Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life. (Dalai Lama)

It’s said that as people get older, they become more conservative. For some, that might mean politically conservative, cautious, moderate, less inclined to take risks.

I find myself getting more conservative as I get older, in the purer definition of the word of wanting to “conserve,” which comes from the Latin conservāre to keep safe, from servāre to save, protect.  The definition of conserve on the online dictionary: 1 ) to prevent injury, decay, waste, or loss of. 2 )to use or manage (natural resources) wisely; preserve; save.

In that sense, I’m not seeing much conversativism in some of the so-called conservatives in American politics, and a fair amount of conservatism in myself, which leads me to ponder morality, principles, ethics.

I came of age in the sixties, a teenager in the gnarly era of  free love and sex/drugs/rock ‘n’ roll, which included a fair amount of coercion and creep stuff.  I still don’t hold to “morality” in the sense of what people ought to and ought not to do sexually, or really with any aspect of their lives, as long as they aren’t hurting others.

Of course, if we were even to “just” agree to take as one common principle “don’t harm others” then there’s all kinds of ethical questions to grapple with around protective use of force, incarceration, war, abortion, public health and safety, immigration, etc. but at least the debates could move from the right of privileged white males to profit and power, greed and exploitation, and the fears of those who don’t see themselves in a position of privilege, to the tough universal question of human (and other than human) rights, and how we move from a life-destroying world to a life-enhancing world.

I’m continually blown away by the brazen behaviors of our current government, and the blatant, visible ease with which ethical boundaries are brushed aside. Are the actions of our president and his cronies actually legal? Seems they are, or at least live in the grey zone, which shows just how lacking in ethics and morality (moral 3) founded on the fundamental principles of right conduct rather than on legalities, enactment, or custom) our legal system is.

I read stories in the news about people who voted for Trump and now regret it, because they thought he wouldn’t really deport their husbands or renege on his promises, etc. There’s not a lot of compassion expressed in the comments section of such news, unless it’s tempered with a “but..”  and some variation on “you’re stupid and should have known better” which might be true to some extent, but not the most important aspect of the situation.

It sure would be nice if people weren’t fucked over for being naive, trusting, or desparate. Some think it’s “human nature” that “there’s a sucker born every minute and two to take him” but I propose that’s a reflection of values rather than innate human nature. Maybe the best thing that can come out of this current political debacle is an ethical revolution. This isn’t some immature Pollyanna utopian wish: for sure, to grapple with ethics in the midst of our current global challenges is hard work, especially given that geopolitics far from guarantees a unified effort.

 

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