“One of the most courageous things you can do is identify yourself, know who you are, what you believe in and where you want to go.”
Moral Relativism, as defined by the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, is “is the view that moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint (for instance, that of a culture or a historical period) and that no standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.”
Extreme Example: For me personally, it’s pretty immoral to kill someone. For you, though, it might not be immoral, because it’s relative to your own set of morals. So for me to kill someone is immoral but for you to kill someone is perfectly in tune with the morals. “You do You”.
This is an extreme example of Moral Relativity, and those who identify as Relativists probably would claim this to be an extrapolation of definition, but it functions to explain the concept well enough.
Engaged in a discussion on the topic with a dear pal yesterday, she stated that it was her belief that Moral Relativism is single handedly the cause of humanity’s demise. Honestly, I had never thought about this before. She went on to say that morality cannot be relative, because with that idea leading humanity, there is very little incentive to do good. Why go out of your way to do good–usually at the expense of yourself and for very little personal gain–when there are no consequences to do “bad” (serve yourself at the expense of others)? If selfishness is relatively moral, and I choose for it to be moral for me, than nobody can punish me for it and I am not in the wrong simply because I choose to believe it moral.
We live in a wishy-washy world; we are terrified of being portrayed as “narrow-minded” or judgmental. We want everyone to know that we are extremely accepting of everyone, so that we will not be identified as hypocritical. Instead of stating our beliefs as if they were the right beliefs, we shrug our shoulders and add qualifying words such as “I think that…” and “but I don’t really know” or “but I could be wrong”.
I am among the most guilty of this, folks.
As a serious Vegan, I am very passionate about the Environmental and the footprints of humanity upon our world. I am very passionate about protecting animals and protecting natural resources. I am inflamed by animal agricultural practices that are destroying not only our ecosystems and natural landscapes, but also our morality and our sense of what is and what isn’t humane. I believe whole-heartedly that if we all consumed less meat, we would eradicate world hunger by allowing the grains and oats that would go toward feeding the animals to go toward feeding the hungry humans. I believe firmly that if we cut down on mass commercialized animal agriculture, we could protect Amazon rain forests from being deforested in favor of more agricultural land. I believe we could protect our water sources from toxic, large scale animal manure run-offs.
Ultimately, I believe that my opinions are the correct opinions. I know this sounds arrogant, but if I didn’t believe they were correct, I wouldn’t have them, right? So everybody believes that their opinions are the right ones.
The reason I am a Vegan is to do my personal part in minimizing cruelty. No, I really don’t think that everyone should become vegan or vegetarian, and I don’t hate meat-eaters. I believe that everyone should do their part in some way to minimize cruelty, and being passionate about preserving animals and ecosystems are not the only ways to do this. But at the same time, I believe that everyone should do their part; there isn’t anything passive about this, hanging out and watching Netflix doesn’t count as minimizing cruelty.
When people ask me why I am Vegan, too often do I shrug my shoulders and add the qualifying words. I tack on “but that’s just me” and “you do you” and “no judgments!” to the end.
I know that we don’t appreciate anyone thrusting opinions and beliefs on us and getting “all up in our face”. So don’t misinterpret me: I don’t want to answer every Vegan question as if I am trying to “convert” the meat-eater, because that’s not helpful and ultimately I’ll lose a lot of friends that way. But I want to be less wishy-washy in my opinions. I want to be less, much less of a Relativist. I want to answer the question in a way that isn’t pushy or forceful, but reveals exactly my levels of passion on the subject. I want to have the courage to stick to my beliefs no matter who is asking, and have the self-confidence to listen with an open mind to alternative beliefs in the way that I have asked them to listen to mine.
So going back to Moral Relativism. The phrase “you do you” is dangerous. It implies that humanity’s only concern should be to live for itself, and that ultimately your sense of authority and ownership should just be you. Do you see how dangerous this is? If we are our own moral compass? I’m not sure about you, but I am far from perfect. I have so many areas of growth to work on, and convincing myself otherwise hinders my own potential to succeed as a human.
Moral Relativism is kind of like communism; it works in theory. It is a beautiful idea that we can accept each other at our entirety and love each other despite our differences. It is a beautiful idea that we should all strive to be as open-minded and accepting as possible. But it doesn’t work, because we need each other to sharpen us. I need people to call me out on my flaws and love me enough to help me improve and develop morally. And that can’t happen if people let “me do me”. Communism is also a beautiful idea; that we can share with each other, and rise to meet each other’s needs. But it also doesn’t work, because we are inherently selfish creatures, and have little innate drive to help random strangers at the expense of ourselves.
So, wrapping this up. We need to find the balance. We need to learn how to deliver our beliefs and morals without wavering in confidence in them, while at the same time, allowing for others to call us out on our flaws and to improve us. We need to learn strength and courage and also humility. We have to stop believing that people should just be able to do whatever they want, because that’s depressurizing humanity’s potential as a species.
Let’s spend a bit of time this week in love; self-love and also love for others.
Sorry not sorry for the vegan rants.
Peace & Blessings,