Morality; History not Learned
We delve into history, to highlight how dictating morality affects and shapes society
In our previous article, we stated a core issue with being as a desire to do whatever one wants, expecting no consequences, even going to an extent of changing belief systems for this. This pattern has shown itself in history time and time again. A dictation of morality to fit a certain way of life that benefits a certain group of people. The dictation has skewed certain aspects of humanity’s existence like power, good, evil, love and relationships including marriage.
The pattern continues today; governments changing their laws and policies, not for the good of all citizens but an individual or a particular groups benefit. These changes don’t amount to much and often have unintended consequences to the overall well-being of people. A law or policy changed due to pressure from a particular social group is not enduring, as the truth is not in the masses. However, I am jumping the gun here; to develop a deep understanding, one needs to look at the moral history of humanity.
For a long time, humanity got its moral teachings on what to do, how to be, and function from religion. There were numerous religions, most long dead, that were the bedrock of culture and society. They bore a belief system in which people lived and viewed the world. Currently, the most common religion, which is considered one of the oldest, is the Judeo-Christian. This belief system served the Jews, but the teachings and stories were much older than their culture. In older times, it acted as a moral code that governed culture but changed over time as the morals were introduced into systems and societal structures by the Jews. These systems and societal structures were limiting as they were build using human knowledge.
According to the texts, a man came into the picture, the promised Messiah, and challenged their ways, informing them they had departed from precedence. He proposed a new way of life that challenged their structures and would quote texts that listed morals they had preserved as evidence of their departure. They were using these texts for their benefit, twisting and misquoting to gain power over people. This new radical way of living and seeing the world was governed by love that served others and was never self-seeking. It gathered up a massive storm and threatened other structures that promoted injustice as it spread from culture to culture. Some listened to him, and others decided to kill him because he was threatening their created structures. The strangest thing happened, he came back to life and motivated his followers to continue his teachings.
Authorities tried to silence the wave by killing its enactors, but it gathered even more traction. There was something about this way of life that people were willing to die for what it stood for; enduring never-ending love. And yet, Mr Freud dared to claim that people take up religion because they fear death. Eventually, the authorities gave up and decided to embrace the Christian values. They decided to do it by incorporating it into their existing structures, repeating the same mistake.
Eventually, the structures moved away from the morals they had incorporated, hurting a lot of people. They fueled inhuman acts that went against the morals given to them, like the crusades. The crusades were a series of wars supported by the Latin Church during the medieval period (1095-1291 AD). The motivation was the expulsion of Muslims in Jerusalem. The crusades were bloody, and many people died; Jews, Muslims, and Non-Christians. The crusaders claimed to be Christians, which must have been a joke as they clearly did not understand what that meant. The populous was not stupid, and there was a build-up of resentment. People got tired of the church's tyranny and rejected both its structures and the morals within them.
Depiction of Knights Templars during the Crusades Courtesy of jama.artstation.com
The age of enlightenment was a philosophical movement that dominated the 17th and 18th centuries. It encompassed many ideas centred around the pursuit of happiness, liberty, senses being primary sources of knowledge, and separation of the church and the state. The age of enlightenment was supposedly revolutionary in overhauling social structures. It also advanced science not only as a discipline but as the usurper of religion and traditional authority. By the end of the 1800s, God is dead was popular, though it's good to add the rest of it, and we have killed him. These words were proclaimed by a man called Friedrich Nietzsche. People were thrilled at this as religion was dying, and the age of rationality began. The church was corrupt and oppressed people; Nietzsche added that Christian religion had made people weak. Freud said religion was a child’s dream, and people used it as a defence because they were afraid of death.
People started to criticize religion and slowly departed from its teachings. Interestingly, Nietzsche also prophesied that departure from Christian teaching would result in nihilism- a belief that nothing in physical reality is real and life is meaningless. According to him, a belief system had died, and as a result, faith in belief systems was shaken and collapsing. This is the part of the story where everything goes wrong. People thought they could do better, create structures with their understanding as a source of moral teachings. They started living life to better self, dictating their morality; they did not learn from the crusades.
Case in point, in comes a man by the name Adolf Hitler. Almost everyone is familiar with this man, the leader of the Nazis. He instigated the mass killing of the Jews, the disabled and even sparked the second world war. We know his story, but do we know what happened. Of course, we just talked about what happened. Sorry let me specify the question; do we understand what happened? The truth is we do not as we have not learned from it. Learning requires a complete picture, which requires an in-depth understanding. Germany lost world war one and was forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles that blamed them for the war and demanded financial restitution. They were to pay fines to the tune of 132 billion gold marks, or approximately $30 billion today. They were suffering greatly in terms of economic stability. The people were resentful, and by the time Hitler came into the picture, there was a lot of bitterness in society.
Hitler was a good orator and knew of the maliciousness brewing in the German people. He was able to feed off the bitterness of the German people, and the German people were able to feed off his. He was elected as their leader and won by a landslide, even after attempting a coup. He then started cleaning up Germany and brought order. Adolf was an orderly man and had the vision to make his country better. The people, of course, wanted their lives better, I mean, who would not?
To achieve this, he started killing what he viewed as pests in the country in what is known as the holocaust; the Disabled, Jews, gipsies and other ethnic groups, to name a few. Hitler did a lot of horrible things but was it he that was the problem? The truth is clear that the rot was in the group, the masses. In those times, 1 out 4 people were spies who reported back to the government. They would report any sighting of Jews and even citizens who tried to hide them. The concentration camps where the persecuted persons were imprisoned had workers who were citizens of the country. Hitler was just a representative of a group pathology, one of resentment, rot, and evil.
"His Voice is nothing other than his own unconscious, into which the German people have projected their own selves; that is, the unconscious seventy-eight million Germans. That is what makes him powerful. Without the German people he would be nothing."
Carl Jung, Swiss Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst, analysis of Hitler in an 1938 interview.
A question to ponder, where would you lie? Would you risk your life to protect the persecuted or would you give up a Jew to the government?
Auschwitz Concetration Camp, Poland / Former Nazi Extermination Camp Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash
Do you want to know why people have not learned anything? Let's look at a few years later, in comes Stalin and Mao. These two leaders from different cultures all wanted the same thing; communism. A social arrangement where all property is owned by the community that was meant to be a push against capitalism. Is communism a bad idea? I believe not, like all structures, it has its advantages and disadvantages. The problem again was “rot” in the group. Stalin and Mao all put strict rules against what they called enemies of communism. Anything that they viewed as a threat to communism was to be dealt with permanently and without mercy. In Maoist- China, the populous went on a killing spree, killing millions. In the Stalin lead Soviet Union, the populous allowed millions to be imprisoned, executed (Gulags), and to starve (Holodomor; Ukraine famine). Stalin and Mao again just represented the rot in the group. One can argue that they instigated the rules and ideas. The important question, however, is why did people follow them? If we say that they swayed people and people had no choice, we elevate these leaders to “gods” (who can even infringe on free will). Even soldiers refuse orders.
The minute people decided to create their morality things become chaotic. Most people want to do whatever they want, whenever they want, and with no consequences. The church did wrong and should have been overhauled but, why abandon the original morals, yet they were true?
The lack of an objective assessment to realize that the structures were the problem and not the morals, created the problem. Humanity wants to create its morality, dictate its values, and refuses to learn from its consequences. History shows us clearly what we need to understand and learn. The lesson is simple, and it does not want to be accepted. Even now, left- and right-wing ideals dominate; my morals make more sense than yours. Group identities are killing society, and leaders capitalize on it, gaining “power”, but it's the same populous that votes them in; the rot is in the group.
How would you know? Sit and listen to a group of people, even two, and pay attention, and you will hear it. One should be careful, however, not to forget that you might be affected. The day we all realize that each of us has the potential to be a Hitler, Stalin or Mao, will be the day we will achieve some sense of maturity as a society. The truth is that Humans cannot create an objective morality. They can, however, discover, but they reject it, even when given morals that work, in a library that is the Bible. The book talks about and shows the same problem that humans face even now, a need to dictate morality. Humanity has not changed and will not achieve change until it accepts that it relishes in doing what it wants, lives, and promotes rot and evil. There is something meaningful and freeing about realizing this, as you can choose to spend life learning love and spreading it. You can identify the rot and evil you have normalized and accepted and strive for change. Humanity has forgotten what it means to love, and it's about time we take up the mantle to break the vicious cycle of dictating morality.