I am persuaded that the best way to understand the sanctity of individual life, community responsibility, purpose, meaning of life and other seemingly daunting existential elements is to understand the idea of Moral Imperatives. Bear with me, it is surprisingly simple.
What Are Moral Imperatives?
Moral imperatives in this context are ubiquitous aspects that generally every human is positively receptive to. They are the qualities of life by which we feel the happiest.
If you give a gift to someone in China, many more to persons in Somalia, Vietnam, India, Australia, Jamaica, France etc. all the recipients feel happy. That is confirmation of a ubiquitous or universal moral imperative. Other imperatives are care, respect, tolerance, liberty etc. These are aspects that even the worst of us yawn for. We all want them!
If the idea of moral imperatives is incorporated in the systems that we already have, I have reason to believe that the quality of life would rise remarkably.
NB: This is slightly different from moral imperatives as principles originating inside a person’s mind that compels that person to act.
Why Should You Care?
It is no secret how the lifestyle of people has deteriorated so much all across the world. Passenger, proving that it is often times the musicians and poets that grapple with the truth, put it like this;
“We all had new i-phones but no-one had no one to call.”
Ironic much that this would happen at a time when information is ridiculously cheap to access and civilisation has shifted several rungs up in a short time. Quite a grand signal that we may have dropped an essential ball somewhere along the way.
Anyway, understanding Moral Imperatives encourages fluidity of thoughts and actions under the banner of moral responsibility. It also entrusts the decision making process to the individual. Every individual would feel trusted to make the right decisions. It also encubets idiosyncrasies, which systematic governance takes away as it hinges more on uniformity. It can solve many of the problems.
The Illusive Nature Of Moral Imperatives.
Well, one may ask,
“But Herbert, if everyone is receptive of these imperatives, how come the world has very little of these aspects going round?”
Whilst all people are receptive to these moral imperatives, it is hard for an individual to realize the obligation to satisfy others or act according to his best moral imperatives. For example, a person may feel happy if his mother cooks a traditional dish for him but yet not feel compelled to do the same for his children sometime in the future.
Being on the giving side of moral imperatives is a very long swing from being on the receiving side.
Each one of us is born with very good moral imperatives but we understand more the need to receive them; the need to be cared for, loved, respected, tolerated etc. Sadly, the reasoning rarely gets to the persuasion to be the ones offering these aspects.
The world could have been very enjoyable if everyone were persuaded of the need to satisfy others according to the moral imperatives.
If every person were taught that the only way to make the world better is by giving the same aspects that he, himself, yawns for then the world would have not seen half the atrocities that have characterized the past two centuries. How hard is it to make someone understand that since they want love, hope, joy, peace, respect, tolerance etc. the best way to have these is to give these in which case the aspects would circle back to him?
The Challenge- A Growing Population, Social & Political Systems.
The world’s population has become so ridiculously big now that it has become almost impossible to book-keep each individual’s thoughts and actions. (Well, there is Facebook though, just kidding!) That means that teaching people about moral imperatives seems ineffective.
As populations grew, parental jurisdiction (one of the crucial elements in the Moral Imperatives ideology) was somewhat overruled by systematic laws under a central governance. Otherwise, most family values and parents were the best oracles for the idea of doing unto others as you would want them to do to you.
Many aspects have changed! Children and everyone else now have documented rights. There is nothing wrong with civilization except in that the process did not acknowledge the need to teach moral responsibility.
I would like to evaluate some typical cases of social systems that may help shed light on this: The Caste System in India and Tribalism in some parts of Africa.
The Caste System
Trying to deal with a growing population, the British made the Caste System administrative in India. The reasoning was simply that people are easy to regulate when they are put in groups. Noteworthy, cultural and religious guidelines really have their merits and and some of these are more helpful than misleading. However, it is a different ball game altogether to make systems of this ilk administrative. The challenge of systematic regulation (political, religious or cultural) of morality is that, with passage of time, these ideas eventually solidify in people’s minds from their true nature as arbitrary conjectures to hard rules, thus overruling subjective judgment that is regulated by moral imperatives.
That means that the systematic mindset may make you selective in terms of who gets your respect, love, care, help, etc. The Caste System is quite functional, in serving its purpose, granted, but whilst the social fabric may seemingly be intact, the life of an individual may be just the opposite of that of the aerial view. This is true for many renowned systems all across the globe.
Tribalism In Kenya And Some Parts Of Africa.
In Kenya, many people identify themselves by tribes for example, Barack Obama’s father, Obama, is identified within a certain tribe by the prefix O in his name. A typical Kenyan name will be indicative of the person’s tribe. There is really nothing wrong with this, it somewhat gives people a necessary sacred identity, except that these systems do very little in teaching people about offsetting the injustices that may sprout out from this systemization. Such inherent shortcomings may be brushed away by learning and educating about the fact that you and I are the same. This is partly how Moral Imperatives would change a society for the better.
Just to be fair, generally every society across the globe has a systematic way of regulating morality.
Anyway, you may ask,
“Well, Herbert, what about the judiciary system; does it not serve the same purpose as what you are proposing?”
Judiciary System- Law And Order.
Again, it is quite simple to see reason here: Telling someone to do this and not to do that does very little in regulating his thoughts and actions towards moral responsibility. There is a need to explain why exactly he must love, respect, care etc. indiscrimantly. What better way to make someone to understand humanity than by telling him to look into his own heart?
I was having a table talk about Racism all across the world with a friend of mine, Nobleman, just recently and I thought up an illustration which has become one of my my most priced original thoughts. Here is the illustration:
Say your small child has black and white marbles to play with, and he somewhat discriminates against the black marbles. How best can you help her against this tendency? Well, you can tell her point blank that she ought to play with them indiscriminately. She may start to do exactly that, yes, but she will still have the same prejudice as she had before you advised against it because the marbles are different. Yes, they are! By doing this, you will have resolved a community problem, but the personal problem will stay in the small innocent child. I say innocent because there is nothing wrong in identifying two things as different from each other. Now, imagine if you were to tell her that the marbles are different in color. After acknowledging this, you go on to explain how they serve pretty much the same purpose. She will register diversity and unity, rather than a facade of uniformity.
The judiciary system is somewhat indifferent of the quality of life of individuals. It is basically a matter of saying that you can lose your mind, just do not violate anybody else’s rights. It obsesses about bringing an aggregate peace, justice etc. without resolving the crisis of each individual- the crisis of humanity.
The world is now ruled by systems. This is bad in this light: If the Legal System is not immersed in moral integrity and responsibility, it loses leverage on the average person. People commit suicide more in this epoch because there is little emphasis on the sanctity of life, another critical moral imperative.
A Personal Decision.
I challenge you to assess yourself and write down the moral imperatives you would want satisfied in your life. I am guessing that this may include love, care, happiness, respect etc. After writing these down, commit to give these away to others in your words and in your actions. Do not expect anything in return but understand that just as you and I feel happiest when we have moral imperatives satisfied, we also feel most human when we satisfy others’.
This may not solve the problems in your own life but it certainly will not create problems in others’.