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Sunday, September 2, 2007

We Need Different Commandments

Ten both isn't enough, and is too many. First off, half the Ten Commandments are non-competition clauses. Keep the Sabbath, Worship me, Don't worship other gods, no Idolatry. These are just rules against shopping at the competition's store. Not ethical precepts. The two coveting commandments are so nebulous as to be unenforceable. Adultery, well it definitely has a downside, but the scarlet letter is sort of passé, especially when we never applied the rule to men. leaving us with no killing, thievery, or lying, at least as far as witnessing goes. These rules cropped up in every civilization created by man. From Inca to Mandarin. Zulu to Roman. These cultures developed this set of basic rules without the benefit of Judeo Christian inspiration mostly because as social animals we need them to survive and thrive. The earliest clans, twenty thousand years ago, must have developed these rules for their own survival. No magical invisible dictator in the sky is needed to impose these rules. We must honor these universal laws as our heritage, and make no changes in them without a damn good reason. However these four laws are not enough. Humanity has gone super-biblical by banning slavery. A lot of the bible, koran, or other ancient law giving texts concern the commercial trafficking in human beings. Certain people of Africa and the Middle East are still having a hard time coming to terms with that change.

With the arrival of modern weapons the need for new universal laws is becoming apparent. Genocide, at least as a conscious policy, is only a hundred or so years old. Genocide is an expression of the nationalistic tribal imperative. It has had coats of ideological paint applied, but genocide is a tribal act at its core. Destroy those who threaten us. Destroy those who have wronged us. Destroy the sub-human enemy. The big problem is that we now have the means to effect that destruction.

The tragedy of the commons writ large calls out for a new universal law. In the good old days when we used something up we discarded it. Nobody worried about slash and burn agriculture, or what they dumped in the river. The river was a miraculous disposal device that didn't cost anybody anything to use. No those bands of farmers are cities of millions, dependent on those rivers for sustenance, but it still won't cost any single abuser anything to add to its destruction. How do we establish moral laws to deal with this threat.

In the USA the biblical moralizers are so concerned with who marries who, and the legal status of an undifferentiated blastula of embryonic cells. Individual's right to be secure in their own conscience is forever challenged without a thorough vetting of the motives of the challengers. The tyranny of the mob indeed can force people to swear oaths and fein belief systems with impunity.

Modern commerce cries out for a set of moral precepts. Exploitative multinational corporations raid much of the poorest third world peoples for the extracted riches that are their only assets. Preying on ignorant people is easy picking for these immortal internationals. When an avaricious tyrant exploited a people in the past, the victims knew that he eventually would grow old, sick and die. His sons would squabble over the empire and become corrupt, and fall. Now our multinationals strip mine great swaths of corrupt nations for pennies on the dollar and discard the ravaged corpse. Multinationals are immortal behemoth overlords that have no ethics and obey the laws of no nation. Bringing these organizations under control should be a primary moral objective.

Lastly we just have to do something about wine snobs.