THE SELF-RIGHTEOUS HUMAN CONDITION

    Posted by Maren Showkeir

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    A friend recently sent this link to a TED video by Jonathan Haidt, on "the moral roots of liberals and conservatives" that:

    1) Affirmed things I think I know
    2) Disconfirmed things I thought I knew
    3) Made me think about things I did not know

    http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html

    He also used a quote, which I had mixed feelings about: 

    If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against anything. The struggle between "for" and "against" is the mind's worst disease.

    SENT-TS'AN, 700 C.E. 

    I'm curious how people see the inability to see past "right" and "wrong" or "moral" and "immoral"  as the problem/solution to the great divides happening in so many countries today? And is there a way to teach or help people put aside the "self-righteous human condition" to achieve a greater good?

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    Replies

    Jeevan Sivasubramaniam
    Jeevan Sivasubramaniam
    October 29, 2014

    I think Sent-T'san has a good point. I learned this lesson through my father who was "blacklisted" by WWF and GreenPeace in the 80s because he did not support dolphin-safe tuna fisheries (he was a marine biologist).

    They (progressives and liberals) called my father a lot of rotten things but never bothered to ask why he was not in support of the dolphin-safety measure. Thousands of fishing villages in the Bay of Bengal region subsisted entirely on tuna fisheries, and when the dolphin-safe legislation was enforced, the villages did not have the money or technology to build new types of nets that would avoid dolphins getting tangled in them. Foreign fisheries conglomerates from Japan and elsewhere backed the dolphin-safe initiative because they could not only afford the new technology but could now increase their catch levels by huge numbers because they had no competition from the local villagers. The very small number of villages that could afford the new fishing technology still couldn't compete with the prices the conglomerates put on their catches (since they caught so much more fish now, they could be more competitive and out-price the local fishermen).

    These fishing villages had no other industry, and the fisher-folk knew no other craft. Hundreds of thousands of people died and the majority of the villages became ghost towns. My father loved marine life and dolphins (who doesn't?), but how can you choose between humans and dolphins? To environmentalists, my father was a heartless guy, but in many ways he was more of a humanist than they were.

    Sorry for rambling on, but it's the best story I know to illustrate how standing for or against something is dangerous when all the facts are not present, and I think in most cases it is impossible to know all the facts, so it is better not to be for or against anything.

    marenshowkeir
    Maren Showkeir
    October 29, 2014

    I love stories for illustrating a point, and this one illustrates what I have been thinking about beautifully. It seems like the experience of your father is far too common, and if we can start talking to people with curiosity rather than judgment, maybe the conversation would be more civil and solution-oriented.

    David Marshall
    David Marshall
    October 29, 2014

    Freedom is something I believe everyone should have, both personal freedom and political freedom. As an American I take my freedom of speech, and freedom to assemble, and freedom to move for granted. It's hard not to think of that a a "right" for any human being on the planet, but maybe I should be more open to the circumstances where freedom as I think of it is not right for everybody. I know our Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence works for us, but every country must work it out for themselves.