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Morality and the rationalizations

September 15, 2016

IN the heat and passion of our political exchanges, as in the many other fields like in sports, entertainment, social issues, etc., we should try our best to be sober enough to keep a firm grip on what would constitute as moral and immoral views and to resist the strong temptation to fall into all kinds of rationalizations to justify certain positions that we hold, either individually or as a group.

Nowadays, especially in the political field, a lot of rationalizations are made. Many people are of the view that because of a certain problem that is widely considered as raging and harmful to a large sector of the populace, certain drastic measures can be made.

In theory, of course, these measures can and even ought to be done. Serious problems that affect the lives of many have to be met with forceful, vigorous and hopefully effective solutions.

But for all this theoretical practicality of this radical and even extreme approach to such problems, morality should never be sacrificed. We don't do evil so that a certain good may be achieved.

That the end never justifies the means is a classic moral principle that will never go obsolete. Violating this principle can only trigger a vicious cycle of hatred and revenge that would divide people into unfair and inhuman categories and would perpetuate the law of Talion, a tit-for-tat kind of culture where mercy has no place in the pursuit for justice. Violating this principle violates the very nature and the law of our freedom itself.

Nowadays, many people, including our leaders, appear to be unclear about what is moral and what would make a human act, personal or collective, immoral. In the case of the extrajudicial killings, for example, many would justify it because the intention is supposed to be good, or it has lowered down the rate of criminality, or it is supposed to be an expression of a strong and relevant political will, or that there were more EJKs in the past, etc.

Others mouth a new moral doctrine about a certain justifiable collateral damage when there is some kind of undeclared war.

These are pure rationalizations. Forgotten is the objective evaluation of the morality of the act itself. It seems that even our leaders do not know anymore where the sources of morality have to be taken. That one has to consider the object of the act, the intention and the circumstances is not anymore done.

Things now seem to depend only on a certain idea of political effectiveness based on some statistics, popularity and acceptance of at least a simple majority of the people, or profitability. It seems morality is now measured by these criteria.

Aside from EJK, other immoral acts are now being justified. Detraction is one, as shaming by exposing the hidden faults of some public figures is made. The Catechism says that especially in the media, “the information must be communicated honestly and properly with scrupulous respect for moral laws and the legitimate rights and dignity of the person.” (Compendium 525)

Vengeance is another. And all forms of insults and personal derision are hurled. Fallacies are now the new logic. There are now all sorts of misinformation and disinformation glutting the media.

Among the collateral victims of this new culture are the very principle of human rights, the standing of God, Church and religion itself in society, basic decency and courtesy to all including offenders.

A certain build-up of fanaticism, a culture of simplistic black-and-white categorization of people, can be observed, with its corresponding wave of hatred against those who choose to be different from the majority.

We need to go back to the basics of morality. We have to assess human acts, especially those with public character, according to their objective morality before considering them in their political, social or economic contexts, etc.

As said earlier, the sources of morality are three: the moral object, the intention of the subject who acts, and the circumstances which include the consequences. As the Catechism would put it:

“An act is morally good when it assumes simultaneously the goodness of the object, of the intention, and of the circumstances...It is not licit to do evil so that good may result from it...On the other hand, a good end does not make an act good if the object of that act is evil...Circumstances can increase or diminish the responsibility of the one who is acting but they cannot change the moral quality of the acts themselves.” (Compendium 368)

This is the new challenge we have.

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