PostHeaderIcon Malleable Morality

Troy and I have been having a debate in the comment section of his The Slope Just Got Slicker post below. The discussion is getting deep, and worthy of a new thread on ethics. Those not following the debate may want to catch up at the link above; but for setup, Troy had said:

None of these events can be defended on any rational basis. … If we allow ourselves to sink to the level of our enemies, what point is there in defending ourselves rather than simply joining them?

My reaction was:

Now it is my turn to be dismayed to see this lame suicidal argument coming from you. This is precisely the mentality that causes me frequently to lament that there is nothing we can do, that we will permit ourselves to do, to prevent the ultimate victory of Islam over Western Civilization (see my Dark Ages II essay). I for one, haven’t the slightest interest in obtaining a prayer rug, and for some strange reason, it seems important to me that my grandchildren’s grandchildren not be compelled to bow toward Mecca five times a day, with their ignoble asses in the air, while praying to Allah – in Spanish! If this requires fighting fire with fire, please pass me the matches.

His response was:

I don’t actually object to our defending ourselves and what is rightfully ours. However, I am troubled by the notion that whatever evil your enemy visits upon you justifies you to respond in kind (or worse). Once we accept this notion,the only standard left for us is that of the most viscous among us.

I pride myself on my actions being (usually) driven by rationality, morality and ethics. If I surrender these for any reason, even my own survival, my life becomes pointless.

This is the mindset that motivates my arguments in this matter.

I suspect my expression of dismay may have been taken as an affront. If so, I regret it, for I was by no means intending to convey any judgmental attitude toward anyone’s personal ethics. I respect your principles and values, Troy, admire that you cherish them, and fully recognize their predominance in today’s society. It is my own more ruthless ethics that are aberrant, and perhaps the fairer subject of debate. I suppose some might characterize my own mindset regarding the rules of engagement in mortal combat as ‘vicious,’ although I would prefer to substitute the word ‘callous,’ as more descriptive of how I came by it.

My morality exists for my own benefit, not for the amorphous construct we call society. Most in our culture, received their principles, values, and moral codes as a prepackaged deal, taken on faith that their religious teachers were accurately prescribing their god’s expectations of their behavior, in dealing with the vagaries of life. Regarded as immutable, accepting such moral codes can be a torment to those whose individual nature finds pleasure in any of the forbidden activities, or distaste for any encouraged. This is the fount of the debilitating emotion of guilt.

I reckon that the whole purpose of a moral code is (or ought to be), to act as a guide toward rational behavior; particularly in times when emotions and/or stress might otherwise cloud judgment, and lead to imprudent actions one might later regret, over largely predictable undesired consequences. Those of us unencumbered with religious dogma, are blessed with the opportunity to carefully formulate our own personal moral codes, which can be precisely tailored to be consonant with our own individual natures, accepted principles, and hierarchy of values, enabling us to live a remarkably guilt-free life.

This unique moral code remains malleable for refinement over the years, as we acquire new life experiences and the wisdom to add new rules, tweak others with nuanced caveats, and discard those found unsound or obsolete. While the altruistic Piously (and/or Politically) Correct (PC) zealots, are often outraged at the notion of an individually unique, self-composed, moral code originating outside their dogma, the truth is that, on the key pillars of civilized public behavior in a given society, rational moral codes will not differ very much.

This is simply because the negative consequences accruing to the perpetrator of uncivilized public behaviors, remain the same; whatever his code, wherever derived, however consistently followed, or whether he even realizes he has one. A rational code will, of necessity, be designed to avoid any significant negative consequences, regardless of one’s personal opinion of the mores of society. The PC busybodies may choose to fret over even harmless private thoughts and behaviors; but probably to assuage their self-imposed guilt over many of their own.

Individual life experiences over the years, have a way of redefining and/or modulating our principles, rearranging our values hierarchy, and refining our moral code. We start our conscious lives with those inculcated by our parents and teachers, before we have the tools to think for ourselves. Once able however, it is entirely within our volition to change them. Ultimately, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are subjective terms, defined entirely within the mind of each unique individual. He may define them in religious terms, or adopt the definition of others, if he chooses; but those are still individual acts of volition. Adults may not escape the responsibility for their own actions (or sufferance), by choosing to deny their choices.

We have all had different experiences in life. Some of mine have had profound effects on my subjective view of right and wrong, and what I will permit myself to do to thwart evil. When recently I wrote about our use of the term ‘terrorist,’ while living in Rhodesia back in the early ’70s, I said:

The term is also subjective and depends on one’s perspective, not one’s religion. There was a common expression at the time, that one man’s terrorist was another man’s freedom fighter. Americans had a romanticized notion that these animals were fighting for their freedom from the evil colonizers, who had no right to be in Africa with a white face. So, in the American press, they were called freedom fighters, even though the local natives hated them as much as the whites did.

They had every reason to. They were very satisfied with their lives as they were. While there were some cultural barriers to total integration of the races, such as white only private clubs, they were no worse than our Southern culture in the ’60s. There were plenty of native doctors, lawyers, and members of parliament, who were as welcome in a typical nightclub, movie theater, or restaurant as anyone else. There was universal medical care for everyone, and universal education for all children.

The simpler natives, who happily worked as farmhands, were paid well and lived in traditional native villages right on the farms, governing themselves with their native traditions. Alas, these villages were favorite targets for the terrorists, who could not get local support without terror. I have personally witnessed atrocities committed against the leaders of these villages, to terrorize them into hiding and feeding them, which you would not want to hear me describe.

For the purposes of explaining my calloused mindset, permit me to elaborate on one such experience. The chief and his wife were lying naked in the center of the village, with their hands and… legs bound with barbwire. I couldn’t say feet, because all four of them had been hacked off with a panga, and they had bled to death. Their genitalia had been savagely mutilated; hers had been stitched closed with more wire, and his were amputated, stuffed in his mouth, and his lips stitched around a protrusion that was not his tongue. I was told by a witness that the wife was repeatedly raped in front of the chief first, and that the mayhem was done while they were alive, before the death blows with the panga.

Did this experience harden or soften my heart? Both. Could I ever deliberately target civilians for a cause, like they do? Never. Did it alter my sense of right and wrong when dealing with terrorists? Forever. Did it inspire the ex-cop in me to want to capture, arrest, try, convict, incarcerate, and rehabilitate them in a so-called ‘correction’ facility? Not a chance. Did it turn me into a vicious brute, with blood lust, anxious to go rearrange body parts myself? Not at all.

Did it cross my mind? Oh, yes; they are fortunate that I wasn’t able to get my hands on them at the scene, before I had time to think rationally and tweak my moral code to incorporate my new worldview. Would my modified code have subsequently permitted me to summarily kill one on sight, before he even had time to unsling his weapon or surrender? I did it. Twice. Were they among the perpetrators at the village? I hope so; but it matters not. A rattlesnake is a rattlesnake; a terrorist is a terrorist. The most dangerous sub-human beast in Africa at the time, was a CHICOM trained native with an AK-47.

Did I experience any remorse? None. I’ve experienced infinitely more anguish, over the necessity of butchering an animal I had raised for food. Could I do it again, after 40 combat-free years to mellow out? In a heartbeat. Line up any number of degenerate barbarians, of any race, nationality, or creed; convince me that they are terrorists, and I will calmly put a bullet in the head of each of them, to expeditiously rid our society of their menace, once and for all.

Does this make me a sociopath? Perhaps. Am I a menace to society? Probably the opposite. Have I degenerated to the vicious level of these barbarians, and may just as well have joined them? I reckon not; but I have reported… you may decide. â—„Daveâ–º

3 Responses to “Malleable Morality”

  • Troy says:

    Dave, The only things I would take offense at in these exchanges is name calling and playing the “blame game” — something that we don’t do here (and that is the reason I continue to participate here rather than the myriad other forums out there).

    A rattlesnake is a rattlesnake; a terrorist is a terrorist.

    Might I suggest that the definition of “rattlesnake” is well known and generally accepted while that of “terrorist” is not. Do not forget that several departments of our own government have labeled you, me, and others like us as terrorists. Are we thus authorized to shoot each other?

    BTW, I have started a new thread to discuss the definition of “war”. Should I also start one to discuss the definition of “terrorist”?

    Never forget the astute observation that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.


    • This is part of the problem with this whole discussion. We are interchanging legal definitions with common usage definitions, various dictionary definitions, and personal thought definitions. Terrorism is a tactic of warfare, and those who employ it are terrorists. For 40 years within my own mind, the word terrorist connotes a brutal savage with a cause, absent the slightest semblance of an honorable warrior ethos, who as a tactic of warfare, deliberately commits unconscionable atrocities, generally on innocent civilians, for the purpose of intimidation.

      When Arafat and his followers began blowing up school busses and pizza parlors in Israel, they fit my definition as terrorists. On the other hand, the attack on the USS Cole did not. To me, that was simply an act of war against a legitimate military target, even if it was suicidal one, because al Qaeda had formally declared war on us. The fact that there was no sovereign return address on that declaration, was no cause our government to ignore it.

      Nor, when after 9/11 we could ignore them no longer, did it make any sense to declare war on one of their tactics, rather than on them and anyone supporting their agenda to defeat America. Had we done so, “Big Sis” couldn’t so easily Orwellize the now ubiquitous and increasingly ambiguous word, ‘terrorist’ to include her political opponents. â—„Daveâ–º

      • Troy says:

        Dave, You are correct that the words are getting in the way.

        Let me try again…

        It seems to me that, if an attack of any kind is perpetrated on a sovereign nation:

        – It is an act of war if done at the behest of another sovereign nation. In that case, there is a valid basis for war between the two said nations.

        -It is a criminal act if done by a person (or group of persons) who are operating without the active support or sanction of a sovereign nation. In that case, the criminals should be pursued and prosecuted by the aggrieved nation, by their nation(s) of citizenship or both.

        Personally, I do not find terrorism any more brutal or savage than most other forms of war and it is often the best option for small, poorly funded groups who think they are being oppressed. There simply is not a moral way to kill and maim. I will agree, however, that terrorism tends to be more cowardly than donning one’s uniform and attacking in full view of one’s enemy.

        As for the Palestinians and the Israelis, that is a civil war and should be treated as such by all outsiders no matter which set of terrorists they root for.


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