This is a moral plea to all those who can be affected. It is a plea to be a conscious part of the world. We are all apart of existence, we were born without our consent, and we all affect the lives of others without our knowing. We buy jeans made in third-world sweat shops, buy beef that continues the ecological degradation of our planet and will continue the process of suffering in the animal industry, and will increase the suffering of millions through the effects of climate change. We are a part of the world. We can cry “I did not choose this life! And I did not choose for others to suffer!” But good or ill intent in our hearts our actions’ consequences remain the same.
Our selfishness and baseness leads towards the suffering of the worst off people on this Earth. And yet we are not satisfied. The Ego can never be fully satiated. By its very character it is a ravenous beast that always creates new appetites and new demands for said appetites. Whether it be desire for love (rather than to give love) to be praised (rather than to commend others) to be fed (rather than to feed those who truly need it) or sexual or other sensual satisfaction (rather than focus on the higher capacities of humanity) most of us live in a state of selfishness and Egoism. Schopenhauer is a brilliant observer of this truth. We will do anything to abuse or injure others as long as no injury is made to us as result, but the moment our pride, our vanity, our sense of honor and justice is infringed upon we shout and howl for equality and the moral dignity every human being deserves!
But things at-least have the theoretical potential to change. They can change with a choice. A choice to be a conscious part of the world. That is to say, the choice to recognize other creatures (human and non-human) have the same moral status as we do (capable of being in agony) and to act with their consideration in mind. This will have two drastic effects on the individual’s behavior. First and most immediately, for this requires nothing but individual will, one will cease all actions and behaviors that had a direct effect on others to the best of their ability; that which causes indirect suffering requires slightly more than will power. That means treating every living thing with kindness (that most valued thing we see so little of) and with respect to it as a thing-in-itself rather than as something to satisfy our own desires. Including indirect suffering, this also means to the best of our ability trying to not perpetuate the worst ills of Capitalism. Though this can be trickier, for while compassion and kindness require nothing but this “moral revolt of the soul” truly performing no actions which are likely to create more suffering for others is difficult in a Capitalist society. It requires knowledge of the sources and methods of creation for all products one consumes and uses. In this area I recommend small changes over time and as long as one is sincerely trying to make ethical choices to not be too hard on one’s self. More moral progress can always be made. And though I am a Consequentialist I fully accept the great weight of motivations and intent on the affairs of our species and others.
The second major or fundamental component of this is far more daunting. For while the first required nothing but knowledge, will power, admittedly some additional spending money and the desire to not aid in the world’s collective misery the other half of this, actively reducing or stopping the plight of the world, requires systematic social, political and economic change – therefore it clearly requires the efforts of other individuals. However, fortunately there are good people out there, and for every real problem in this world (and even for one’s that are imagined such as threat of Hellfire) there are those who are at-least in-part dedicated to the alleviation of the problem, implementing a solution (true or ill-conceived) and reducing the suffering of others. But where are we to begin? The world is bereft with physical and psychological suffering which manifest in hundreds of individual ways. And that is why I entitled this paper: Choose Something.
As long as the actions one takes helps to alleviate suffering, and does not create more suffering than it removes, there is no wrong choice. One will benefit both personally and in terms of motivation for the cause if one picks an issue that he or she is impassioned about. Economic, public policy, charity, though as a Social Anarchist I would argue for some forms of change and some topics more than others any good done is better than nothing being done. Even if charity is not a solution to poverty it can be a temporary remedy for some. Public policy and fundamental change – I would argue – is necessary for the deepest problems to be confronted in a realistic (assuming we want to solve the problem rather than simply slow the decay) and effective manner. This means Civil Disobedience to evil. Evil that exists in the apathy to suffering. This is why I argue that if “evil” is a description of anything in human psychology it is not maliciousness or sadism, but simply indifference to or rationalization of the plight of others.
Though it would of course be nothing more than an allegory, this interpretation could be used to give some poetic justification to the otherwise highly immoral and false notion of Original Sin. Of course it is immoral to preach that we were born condemned to eternal damnation unless we accept a certain faith essentially with endless artillery of guns pointed to our heads. But ignoring what the Christians mean by Original Sin, the idea that we are born blighted, that we are made fundamentally in error in some way I think has merit. It is the Egoism, the lack of moral consideration that I described that I think is ours. And it is asceticism and seeing every being capable of suffering as a being that is of equal moral status to us that is our salvation. The salvation from the personal and social Hell of Egoism is compassion and empathy; a truth preached in the majority of world religions but focused on the most and the most intelligently in Buddhism.
But apathy is taught as much as it is intrinsic. And the justifications of the evils of the human race (whether perpetuated by commerce, governments, organized religions or any other source) are taught to young minds as well. Slavery was once morally defended in America. It still is in some parts of the world. The economic enslavement of Capitalism and the theft of private property are still defended in America, and the suffering this economic arrangement creates is seen as unfixable, acceptable or even morally right. Such is also the case obviously with the fiction of Hell; but because only real things have significance I will not condemn religions for this save that they do create real suffering by teaching their children a wretched lie. For just as Epicurus says, death only is evil as long as we give it the power to haunt us. It in itself is nothing to be feared for it causes no pain.
So once again, I wish, despite my imperfections and hypocrisy, to make a moral plea. Make a choice to be a conscious part of this Earth, since being a part of it was never up to us who live. Begin by simply endeavoring to treat all people (even those who slight us) with kindness and wish to take no part in the creation of any suffering. Next, for this is far more difficult and involves a radical shift not only in one’s attitude and temperament but in one’s actual schedule and life, make some small part in helping to reduce the suffering already existent. Choose something. Choose anything. But choose. For to make a choice is to be a conscious part of this Earth.