Building an Ethical System -or- You Mean I Have to THINK?!
by Pat Carbonell
In many times, in many places, some smart human figured out that if only everyone believed in his/her world view and abided by his/her set of rules for social behavior, the world would be a great place to live happily ever after. If this smart human happened to have enough charisma or money or armies or friendly gods, they got to start themselves a religion! No, this isn't another anti-religion rant. Just a little friendly anthropology to start your morning off right (kinda like bran flakes - with the same probable results!).
Now these smart humans have come up with everything from the Greek pantheon (keep your head down and your mouth shut and the gods MIGHT just overlook you), to Middle Eastern monotheism (remember the Ten Commandments?), to Marxism (give to society according to your gifts, take according to your needs, and don't believe in gods!), to Environmentalism (the Earth is our Mother, She must be protected at all cost), etc. etc. and so on.
The one hallmark uniting all these belief systems is that they come with rules. Yeah, nice comfortable lists of do's and dont's... they do not require their followers to strain the brain to any great extent. Wouldn't want that, overheated brains lead to all sorts of weirdness...
And then there's Wicca. It has just one Law... except it comes in two flavors. One, which you've seen here before, says "An it harm none, do what ye will." The second, which one of my commentators from last week reminded me of (THANK YOU!), is "Do what ye will is the whole of the Law."
Someone asked me once what the difference between a white witch and a black witch is... well, only white witches follow the first form of the Law. The second can be followed by either, and their actions are entirely determined by their desires. If one's desire is to be a pacifist icon a la Gandhi, fine. If one's desire is world domination a la Pinky and the Brain, we might have an itty bitty problem with it, but it would be cool under the second form of the Law.
Me, I'm a white witch, and I've built my ethical system on the premise of doing no harm. And that's where this whole thinking for yourself gig can get to be (a) a big frigging headache and (b) downright hysterical at times.
Okay, take food, for example. If you are utterly convinced that only humans have a consciousness worth worrying about, then you're up for being as broad an omnivore as this planet's ever seen. But wait, what about chimps and gorillas and dolphins and whales? Okay, so apes and cetaceans are off the list - can't eat anything that can learn sign language or sing underwater.
What about endangered species? Okay, so we won't allow hunting spotted owls (not enough meat to be worth it anyway) or Sumatran tigers (sorry gents, you'll have to get your tiger balls elsewhere). What about horsemeat? Wellllllll, no. Not going to eat Secretariat or little Suzy's pet pony. Same goes for anything fuzzy and cuddly - I don't care if it does taste like chicken. Oh, yeah, speaking of, nothing that slithers. Nope, not eating snake. Or salamander. Or newt. Yeah, I know all about the "eye of newt" thing, but that's what you throw in the cauldron, not what you slap on a sandwich!
Okay, so we've pretty much eliminated everything wild. Oh, yeah, I grew up with Bambi, and I'm not eating venison either. Plus Sherri Adams' Lambchop forever removed lamb from my diet... oops, digressing here.
So we're down to domesticated animals: chicken, cows, pigs, sheep, buffalo, etc. Well, if I've never met it, I don't have a problem eating an animal that was bred to be food. Jo and I do have a rule that we won't eat anything we've met and know it's name. A friend had this adorable Jersey steer named Ferdinand that we met... after Ferdinand became freezer fodder, he offered us some - closest I've ever come to throwing up in his face!
But there are a lot of folks who won't eat domesticated meat, either. They consider anything animal to be ensouled, and won't eat them. Okay, that's cool. Don't harm the animals.
But what about plants? You know, those things we're encouraged to talk to when we water them, and the large ones Treebeard and the rest of the Ents take care of? What about them?
Well, some folks won't eat them either. At least none that are majorly multi-cellular and 'organized' - brown rice seems to be okay.
See what I mean about the headache? And this is just the simple question: what am I gonna have for lunch?
Then there's the tough ones, like: should I step in and 'fix' this person's problem? Whoa, that one is a hard one. You start getting into issues like violating someone's free will, interfering with what the universe might be wanting them to learn, and whether or not fixing it in the short term is going to harm them in the long term.
Pretty much you wind up with situational ethics. Every situation has to be analyzed and the questions of least harm/most benefit/do you have a right or responsibility at all answered. Sure, most of your day-to-day living is covered under broad standards, like what food you'll eat and you don't go snooping in someone's head just out of idle curiosity. If you're lucky, you don't have to deal with the heavy shit more than once a year. If you're not, it's more like once a week.
But there's no easy "list" to follow. Think about how complicated post-incarnation judgement is... instead of a nice little neat checklist from the belief system of your choice, you get something like this:
Deity: So, Pat, let's look at your decision in 1978 about going off on your kid's father about his drug-dealing...
Can you see going through that for every decision you made in your life? Me, I'm hoping for a fast "good job" or "you fucked up big time, try again" and on to my next incarnation!
So, if you want to have a really entertaining weekend, try concocting your own ethical system... then run imaginary situations through it and see what happens. Hmmm, I wonder if we could turn this into a video game? Hey, if any of you ubergeeks out there do it, I want a cut for the creative idea!!!!!
I just said I try to do no harm, I never said anything about not making a profit *grin*.
Oh, and for those of you who suffered through last week's personal whine: I changed the name to "Phoenix Rising Designs", got into another show at the last minute this weekend, and did over $300 in sales, the best day I've had all year. *touchdown dance*
Next installment: I have no clue - we'll just have to see what pops up (all right, get your minds out of the gutter, you're crowding me!)
Pat is just as confused as we are about what to eat.