Finding Direction: Moral Decay is Useful 2.3.1
Certainly humans have always loved beauty, but we have loved excess more. Excess shows we are powerful and wealthy in some way, even if our personal version of excess is way too many branded t-shirts or a room full of cheaply-made pseudo French provincial gilded furniture or too many nights of partying or “hooking up” at the slightest attraction. Excess shows that we are somehow above or better than others around us.
Caring or being concerned for others has often been judged as a weakness. Actually most of the characteristics of moral Growth, like kindness, responsibility, or compassion, have been considered signs of weakness in many cultures, times, and places.
This conflict within our nature creates an inner dissonance, so we solve it by accepting love and care within our small group (then we can hate whoever is not in our group). We allow duty and patriotism for the sake of the country, providing we can still indulge in injustice or violence or passion against the Enemy or through proxies in the military or government. We desire “shock and awe” to reassure ourselves that we are in the most powerful group. We allow for love of god as long as it is our god and as long as we can still have power and privilege in the synagogue or the church or the mosque. How we express that power is different, but it struggles to come out. Am I better because I have more books, more elaborate liturgical robes, more guns, or more followers than my rivals? Am I better because I have softer bread or harder bread? a softer bed or a harder bed? longer hair or no hair? The contests are different depending on what we count as valuable, but the impetus is the same. I want to be better than others – and I want to be able to define what “better” means.
Without Words We Cannot Think
“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root, and it may be that he who bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve.” Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), “Economy,” Walden (1854)