The Morality Mirage

The morality bandwagon. Everyone is on it these days. Everyone is running for causes, standing up for a belief or two, raising money for charity, sharing pictures of themselves with the down trodden. It is indeed fashionable for a child to donate half his coveted birthday monies to charity. Schools trumpet their community service programs. High school kids feverishly volunteer at soup kitchens, sew care blankets, help dig a well in a remote village and log in hours.

As if this were not enough, one could get onto a higher plateau of ‘righteousness’ by proclaiming an undying loyalty to the color green, by buying organic, by touting a reverence for ‘environmentally friendly’ products. We stand on our plastic soapboxes on our carefully manicured and weed free lawns or the local park and espouse the need to denounce the very things we are enveloped with in our lives. Yes, please stop spewing carbon dioxide into the room with your respiratory processes, you are increasing your carbon footprint!

Yes, it is fashionable to be on this morality bandwagon. The more vocal you are on twitter and Facebook and other assorted media on these and other carefully selected ‘issues’, the higher your morality index. You can demand to be revered and clock yourself with a ‘Look how noble(er) I am’ shroud.

Yet, truth is, that is exactly what all this is . A shroud. Whom are we kidding? Really?

It is the basic survivalist ego in humans that propels us to “save” the earth and to elevate those who proclaim to do so on a elevated, nobler plane.

All these moralistic stand-ins, die-ins and hand outs are but basically but an attempt by humanity to save….humanity itself. If it were not for the belief that the environmental changes caused by our over-consumption, would in effect obliterate us in the far future, would we even bother? Or would we continue to over consume and pollute if, hypothetically speaking, we remained unaffected by it all but everything else were to die? If not for the abject horror that our grandchildren ten generations down may not recognize a tiger if one were staring at them, would we bother to ‘save’ them tigers?

What propels one to help a fellow human or to save the earth for the humans? Is it some immediate gain in terms of publicity or the perception of some moralistic or spiritual gain now or in after-life? Is there any altruistic behavior untouched by either? Would there be any altruistic behavior if not for one or the other?

Altruism obviously evolved with the evolution of the multi-cellular or colonial life forms. As long as there was a lone bacteria, a lone amoeba, fending for itself, it did not need to worry about its fellow brethren. But once the cells realized the advantages of living in a colony, or even as a multi-cellular organism, altruism was necessary to keep the organization running. Team work can only be accomplished with give and take. For any advantage living together gave the cells, they had to also give up some of their individualism for the common good. This they did, without much aplomb, in the early sponges and even the early amphibian. What the heck, cells even had to completely specialize and commit to one function such as the kidney or the heart for the entire organism to survive optimally.

So when did this simple survivalist phenomenon take on a nobler aura? With the evolution of consciousness perhaps? When the thinking brain had to rationalize the individual’s sacrifice for communal good. With the evolution of the consciously thinking brain, there was a danger of the individual reverting to well, individualism. For thinking brain is not clairvoyant (yet) and is often shortsighted. Hence the evolution of morals to safeguard communal good. In recent times, this seems to be going towards its peak with altruism sparking off glossy headlines and rather pompous facebook posts with guaranteed likes.

A single individual set out to (pre)serving himself or herself is deemed selfish. However, an entire species, namely humans striving to preserve themselves is deemed noble. Go figure.

2 thoughts on “The Morality Mirage

  1. As a parent, I often worry about my child growing up with a feeling of entitlement … and becoming like some of the adults I have to deal with. So “giving”, whether as money or mostly as time has been our way of showing her a way to feed her soul. I think it is working because she has empathy. Yes, I do it for a selfish reason – to create a human being with thoughts for others, but I do not advertize it. She has earned recognition from the people for who she works, but is embarrassed to talk about it because the recognition is not what she went there for. So I think it is more the advertising of “good deeds” for back slaps and ‘likes’ which is the culprit. But then, if you one feels compelled to post at least one interesting tidbit on social media everyday, then very soon, there is not going to be anything worthwhile to talk about. 🙂

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