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Is morality oppressive in and of itself?

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madashell
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Jun 19 2006 21:24
Is morality oppressive in and of itself?

I've never really been convinced by anti-morality arguments. Clearly, the notion of morality as objective and external* is disempowering, as once you accept that, you abdicate the ability to determine what is right and wrong for yourself, it has an obvious ideological role in that sense.

However, morality defined in terms of personal boundaries and what is an acceptable way to treat other people is, I would argue, a positive thing from a libertarian standpoint, it protects the individual from oppression.

Basically, what I'm trying to say, in in my own rambling, disjointed way, is that I don't view social norms as necessarily oppressive or a Bad Thing. Any thoughts?

*I hesitate to use the word "reification" here, because I'm not entirely sure what it means, but I think it makes some kind of sense in this context

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Lazy Riser
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Jun 19 2006 21:36

Hi

Quote:
However, morality defined in terms of personal boundaries and what is an acceptable way to treat other people is, I would argue, a positive thing from a libertarian standpoint, it protects the individual from oppression.

Whatever works for you. It’s a question of aesthetics, as long you behave I’m not concerned with your specific internal value model or motivations. You could be doing it because it sexually arouses you for all I care.

Love

LR

Blacknred Ned
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Jun 19 2006 21:44

Wouldn't we need social norms, albeit a fairly different set, even in an anarchist society?

Wasn't it because he felt that we should all be "governed" by the moral force of those around us even in a free society that William Morris would not describe himself as an anarchist?

What is the difference between morality and ethics? Does it come down to the first being established externally and the second being something we develop through reason?

Social norms should include the norm of being able to transgress or transcend the norms under certain circumstances. Doesn't this make sense for a free society so that most people would be expected to behave in a certain way but others would have to be able to do it differently? The example of collectivisation Vs individual land holdings springs to mind but there must be others; erm, what about attending or not attending meetings or assemblies?

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madashell
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Jun 19 2006 21:45
Lazy Riser wrote:
You could be doing it because it sexually arouses you for all I care

Couldn't that get quite messy? wink

Seriously, I see where you're coming from, it's more the ultra-individualists who argue that anarchists should actively argue against morality as a point of principle I'm thinking of here.

revolutionrugger
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Jun 20 2006 20:31

yes.

Do I think there will ever be a society without oppression. No.

In the immortal words of Nicholas Pheabus. Anarchism? No. thats not possible. Libertarian Communism if we're lucky.

knightrose
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Jun 20 2006 21:02

Morality isn't oppressive as such, it's merely a word to describe the prevailing social norms. In capitalist society it is oppressive because society is oppressive. A communist society will still have a morality. We just don't know what it'll look like.

lem
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Jun 20 2006 22:36

I posted smething here, I'm sure confused

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jef costello
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Jun 20 2006 22:46

lem, the last day's posts were lost unfortunately.

Blackn'red Ned wrote:
Wasn't it because he felt that we should all be "governed" by the moral force of those around us even in a free society that William Morris would not describe himself as an anarchist?

It was because he made shit wallpaper actually.

It comes down to whether you define morality as a system imposed by society, or a set of personal beliefs, I believe we talked about ethics last time. Morality as imposed, ethics as belonging to one's own system of values.

Semantics aside I'd say that morality comes from societal norms, ethics are a personal interpretation of morality, based on personal views.

My ethical system allows me to steal from capitalists, but not from poor people, fo example.

lem
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Jun 21 2006 01:22
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Morality as imposed, ethics as belonging to one's own system of values.

Morality is about duty and is concerned with the end, and ethics is about virtue (honesty, sincerity etc). Does anyone disagree with this?

In which case you have sometging to gain from being ethical - character!

I don't see how this is any less imposed though - both are learned, one still has a choice to be moral.

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My ethical system allows me to steal from capitalists, but not from poor people, fo example.

I which case, I would guess, that you have internalized imperatives that are good for you, i.e. ones that build character, but not others, that do not. Ethics rather than morality, useful and not.

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Jun 21 2006 15:36

I don't think ethics can be considered purely on an individual level. The whole point for me is that ethical views are based on what we would personally like to happen to us, and if we wish others to respect this we have to respect others. Ethics is about compromise between my needs and the needs of others on whom we are dependent.

I don't think that William Morris was presenting a view that is incompatible with anarchism when he expressed the view that we should all be "governed" by the moral force of those around us even in a free society. Anarchism isn't against rules or customs, its against hierarchy. My freedom is limited to that which does not harm or restrict the freedom of others, and where i choose to cooperate with others there has to be give and take. Where what I want to do and what others want to do is mutually exclusive we have to deal with it on the basis of equality (direct democracy), and this does mean that for the sake of other peoples equal autonomy, mine is not absolute.

Thats my two pence, anyway.

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Jun 21 2006 19:53

It depends.

I tend towards non-existent ethics, why bother doing bad stuff, indeed, why bother doing anything at all? This absolves you from all guilt, if you never have to do anything, then you never have to make decisions, then you never have a moral quandary. But in a capitalist society you can contribute to the suffering of others by just existing, so I think that's why I'm active in certain groups, so I can be at peace with myself, by actively helping people, I'm negating my guilt for just existing.

I mean, from a Buddhist perspective, why would you bother with politics at all? it just aggravates you unneccessarily, much better to adopt the position that politicians are all nasty, nasty people, ignore them, and try to live your life as ethically as possible, by making your own and other people's lives better, albeit marginally.

Although, morals are useful when you want to criticise people at the top, by pointing out that all they want to do is harm people, I mean isn't that the sole aim of politicians, in effect? To bring misery into millions of people's lives? Then you realise that politics is all a charade. But hey ho

Blacknred Ned
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Jun 21 2006 20:01

No Sf, I don't think that Morris' position was incompatible with anarchism either, but as far as the label went at least, he did! He just called himself a socialist.

I think that the growth of solidarity and mutuality that would necessarily come with the growth and establishment of an anarchist society would be amazing. Without demanding a window on each person's soul, wouldn't this be the foundation of the new society, its ethos?

ghostzart
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Jun 21 2006 20:09
Bodach gun bhrigh wrote:
It depends.

I tend towards non-existent ethics, why bother doing bad stuff, indeed, why bother doing anything at all? This absolves you from all guilt, if you never have to do anything, then you never have to make decisions, then you never have a moral quandary. But in a capitalist society you can contribute to the suffering of others by just existing, so I think that's why I'm active in certain groups, so I can be at peace with myself, by actively helping people, I'm negating my guilt for just existing.

So what happens if you're out in the forest and you hear somebody at the river screaming for help? Do you help them or do nothing at all, make no decision, and let them drown? Or in this case do you make an exception? And if so, what if it's a murderer escaping from his pursuers and you helped him get away unknowingly?

Blacknred Ned
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Jun 21 2006 20:13

What are they going to do to him if they catch him? How do we know he is a murderer?

Come on this is just getting interesting!

ghostzart
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Jun 21 2006 20:24
Blackn'red Ned wrote:
What are they going to do to him if they catch him?

You don't know.

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How do we know he is a murderer?

You don't know that either. That's the point. My example is a bit plagiarised from Kant's categorical imperative smile

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Jun 21 2006 21:20
ghostzart wrote:
Bodach gun bhrigh wrote:
It depends.

I tend towards non-existent ethics, why bother doing bad stuff, indeed, why bother doing anything at all? This absolves you from all guilt, if you never have to do anything, then you never have to make decisions, then you never have a moral quandary. But in a capitalist society you can contribute to the suffering of others by just existing, so I think that's why I'm active in certain groups, so I can be at peace with myself, by actively helping people, I'm negating my guilt for just existing.

So what happens if you're out in the forest and you hear somebody at the river screaming for help? Do you help them or do nothing at all, make no decision, and let them drown? Or in this case do you make an exception? And if so, what if it's a murderer escaping from his pursuers and you helped him get away unknowingly?

It depends, if they were an executive for british petrolium, I'd let them drown, if they weren't I'd probably save them, maybe, as long as by doing that I didn't run the risk of drowning myself. I think my policy is don't do anything that will involve you making ethical decisions, because most of the situations you suggested don't come up in everyday life. And if your murderer had just murdered a politician, by gumbo I'd let him escape. grin

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Jun 21 2006 21:21
ghostzart wrote:
Blackn'red Ned wrote:
What are they going to do to him if they catch him?

You don't know.

Quote:

How do we know he is a murderer?

You don't know that either. That's the point. My example is a bit plagiarised from Kant's categorical imperative :)

Well if you don't know what's the point of going to all the trouble of intervening if all you're going to do is get yourself a doing.

Blacknred Ned
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Jun 21 2006 21:52

Does standing in the forest wondering whether to intervene in someone else's troubles get us any closer to understanding whether morality is oppressive in itself?

I don't know, so I'm going to ask: is the point here that you either accept that you must intervene under a certain set of circumstances (to save someone who is drowning whoever they might be) or you must be prepared always to trust whatever snapshot of reality you have at any particular moment as a guide to your actions?

Would this be like arguing that in a community decision-making process either solidarity should give you cause to suppress your own will on occasion or that you should always express and follow through your own desires? And is this in any way related to the old chestnut about consensus decision making or voting?

Is any of this relevant? embarrassed

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Jun 21 2006 23:25
Quote:
It depends.

I tend towards non-existent ethics, why bother doing bad stuff, indeed, why bother doing anything at all? This absolves you from all guilt, if you never have to do anything, then you never have to make decisions, then you never have a moral quandary. But in a capitalist society you can contribute to the suffering of others by just existing, so I think that's why I'm active in certain groups, so I can be at peace with myself, by actively helping people, I'm negating my guilt for just existing.

I mean, from a Buddhist perspective, why would you bother with politics at all? it just aggravates you unneccessarily, much better to adopt the position that politicians are all nasty, nasty people, ignore them, and try to live your life as ethically as possible, by making your own and other people's lives better, albeit marginally.

Although, morals are useful when you want to criticise people at the top, by pointing out that all they want to do is harm people, I mean isn't that the sole aim of politicians, in effect? To bring misery into millions of people's lives? Then you realise that politics is all a charade. But hey ho

This is entirely the opposite of anarchism. Anarchism requires ethics and a sense of personal responsibility. You seem to be refusing to accept responsibility for either.

You do not contribute to the suffering of others by existing, the system which sustains and oppresses you simply oppresses others more, it claims to do so on your behalf, but this is not true. Class struggle in some countries has resulted in the capitalists deciding it is cheaper to buy of the w/c. This does not mean that they wouldn't reduce our wages to Thai/phillipino etc levels if they could.

Ethics are required, they govern our actions. Morality is a set of rules imposed to make us behave.

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Jun 21 2006 23:28
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Ethics are required, they govern our actions. Morality is a set of rules imposed to make us behave.

I broadly agree, after all anarchism is order - there are certain influences and morals that any society builds. We conform, mainly unconsciously, due to normative and informative influences.

However, public opinion (which we can assume to form decisions in morals in such a society) can turn into a tyrrany in itself. It is a sensitive issue.

lem
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Jun 22 2006 03:17
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Morality is a set of rules imposed to make us behave.

I'm sticking with my original definition of virtue/dentology, in which case I see no reason why morality is imposed. Unless you suggest some kind of phenomenological non-naturalist theory, I see no way in which one could be anymore imposed than the other, cetainly in any absolute way.

I prefer morality, as its more concerned with ends, and "character" doesn't sound as important as, say, preventing murder.

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Jun 22 2006 13:24
Jef Costello wrote:
Quote:
It depends.

I tend towards non-existent ethics, why bother doing bad stuff, indeed, why bother doing anything at all? This absolves you from all guilt, if you never have to do anything, then you never have to make decisions, then you never have a moral quandary. But in a capitalist society you can contribute to the suffering of others by just existing, so I think that's why I'm active in certain groups, so I can be at peace with myself, by actively helping people, I'm negating my guilt for just existing.

I mean, from a Buddhist perspective, why would you bother with politics at all? it just aggravates you unneccessarily, much better to adopt the position that politicians are all nasty, nasty people, ignore them, and try to live your life as ethically as possible, by making your own and other people's lives better, albeit marginally.

Although, morals are useful when you want to criticise people at the top, by pointing out that all they want to do is harm people, I mean isn't that the sole aim of politicians, in effect? To bring misery into millions of people's lives? Then you realise that politics is all a charade. But hey ho

This is entirely the opposite of anarchism. Anarchism requires ethics and a sense of personal responsibility. You seem to be refusing to accept responsibility for either.

You do not contribute to the suffering of others by existing, the system which sustains and oppresses you simply oppresses others more, it claims to do so on your behalf, but this is not true. Class struggle in some countries has resulted in the capitalists deciding it is cheaper to buy of the w/c. This does not mean that they wouldn't reduce our wages to Thai/phillipino etc levels if they could.

Ethics are required, they govern our actions. Morality is a set of rules imposed to make us behave.

Yeah but there's personal responsibility and personal responsibility. Why should I accept responsibility for something I'm never going to be able to change? And will only make myself frustrated by worrying about? You do contribute to other people's misery just by existing, say for example, you can't go through your daily life without buying things, most of which are created through the theft of other people's labour value.

I'm all for ethics in your personal life, but extending that to other realms becomes problematic, because you start imposing value systems on other people. Like, most anarchists will say, fight for the working classes, when a lot of working class people are entirely opposed to anarchism. If the working classes want to help themselves, then that's fine, but why should I adopt the condescending attitude that I know the answers to their problems better than they do?

I reckon having a class justice perspective precludes ethics, because you see reality in terms of opposing classes, and not in terms of individuals doing heinous deeds. If you wanted to criticise people ethically, then you'd have to exclude lots of people from any radical movement, because most people are not ethical. But, I'm happier having my sense of personal ethics intact and not worrying about the working class, mostly because I've been shat on by a lot of working class people. And middle class people, to be sure, but if you see the world in terms of class solidarity, then you're going to have to excuse a lot of arseholes, who have the attitude that, "it's allright for me to do this, because I'm working class." Like a lot of posters on this board will say, "it's allright for me to be an ignorant arsehole, because I'm on the side of proley justice fighting against bourgeois ignorance."

And why does no-one correlate the cause of class justice with what happened in Russia, and China, and Germany? You can excuse almost anything once you see the world in terms of class, and the ruling classes, ironically, can get away with anything once you say, oh, it's just the ruling class doing what they do.

If you preclude all choice from people's lives, if you say, no-one can make choices outside their class perspective, then you get rid of ethics. Which is why negative ethics is so fruitful, why should I kill anyone? why should I speak to people who regularly insult me? Why should I make other people's lives a misery? Why should I get involved in class struggle when most working class people are so brutalised they'd take fascism over liberation any day?

It's like Chomsky's latest book talks about the US's intention to have global hegemony, including nuclear weapons, and he wants people to get active to do something about it, but what good will that do? The world is in such a bad state, with no way of changing it by mass political action, that any attempt will just be beaten down. You can't fight the police and armed forces in America, you're not going to win, or at least not without killing so many people that the cause becomes worthless.

In short, I can't be arsed any more.

Thread nicely derailed grin

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Bodach gun bhrigh
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Jun 22 2006 21:20

Man, I don't know who I am anymore 8)

Cheerfully withdrawn grin

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Jun 22 2006 21:41
Bodach gun bhrigh wrote:
Yeah but there's personal responsibility and personal responsibility. Why should I accept responsibility for something I'm never going to be able to change? And will only make myself frustrated by worrying about? You do contribute to other people's misery just by existing, say for example, you can't go through your daily life without buying things, most of which are created through the theft of other people's labour value.

I think we have got aour wires crossed I'm expecting you to accept responsibility for things that you can change, I don't believe that you can be responsible for something that you did not make happen. That's pointless guilt tripping and only directors of charities really need to be involved in that.

I don't think that we absolve the ruling class by saying that they are compeeled to act unethically. I say that we justify our belief that their should be no ruling class and re-affirm that we cannot get equality by asking for it nicely, we must demand it and take it.

I certainly would not believe that someone being working clas allowed them to behave inethically. I look on morality as something largely used to make us behave so I see no problem with people ignoring it. I think theft is wrong ethically, but I think stealing from Sainsbury's is ok because they steal from us on a daily basis.

Quote:
If you preclude all choice from people's lives, if you say, no-one can make choices outside their class perspective, then you get rid of ethics. Which is why negative ethics is so fruitful, why should I kill anyone? why should I speak to people who regularly insult me? Why should I make other people's lives a misery? Why should I get involved in class struggle when most working class people are so brutalised they'd take fascism over liberation any day?

I never said this I don't think anyone else did. You always have a choice, but it is far easier to follow what you are trained to do.

I'm not sure what you mean by negative ethics but it seems like an abnegation of personal responsibility. It is a withdrawal.

It's a shame you seem to feel so defeated Bodach, I don't believe a revolution is likely and I'm pretty sure that I'll never see it. But we need to have hope.

Quote:
Morality is about duty and is concerned with the end, and ethics is about virtue (honesty, sincerity etc). Does anyone disagree with this?

In which case you have sometging to gain from being ethical - character!

I don't see how this is any less imposed though - both are learned, one still has a choice to be moral.

I broadly agree with you, but there is a difference. Society rewards you, as far as it can, for being moral. For acting in the way that it orders and not breaking its rules. It does not reward you for being ethical, ethics are personal and based upon a view of the self. I am ethical because I like to feel that I am a good person. I am moral because I fear punishment.

Quote:
O Troglodites, what moves you to this; uprightness becomes a burden to you. In your present condition, having no head, you are constrained in your own despite to be virtuous; otherwise your very existence would be at stake, and you would relapse into the wretched state of your ancestors. But this seems to you too heavy a yoke; you would rather become the subjects of a king, and submit to laws of his framing-laws less exacting than your present customs. You know that then you would be able to satisfy your ambition, and while away the time in slothful luxury; and that, provided you avoided the graver crimes, there would be no necessity for virtue
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Joseph Kay
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Jun 22 2006 22:52
Bodach gun bhrigh wrote:
you can't go through your daily life without buying things, most of which are created through the theft of other people's labour value

that´d be crimethinc then wink

like Jef said, you only charity directors need to worry about making people feel personally responsible for arrangements imposed on them. Maybe we need a follow-up thread on ´anarchist ethics´? A pretty interesting topic ...

lem
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Jun 23 2006 14:38
Jef Costello wrote:
I am ethical because I like to feel that I am a good person. I am moral because I fear punishment

I dnno, I feel like I can be moral (consider people's rights, rather than my own, e.g. virtue of honesty) without fear of punishment. What about when people's desire for virtue orients them towards being moral?

And I get bodach's problem, I think. Its very difficult to make your own decisions about what to do in ethical problems, its not like he's absolving himself of the negative consequences of being ethical, just saying that its better for someone else to decide, and I don't know if thats irresposible in the normal sense (e.g. stealing is irreponisble) (wlud you argue otherwise??), but perhaps wrong in that its not considering the end results of acting/not.

Not that I'm saying Bodach is WRONG or BAD or anything. No guilt trip from me, maaann

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Jun 23 2006 14:57

I don't think I was arguing against personal responsibility, it's just, personal responsibility need not arise if people didn't actually do so many bad things. Although, now I'm so confused I don't know what or where I'm arguing from.

Personal ethics good, impersonal ethics bad, and I also reckon you can't have blanket morality judgements, and it's not easy to have collective ethics.

Class struggle would be great if it ever actually happened, but it doesn't look too likely at the mo. cry So in the breach, to act ethically, I'll withdraw from the class struggle so I don't antagonise too many people. confused

Lordy, I need another night's sleep

lem
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Jun 23 2006 15:08

...So your saying that you are responsible for the things that you affect, but not what other people cause? So try not to cause anything bad. What is impersoal resonsibility - being responsible forthe murderer that lives a couple of countys up?

Quote:
can't have blanket morality judgements, and it's not easy to have collective ethics.

I agree with this, but maybe collective ethics like solidarity is what its all about.

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Jun 23 2006 17:08
lem wrote:
...So your saying that you are responsible for the things that you affect, but not what other people cause? So try not to cause anything bad. What is impersoal resonsibility - being responsible forthe murderer that lives a couple of countys up?
Quote:
can't have blanket morality judgements, and it's not easy to have collective ethics.

I agree with this, but maybe collective ethics like solidarity is what its all about.

Impersonal ethics involves making ethical decisions for other people, or making pronouncements that certain things are definetely wrong regardless of the circumstances, like Tony Bawbag and his minions. Who both make these pronouncements and are definetely wrong regardless. grin

ernie
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Jun 23 2006 17:21

Hi

Bodach gun bhrigh you say:

Quote:
Class struggle would be great if it ever actually happened, but it doesn't look too likely at the mo.

What about the student movement in France, the metal workers movement in Vigo Spain or the workers' revolt in Bangladesh? Don't these gladden you heart? And these are only the most recent expressions of the resurgence of class struggle.

These struggles have been powerfully characterised by a determination not to submit to the attacks of capital, solidarity and discussion; all of which are central to the morality of the proletariat.

PaddyG
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Jun 24 2006 08:41

I suppose I consider myself an "anarchist" because in today's society, it is now socially acceptable (even encouraged) to con, lie, cheat and generally live by parasitic values. Believe me I know, after leaving school I worked in various offices as a temp - deception IS encouraged, especially in call centres. twisted

I could not live with myself if I accepted this as part of my life.

Not to mention the fact that any taxes I pay may contribute to buying weapons and all sorts of nasty things in the name of "democracy".

I CHOSE a moral way of life because I personally believe humans function better as GOOD people. I don't need laws to tell me right from wrong, watching He-Man taught me all that as a child!

I offer no elaborate political agenda, in fact I beleive agendas are generally bad. I don't like to label myself - I am just a human being who is just trying to live right. 8)

For me, morality feels like my only lifeline in this world. I do not feel oppressed by my own moral values, as it is a choice, a reason to exist, even a path to feeling free - and besides, it feels damn good to do good. Mr. T

That's why i'm here in this forum with you - because I see immoral things all around me every day and I don't know what to do to make them go away or escape somehow. confused

Sometimes I think we may need a major evolutionary change before things get any more pallatable in the world. Until then, it will be our morals against their bullshit. circle A

They have the guns. If the shit hits the fan, they will use them. For me the only way to true freedom is morality.[/b]