Moral Compass

“The plan was to kill people, sir.”

It is within the military that Thoreau saw the greatest relinquishment of moral conscience; the military proclaims that “obeying orders” is the highest ideal. Thoreau contemplated soldiers who march off to die and to kill strangers in a conflict they know is unjust. He asked whether those soldiers retained or relinquished their humanity when they replaced their own moral judgment with the dictates of legislators. Thoreau concluded that once a man abandons his moral judgment, he becomes a machine; his body becomes a mere tool to be used.


Many consider service to “their country” to be an automatic virtue, but it is a dehumanizing vice whenever it involves the abandonment of conscience. The military demands this abandonment. And few activities can be as dehumanizing as patrolling foreign streets in the role of an occupying force.


I like Wendy McElroy. The above is one of her posts on McElroy’s blog bears checking out. Here.


I’m reading Hannah Arendt’s Life of the Mind right now. Arendt says that evil might have more to do with thoughtlessness than malice. Well, maybe. I certainly think that our masters codify morality (laws) because they consider us not capable of choosing the correct path (mostly, obeying them) without force. Forcing people to act in a way that is contrary to their thinking can lead to only one thing: revolution. If revolution doesn’t happen, it will be more because of thoughtlessness than lack of courage. How to provoke thought, I have no ideas.


Posted by Dave


2 Comments on “Moral Compass”

  1. Craig Cavanaugh says:

    It’s amusing (in an appalling way) how those in “authority” will openly admit to using the “law” to “change behavior”. And it is truly appalling how most people will accept, and even embrace this sort of social engineering. I liken it to the mad scientist, toying with (against) nature, oblivious to any consequences. They do it simply because they CAN…

    And it is this sort of engineering which has produced the unconscious, willing slaughterer of his fellow man, and the tremendous cheerleading section that eggs them on. Most of whom, by the way, call themselves “christian”…

    • Underground Carpenter says:

      Hi Craig,

      I first noticed this, years ago, when I was reading an article in the local fishwrap about some woman trying to get a law passed. I forget what it was even about, but I remember clearly her reason for the law. She said that we needed the law so that people would know that particular behavior was wrong. This woman ached to “mold clay”. I get tired of being treated like Play-doh(sp?).

      If humans no longer possess the ability to choose between right and wrong without laws, then we’re in big trouble.


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