Monday, October 18, 2010

A few words on moral standing

By moral standing, I'm speaking of the state of being wherein a person has the ability to make a moral argument that the listener feels obliged to take seriously, albeit not necessarily agree with in any way. An awful lot of moral arguments are tossed rather recklessly in our society today. Notice that the orthopraxis for most of these moral arguments is in general rather poor (do greenies, for instance, even actually have a lower resource footprint than the average American? Given that SWPLs are substantially richer than most of the population, I'm inclined to doubt it). I can't really speak to the orthodoxy here---the 'right speech' seems exponentially more important on most of these causes.

I'm hardly neurotypical, so I can't really use projection to figure out why people don't actually do what they say they believe (e.g., live in 'diverse' neighborhoods and send their kids to 'diverse' schools, refrain from divorce at a much better rate than the rest of society---although, in fairness, regular churchgoers do have a somewhat better track record if you adjust for the number of actual marriages, or donate their resources to the poor like they insist everyone should be forced to). The level of 'right speech' is very high, the level of orthodoxy is indeterminant (although I suspect it is low) and the level of orthopraxy is appalling. Why is this?
My take is that a large part of this is that the listener to said moral arguments doesn't take the speaker seriously. Yes, if the speaker is socially powerful, they'll mouth the platitudes, and they might even believe them at a surface level, but they won't actually do the orthopraxy---or, walk the walk. My theory is that a large part of the reason for this is that they do not perceive that the speaker and/or his movement to have the requisite moral standing for the amount of sacrifice that their beliefs being peddled would require.

Why is this? Certainly a statement is no less true or false regardless of who says it. Screwtape, for instance, or Roissy, can both give you some pretty insightful views into the human condition and its relationships. But they're hardly role models, and neither, interestingly enough ever attempts to build an argument on moral standing. In general, we don't have the time or the initiative to rigorously evaluate every claim every would be moral entrepreneur cares to attempt to sell us. We also have a strong underlying distrust of such individuals, for the well justified reason that they generally seek to manipulate us towards their own ends. This is especially true when they're calling for 'sacrifices'.

Our first cut is to determine---is it reasonable to believe that the saleman believes in the product that he's selling? Sure, he says he believes in it, but do his actions bear it out? To have any real standing here, the spokesman needs to be at least a couple of sigmas above the mean in the orthopraxis of what he's selling (ever wonder why the Early Quakers, Early Methodists, and in the modern era, Billy Graham were so successful in selling their product? A lot of it can be explained by the fact that they were perceived to be 'walking the walk'). In addition, that spokesman's core of followers have to be at least above average on said orthopraxis themselves. When they're not, people rightfully perceive that they're being played---that perhaps the speaker just wants THEM to make the sacrifices so that they can have a bigger share of the remaining pie. The neurotypical generally tends to just withhold any meaningful orthopraxis, opting for the merely symbolic. The non-neurotypical, like myself, tends to become a lot more hostile, and we're often blunt enough to tell you precisely what it is that you're doing wrong. If you actually want orthopraxis, and not just social power, you'd be prudent to listen.

No comments: