?
Another important example is illicit drug use. I think some illicit drugs are relatively harmless and mind-expanding, i.e., psychedelics, and that preventing their use hinders individuals and society at large from growing, healing, learning and breaking our shackles, but other drugs can be more problematic and even life-destroying and in some cases can even erode society/the economy, such as what happened with the Chinese opiate crisis. So, is it ethical to create laws banning their use? I think it’s arguable. One counterpoint is that it was the illegalization of certain drugs in the first place that caused them to become so concentrated and hence so dangerous, but that may be a moot point now because there’s no going back either way.
Do whatever causes the most well-being for everyone involved. What’s ultimately best for you is what’s ultimately best for everyone else, due to the unified nature of all beings. Knowing what’s ultimately best for you, though, isn’t necessarily easy. You have to dig deeper than the ego.
Practice stating your social boundaries and the consequences of violating them without fighting. State the consequences with neutral, rather than emotionally loaded or blaming, wordage.
Cultivate unconditional love and compassion for anyone and everyone. “To love someone is to know that you love them; not to love someone is not to know that you love them.” —My ex-g/f Lisa
IMHO, trying to enforce fairness is a fool’s errand. Life is inherently unfair in myriad dimensions, on both the genetic and environmental fronts, and there’s little you can do to change that. Equality is good, and so are some forms of equity, or relative equity, such as social welfare systems, but trying to enforce equity across the board is like trying to force a square peg into a round hole.
Giving people freedom to be who they are and do what they do is very important (not only legally but also in social situations, such as between friends and family members), but apparently so is preventing people from harming each other. Where should we strike the balance? I’m not sure, but I know the balance should include the freedom of artistic and verbal expression.
The related concept of autonomy and choosing what happens to your own body is also important (however, this shouldn’t be construed as an argument for pro-choice ethics; see https://myriachromat.wordpress/2017/02/11/why-im-not-pro-choice-even-as-a-non-religious-democrat/).
One hot-topic example of where this should be applied is vaccines, which are more harmful than we’re led to believe (see https://myriachromat.wordpress.com/2019/09/14/whats-the-matter-with-vaccines/, and https://childrenshealthdefense.org/defender/jake-tapper-sold-soul-pharma-rfk-jr/), and either way are extremely bodily/physiologically intrusive.
Another example is circumcision of infants, which is clearly in violation of the individual’s right to choose whether to have a vital part of their sexual organs removed.
Another hot-topic example is mask mandates in the Covid era. On one hand, it seems perhaps a bit authoritarian to require people to wear masks, much to the acrimony of people of a certain political orientation, but on the other hand studies show that they do indeed reduce the spread of the virus, and the virus can be deadly, so people’s lives are clearly on the line. Also, mask mandates aren’t any more fundamentally oppressive than laws or store policies that you have to wear pants, shoes or a shirt, so the extreme reaction of some people against mask mandates seems a bit silly. And, to be honest, my personal feeling is to f*ck anti-maskers and their autonomy for being so selfish and/or denying known fact regarding the effectiveness of wearing masks.
Our children aren’t our property. We’re merely their caretakers, meant to (unconditionally) love and nurture them until they’re old enough to take care of ourselves. Children should be given as much freedom as possible (helicopter parenting has been proven to be harmful in various ways), and we should allow them to develop and become who they are independently of our opinions, judgments, and aspirations for them, especially those vicarious ones that want them to live the lives we never did.
Children are fully people, and they should be regarded and respected as such, rather than having their needs, feelings, expressions and boundaries dismissed and overlooked, as is the case all too often. Being constantly disregarded tends to have a demoralizing effect on them.
Spanking children is immoral, it’s literally a physical attack on them (and not to mention that it’s usually done out of conditional love/spite), and it’s correlated with antisocial behavior, mental health struggles, and IQs five points lower on average, even four years later. And research shows that it doesn’t even improve behavior in the long run, it actually makes it worse, while only improving it in the short term. It’s illegal in 59 countries, and at least one of those countries, Sweden, is ranked among the best societies in the world to live in, so apparently they get along just fine there and parents find other ways to discipline their children.
IMO, a 100% moral person would give most of his income away to charity, due to the extreme, unjust imbalance of wealth in society and the world at large and other causes of immense or widespread suffering that can be assuaged with money. But it’s perhaps too much to ask of people that they be 100% moral. Everybody is at least a little bit evil, including myself.
Being moral means being compassionate and decent toward all sentient life, not just humans. In general, we’re incredibly anthropocentric/speciesist in our regard for others. For example, testing cosmetic products on animals, for example, is highly immoral, since we don’t need to wear cosmetic products, and either way there are other possible ways of testing them, they’re just more expensive. Testing food ingredients on animals is also immoral because we could (and should) simply eat more-natural foods. Testing medicines on animals is more debatable, at least if one subscribes to utilitarianism, because medicines have the potential to help thousands or millions of people, but even in that case, as with all the other kinds of testing on animals, it’s telling that we chose to test on animals rather than on humans, especially given that we’re the ones who will be consuming the products. On the other hand, one could argue that animals are less sentient than we are and therefore they don’t suffer as much, so utilitarianly we should test on them instead of on humans. I don’t know if that’s true, but clearly animals can experience extreme levels of suffering either way, and it’s disturbing.
An even bigger issue than animal testing is, of course, factory farming. It’s horrendous, and it’s clear to me that the only moral/ethical choice is veganism, but we’re so brainwashed as a society that we dismiss or ignore the rampant suffering we’re causing to other animals. It’s easy to do this because the nature of the supply chain allows us to be completely isolated from the means by which our consumables are produced. It doesn’t help that, infuriatingly, it’s illegal to film factory farming conditions in some jurisdictions. And this is to say nothing of the fact that meat production is one of the biggest causes of global warming and consumption of resources like clean water that we’ll eventually run out of. And it wouldn’t even be so popular if market forces were allowed to work on their own rather than meat being government-subsidized! How evil!
For a more involved discussion of veganism, see https://myriachromat.wordpress.com/2023/05/02/vegans-are-right-youre-wrong/.
Regarding utilitarianism, it may be a tempting basis for morality or ethics, as morality is naturally utilitarian to some degree just based the obvious fact that, e.g., ten people being happy is better than one person being happy, and ten people suffering is worse than one person suffering, etc., but I think it’s problematic, and not even for the usually argued reasons. Most of the arguments I’ve seen against utilitarianism seem to revolve around situations in which a course of action ostensibly brings the most happiness or well-being to the most people, while you’re led to judge the action as a net negative due to its not really bringing the most well-being to the most people for more nuanced reasons, and, obviously, an optimal application of utilitarianism would take into account well-being on all levels.
My reason for not subscribing to utilitarianism is that I think there’s an important distinction between actively interfering with events involving other people and remaining neutral, a distinction that isn’t easily accounted for and perhaps even has mystical factors to it. E.g., in the classic trolley problem, I’m unsure if I would and should redirect the trolley to the track with fewer people stuck on it. That would make me personally responsible for their death, at least on an emotional level if not also in some spiritual way.
One could argue that it’s selfish to worry about personal responsibility in the face of doing something in aid of the greater good, but I think in some ultimate sense everybody is the center of their own universe, and everything that develops in their universe ultimately flows from their actions or otherwise through them. This isn’t to imply that we should be selfish or even unsacrificing in all ways at all times, but I think maybe it does in this particular context.
Furthermore, it may be that everything that happens naturally tends toward ideal situations on the deepest possible level of consideration (far deeper than what we’re able to apprehend in normal daily life), due to the reality being a continually evolving collective manifestation, so interfering with external events could cause less optimal results. One could argue that your own actions are just another part of reality’s continual unfolding and could contribute to optimal results just as well as all other confluent factors, but maybe it’s different since you’re less directly involved in the situation and you may be going out on a limb. Also, I feel that I tend to get better results when I don’t interfere with others’ decisions even in matters that directly affect me, for whatever reason, but then that’s probably just because I’m too cerebral, unemotional, complicated or neurotic for The Flow to properly utilize me.