Basic Moral Courage: Day Four

   Let's take a deep breath today after three days of weighty thoughts (at least for me). I think I should explain where this treatise on morality as the moral assertion originates and where it is heading.

   My intention is to write about the kind of morality that is more than rule keeping. There is nothing wrong with rule keeping. Basketball officials (with whom I still associate) get a rule book at the start of each year. We are expected to know the rules and enforce them on the court in all matters pertaining to the game. We could not have the game without the rules. It would cease to be sport and become comedy or, worse, tragedy.

   Certainly, the game would lose its form without rules and rule keeping. There would be no sporting achievement if one side were allowed to take exception to the rules at some point in the game.

   The morality I intend to address in this series is based on rule keeping but does not find its sunnum bonum when it sets or maintains boundaries. This moral discussion is about morality on a higher plane, where decisions are taken, deals are cut, institutions are ennobled or prostituted and people, real people, feel the impact.

   I served for five years in an immoral denominational apparatus. Therein, rule keeping was sacrosanct, so long as the rule keeping did not affect the truly important persons in the organization. The underlying foundation of immorality actually radiated downward from the top. Rigidly moral proclamations were made in the morning in public, only to be repealed, or gutted, in private meetings in the evening. Many of the repeal meetings were actually better thought out than the ill-conceived shouts from the roof top but, no matter, we could not keep a steady course because our leadership lacked a meaningful moral compass and people knew it.

   Outsiders, protected from vital evidence by the massive machinery, grew more shrill in their suspicions that something (somethings?) was wrong. They would not leave us alone to let us have it both ways: the left turn in the morning followed by the wide right curve in the afternoon did not coincide with any map they read. Naturally, these outsiders demanded more and more information and grew frustrated when the clarification only obfuscated the original subject matter.

   Few there were who would speak and good reason for their silence.

   One voice can nag at the collective conscience but one person can be easily marginalized, then minimalized and finally made to disappear. The constant reorganizations of this or that department gave extreme cover to dealing with the unconverted. Massive voices are required; sometimes they will not be vocalized but seen, instead, in "voting with the feet." Attendance at events declines and then revenues follow. Soon, there is a clarion call to the old warriors to come again to the battlements, only we discover we alienated the old allies so badly in pursuit of the sycophant that few of any honor will rally to the flag.

    There is a way back to a moral stand. We will have to go past the usual platitudes of "transparency, honesty, openness," on the part of the institution. If the institution itself fails over long periods, a new explanation of its place will have to be spoken. An appeal to the old ideals is vital, but the leadership will have to show us we are on mission together if they are to convince us we can do more together.

   At this point, for many of our American institutions, it seems we are not on mission together. Wealth concentrates at the top 1%, rank has its privileges and our privileges as well, and a nagging voice is just that, a nag. Someone will have to suggest a means to return to a transforming morality, one of courage and strength, not that of  a martinet and certainly not the whine of  a poor supplicant.

    We need, I think, a partner with a Big Idea and some creative energy. The leaderless society, sinking to the lowest dredge where "every man does what is right in his own eyes" is the result to be feared. Conformity can be maintained by might but it will never reenergize our culture. People must want to go with you. You can put out a system of sacrifice, of hard work, even of complexity but you have to show how each little fellow fits in that plan and how his work will result in something good for him and for all.

    Then you have a moral strength and energy able to remake a culture.

1 thought on “Basic Moral Courage: Day Four”

  1. Your context provides a good narrative for the series. But, those with a discerning eye and healthy intuition will be able to see these matters of moral assertion/moral courage transcend that singular context to their own. I hope you have some readers who would become conversational interlocutors in hopes of finding the value of the Other/other impetus for standing against the powers.

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