Wednesday, October 10, 2018
The Self's Ethics vs. Political Ethics / Being Small in a Large and Impersonalized World
I am thinking about human cognition, about the self, about self-doubt and self-dignity.
I saw a neighbor's door wide open this morning while they were at work, and their dog was at the door, barking away. I went over, yelled inside "is anyone home?!", and when no one answered, I closed the door, because if for some strange reason the door had opened, at least I didn't want their dog running away. Losing a dog is heartbreaking. Then I felt ashamed for having made a change in property that did not belong to me, and carried a heavy feeling with me for a while, as I left the house and walked to the bus stop and got on a bus, did my chores, and then rode on a bus home.
Information from Yuval Noah Harari, philosophy classes, and inspection of my own self, collided while riding home on the bus today, as I pondered beauty, essence, and my misfortune in not really knowing how the world runs but only knowing of my own will to do good, and sitting next to intellectually disabled human beings who were also riding the bus.
I compare my strange mind to theirs, and well, while the mentally disabled are not held responsible for their actions, the mentally "able" (which I guess I am considered) are. But knowing of my own wobbly mind, I wonder at once who is to say that the mentally "able" can have such a high level of reliability as to be held accountable for misjudgment and misbehavior (or good judgment and good behavior).
There are two separate issues here which I will discuss and which I tend to mix together here, even though they are essentially two different things, and maybe someday I will be intellectual enough to analyze each one separately: (1) Determinism, which I have discussed in other posts, the idea that I do not actually objectively choose or create my actions from a free-will point; and (2) my own system of ethics not necessarily corresponding with the political-external system of ethics, and this being a source of fear.
Sometimes I am so scared in this world, because ultimately I am alone in my own self. Others can sympathize with me, but if I do something "wrong" (or if I do something "right"), I am the sole bearer of the responsibility (and I am the sole one on the acclaimed pedestal of that good deed) and I will be sent to jail alone (or praised alone). But when I do an act in the world - be it trying to help others, or doing something without noticing I'm doing it, or losing track of when I am in time or being absent-minded, or even just when I am my own self, swimming in my own thoughts, values, ethics, and neurological patterns - I ultimately do things my way, and not in the way of a legal system. My way, meaning the way my mind understands reality, the way I feel will help the most at the moment, etc. And knowing that this little wobbly system of judgment is responsible for all it commands the body to do, and will ultimately be alone if it commits a crime in the big external world, is scary. Mainly because I don't even know what constitutes a crime, because the system by which my mind creates action does not correspond to the external political justice system -- and this may be the main issue here. (And often I may believe that doing something is right, while it is technically illegal, like freeing animals from an abusive facility, for instance, and all I want is to do good, but I may end up in jail if I do it.)
(The psychoanalysis part of this, scars from childhood: I deeply fear scoldings, I doubt myself, and there is a big disconnect and disharmony between the experiences of Miriam as a conscious individual, and the external and sometimes patriarchal world that ultimately controlled much of my life.)
I often look to others to see what their opinions are (or to get information about the world), as if their opinions are more valid and fact-based than mine. But in essence, I assume that every human is just as feeble, lost and floating as any other (unless I am misinterpreting the world, and in fact others' minds are more straightforward and stable than mine). And in a moment, all the enlightenment, by which the Human is the height of all ethics, the conjugator of right and wrong, seems to be humbled.
A human who commits a "crime" - be it killing someone, stealing money, or even just letting their dog pee on the edge of someone's grass, like I do - can be potentially punished. If I were to be punished for the latter, I would feel so lost in this world. And is there really a difference between one crime and another?
The same forces that have me not committing significant crimes (the same thought-patterns which bring me to do or not to do an action), are perhaps the same arbitrary forces that urge someone to commit ones. The determinism that I sense is the underlying factor of my life's occurrences, is the same determinism and misfortune a human might experience when they are homeless and break into someone's home to find food. Perhaps even the same determinism that compels a person to kill. Just as I don't actually choose to do a certain act that seems "good", even though I feel like I am completely free-willingly choosing to do so (which is something I wrote about in a different post) but do it because that is just how my system rolls (in such a way that I am deterred from causing harm and try to cause safety and joy), another person might end up committing a crime. I feel that me not committing significant crimes (and me doing certain acts that seem "good") is random (or, is due to biological circuiting in the brain, upbringing, etc., but still not having to do with the consciousness of Miriam. The concsouness of Miriam does what it knows to do: Protect others from harm. But why? Is this an objective decision I made when I was born?)
(I feel like all the actions I do are not objectively chosen. The reason I do not hurt others is because I have it deeply embedded in me to be empathetic. This is due to many things, such as my genetics, my upbringing, my society, my sufferings and my joys, books I read, etc., but these ethics are (a) not something I can claim credit for, because even choosing which books to read, for example, were something that my inner self just did, without a conscious reason; (b) not having to do with any legal ethical systems that are outside of me. This thought actually leads me to the idea that perhaps a system of no laws (= anarchy) does not cause chaos and crime? But this is a deep philosophical question which should be placed aside for now, because it cannot be discussed without me thinking more deeply about it, and should not draw the ordinary responses of "of course it will cause chaos and crime" because I don't believe the answer is clear-cut.)
My conclusions for this may be three things: (1) Possibly "punishment" for crimes should be switched to Restorative Justice. And I am saying this now from the point of view of not being able to hold a human accountable for their actions (even though I do believe in Restorative Justice for other reasons too) - whether this is due to the idea of determinism, or to the idea that personal ethics do not correspond with public ethics (so here the two ideas come together). If a homeless person breaks into a home, instead of putting them in jail, maybe there is a less harsh solution so that they will refrain from doing it again in the future, and also will have all their needs met; (2) Maybe the Human Being is NOT the ultimate medium for justice and ethics, and just as I don't want to be held accountable for losing track of the date today, I don't want someone who stumbles into crime to be sitting in jail for something they didn't actively say "this is what I am going to do" about. Yes, things that can be dangerous to others should definitely be stopped and prevented. There needs to be a system to protect the public from violence, etc., but that is still different from the system of Punishment that we have today. I write this with a pinch of disagreement, because I do want certain people to be held accountable, like sex-assailants, but I shall analyze this another time; and
(3) referring to what I wrote about "going to jail alone": I wonder how the world would look if everyone took part in punishment for an individual. If I am part of a community, for instance, I take part in the joys and the sorrows of the community, and if one community member commits a crime, I can take part in bearing the pain of it, I mean physically and spiritually - a kind of unification, a kind of shared consciousness. I want to remember this idea, because I find it harmonious.
And just another thought on this: Me suggesting that the human is not the epitome of justice, can be a dangerous suggestion, because it alludes to the time when "God-given" commands were the rationale for judgment and punishment, and not much significance was given to the individuals' needs. What I would say, though, is that I am perhaps thinking of a world in which individuals' needs are the ONLY measure (similar to a "libertarian" opinion, maybe?). I really do believe in the importance of individual liberty and freedom, and accommodating the needs of a person as an entity who is searching for shelter, warmth and companionship is of fundamental (and sole) importance. (I have written about this in other posts.) This is the belief that a person can know what is good and right for themselves, and while it may be true that a person can be confused and not really know the world inside themself and around themself, and is kind of floating through existence, they still needs to be able to express what they need to survive in the best way. I am saying this because one of my biggest fears as a little floating female human is that my own needs will be trampled (as they have been in the past). It all stems from that, and that is the essence of all that I am writing:
(1) My mind and brain are messy
(2) My desire is to be safe
And, of course:
(3) I don't want anyone to yell at me; the underlying plea from the entire world.
And then everything changes.
I leave my house in the evening and walk over to the neighbors' house. They are home from work. I ask if anyone was home this morning, and tell them that I found their door open when they were at work, and that I closed it.
They were so grateful and so thankful. They said maybe it was the wind. And that it was so great that I closed the door so that the dog wouldn't leave.
And then I think - hey, maybe I do have good judgment in the end.
But you know - if they would have been disappointed or angry, I would have doubted myself from now until next year.
So who knows what's right in this world?