The Bedrock of Ethics

During the past week we learned that the website AshleyMadison, which caters to cheating spouses, faces threats by hackers to reveal the names and personal details of as many as 37 million customers if the site is not taken down.

Soon after these revelations were made public it became apparent that popular opinion supports AshleyMadison and views the web-based service as a victim of injustice.

Here we have a classic example of the deeper, underlying crisis I wrote about a week ago.  I submitted to you, dear readers, that we are witnessing a stunning loss of personal integrity – a broad failure of honesty, trustworthiness, responsibility on a societal scale.

I suggested that this is a deepening quagmire that influences our institutions, our government, and our lives at every level, and will certainly play a key role in every one of the diverse, oncoming crises that presently loom before us.

Clearly, there has been a loss of ethical grounding to such a degree that no amount of righteous exhortation will have any useful effect.

In my view, the institution of marriage plays an irreplaceable role in securing the foundations for social stability and well-being.

While marriage may not be for everyone, it is impossible to imagine how civil order could be maintained in a productive society without the values and virtues and civilizing influences that are inculcated in each generation by stable marriages and responsible, caring parents.

Marriage is not easy. It is the hardest thing many of us ever do. But, when we understand the importance of it we persevere, and seek the profoundly personal rewards of an integrity that comes with age.

What exactly do the clients of AshleyMadison and their sympathizers not understand? Can they not imagine the strength and resilience of that stronghold of safety and well-being that is a true and honest marriage? Do they believe themselves incapable of this? Or, does the shame and sorrow of infidelity simply represent a fleeting capitulation to personal failure?

Clearly they fail to understand how and why a civilized world must depend on trust and responsibility, or to recognize the integrating role of marriage when it is woven into the fabric of life.

What utter devastation there is in the emotional wasteland of a socially disintegrating world!

How will we address this problem?

One cannot put out a fire by aiming a fire extinguisher at the flames as they flicker in the air. A fire can only be extinguished at the site that is burning.

Attacking the flames will accomplish nothing. People do not respond well to preaching or finger-wagging, especially when their perspective feels good to them and seems quite rational.

It is for this reason that I have drawn your attention to the potential safety and dependability of our own communities – if and when we do the basic work of opening communication, inviting cooperation to address local needs, and building trust.

In my view, community-building is the only context where honest listening and learning and soulful change can take place on a meaningful scale.

We must learn how to make this happen. I do not believe it can happen anywhere else.

Until the wayward and the lost discover that their lives and well-being depend on the security and stability of their local communities; until they recognize the necessity for trust and responsibility in their own comfort or survival, the wisdom of values and virtues will be lost on them.

These great lessons will not be learned and understood by our friends and neighbors without a struggle. We will have to engage patiently, intimately, to work through the hardships of survival and community development together one step at a time.

Principled truth can only be introduced gradually, honestly, effectively, in the context of the tests we are subjected to as loyal compatriots.

No, it will not be easy. Discipline is never easy on the threshold of change. But with an understanding of purpose comes true freedom, and the struggle to get there will be at least as rewarding for the teacher as for the taught.

Tom

Next week: Seeing the end in the beginning

A note to readers: Please note the chapter drafts available on this site, especially Chapter Six: The Ground of Freedom, and Chapter Nine: The Individual in Society.

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