Re: before you go.....

Michael Lorrey (
Mon, 14 Sep 1998 19:39:43 -0400

Sarah Marr wrote:

> At 09:40 14/09/98 +0100, Rob Harris wrote:
> >.....They are forever fixed like the set of INTEGERS
> >
> >Is this a popular opinion amongst you all ? (Just curious).......
> Good grief, no. Well, I certainly don't subscribe to that view. And even
> when viewed synchronistically, ethics and morality constitute myriad
> different and conflicting positions across the multiplicity of cultures on
> this planet alone.

Ethics and morality evolve with culture and technology. For example, when the primary determinant for individual political power was individual strength and skill at arms (as commonly used weapons technology at that point held no capacity for stand-off weapons of mass destruction), then the only free individuals were the strongest males of the dominant ethnic group(s) in a given population, and all others were subservient to one extent or another. Yet in populations where the primary weapons of choice could be wielded equally by women as well as men, then greater sexual equality resulted. Likewise, in societies with primitive horse harnesses, or with no horse equivalents at all, slavery was ethically and morally acceptable, as a man could do more physical work than any other domesticated animal. In societies where the primary demand for labor could not be done as efficiently by domesticated animal or by machine, then exploitation of humans in a slave relationship was morally acceptable because it was economically most beneficial to the greatest number of people, or to society as a whole. For example, slavery here in the US only became morally repugnant to a majority of people when sufficient technological automation of cotton agriculture supplanted the economic feasibility of using slaves to perform the work. Likewize slavery became morally repugnant a bit earlier in Britain primarily because most uses for slaves in Britain were in an industrialized setting, which preceded the development of industry in the US as the primary economic force, and industrial applications were automated much quicker there than were agricultural applications here in the US.

Similarly, today, we see the eastern nations like China, Indonesia, etc. proclaiming that the 'western' concept of human rights, which emphasises the individual, is not neccessarily best for their own developing economies, which supposedly have a 'tradition' of putting whats best for the community first ahead of individual goals. While they are not quite endorsing slavery, per se (as they want to remain members of the UN), they are still operating in a feudal mindset, mainly because the cost of living and standards of living are so low in their own country, that the cost of maintaining an economy which exploits the individual for the benefit of the community is still far less than the cost of entry into high tech automation, and because these economies are able to pirate the intellectual capital base of the western economies, they are reducing their cost of entry in many areas by exploiting the intellectual property rights of individuals outside their eastern economies, theus externalizing the cost of their slavery of foreign intellectual capital..

Another example, getting back to weapons technology, is with the crossbow. This weapon is easy for an individual to learn to use, build, and deploy. When it first spread across europe, it was seen as immoral because it gave a common individual the ability to strike at highly trained military leaders from a stand-off position. Because this conflicted with the feudal status quo, where fighting was done by highly trained professionals, who also occupied the top positions of political power, it was seen as immoral because it was so DEMOCRATIC. A similar moral position was taken by the Japanese samurai with respect to the gun when western traders tried to import this technology to feudal Japan, while here in the U.S. we have extreme egalitarianism as the primary pinnacle of moral and ethical idealism, because the primary weapons in our society can be weilded equally by men and women of any ethnic group. These weapons are the vote, the spoken or written word, and the firearm. Notice that ethnic groups which have difficulty assimilating the ability to utilize the first two of these weapons usually tend to bias toward use of the third as a means to redress the imbalance.

Mike Lorrey