Social inequality creates a state of temptation that places those who are not tempted at an advantage.
If society had limited your opportunities and your status so that the way for you to obtain either was to take it away from someone in the class of people who had limited you in the first place, should we call you criminal, or rational for acting against society in your own best interests?
Laws do not make enough of the motivation behind the transgression.
Has this person been entrapped by their circumstances (deprivation, lack of alternative opportunities, nothing to gain if they don’t)? Is there a carrot dangled in front of them such that their action was highly motivated by their environment or social standing?
If someone is socially criminalized, why are they punishable as an individual criminal?
Should an unjust society be permitted to transfer collective responsibilities onto individuals?
What were their choices? It is only if they have choices that they can be found guilty for making a choice. The more choices they have, the more responsibility they have for the choices that they make.
If someone is wealthy and has the most choices and social status because of their historical and cultural inheritance, they have no reason to benefit from crime nor any social pressure to assert their identity through rebellion, although they are socially dominant, on a baseline of character they are equal to the person who is in prison because their social and cultural inheritance is one of crime and imprisonment?
If you were told that the dominant group had given you a full scholarship to their school teaching the story of their supremacism, and the alternative is you work a “minimum wage” job the rest of your life, would you feel that that was an opportunity or some form of coercion into conforming to their dominant position.
If rare opportunities such as scholarships are extremely narrow and limited, does that mean that they are actually forms of social bribery?
Or, if the alternative to a scholarship is social punishment, then what kind of choice is that scholarship?
If you kill an animal out of necessity, because you have run out of stored food during the winter and have no alternative options for survival, does that bestow on your cultural descendants an historical right to pay people minimum wage to kill animals for them all year round even though they have healthful alternatives that do not involve killing?
“With the help of vaccinations, medications, hormones, pesticides, central air conditioning systems and automatic feeders, it is now possible to pack tens of thousands of pigs, cows or chickens into neat rows of cramped cages, and produce meat, milk and eggs with unprecedented efficiency.
In recent years, as people began to rethink human / animal relations such practices have come under increasing criticism. We are suddenly showing unprecedented interest in the fate of so called lower life forms, perhaps because we are about to become one.
If and when computer programs attain super human intelligence and unprecedented power; should we begin valuing these programs more than we value humans?
Would it be okay, for example, for an artificial intelligence to exploit humans and even kill them to further its own needs and desires?
If it should never be allowed to do that, despite its superior intelligence and power, why is it ethical for humans to exploit and kill pigs?”
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
Ethical vegans have fewer options than normative omnivores who see everything that is on offer as rightfully theirs. The highest privilege is directly associated with having the highest number of choices and the lowest costs in obtaining them. If your access to more options is subsidized by the dominant group, which is the case for omnivorous consumers, then, you are being rewarded with a privileged status of increased options at a lower cost, by participating in that group. Omnivores are therefore the most privileged, and vegans are in an underprivileged group, in much the same way as hypothetical persons who live in a “food desert” or whose options were limited by allergies to the subsidized foods, because they would also have fewer options at a higher cost.
Refraining from killing non-human animals is not an act of privilege. Justifying the extraction of benefit from the bodies of less dominant animals is only possible from a vantage point of the most supreme self appointed entitlement. The use of non-human animals for pleasure and convenience requires that the human user believe that non-human animals have no intrinsic value and exist only for their sake.
The choice to break a law, or repress the voice of conscience, that is coerced by survival or necessity, is not only less of a moral offence, but has honor. Whereas the choice to stifle the voice of conscience that is made from a state of privilege, i.e. many options, is not only disrespectful to the society that has empowered us but dishonors and undermines the inner voice of our own values. Without this voice to guide us, it should be of no surprise to us, if our lives feel meaningless.
The only commandment
- Thou shalt have no other gods before me
- Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
- Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
- Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy
- Honor thy father and thy mother
- Thou shalt not kill
- Thou shalt not commit adultery
- Thou shalt not steal
- Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor
- Thou shalt not covet
The first four commandments are about establishing authority, because without a firm basis of authoritative control the rest of the commandments are not laws. The fourth may be an arbitrary test of obedience, it presents a rigid rest cycle, unrelated to how much work has been done, or how tired one may be, that enforces a habit of conformity that can then be extended to the other rules.
The last six are various applications of the golden rule with number six being the foundational assumption. All the commandments assume existence: so, all commandments are provisional, until the continuity of life is no longer threatened.
In a world where the continuity of life is firmly established, the advantage of any single individual is not motivated by the disadvantage of any other. Hypocritical actions, that is, actions that limit action, either of ourselves or others, are the universal basis for all wrong doing. Righteous action, by contrast, is the freedom to create, this freedom is founded on one single law: let the living live.
Killing is the categorical origin of all other categories of wrong, because it negates action. At the most obvious level, we cannot act on existence by ceasing to exist, and that applies to the existence of: humans; animals; organisms; planets; solar systems; or any object that requires a subject/object relationship in order to be described.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
Self sacrifice is only of benefit if it is a complex form of compromise. The end only justifies the means until there is no subject: two animals cannot die as food for one another. Altruism is about living for others, no one can die in order to live for others. Altruism must always benefit the altruist, otherwise it risks benefiting no one, which is saying, that altruism starts with existing – the more life we have to give the more life there will be to live – the altruist must exist in order to do good for others, if all altruists were to die for others, they would do no good. Similarly if altruists were to shorten their lives for others, they would provide less altruism, the same goes for if they limit their ability to act for the benefit of others. This leads to altruists themselves being the ultimate beneficiaries of life, as a requirement for their lives continually benefiting others.
To give more you must live more, to live more you must give more.
The notion that altruism should not benefit the altruist is meant to show that altruism is not motivated by personal gain, and that is important and obvious, or it should be, if the objective is personal gain then it has nothing to do with altruism, the altruist may sacrifice everything that does not limit their altruism.
Gladly I serve my friends, but alas I do it with pleasure, hence I am plagued with doubt that I am not a virtuous person.
The problem is that although the point is that altruism is living for others, there must be personal gain for the altruist, so long as the altruist is motivated by altruism, the more personal gain the altruist receives the more the altruist can give to others. If the altruist does not live for others but for personal gain, then this person is not an altruist, but limiting what they might gain from their giving to others, is not going to make them any more of an altruist.
When a dog is dying and we take him to the vet, the vet may say we should not prolong his discomfort and put him out of his misery. But a dead dog feels no relief. Death is no solution for suffering. Would a solution to Earth’s problems be to destroy it?
The wealthy elite talk of the other 7.5 billion humans, not as lives, but as contributors to the problem of overpopulation, knowing that, even now we produce enough calories to feed 10 billion people worldwide, however, the majority of this food goes to feed animals to whose lives they also ascribe no intrinsic value.
Death is no solution for life’s problems. What we call problems are the hypocritical inconsistencies of life. The advantage of any single life should not motivated by the disadvantage of any other, because this creates a hypocritical state of life, that is, life that believes that it benefits by limiting life. We do not kill the patient to cure the disease.
Before there can even be a golden rule, there must be a rule that says my survival and your survival are interdependent. No individual life is Life, all life works together. The being of existence is both to see and be seen. When we see life, it is seen. We know in our conscience, that life sees us as we see it, and that if you lived in a universe alone, as the last living being, where nothing you saw had any sense that you perceived it:
Would you exist?
Would existence matter?
My conscience tells me what matters by connecting my life to all life. The mutuality of existence is the ground of meaning. What we do together is what feeds each of our individual purposes. “Thou shalt not kill” is the reason why life exists. If killing had benefited existence, then all would kill, and all life would end. The ethic of evolution is that it values the lives of those who value giving life to others. Only one commandment gives hope to life. Life must live, not at the expense of other lives but in order to value others.
What limits my life, is how my life limits all life.