Friday, January 23, 2009

Universal Morality

The latest research on our mind absolutely fascinates me. According to an article in the Futurist, "The Mechanics of Good and Evil", morality is a cognitive process. The article states that everyone has an in-built moral grammar. One would expect morality to be learned from parents and society as we grow and learn. One would also expect it to be dependent on cultural background. But research shows that large part of our moral makeup, called moral grammar, is already present at birth!! It is only tweaked and perfected as we experience life. And everyone judges everything by their own grammatical rules. Every moral code is entirely individual and, - this is intriguing - unintelligible to someone with a different setup. My set of personal principles will seem like a silly hash of unrefined ideas to anyone who does not have a similar line of thinking. That is absolutely amazing! Actually, it makes me understand why I find the hijab so ridiculous - and the people who cover find my opinion so, well.... shocking, to put it mildly. For those predisposed to whatever it is that makes themselves, and others, uncomfortable, it is untenable how I can be a proper Muslim without having my head covered by something else other than hair (You can read right away how unreasonable I find this line of thinking because it does not match MY moral grammar).

I think it also explains why memory differs from person to person. People remember things differently because their moral wiring probably processes it differently.It also explains why some people are indifferent, and some so involved, to events around the world that are not a part of our immediate landscape. It is our personal grammar, moral or otherwise, that defines how we look at things. It determines how we react to situations.And that just makes it all the more imperative that we do NOT judge others by what we think is right.

I think it just means that all things are right as long as it hurts no one else. And conversely, if you hurt someone - by words or actions- it is WRONG , however right it seems in your personal grammar. That is basic morality. And being so basic, it is noble and unassailable. As long as your actions do not affect someone adversely, no one has the right to tell you NOT to do it. So, my asking someone not to wear a hijab is as oppressive as someone asking me to put it on!

Obviously hitting someone is absolutely wrong - WHATEVER your motivation - justified or not -because the justification comes from YOUR grammar. Universal morality would dictate that you cannot hurt someone else. PERIOD. You find a way to right the wrong you feel without infringing on the other's personal space. It may be offensive to me if someone in front of you folds their legs onto their chair,but he is not breaking the universal morality decree. My pique is because of my personal grammar - and I will have to let it go.

It is not difficult to see how specific and unique personal moral grammar is. It also emphasizes how encompassing and elemental universal morality should be. That makes it easy to know when you need to react, because universal morality is simply doing the right thing for others. It is simply a 'do not hurt' principle. And that should never be negotiable. Whether it fits in your moral code or (horror of horrors) not - this morality is incumbent on every person on the planet. You can walk swinging your arms all through the hallway, as long as no one is going to get hit.

And if we just get it right - the world will be a better place.

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This blog is an attempt to bring out a new twist on accepted notions of society. It is an attempt to get the reader to take off the tinted glasses and look at the world with fresh eyes. If you agree with the ideas of this blog, and think anew, I would consider myself successful. If you do not agree with the thoughts on this blog and cement your own notions, it still made you think, and my work is done.
Look at the world with a refractive lens. The truth will stand out.

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