I have an inner sense that tells me right from wrong and a strong conviction to do right and avoid wrong. But are these integral to my nature or were they subtly put within me by society? Are they the same in everybody or are there conflicting perceptions of right and wrong? [PDF]
I perceive my conscience as a force within that raises a feeling of pre-emptive guilt whenever I may contemplate an intent to do wrong. It is like the voice of a personal policeman within me, warning me to desist from contemplating this wrong intent. The guilt manifests itself as a psychological (or spiritual) discomfort, which varies in degree from mild perception to unbearable pain. As such, it acts as a variable brake upon my wrong intent. The greater the wrong that I contemplate, the greater is my sense of pre-emptive guilt. The greater my sense of pre-emptive guilt, the greater is my reluctance to act upon my wrong intent.
If I heed the voice of my conscience and hence desist from executing my wrong intent, my feeling of pre-emptive guilt evaporates. My conscience is clear. But if, on the other hand, I ignore the warning of the voice within me and pre-meditatively act upon my wrong intent, my conscience continues to act retrospectively. The pain of my guilt increases to a threshold and stays. I cannot reduce, dissipate or erase it. It becomes a permanent part of my consciousness.
I find that my conscience also acts in the reverse sense. I suffer pre-emptive discomfort if I contemplate my intent to avoid doing something that I know I ought to do. Conscience exerts psychological pressure to make me fulfil what it informs me are my moral obligations. To intend to avoid or neglect a moral obligation is also wrong. It is what religious people call a sin of omission.
What is this inner voice of conscience? It appears to "talk" to "me" - that intangible conscious entity that I perceive myself to be. Since it communicates with "me", it must either be part of "me" or the output of some kind of conscious entity that is separate from "me" but like "me".
One thing that sets human consciousness above that of animals is its ability to model other conscious entities. I can converse with myself - another self. This gives me the ability to reason. It also enables me to hold mental conversations with others - real and imaginary. In a mental conversation with an imaginary person, I can make him respond to me as I wish. However, in a mental conversation with a real person, he must respond to me as my mental model of him anticipates that he would respond in reality.
The voice of my conscience converses with "me". However, it does not necessarily say to "me" what I would like to hear. So, if it be a model, it is not a model of an imaginary person. It is also not "me". So, who or what is it? Rather than being another "me" with whom I can converse, it appears to be more of a reciprocal "me". It is all human consciousness that is not "me". It is the logical complement of "me". It gives "me" a clear perception of how my behaviour and actions feel from the point of view of all human consciousness that is not "me".
Practically all humans have this reciprocal perception, including most psychopaths. It is necessary in order for conscience to function. But it is not the essence of conscience. The essence of my conscience is something that is part of that conscious entity that I perceive myself to be. It is my inward conviction to heed what the voice says. It is my self-imposed obligation to act and behave towards others in a way that will make them feel the way I would wish them to make me feel. It is my spiritual burden to love my neighbour as myself. It requests and requires me to do right and refrain from wrong.
This inward conviction or egalitarian prerogative to love my neighbour as myself appears to me to be purely a product of reason. It seems to be the obvious and only way to fulfil my greatest thirst, which is to relate with other human consciousnesses on an egalitarian basis. In other words, it is the only way to true friendship.
Yet such a conviction is wholly inconsistent with my so-called evolutionary prerogative to compete for survival. It is certainly no aid to me in pursuing any dream of health, wealth and happiness within a society based on free-market capitalism. In such a socio-economic context, conscience is a destructive liability. It is the very antithesis of the precepts upon which the basic building block of such a socio-economy is based, namely the limited liability corporate entity or pessoa juridica. I surmise, therefore, that my conscience cannot be part of my natural make-up as a physical life-form.
What the voice of my conscience says to me must therefore originate from beyond the realm that my physical senses can feasibly perceive. It is as if "I" have some kind of hyper-physical conscious connection with something that is beyond the singular entity that I think of as my conscious self. My inherent conviction to follow what the voice of my conscience says must also come from a realm where the evolutionary prerogative does not apply. The sense of right and wrong that it imparts to me is one that is consistent with a different order. It equips me to be able to relate with others as egalitarian peers who interact according to a protocol of love and cooperation.
My conscience thus gives me - forces upon me - what presents itself within my mind as an absolute frame of reference for right and wrong, plus an inner conviction to do right and avoid wrong. But what exactly do I mean by right and wrong?
The notion of right and wrong defines two mutually exclusive aspects of human experience. What is right is not wrong and what is wrong is not right. The term right and wrong is, however, fairly broad and loose in that it is used to refer to two fundamentally different concepts.
Firstly, it can signify correct versus incorrect. There can be a correct and an incorrect way of doing something. That which is said to be correct may be the way that works as opposed to an incorrect way that doesn't work. On the other hand, that which is said to be correct may simply be the better of two ways of achieving a certain objective, both of which work. Yet again, that which is deemed to be correct may be simply a matter of agreed convention such as correct spelling.
Secondly, it can signify good versus evil. In the context of conscience, the relevant significance of right and wrong is that of good and evil. However, there are two further notions that people confuse with the notion of good and evil but which are nothing to do with it.
The first is legal versus illegal. What is legal conforms to the dictates of the civil and criminal laws of a particular political State. What is illegal is that which is contrary to what is legal. People erroneously assume that this is the same as good and evil. Notwithstanding, there are many circumstances in which what is legal can be evil and what is illegal can be good. The law of a State is no definition of good and evil. It is a definition of what is in the exclusive self-interest of those (usually a small elite minority) who hold sway within the jurisdiction of that particular State.
The second is benign as opposed to dangerous or harmful. Natural structures and phenomena such as plants and rain can be benign in supplying us with nourishment. On the other hand, cliffs and earthquakes can be dangerous and harmful. Plants and rain are not good in that they have no conscious intent to benefit anybody. Neither are cliffs and earthquakes evil in that they have no conscious intent to harm anybody. They just are the way they are. The terms good and evil, therefore, cannot be used to describe an action or event as such.
The meaning of good and evil that I shall use with reference to the human conscience is as follows. Good is that which sustains, benefits or fulfils somebody. Evil is that which drains, harms or deprives somebody. Notwithstanding, although an action may drain, harm or deprive somebody, it is not the action that is evil. It is the intent that gave rise to the action that is evil. Similarly, although an action may sustain, benefit or fulfil somebody, it is not the action that is good. It is the intent that gave rise to the action that is good. My conscience examines my intent: not my action.
The notion of good and evil is not, therefore, a matter of action: it is a matter of intent. It is the intent behind the action that is good or evil. Intent is a property of human consciousness. Good or evil are merely the extremities of a continuum of conscious intent. This continuum ranges from good through to evil with neutral intent half way between them.
Only a self-aware conscious entity can have intent. And that intent must be directed at or towards something. For instance, I could have the intent to smash a rock into pieces and shape the pieces into building stones to construct a house. However, this intent is neither good nor evil. It is neutral. This is because the object of my intent is inanimate. It has no consciousness. It can therefore suffer no harm or pain nor can it derive any benefit or pleasure from the action resulting from my intent. The rock simply doesn't care whether it be worshipped or smashed into smithereens. One's intent towards an inanimate object cannot therefore be either good or evil. It can be constructive or destructive. This, however, is nothing to do with good and evil. Constructive versus destructive is a notion that exists in a scale that is independent of, or perpendicular to, the scale of good and evil.
The object of one's intent could, on the other hand, be another person. Can one person's intent towards another person be good or evil? The consequent action could be intended to harm or otherwise cause pain to the other person. Or, it could be intended to benefit or otherwise cause pleasure to the other person. The other person is able to experience harm or benefit, pain or pleasure because he is conscious. Consequently, one person's intent towards another person can be good or evil.
Tediously, I must note here that when I use the word "person" I am always and exclusively referring to a sentient human being like the self-aware conscious entity that I perceive myself to be. I emphatically do not include any inanimate legal concoction such as a joint-stock limited liability corporation. Legislators may maliciously bestow upon it the legal rights of a person. But it is not a person.
For good and evil to exist at all, it is necessary to have conscious intent. Conscious intent can only be generated within a self-aware conscious entity. A conscious entity can only generate conscious intent if it has an object towards which it can direct its conscious intent. That conscious intent can only be good or evil if it is directed towards another self-aware conscious entity that can experience good and evil.
Without conscious self-awareness, any notion of good and evil is meaningless. Even if only one consciousness existed in the universe, the idea of good and evil would also be meaningless. Even if many conscious entities existed, but in mutual isolation, good and evil would also be meaningless. The notion of Good and evil can have meaning only when separate conscious entities interact.
To be able to interact, they need a means through which they can communicate. The physical universe is that means. The ability to interact enables a pair of conscious entities to form a relationship. The notion of good and evil pertains to the conscious intent that drives the interactions that constitute the relationship.
Most humans are motivated by a desire to relate. All are not, however, motivated with the same intent. Some are motivated with good intent. Others are motivated with evil intent. The rest can be motivated either way. Furthermore, not all are motivated to the same extent. The extent of human motivation is a continuum of variation that extends from a maximum negative value (evil), through zero, to a maximum positive value (good). If each party in a relationship consciously seeks to be the other's friend, trying with all endeavour to augment and sustain the other's well-being and happiness, each has good intent towards the other. If one consciously seeks to be another's enemy, endeavouring to kill, harm, deprive, subjugate or possess the other, he has evil intent.
Good intent between two people gives rise to an egalitarian relationship. Evil intent by just one party gives rise to an exploitive relationship.
Those of evil intent can form only exploitive relationships. Those of good intent can form egalitarian relationships with each other but not with those of evil intent. An egalitarian relationship is caring and cooperative. People relate as equal peers. An exploitive relationship is confrontational and divisive. People interact as master and slave.
Individual human beings do not, however, fall neatly into one or other of these categories. Any given individual can show good intent towards some people and evil intent towards others. For example, parents almost invariably exhibit good intent towards their children. Some show good intent towards their relatives and friends. Nevertheless, these very same individuals may demonstrate evil towards the rest of society. Their good intent is exclusive. Theirs is a world of cliques.
On the other hand, there is a precious few in this world who are motivated by good intent - to a greater or lesser degree - towards everybody. These are those at the top of the scale above. They are inclusivists. Their good intent is universal. At the other extreme are those who are motivated by evil intent - to a greater or lesser degree - towards everybody. These are those at the bottom of the scale above. They are exclusivists. Their evil intent is universal.
Those in the middle are of neutral intent. In effect, they have no intent either towards evil or towards good.
One whose intent is towards either extreme of good or evil tends to be self-directed. He observes through his own eyes. He is his own educator. He is his own philosopher. He is his own planner. He is his own manager. He is his own judge. He guides and judges himself according to his own well-defined internal values. One whose intent is towards neither extreme of good or evil tends to be less self-directed. His direction and intent tend to be influenced by his social surroundings. He is, for the most part, socially directed. He needs and accepts formal education. He needs and wants to be guided and managed. His values and opinions are moulded by society.
As I observe society, I get the distinct impression that those among us who are strongly self-directed are relatively few. This suggests to me that the distribution of direction and intent within a human population must be pretty close to the adjacent bell curve. Self-directedness is strongest towards the extreme sides of the bell, with those of good intent on the right and those of evil intent on the left. The closer people are to the centre, the more numerous, non-intentioned and socially directed they are. One would therefore naturally conclude that the bulk of society must be driven equally by the opposing minorities of self-directeds.
But this is not the case. The power that drives and controls society is held firmly by the hands of a small Elite. These are the self-directeds of evil intent. Their power comes from their ability to deceptively influence and manipulate the passive majority. This is how they have been able to impose and sustain the oppressive hierarchical structure that has dominated human society since the dawn of history.
Within this pyramidal framework, wealth is concentrated into the hands of the Elite. Its possession is protected by law, which is enforced by the threat of overwhelming violence towards any of the dispossessed majority who would try to take his fair share.
In ancient kingdoms and empires, this pyramidal structure was open and easily seen. An evil-intentioned self-directed monarch such as a king or emperor was clearly in control. A hierarchy beneath him was, in effect, a mere extension to his body and mind, making him like a single omnipotent monster. With this he administrated his dominion and enforced his will. Within this political framework, a clique of lesser evil-intentioned self-directed barons owned their respective portions of the terrestrial resources that fell within the king's territory. The neutrally-intentioned socially-directed masses were the cogs of the king's administrative and military machines and the economic slaves of the barons.
The structure of a modern state is not so obvious. It is, nevertheless, identical. It is governed in reality by a small Elite, of which one always emerges as the single dominant personality. He is the same as a king or emperor with only one small difference. He does not necessarily inherit his position. Nor does he necessarily pass it on to a biological descendant.
A hierarchy beneath him is again, in effect, a mere extension to his body and mind, making him like a single omnipotent monster. With this he administrates his dominion and enforces his will. Within this political framework, a clique of lesser evil-intentioned self-directed barons own their respective portions of the economic resources that fall within the state's territory. The neutrally-intentioned socially-directed masses are still the cogs of the state administrative and military machines and the economic slaves of the barons.
As in the ancient empire, the baron of the modern state is a "person". "He" has the same rights as any other person, which are protected by law. But "he" is different. "He" is not a human person. "He" has no face by which "he" can be identified. "He" has no body that can be harmed or imprisoned. "He" has no "soul" that can be saved or damned. "He" is without conscience. "He" is a cold calculating psychopath. "He" is a loveless master of "his" human slaves. "He" is a limited liability corporation.
In a totalitarian "socialist" state there is, in effect, only one baron. The state itself is a single economic corporation. In a capitalist "democratic" state the barons are a clique of faceless corporations. This clique formulates policy to suit its interests. It then brainwashes the masses into accepting and supporting corporate policy. The masses then vote in accordance with corporate policy. A corporate-sympathizing legislature is elected. This then formulates and enacts laws that favour and sustain corporate interests. The barons have their way.
The result is the vast difference in the wealth and well-being of different individuals on this planet. A small minority bask in wealth beyond imagination. A much larger minority survive in what they are conditioned to believe is adequate comfort. The majority struggle to survive in abject poverty.
Distribution of Conscience
The strong sense of right and wrong, that seems to be a fundamental part of my inner consciousness, tells me unequivocally that this situation is absolutely wrong. So why aren't those of the elite minority, who bask in such obscene levels of wealth, howling in agony under the pain of their consciences? Individuals with untold billions of dollars worth of capital or millions of hectares of land know of starving children whose families are crushed into the margins with nowhere to grow their food. Yet the wealthy elite don't seem to be bothered by the situation.
I can only deduce that conscience is something that members of this elite minority simply do not have. This idea is supported by some research that estimates that 1% of human beings do indeed lack the faculty of conscience. If this be true, there are over 70 million psychopaths in this world today. Although I cannot cite any formal research to support the idea, I speculate that only an equally small proportion of human beings possess the faculty of conscience in full measure. From this I deduce that one's degree of conscience must vary on a continuous scale, throughout the human population, from zero to full measure, as illustrated in the adjacent diagram.
All forms of life, including humans, have the drive to survive. They have an inner force that drives them to acquire their needs of life. In other animals, this force seems to be regulated. In natural circumstances, animals acquire what they need, and no more. Their cerebral programming seems to contain some kind of negative feed-back mechanism that attenuates their drive to acquire when they have sufficient. Unlike other animals, humans seek to acquire without limit. They acquire to fulfil their needs of life and then continue to seek to acquire merely, it would seem, for the sake of acquiring. They lack the automatic limiting mechanism of lower animals.
Animals don't kill each other in order to acquire what they don't need. Humans do. Of course, one could cite the case of a fox in a hen pen. It just kills the whole lot. Notwithstanding, a hen pen is not a natural environment. The fox's killing instinct has been geared, by nature, to hens in open range where they are much more distributed, thereby giving all a good chance to escape.
One force that stops a human from acquiring the entire planet is the competition from other humans trying to do the same. Some humans are more apt at acquiring than others. This is, in part, responsible for the disparity in wealth that exists in the world. However, competition is not the only factor that limits human acquisition. By far the major factor is conscience.
Conscience is a phenomenon that generates psychological (dare I say spiritual) discomfort within the consciousness of one who acquires for himself non-necessities at the expense of the necessities of his neighbour. Such discomfort is heightened if his actions are directly causing hardship or harm to his neighbour. His desire to reduce this discomfort acts as a negative feed-back force that limits his desire to acquire.
The level or intensity of conscience differs widely among the different members of the human race. I would expect it to vary according to the standard bell curve as shown in the adjacent graph. On the left of the graph is the psychopathic minority without conscience. In the middle is the vast majority that has a conscience of medium intensity. On the right is the minority with the most intense sense of conscience. This causes the negative feedback pressure, that limits one's drive to acquire, to vary vastly among the individuals that make up the human race.
This distribution in the intensity of conscience seems to be independent of age group. During my own school years, I certainly experienced the same apparent distribution in the intensities of individual consciences among my class mates. Allowing for culturally-induced biases, it also appears to be universally independent of gender.
The intensity of a person's conscience is a measure of how much he is motivated by his internal sense of morality. This internal sense of morality appears to be universal in character. It is essentially the same in all human beings. It motivates each individual to behave towards others as he would wish them to behave towards him. Each wishes others to behave towards him in a constructive way that promotes and preserves his peace and well-being. Therefore, his conscience motivates him to behave towards others in a constructive way that promotes and preserves the peace and well-being of each.
It is painfully obvious that human society is a hierarchical tyranny orchestrated by those who are the least motivated by natural conscience. Yet it is also obvious that human life would be a much richer and pleasanter experience were human society an egalitarian network governed by the protocol of natural conscience. So why has humanity universally chosen the bad option? To answer this, it is first necessary to consider the nature of each of the three broad groups that make up human society according to intensity of conscience.
Motivation by conscience - one's internal sense of morality - is what I refer to as good intent. Because the source of this motivation is internal, I have referred to it as self-direction. A person who is driven by a full measure of conscience is therefore one of the small minority that I have called the self-directed of good intent. They seem to have an extra faculty of consciousness that enables them not just to to see things from where other people stand, but also to feel and suffer along with other people. It is as if their minds have undergone some kind of spiritual quantum leap.
The self-directed of good intent are a small minority that do not fit easily into the hierarchical establishment of their evilly-intentioned counterparts. Their minds work differently. Their psychometric profiles are incompatible with corporate employment. Their values are completely opposite to the devious competitiveness of business. Consequently, although intelligent and knowledgeable, they become economically sidelined by the Elite and socially disdained by the passive majority. As an inevitable result, they are under-resourced and therefore powerless.
Nevertheless, they have the ability and desire to learn and understand about nature and humanity. Each sees all human beings as conscious entities that are equally precious. Though he may falter in his attempts, he seeks, with all sincerity, to love his neighbour as himself. And he does so not because he is externally forced to do so, but because he has a spontaneous inward desire to do so. He suffers inner discomfort at his neighbour's suffering.
He desires that his neighbour have happiness and well-being. He wants his neighbour to be and to have what his neighbour wishes to be or to have. He therefore resists any urge to push his neighbour into being or having as what he thinks his neighbour ought to be or to have. He has a strong sense of mission and a determination to fulfil it.
He strives to obey good law. For instance, he will adhere to speed limits while driving. But he does not do this for fear of penalty enforced by authority. He does it because he sees that to do so is in the interest of safety both for himself and for others.
The measure of conscience, with which an individual is endowed, is independent of his academic intelligence. I know some who are mentally retarded yet have an intense sensitivity to other people's feelings, which they make every effort to respect.
At the other end of the scale are those who are completely unrestrained by any internal sense of morality. They are psychopaths. Such a person may have no sense of right and wrong. He may know right from wrong, but feel no obligation to do right and avoid doing wrong. He may wilfully disregard his sense of obligation to do right and avoid doing wrong.
His motivation does however, like that of his benign counterpart, come from within. He is therefore, like his benign counterpart, self-directed. But the character of his motivation is exclusively selfish. He strives only for self-gain and self-benefit, irrespective of the damage his endeavours may cause to others. He has what I have called evil intent. Those motivated by nothing other than natural human selfishness are therefore those of the small minority that I have called the self-directed of evil intent.
This dominant self-directed elite resides at the top of the social pyramid. The evil intention that drives and directs them is unrestrained selfishness. Each wants to possess, subjugate and control as many human beings and terrestrial resources as possible.
A member of this minority is, intellectually, very perceptive. He easily acquires a comprehensive but coldly analytical grasp of the knowledge, feelings and sufferings of others. But he is unable to feel from another person's point of view. He is certainly unable to suffer from another person's point of view. So he could never suffer the sufferings that his system imposes upon them. He sees other human beings - including his own peers - simply as objects. To him, they are no more than economic resources, there to be exploited for his self-gain.
To protect itself from the natural consequences of its unrestrained selfishness, this elite minority has constructed a legal entity that systematizes its own character. It is the pessoa juridica or limited liability corporation. This has a legally-binding prime directive to pursue unlimited self-gain while externalizing all the collateral problems created by so doing. The legal framework up on which a limited liability company is constructed is wholly coincident with the clinical definition of a psychopath. It is the antithesis of conscience.
Some members of this elite minority are even unable (or unwilling) to perceive other human beings as conscious feeling entities. So they are unable to embrace the concept of another person having a point of view, or even having a conscious perception.
The vast majority of humanity lies between these two extremes. Its members appear to be satisfied just to survive. They lack the inward motivation to progress. For a few, this could be due to laziness or apathy. Most, however, are probably demotivated. They feel that any effort to improve themselves would be futile because they simply do not have the necessary resources. On the other hand, as with all human beings, they are driven by natural human selfishness. However, the effect of this is limited and controlled, to a greater or lesser extent, by conscience.
For the members of this majority, however, the inner voice of conscience has competition. It comes from the outer voice of society. For some, the inner voice of conscience is stronger. For others, the outer voice of society is stronger. For those at the centre of the bell-curve, the inner and outer voices are of equal strength. This should mean that, to one degree or another, half are motivated from within and half are motivated from without. In other words, half are self-directed and half are socially-directed. But this does not seem to be the case.
It seems that the whole of this centre majority is externally-directed. This is because although this social voice of conscience comes from without, its tenets and values are rapidly internalized by the would-be inwardly-directed half of this vast middle majority. The outer voice thus becomes their inner voice. It replaces the natural inner voice of conscience with which human consciousness is naturally equipped. Thus while one half of this vast middle majority is externally-directed by the social conscience, the other half become internally-directed by that same voice. But how can this happen? How can an external influence completely reprogram the human consciences of the inwardly-directed half of this vast middle majority?
A human conscience can be reprogrammed by virtue of the fact that human conscience is part of human instinct. Instinct is the internal programming that causes an animal to respond to a situation in a prescribed way, automatically, without consciously thinking about it. In animals, most instinct comes pre-installed, although the instinct of some animals can, to a limited degree, be modified and augmented by training.
With humans, comparatively little instinct comes pre-installed. Most of it is acquired throughout life. Part of one's acquired instinct, such as how to interact with others, is learned through everyday experience. A part, such as one's multiplication tables, is learned through education. Professional skills are acquired by conscious practice, after which they become instinctive.
Although instinctive, conscience only starts to appear when one becomes self-aware at around the age of 7. It is at this time that the education system of the State begins to supplant the natural consciences of the vast middle majority with the social conscience that the State wishes its subjects to have.
Nevertheless, there is a small minority whose strong natural consciences the State education system cannot pervert, even from such a young age. At the other extreme is the small minority whose members have no consciences to pervert. They will grow up to become the drivers, movers and shakers of their generation.
As I eavesdrop on people in public places, their conversations, for the most part, indicate that they do have a sense of right and wrong. But, for the most part, it is radically different from mine. How can human beings have such radically different and incompatible conceptions of right and wrong?
My inner voice says "love thy neighbour as thyself". The outer voice of the social conscience says "love thy God above all". But God does not have a tangible presence through which love can be given in any practical way. However, we are told that he put the political powers that be in place for our edification. Consequently, the outer voice of the social conscience replaces this with what may be paraphrased as: "love thy king and country above all".
Nowadays, this means that your allegiance to the State and its values must come before your allegiance to yourself and your own inner values. As society becomes more liberal, it appears that at least some of this allegiance to the State gets hi-jacked by corporate interests. As a result, an increasing number of individuals today are putting allegiance to their corporate masters above allegiance to themselves, their families and their friends, and indeed, their "king and country".
Hence, the outer voice of the social conscience preaches patriotism. You must love your country more than yourself, your spouse, your children, your siblings and your friends. You are obliged and required to do whatever your country requests and requires of you. For example, you must be prepared and willing to commit murder on behalf of your country. But you must not do so on behalf of yourself, your spouse, your children, your siblings and your friends.
You must not question the morality of what your country requires you to do. It may require you to invade a foreign country and murder its inhabitants. But suppose your country's objective in this is not to defend its homeland. Suppose it is to steel terrestrial resources from which its corporate elite can profit. Whatever the reason, you must not question the morality. You must just do your job. Homicidal robbery is perfectly right and just, it seems, providing you are doing it on behalf of your country and not on behalf of yourself.
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. - Christian Bible: Romans 13:1-5
The above quotation from Paul's letter to the Romans is used by governments (and the churches that support them) to implant, within the conscience of the individual, the notion that one's obligation to God is to submit unconditionally to the will of the State. It gives credence to the universal justification of horrendous acts with the excuse that "(I am innocent/my conscience is clear because) I was only carrying out orders" or "I was only doing my job". One can almost hear such words pregnant upon the lips of all from functionaries of the Third Reich to Mafia hit men to military operatives to police to company managers to social security counter clerks.
I do not know whether or not the quotation, as it appears in English above, accurately conveys what Paul intended. It could have suffered mistranslation, misinterpretation, creative editing or all of these. Notwithstanding, history is witness to the fact that the Roman Empire (the authority of which Paul appears to be speaking) was a cruel and brutal regime. Can it really have been put there by God for our edification? Which God, I wonder?
Whatever the case, as the quotation stands, I disagree with it. The inner voice of my conscience clearly tells me that I cannot absolve myself of the guilt of committing any unprovoked act that causes discomfort, harm, enslavement or death to another human being just because some self-appointed faceless authority tells me to do it. And all State regimes are effectively self-appointed, be they so-called "democracies" or otherwise.
Notwithstanding, it seems that the vast majority of people prefer to listen to the outer voice of social conscience fed to them by the State and its infrastructures. The result is that the consciences of most people hold values that respect authority and disdain the individual. They believe that in any dispute, the government is always in the right and the individual or group is always in the wrong.
Their sentiments invariably side with a shop or store against a fellow customer who has been short-changed with a bad product or service. They side with a well-known and up-standing corporation against its exploited employees expressing a grievance. They side with a "get tough" government against the unemployed with orchestrated quips like "if you ain't got a job, it's your own bloody fault".
The writings of Paul are used again by the social conscience to justify this attitude. "...this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat." - Paul (Th 3:10)
This is the basis of what is called the work ethic. It is used by many to justify the notion that the unemployed should receive no help at all from society. However, in fairness to Paul, it is possible that he did not mean it in the context in which modern society and its "get tough" governments put it. It is possible that the individuals Paul was referring to had the opportunity to work directly with the resources the Earth provides in order to produce food, but chose not to do so out of laziness while free-loading up on others.
The context for the unemployed in a modern post-industrial society is radically different. Technology is continually and substantially reducing the amount of labour necessary to produce all human needs and luxuries of life. Production is not a problem. If anything, over-production is the problem. The demand is therefore for less and less human labour. It is quite unnecessary for everybody to work, and those who work do not need to work long hours any more.
Notwithstanding, even in the modern post-industrial context, this obnoxious work ethic states that "if any would not work, neither should he eat". There is nothing for him to do. His labour is not required. No corporate master has need of him. Therefore he should, by rights, be left to starve to death. It is a clear case of "damned if you do and damned if you don't". And, since this was written by Paul, it is said to be God-ordained. In other words, the poverty, of those of us caught in this economic trap, is God-ordained.
So says the popular social conscience. Mine says otherwise. But the members of this vast middle majority, although they have the inherent faculty for knowing right from wrong, allow civil authority to override the self-evident moral obligation to heed their natural consciences. This has a further collateral consequence. It infects each of them - to a greater or lesser extent - with the psychopathic morality and cavalier behaviour of the elite.
This vast middle majority are sheep. They passively follow those above them. They gullibly swallow what their elite masters say. They become infected by their masters' ethos of selfish gain. They cling to the free-market illusion that they all have a gambler's chance of making it rich. They never learn that the free market is governed by rules that guarantee that the rich always win and the poor always lose. So they squabble among themselves, each to protect what little he possess with the aggressive stance of "What's yours is mine and what's mine's my own".
The implanted social conscience results in each member of the vast middle majority having a strong upward allegiance to the State and hence to the elite minority whose interests it serves. This allegiance includes the obligation to work and fight to support and preserve the State and its elite, to the point of death if necessary. But this same implanted social conscience also trivializes the allegiances between individual members of the vast middle majority, making them little more than superficial exchanges about sex, football and soap operas. It is this trivializing of the relationships between the vast majority of individuals within a society that gives the elite minority its power.
If human society is ever going to break the oppression of its elite minority, it is going to have to strengthen inter-personal relationships at the grass-roots to a level that exceeds that of one's upward allegiance to the State. The hierarchies will then become irrelevant and will rapidly evaporate. However, this will never be achieved without a paradigm-shift in the nature of relationships.
There are over 70 million human beings on this planet who are well-intentioned and self-directed by their own inner consciences. Theoretically, therefore, these people should be able to form into an ideal egalitarian network society. Why don't they? One reason is that these 70 million individuals are diluted by almost 7 billion other people who are externally motivated by a social conscience that has been engineered to preserve the status quo of the minority Elite. But suppose we could extract all these people and take them to a small island continent like the fabled Atlantis. There they could be allowed freely to crystallize into an ideal egalitarian network society.
Would this work? My intuition tells me that it wouldn't. I think that within a couple of generations the same distribution comprising a mal-intentioned self-directed minority, an externally-motivated socially-directed majority and a well-intentioned self-directed minority would re-emerge. And we would be back where we started. Sadly, I think the genetic potential of all three types, and all their sub-types, is inherent within each individual. Consequently, which of these 3 types a person becomes, and to what degree, depends mainly on his unique position in the social order and the unique set of situations and circumstances he experiences and suffers during his life.
This leads me to the notion that these 3 types of person may be not so much types of individual human consciousness but rather modes in which the generic human consciousness can operate. Perhaps the psychopath really does have a conscience but it is switched off. Or, perhaps more realistically, it is suppressed by some kind of attenuation signal. This suppressing signal may be strongest in the pure psychopath, progressively getting weaker across the bell curve until it reaches zero at the far right in the minds of the well-intentioned self-directeds. On the other hand, perhaps this control signal works in the other (positive) sense. In other words, it may be a conscience-enabling signal. In this case it would be zero for the psychopaths and maximum for the well-intentioned self-directeds.
In whichever sense this signal operates, its strength within the mind of any given individual is probably determined indirectly by the situations and circumstances he experiences and suffers within his unique social niche. It follows that society must be locked into a vicious circle. The complex dynamics of society throw up all the disparate personal social niches in which individuals find themselves. This gives rise to the bell-distribution of psychological types within society. This, in turn determines the nature of the complex dynamics of society. And so we are locked into a super-regenerative cycle from which, apparently, we cannot escape. The status quo forever gains strength and becomes ever more firmly set in concrete.
If the state of humanity is ever to improve, some way must be found to break out of this vicious circle. This would require a quantum shift in the distribution pattern of human conscience. The elite minorities and passive majorities of every society in the world would have to become spontaneously transmuted into well-intentioned self-directeds. Every human being on Planet Earth would have to become burdened with an internal conviction to follow his natural conscience as the sole regulator of his thoughts and actions.
How could this be achieved? Firstly, every individual would have to make a conscious decision to stop passively following the crowd. He must actively reject the indoctrinations and commands of external authority and start to think for himself. He must become self-directed. Instead of lazily going with the flow, he must make concerted effort of think out what he ought to do.
This is not a physical action. It cannot be performed by any physical agency. His genetic programming won't do this for him. His mind (the software running within his physical brain) can't expedite this change. It is something that can only be done by the hyper-physical conscious entity that he perceives himself to be. It is what some religious people would call a spiritual process.
This leaves humanity divided into two camps of self-directeds: those of good-intent and those of evil-intent. The next stage must therefore be for those of evil-intent to become of good-intent. They must become burdened with an inward conviction that they should do good and refrain from evil. This conviction is something that also can only arrive through a conscious process. It cannot take place in the subconscious mind. It is therefore some kind of change that takes place in the mode in which an individual consciousness is operating. It is what religious people think of as being called by God.
So now, the generic individual has undergone two quantum shifts in his conscious state. He has become self-directed. He has become inwardly convinced that he must do good and reject evil. So far, so good. But, so far, it is all theory. He has not yet started to live by the dictates of his natural conscience. He has not yet actively changed his behaviour towards his neighbour.
Here lies a big problem. This whole process takes place entirely within the individual. He does it alone. On the other hand, the purpose of what he is doing is to change the nature of society. And this is a collective process. Consequently, for it to work, all individuals must make this inward change together. Unfortunately, the individual has no assurance that, should he make the change, then everybody else will too. If he goes ahead and makes his inward change, he may find that he was the only one to have done so. This would leave him alone, powerless and vulnerable. So he is afraid to act upon his new inward conviction to follow the dictates of his natural conscience.
There needs to be a third ingredient: courage. Each must somehow acquire the selfless courage to follow his inward conviction unilaterally, irrespective of the consequences.
Thus it seems that three ingredients are needed to augment the human consciousness in order for it to be able to become a component of an egalitarian society.
1) It must understand the egalitarian prerogative. It must come to see that this is the only way it can fulfil its greatest thirst, which is to relate with other human consciousnesses on an egalitarian basis. In other words, it is the only way to true friendship.
2) It must be burdened with the inner conviction that it is obliged and required to expedite the above egalitarian prerogative.
3) It must have the selfless courage to expedite this egalitarian prerogative without regard to personal consequences.
Reason persuades me that, by their very nature, these three ingredients must all be aspects of something that can only enter the human consciousness via some kind of universal fabric that defines the hyper-physical dimensions within which human consciousness is borne.
These three ingredients of conscience are, I think, what some religious people refer to as aspects of the holy spirit. I prefer to think of it as information and influence that is somehow borne upon some kind of travelling wave that propagates through a universal hyper-physical fabric within which every conscious "me" is framed.
The well-intentioned self-directeds of today have access to, and the desire to follow, their natural consciences. But, of these, he who has the inherent courage to follow his natural conscience in reality, without regard for what might befall him as a result, is very rare indeed. So it would seem that very few have, as yet, been able to draw this courage. Sadly, few human beings today have any desire for these necessary ingredients of conscience. Consequently, true conscience can have little or no influence on the overall behaviour of human society.