Monday, March 22, 2010

Morality and Social Policy

¡Hola! Everybody...
I have said it before and I’ll say it again: the fRight-Wing Morans really pose a profound challenge to my spiritual practice. It’s hard for me to muster compassion for bullies. Case in point is the historic health reform bill passed last night. Among the immediate impacts: Children can remain on their parents’ HMO until age 26; small business can get up to 50% of their insurance premiums as tax credits; people who have been denied coverage by their insurance company can appeal to the government; seniors not covered by Medicare Part D drug benefit will get $250 to pay for scripts; Insurance companies will not be allowed to set coverage caps for major illnesses. Put simply, lives will be saved -- literally.

Yet, visit any fRight-Wing site, or talk to that goober right wing friend/ relative and you are immediately bombarded with ridiculously unbelievable hatred and ignorance...

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-=[ Reason, Morality, Social Policy ]=-

I don't give a damn about semi-radicals... This is not a time of gentleness. It is not a time for lukewarm feelings. It is a time for open speech and fearless thinking.
-- Helen Keller

For some people society’s ultimate reason for existence is to serve the individual. Government, religion, and everything else is filtered according to where you stand in terms of personal growth.

Let’s take moral development as a starting off point. Let’s assume for the sake of argument moral development has three distinct stages. An infant at birth hasn’t been socialized into its culture’s ethics, standards, and conventions; let’s call this the preconventional stage. It’s also known as egocentric, in that the individual’s awareness is largely concerned (consumed) with self -- self-absorbed. As the child begins to assimilate culture’s rules and norms, it grows into the conventional stage of morals. This stage is also known as ethnocentric, in that this level of moral reasoning is focused on the individual’s particular group, tribe, clan, or nation, and it therefore tends to exclude those not of its group. At the next major stage of moral development, the post-conventional stage, the individual’s identity expands to include care and concern for all peoples, regardless of race, color, sex, or creed, which is why this stage is also known as worldcentric.

If you’re still with me, you can see that moral development tends to move from “me” (egocentric) to “us” (ethnocentric) to “all of us” (worldcentric). This is an example of unfolding waves of consciousness.

Using this consciousness “map” one can see how a vision of society will manifest itself differently in a person who’s at the egocentric stage than a person who’s at a worldcentric stage. Both people can be “nice” people, but their vision will manifest itself in accordance to their level of moral development. In addition, their worldview has divergent consequences.

Imagine a society from an egocentric or ethnocentric perspective. Society from a lower level stage perspective resembles much of the world today. It certainly conforms to what America looks like. Such a society would be concerned with the individual at the expense of the larger society. It’s the same with almost anything you look at in life: it changes according to what level you’re able to engage the world. Religion from an egocentric perspective probably resembles the scary wave of fundamentalism currently threatening our existence. And I mention fundamentalism in all its manifestations -- including our own home-grown Christian fundamentalism.

I find all this quite interesting because a lot of my work involves helping people move from one stage to another. But it’s also interesting because it helps me tease out the idiosyncrasies when someone speaks about civil liberties. Freedom, from an egocentric perspective, looks a lot different from freedom from a worldcentric level of moral reasoning, for example.

Last night, the US legislature did more than pass a lukewarm health reform bill. Yes the bill is an ugly stepchild of too much compromise and too little real reform. To say it needs work is an understatement. But more important than the actual law, is the shift from seeing health as a privilege to recognizing it as a fundamental human right. It’s something even some third world nations take for granted. We’re not there yet, but this legislation is a first step toward moving from an egocentric/ ethnocentric level of moral reasoning to developing a collective and enlightened view that care and concern for all peoples, regardless of race, color, gender, sexual orientation, or creed is what is needed if we’re going to survive as a species.

And in a real way, that is what happened last night as you were distracted by something else on TV.



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