Not for the first time, a commenter has done a more thorough job fisking a problematical statement that I have. Actually, I didn’t even try to dissect the memed screed below…
…I asked whether it was truly unethical, or just signature significance for an arrogant political correctness junkie. Ryan Harkins took on the greater challenge, and as usual, did a superb job.
Here is Ryan’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ick Or Ethics? The Nauseating Social Media Meme…
Today I am wearing a shirt that reads:
1. Not capable of being imagined or grasped.
2. Not what you think it means.
The problem with memes like the above is that it is disingenuous. What do you mean by love? Do you mean philia? Eros? Caritas? Squishy feel-goodness, for which I don’t know a Latin equivalent? In general, especially given what I’ve observed of the people who post such memes, I don’t think “love” means what they think it means. I certainly don’t think they see love as selflessly willing the good of the other, but maybe that’s because I’m cynical and see this meme as not willing the good of someone else, but trying to proclaim one’s own virtue.
What is meant by inclusion? Is there nothing someone could ever do to warrant exclusion? Or is there a little asterisk pointing one to the fine print, where we don’t include the scum of the earth, like religious white men, sex offenders, and Trump supporters?
I don’t have much to say about empathy or compassion. Equality always begs the question: “Equal how?” Because again, people keep using that word, and I do not think it means what they think it means. Equal before the law? Equal in dignity? Equal in socioeconomic status? Equal in success? Or how about created equally, and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, including (but not limited to) life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
I have no problem with dignity, but what about diversity and community? There is unavoidable tension in the community when there is diversity. We might not like that fact, but it is there. As soon as you have two people of different opinions in the room, there is tension, and by and large what we’ve seen is that people are less and less tolerant of tension. I wouldn’t say they are less tolerant of differences of opinion, as long as those opinions keep to themselves and don’t bother other people. It is the tension that people are finding unbearable. Maybe it is because we are no longer equipped to have our opinions or viewpoints challenged. But I also have a hard time believing anyone believes in community, when so many are nose down I electronics (as I am as I write this) and all my friends belong to the same echo chamber as myself.
Skipping ahead to justice, I was reading about justice in the Old Catholic Encyclopedia and it made me think about justice a little differently. The OCE article was almost entirely about the just acquisitions and disposal of private property (and the Catholic Church is actually a staunch defender of private property, if anyone is interested). But when concerned with the matters of the law, Catholic teaching says that the lawbreaker incurs debt to society, and that as society owns that debt, society can choose to dispose of it as it pleases. So if society does choose to forgive the debt of illegally crossing borders, that is both merciful and just, because society is rightfully allowed to dispense of what it owns as it sees fit. But it is also just if society insists the law breaker pays back his debt. The problem is, who is society? A plurality of opinion? The lawmakers and the law enforcers? As an individual, I am not all of society, so I do not have the authority to declare someone’s debt to society forgiven, because the debt is not mine, or at least not mine alone. So how does justice actually square with the meme? How does it square with people who like the idea of abolishing private property in favor of a nanny state? How does it square with people actually required to pay back their debts to society?
Facts. Another word that doesn’t mean what they think it means. And that is because facts are messy things to really pin down. I like math, because math is rife with facts. But just about everything else is subject to that little demon called interpretation. Most of what we deal with in the sciences is statistical, and statistics can tell us a great deal, but they can also lead us down blind alleys. They can distort our perception of things, and our perception can distort the statistics. I have a coworker who gets really frustrated with me because I can at times question him down to the point of whether we actually know anything at all. Certainly the classes I took in philosophy leave me doubting whether we can ever truly know anything with the same certainty as mathematical truths. And that becomes manifest as we repeatedly see “facts” subject to revision as more information becomes available. Again, I’m cynical, but I find most people are more willing to change the facts to fit what they believe than to change what they believe to fit the facts. And try to pin anyone down on what they even mean by facts, and they sound like Pilate, who famously asked “What is truth?”
Peace. It is nice, but not if it comes at the cost of the perpetuation of great evils. It should be of note that the same person who said “My peace I give you, which the world cannot give” also said “I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” A false peace that is based on superficialities ought to be destroyed.
The Planet? I suppose I’m supposed to interpret that as meaning the poster chooses to be a good steward of the world and its resources, but unlike the other words thrown out, this one is not a word directly understood as a virtue. I know I didn’t choose the planet, because I was born on it and have no other options open to me. I’m certainly not going to choose the planet over humanity, especially not in the extreme sense of the human extinction project. But isn’t it interesting that the meme puts choosing the planet before choosing humanity? Now, this list is probably not in any order of importance, but what am to reason when when you speak of choosing the planet, and the quickly reaffirm you choose humanity? Now, hopefully no one argues that we need to be good stewards of the planet, but what does it mean to be good stewards? Does it mean not letting any species currently in existence go extinct (unless we’re talking mosquitos and Jerusalem crickets)? Does it mean not polluting? Does it mean not impacting the climate? Or does it mean utilizing the planet’s resources in a sustainable fashion for the benefit of humanity?
As for humanity… A zygote is a distinct member of the human species, and given the proper environment and nourishment will do everything any other human individual will do. How does that impact your choosing humanity?
What virtue does this list exhibit? I wouldn’t say it exhibits any. It is a practice in vainglory, which may be the old term for virtue signaling. It is vague enough to require no commitment and thus requires no courage to accept or fortitude to defend. Moreover, the fundamental implication is not the meme’s poster’s beliefs, but the castigation of anyone who won’t “like” this creed.
My verdict is unethical.