“What happens though if those who make the laws are immoral? And who are we to say what constitutes immorality?”
He raised his hands in a gesture of hopelessness.
“Even if we put aside old arguments about ends justifying means, do we have to accept, as they say, laws penned by wolves to keep sheep such as us penned in?” he asked. “Don’t we, the sheep then have a moral duty to rebel and bring down the wolves? But we are then back to anarchy, aren’t we?”
“Okay, yes,” she said “but in America, didn’t Jefferson say, ‘Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it’? Yet wouldn’t Orwell argue that such a revolution would only bring about a kind of ‘Animal Farm’” – all sheep are equal but some are more equal than others?” she argued.
He smiled and countered, “So, what are we left with? Instead, shouldn’t we, as individuals, set our personal examples and hope, probably vainly, that the morally corrupt will be converted?” he asked.
“Oh, I can see where this is leading,” she said. “Despite what you said before, you think that even if God doesn’t exist, we need to invent one to unify people under that God’s moral law.”
“I’m not as devious as that,” he insisted, “and I’m not arguing anything to convert you, but you do see the problem, don’t you? The secular equivalent, I suppose, would be some sort of international ethics organisation such as, but with more teeth than, say the United Nations. But that would presuppose the willingness of World leaders to authorise and fund the body.”
he held his hands outwards, palms upwards, in despair.
“And the USA already hates funding the UN when, in its current form, it so often mandates regulations that conflict with American political interests. Again, how many world leaders would agree to establishing a body that had the power to veto one of their own country’s ‘democratically-elected’ decisions? And who would choose the decision makers of such a committee? How much does it take, even now, for an autocratic president of, say, one of the Big Five countries to veto a morally unarguable proposal of the UN? There’s that Latin tag – ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes’ which I take to mean ‘who will guard us against the guardians’.”
“I do see what you mean,” she said, “that we already have an ‘Animal Farm’ situation. I suppose you would also wish for some kind of ethical watchdog over the implementation of scientific discoveries. Wouldn’t that be trumped by the United Nations anyway?”
“Probably,” he said, “but the word Science means knowledge and I would not wish to censor research – or even the publication of research. I would want the impossible really, a veto over governments or corporations using new developments in knowledge for unethical purposes. Banning nuclear weapons, perhaps, yet approving nuclear power generation. That still begs questions around issues such as acceptable uses of genetics.”
“That may be desirable, but don’t our politicians all seem to be Stone-Age people?”
“Yes,” he said, “that’s about it. Whatever the Universe may be, however it came about, or whether there is a God or Gods – that’s all irrelevant to us sheep, who depend on fate to protect us from leaders who have morally questionable intentions.”
They both laughed.
“Here endeth the Lesson,” he said, “Would you like another cup of tea – camomile or otherwise?”
Yes, yet more books, chosen for their relevance to the conversation. At least by the end of this discussion they seem to have agreed about something – and have begun to laugh together. Progress for them as individuals if not for the world.
Because these two characters are now ready for refreshments, I’ll feature a photo to reflect that thought.
EXIF data were: Fujifilm X-T4 camera plus Fujinon XF 16-55 mm f/2.8. Shutter speed was 1/1000 secs @ f/2.8 and 55 mm. ISO was 6400.