02: An ungrasped tyranny

Concerning moral enslavement

The nature of the last post was ultimately negative — not in its message, but in how it had to view morality in a context opposing religion. A poor system is any that requires qualification in opposition to something else, as if it has no substance for itself in the first place. My intention was first to clear the grounds before proceeding to more substantive matters of morality, hopefully in the process establishing morality as a subject existing independently and prior to religious thought.

From this point forward I aim to scaffold the precepts of moral thought. There is only a framework for ethical thinking; there is no absolute moral code: Even of our most accepted and ubiquitous examples of guiding principles, such as the condemnation of murder, we can imagine to different extents scenarios, however gruesome or troubling, where a violation of the principle is unavoidable or the preferable action. Examples of violations could range anywhere from imaginable manifestations of the trolley problem (a thought problem concerning the sacrifice of one life to save many), to the controversial issues of abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, etc. While all of these are weighty topics that deserve individual posts, I can identify one cognitive framework demanded at the outset of our considerations of these or any dilemmas. To do so I would like to consider the treatment of gay rights in modern society, or more inclusively, the treatment of the LGBTQA community.

In all cases where we can mark the injustices that face people in this community, the root of the problem is the fundamental denial of all or part of someone’s identity. Gay men and lesbian women face an abject denial of their sexual feelings. Even progress made in court rulings and statutory laws is met with staunch resistance, most often by opponents claiming religious convictions. Transgendered persons face a denial of their basic identity in the face of society’s death-grip on a male/female dichotomy. They have even been targeted as unfit for the public right of bathroom usage. Instead of holding the self-identity of these individuals inviolable, society has chosen to re-categorize them against their wills, to confine them to narrow, preconceived niches. These notions are founded most likely as some god’s perfect creation of only two immutable sexes that are oriented to each other, rather than in any science that reveals an imperfect evolution towards two sexes, the complex, indescribable mental and physiological source of identity, or a consideration of culture’s overwhelming need and ability to cast identity for us. Easily recognizable is the effect of media stereotyping of the wide and varied LGBTQA community in engendering mistrust, alienation, or fear. However, for most moral citizens a genuine acquaintance with even just one member provokes the recognition of the humanity of that member, and the entire community. This is a fairly correlative principle in reversing animosity towards any “othered” group, separated by faith, nationality, or skin color.

Let us imagine that the biblical argument for condemning gay rights is not so easily dismissed (which is true for many devout individuals). And let us also imagine that the argument that only the biological complement of male and female is natural, and is not so easily refuted by psychological study or observation of nature. This is also a prevalent position, but only insofar as the arguer is ignorant. What I am left with in this case is a singular, untested, uninformed position that reflects only the way I see the word and intend to live my life: the position that for example would be, “I am  a man, and my sexual partner is a woman. Together we can have offspring, which is the goal of humanity.” There is nothing completely incorrect about this statement, aside from implying that having offspring is the only goal of humanity (as opposed to love, pursuit of happiness, coexistence, etc., but there is still nothing wrong with recognizing the requirement of reproduction in our definition of life itself). The problem here arises when I take my perspective, no matter its ethical or unethical ramifications, and assume it to be a universal truth regarding all humans (or other life). This leads us to our first cognitive framework for pursuing morality:

A singular moral stance asserted by dominance over the life of another individual is the definition of moral enslavement.

In other words, if I assume that the way I choose to live my life is the only way that all others must live, and cast the opinion into law or otherwise enforce it, then I have denied others their ability  to exercise freely moral rights and responsibilities. This is an act akin to slavery, especially when targeted against a specific different opinion. In this comparison, I do not wish to belittle the connotation of slavery that is tied with race, especially the centuries-long African slave trade in the Americas, a devastatingly corrupt era of human history that still resonates in racial tensions, discrimination, and stereotypes. Surely the LGBTQA of all of history have suffered indignation, corporal punishment, and death at the hands of their oppressors, but likely not to the debilitating extent experienced by African slaves and their descendants. Yet underlying physical slavery is this corruption of moral enslavement by which oppressors wrongly justify their claim over independent human lives.

It is likely still possible to conceive one’s own moral stance in the context of sacred texts, or ignorant biology, without resorting to moral enslavement. However to do so would still be to recognize the gradually prevailing morality among society that recognizes the identity and humanity of all its members. The better position would be to engage with the individuals whose identity and ethical choices clash with one’s own: to find common ground and common values, or to simply realize that if your morality is incapable of reaching everyone, then it is probably no morality at all.