This is really an Ethics Question and Answer of the Day.
Steve Witherspoon [ Notice of Correction: I erroneously attributed this to the wrong Steve, not that Steve-O-in NJ doesn’t also ask provocative questions. I apologize to Steve W, and thank Other Bill for the correction…] asked a provocative question in our last Open Forum, which is what the Ethics Alarms open forums are for:
When a large segment of a society wants to shift their culture in a very major way and in a way that has historically been widely opposed, is using propaganda and intimidation to “force” the desired cultural shift on a population ethical, in other words, when trying to shift culture does the ends justify the means?
Before answering, think about major cultural shifts in the USA’s history. A few examples of major cultural shift are when the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and the Constitution were written or when slavery was abolished or when electricity and phone lines were wired across the USA or when automobiles began to gradually take over the streets across the USA or when airplanes became common place or when the population began to shift from print media and word of mouth as their only sources of information to radios and then to televisions or the civil rights marches in the 1960’s. There are a multitude of examples of major cultural shifts in the United States.
When trying to shift culture, does the ends justify the means?
Commenter Ryan Harkins provided an excellent and thought-provoking answer:
It is sobering to read the hateful and contemptuous comments from so many of my Facebook friends about the legislators of Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, Mississippi and other states that have either passed or have tried to pass laws allowing citizens to opt out of the cultural freight train that gives them the option of boarding or getting crushed. Whether these are “religious freedom” laws or “bathroom laws,” aimed at transgendered interlopers in the once orderly realm of public bathrooms, or whether they are designed to fight for the definition of marriage as “between a man and a woman,” these laws, every one of them unwise and unethical, and probably unconstitutional too, need to be regarded as the inevitable and predictable result when human beings are forced to absorb cultural shifts in a matter of years or less that properly would evolve over generations
Culture–what any society, country, region, religion, business, organization, club, family, secret society or tree house agrees over time as how they do things, think about things, what is right and what is wrong, what is remembered and what is forgotten–is a constantly evolving process. Efforts to freeze it inevitably fail, because human beings as a species can’t stop themselves from learning. Efforts to rush the installment of major changes, however, can be disastrous, even when there seems like no alternative but to rush.
Laws don’t automatically change culture. They are part of the process, both reflecting and facilitating cultural shifts, as well as institutionalizing them. They do not even mark the end of such shifts. Nobody should be surprised, angry or abusively critical when those who have been raised to believe in certain values and practices feel betrayed and mistreated, and see the need to resist when their sense of what is right is suddenly proclaimed as not only wrong but the sign of a character deficiency and a cause for denigration and disrespect. Continue reading