Monday, February 23, 2015

Interesting distinction between legally right and morally wrong, with 21st century shame thrown in

Nothing changes!

In the age old debate between what is right and what is wrong, the point is often made that something can be legally right but morally wrong. A good example is coming up.

Then sometimes the question is asked, who decides what is morally wrong and morally right? In other words the spectre of 'moral authority' rises over stories in which legality and morality are distinguished. However in the example coming up you won't find any questions being asked about who or what is the moral authority behind people's outrage.

Of course we live in the modern age, the 21st century, so we in the West have moved a long way from publicly shaming people as a punishment. Why, we scarcely believe in punishment any more. Also, in the modern age, the 21st century, freedom of choice is everyone's right. Individuals have the power to do their own thing so long as other people are not hurt. But wait, in the example coming up shame plays a huge role. So much shaming applies that an apology is given. An apology for doing something which is legal, popular with many and a matter of exercising free choice as an individual. But, no individualism is not quite as significant as we may have lulled ourselves into thinking.

Here is the example, courtesy SMH.

Hero does something legally right and few people discuss much as a possible moral wrong.
Years later there is an accidental alert to the action.
Social media places hero in the metaphorical stocks and Twitter supplies the rotten eggs and tomatoes.
Hero bows to the pressure from self-appointed moral crusaders (who never name by what authority they act).
Suddenly a past time giving pleasure to many - hunting - is ruled out of possibilities for individual choice to be exercised.

Never underestimate the power of the collective!


Unknown said...

"Never underestimate the power of the collective!"
You mean 'the mob' don't you Peter?

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, I've just been watching a video of a young Egyptian, whose life has now emrged into that of an ISIS fighter. He was highly educated, with the prospect of a law career; had loyal friends but was drawn to the radical fundamentalism of his religion, which told him that even looking at a woman was sinful. In this day and age, this contradicts the way in which human beings conduct their lives.

The question here for me might be: Is the morality of murder of an 'infidel' more 'moral' than the normal modern understanding of human relationships?

i cannot believe that cutting one's-self off from everyday opposite gender relationships is either normal or moral

Jean said...

Don't think this even meets the morality v's legality debate; there are no facts. No information about whether the animals were endangered, or even if he was posing with elephant tusks of his own shoot (unlikely) or old tusks.

It definitely does fit into the category of people scalp hunting, mass histeria and judment without fact.

Ron I doubt opposite gender relationships can be termed normal or modern in the understanding of human relationships now or in the past. Not normal because the spectrum of views on the issue is diverse, not modern as they (opposite gender relationships) are not a new phenomenon.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jean
My interest here is in the manner in which the issue is being pursued: words like 'scandal' are being used; the critics of Glenn McGrath seem to presume as shared moral judgment about the hunting of (at least) African wildlife, if not any wildlife.

I am not sure that facts are hard to come by here: there was an admitted hunting trip; the photos are acknowledged as genuine; it was a legal hunting trip.

Some facts though could be usefully established: were the hunted animals part of a larger and needed culling project? (I have read some comments which suggest this is the case).

I also acknowledge that in NZ eyes, perhaps more than in Ozzie eyes, we tend to think (on all sides of the environmental debate) that hunting is okay to the extent that hunted animals here are generally pests. Outrage might be easier to manufacture over the ditch?

Jean said...

Okay I can see the idea of assumed shared moral judgement about the hunting of African Wildlife.

Hunting in NZ of pigs and wild deer is acceptable alongside pests such as possums, as are kangaroos etc in Aussie. The morality I think enters the equation because of the education/profile of the illegal and exploitative hunting of protected and/or endagered wildlife in Africa. It is not hard to take the leap from that to assuming all hunting of wildlilfe in Africa is morally wrong or involves such animals.

I would call this presumed shared moral judgement not outside the bounds of a reasonable premise legal or not - since like whale hunting, hunting for lions is now widely considered a moral no, no - but going straight for a guilty until proven innnocent premise, emotional response, against an individual without all the facts I think is the dividing point between moral judgement and unfounded accusations.

Often unfortunately practiced in our news-media on a regular basis.

Cheers Jean

MichaelA said...

Didn't Sam Whitelock shoot a zebra last year?

Apparently as he took aim he was heard muttering "just imagine its wearing green and gold".