.. ethics for the 21st century …

“Worldwide the panacea for all ills is maximum improvement in intellectual education (as opposed to experiential education) whilst there is no mention of ethical/moral improvement.” (Ian Gardner)

“People have become less kind towards each other. You notice it when you focus the small things in life: angry faces in traffic jam, people don’t let each other pass at the counter, or don’t let old ladies pass at zebra-crossings. We close our shutters after 5pm, watch tv in our pyjamas and gossip about the neighbours” (Lucas Alloo)

“I’m mainly concerned with my friend’s health these days. I’ve past a lot of time in too many hospital rooms these past 5 years. People who coach terminal cancer patients, are the real heroes in my eyes.” (Lucas Alloo)

It’s complicated …
It’s complicated. We do teach ethics … mainly in grammar school and before in kindergarten.  it is a slow process. It trickles down like in a cave, and finally a stalactite comes into being. If you let time do its work, a strong pillar …

The subjective element is important:
It would be difficult to imagine that the people I quote, would not have grown ethically over the years. That means that their ethical standards have probably risen from a mediocre we-accept-the-law level, to something much more evolved. Hence the amount of individuals in our society who pass the standard must be less than before. We should be aware of this effect when we talk about ethics in today’s world. But this is just one aspect.
My blog post is also subjective. I defend my view of my world.

The world of my father was a conformist world.
Belgium was a catholic country. 98% of the population went to church on a weekly basis. Laws, and rules are inherent in the conformist world. They contain a lot of ethics, but don’t leave any space whatsoever to critical thinking. In my eyes, critical thinking is progress. The law that was made from concrete, becomes blue steel. You can bend it. And that is what judges are supposed to do, bending a concrete law and applying it to a situation that is not clearly described. Judges in a conformist world do not interpret the law, they are only there to find out the truth (and there can only be one truth in a conformist world).

Things are different now.
Already in grammar school we teach our children to have a critical view. This is clearly post-conformist. And later on in life most of us do not regress. It is impossible to regress. Time always goes forward.

Are we less ethical in a post-conformist world?
Young people today are allowed to do a lot more and than 50 years ago. Since they have not been drilled in ethics by the catechists, the communist party or the national party, they have their own way of thinking. But this is very tricky. More pre-conformist behaviour will remain in a free thinking individual. Many are critical about others but not so much about themselves. Especially at a younger age.

Whether at a later age this improves or not, depends on the personal growth of the individual. It depends on her experiences later in life. These experiences create a much more personal ethics in our minds than used to be the case in the days of the British Empire. But often it looks like most of us only care about ourselves and our property, and a secure life. However, we do think.

It might be difficult and expensive to organise individual coaching of young people in middle and high school and guide them through an experiential educational process. As soon as you would organise such a thing on a large scale, the system would kill the creativity it would have wanted to bring forward.

Young people care about a better world.
I see a global society wherein  young people are engaging themselves for a better world.

We see an environmental movement, we see occupy wall-street, we see an anti-globalist movement, we see organisations promoting a world that takes better care of animals.

Values have become different. Young people in the Western World don’t have to go to the streets any more against discrimination based on gender or race. They battle against the social inequalities that were brought forward because of a deregulation of the banking system in the past 25 years.

Unfortunately, there are often pre-conformist troublemakers hijacking these movements.

The daily wave of sorrow.
The media are responsible for a flood of information these days. Often objective information about disasters here, far, and beyond. We are flooded by a never ending stream of misery. It is impossible to care for every individual in the entire universe. There is a limit. We are limited beings who watch the unthinkable, live, … we see desperate people fleeing from  a tsunami wave 10 times faster than them. We see people jump from the WTC towers, in the hope of a better death. I don’t have to give more examples. It is impossible to care for all these people who die on our screen. We cannot feel compassion for all of them individually. So we are creating a shield of immunity against our engaging compassion. If we open the gates and let the real misery really touch us, we would die of empathy. So we go in reverse: apathy.

Amazing people:
Our world however is still filled with amazing people, our unseen heroes. Huffington Post keeps us informed about a fraction of them. I belief that inside most human beings there is a fire burning to do the right thing. Unfortunately, this fire can be shielded by an iceberg of fear, leaving us with an endless stream of apathetic faces in the daily maelstrom that keeps the economy going … in the name of progress.

There is no conclusion …
There is only evolution. In this case a personal ethical evolution with a different speed for each and every one of us. I don’t think that we can add them all up to reach a conclusion. I think the truth is not a snapshot of people in traffic jam. The truth is like a web of a hundred billion time-lines, here and now, in the past, and in the future.

But, You and I, we can consciously choose, to really make a difference.


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