Uniquely the Same - The Roots of Right and Wrong
Two Perspectives to Consider:
WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT
- Although we all have the reptilian, limbic and cortex, we all process and see the world differently
- Most people have been raised differently and entered society a different way
- Nobody in this world sees the world exactly the same as anyone else
- Nearly everyone believes that their story is the truth, and anyone that doesn’t see it the same way is wrong
WE ARE ALL THE SAME
- Our brains develop the same as one another
- Reptilian brain- scans for safety
- Lymbic – where we store our emotions
- Cortex – Judges
- As we grow up we look to our family and learn how to behave based around their roles and beliefs
- As we then get older and enter society we look at how other people act to see how we ‘should’ be.
- Following socials norms allows us to avoid guilt/shame
- We still focus on power over and competition. Social comparison allows us to know where we fit in society
We are all the same in the space that we are human; we have the same core emotions and general brain processes, but how we function in this world is unique. With 99%+ of shared genome, we believe that we are at least largely operating on the same playing field, and that if the other is not like us, they perhaps could be, or could see what we see.
Our own experience has demonstrated the “vastness” of difference that can exist. Everything that exists in our own world contributes to the story that we live life through. Shawn Radcliffe has theorized that we may not even see colors the same. Where someone could see blue, another could see green…but they know this as the same color. How?…labelling!
Labelling – The Salvation From the Unknown
Living things find comfort in what is known to them. If we don’t understand something, it can lead to fear of the unknown. We like to look at the unknown with wonder and awe, and there are many conditions upon which the new/different is desirable. Cue, labels; we have a vocal label for everything in our life. From colors, to names…even general adjectives to add a further description to a label. These words allow safety in our understanding of what something is. Two of the main labels we use in the world are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. At a 100,000-foot view, most things in this world are veiled under one of these categories. Nothing wrong with that. 🙂
Fear plays a special role in our tendency to categorize in this way. What would happen if I thought like my enemy? What would my parents/family/community/church think if I sympathized with the “other” or with “that”?
While fear has an important role to play in our lives, it is probably the biggest hindrance that we face as individuals.
Jump over to the Fear Section to learn how to decode this essential part of being human into something positive and non-restricting.
Social Norms and the Safety of Blame
We all want to be right in this world. In some cases ‘being right’ also allows us to fit in. Most people see the right thing as following the social norms of their area, as their definition of being right is based around their experience in the world so far. If someone does something outside of this, they may be seen as wrong…a label that most people want to avoid. The desire to be seen as right and accepted by others may influence individuals to dress, speak, and behave a certain way.
Right and wrong also allow us to assign blame. Blaming allows us again to assign labels, to build our understanding of the word through fault. Let’s say you are in a car accident. The person in front of you is going ‘way too slow’ so you speed up and get close to their bumper, and then once they break ‘too quickly’ you end up colliding. In moments like this you will look at who was right and who was wrong. They are a bad driver so it is their fault you crashed. You are right, they are wrong. Alternatively, you could say that you were driving too aggressively and got way too close to them, and it is your fault you crashed. They were right, you were wrong.
What does either of these scenarios give us? The first gives us relief, as it is not our fault. We are safe emotionally knowing that we did nothing wrong, and that they are wrong. The latter offers us, potentially, guilt. We believe that we did something that affected someone else badly and therefore we are wrong for that. By blaming ourselves in the latter choice we may experience the pain of feeling guilty, but we also experience relief from making meaning of what has happened…the salvation from the unknown strikes again! Again, nothing wrong with that. Guilt is also different from regret, the former holding an inherent quality of bad/wrongness, and regret holding remorse, yet also an ability to not make oneself absolutely wrong, and with the ability to live and learn as a flexible, well-intentioned human.
“I’m Right, You’re Wrong” – Two People Screaming Into a Vacuum
One of the most common places that we see right/wrong thinking is when people are informing others about their belief/value systems: “this is how they should be acting (or shouldn’t be acting)” — more monologue than dialogue. Upon reflection, we’re not interested in shifting our values, or learning more about what we value; we’re looking forward to enlightening or teaching the other person about the ‘right’ way to do things. This comes from the kindest place, even though the exterior may not present that way.
Think about times when your own experiences and opinions in the realm of right vs wrong have caused a self-sabotaging moment. When you share your view to someone you think is wrong, and they think they are right. Result? The other digs further in to their own right/wrong thinking. An entrenched battle between who’s really right (obviously me) and who’s really wrong (obviously the other person!) ensues. If two people both think they are right and the other is wrong, a stalemate will most likely emerge, where no one will be well heard.
● Gun Control (and, what is
appropriate use of guns)
● Alcohol, pot, other drugs
● Use of Military Overseas
● How to Raise Children
Where We Engage Daily:
● Stuck in Traffic
● Someone cuts in line
● ‘Incorrect’ Opinions
● Using phones in a Movie Theatre
● Someone walking too slow in front of you
● Parents with screaming children in public
● Not getting results that we want
● Sports results
● People in customer service working slowly
● Not getting what you want (in general)
Triggering Examples of Right vs. Wrong in the World
Proponents of the death penalty say it is an important tool for preserving law and order, deters crime, and costs less than life imprisonment. They argue that retribution or “an eye for an eye” honors the victim, helps console grieving families, and ensures that the perpetrators of heinous crimes never have an opportunity to cause future tragedy.
Opponents of capital punishment say it has no deterrent effect on crime, wrongly gives governments the power to take human life, and perpetuates social injustices by disproportionately targeting people of color (racist) and people who cannot afford good attorneys (classist). They say lifetime jail sentences are a more severe and less expensive punishment than death.
Proponents of the under method (A) say that there is less chance of the toilet paper roll unraveling during an earthquake (12,860 in 2017). They argue that the under method provides a cleaner appearance and protects against kittens or small children unraveling the entire roll.
Proponents of the over method (B) say that it is easier to locate and grab hold of. They point out that it is standard for Hotels do it this way and they possess expert knowledge in the field. Proponents of the over methods also point out that it is easier to tear off the desired number of sheets without making a mess.
Proponents of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) contend that terminally ill people should have the right to end their suffering with a quick, dignified, and compassionate death. They argue that the right to die is protected by the same constitutional safeguards that guarantee such rights as marriage, procreation, and the refusal or termination of life-saving medical treatment.
Opponents of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide contend that doctors have a moral responsibility to keep their patients alive as reflected by the Hippocratic Oath. They argue there may be a “slippery slope” from euthanasia to murder, and that legalizing euthanasia will unfairly target the poor and disabled and create incentives for insurance companies to terminate lives in order to save money.
Proponents of social networking sites say that the online communities promote increased interaction with friends and family; offer teachers, librarians, and students valuable access to educational support and materials; facilitate social and political change; and disseminate useful information rapidly.
Opponents of social networking say that the sites prevent face-to-face communication; waste time on frivolous activity; alter children’s brains and behavior making them more prone to ADHD; expose users to predators like pedophiles and burglars; and spread false and potentially dangerous information.
Proponents of more gun control laws state that the Second Amendment was intended for militias; that gun violence would be reduced; that gun restrictions have always existed; and that a majority of Americans, including gun owners, support new gun restrictions.
Opponents say that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own guns; that guns are needed for self-defense from threats ranging from local criminals to foreign invaders; and that gun ownership deters crime rather than causes more crime.
Sometimes it is the harder road to travel, and sometimes it can feel hidden. But peace, tolerance, and understanding prevails in the world every day. As the world becomes more crowded and more diverse, there is now less war, less poverty, higher life expectancy, and higher quality of life than every before in human history.
Martin Luther King Jr, who faced systemic and cultural assertions of right and wrong (“It’s wrong to be black.” or “It’s right to give African Americans less rights.”) succeeded in appealing to our common goal of empathy and understanding.
Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.
I believe in this method because I think it is the only way to reestablish a broken community. It is the method which seeks to implement the just law by appealing to the conscience of the great decent majority who through blindness, fear, pride, and irrationality have allowed their consciences to sleep. – MLK jr – Nobel Lecture – The Quest for Peace and Justice
Gandi, who was an underdog against not only presumptuous tenets of white colonization but even military threats, succeeded in appealing to our common humanity. He showed the relativity of right/wrong and promoted peace and understanding that transcends social myths of right/wrong.
I claim that human mind or human society is not divided into watertight compartments called social, political and religious. All act and react upon one another.
Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived. -Mahatma Gandhi