This article is excerpted from the Rocky Mountain Pagan Journal.
Each issue of the Rocky Mountain Pagan Journal is published by
High Plains Arts and Sciences; P.O. Box 620604, Littleton Co.,
80123, a Colorado Non-Profit Corporation, under a Public Domain
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abbreviated in any fashion, and credit is given the original
IN GRANDMOTHER'S LAP
Copyright 1987, RMPJ
"Morals are the nagging fear that somebody somewhere may be
having a good time." --H. L. Mencken
What is the difference between one of us and Oral Roberts?
Well, hopefully there are lots of differences, but the top one
on my list is that I work on being ethical and he is a moralist.
The moralist knows how everybody else should behave in order
to be a good person, avoid Hell, fit into decent society, etc.,
etc. He is quite likely to feel that he is a valid exception to
all his own rules, since he can handle temptation and control his
outcomes. His main characteristic is frantic paranoid distrust
of other people. No one should be seen nude, for instance,
because this would be un-bearably sexually arousing and lead to
promiscuity, neglect of ordinary duties, etc. He knows he can
control himself, but everybody else has to be "protected" from
their evil impulses. His major defence is projection: "I'm not
oversexed, and of course I'd never want to be or want to be
unfaithful to my wife, but that woman in the (name situation or
article of clothing) sure is asking for it. Ultimate expressions
of this type of thinking are wife-beating -- one man said, "When
I walked into the self-help group I thought that when they heard
what I'd had to put up with they'd con-gratulate me for not
having killed her." -- and witch-burning -- "I am a good person.
Bad things do not happen to good people. A bad thing has
happened to me. Somebody did it! Kill them!"
In essence, the moralist is saying "It can't be my fault
(I'm not able to face the idea that it might be my fault). It
must be somebody else's fault. If people would just follow these
few simple rules, which I'll be glad to explain to them, nothing
would go wrong and I wouldn't have to feel anxious. But since
they won't all follow my rules, everything is their fault, not
mine, and I don't have to feel anxious."
Last amended June 11, 1989 -- Page NEXTRECORD
To me this is nauseating. I have no idea how you "should"
behave; who are you? What's the situation? Who else is
affected? Even then, the best I could offer would be some
suggestions of courses of action which might have good results --
but I don't believe there are any simple rules for human conduct
which are always "right." What I do believe is that ethical
behavior consists of choosing your actions such that you can look
at yourself in the mirror in the morning without flinching.
Which means I can see a Corsican being ethical and killing
another person as part of a feud; a gypsy being ethical and
defrauding a gaujo. I suspect that what I mean here is that
ethics impel you to be true to your own values, while morals make
you want to
a) control others, and
b) not get caught yourself. But being ethical implies that they
are your own values, which you have thought through and decided
to accept, and not just the ones you have swallowed whole from
your family or culture.
Marjoe, a famous evangelist who later went straight,
described preaching hellfire and damnation and then going back to
the motel and making love to his girlfriend of the moment -- who
had to be flown in from New York so the locals wouldn't know what
he was doing. Oral Roberts says people have to give him $8
million, or God will "call him home." These are examples of
people whose highest priority is influencing others, making the
right kind of impression - the actuality doesn't seem to be
really relevant to their choice-making process.
The ethical person, on the other hand, may not care at all
about the impression he is erig; he will say in total sincerity
"I know I look like a fool for doing it, but I couldn't have
lived with myself if I hadn't." Or even harder, "I know you
think I'm being hard and cruel, but I honestly believe this is
the best solution in the circumstances."
Next issue (are you holding your breath?) the difference be-
tween act idealism and absolute idealism, or how to tell a witch
from a fundamentalist without a score card.
The Spinster Aunt .......... FROM RMPJ, 2/3/1987
Last amended June 11, 1989 -- Page NEXTRECORD
Next: Exegesis On The Wiccan Rede (Judy Harrow)