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Tonight I want to empty my brain about the word "ethical" being bandied about with so much emotionally manipulative fervor!
Recently, there has been a lot of talk in the media about Christian Religious Education versus Ethics classes. A lot of parents are happy to send their children to CRE because they believe it will imbue their children with a sense of ethics which is congruent with our general social view. Others believe a religious base is not necessary to teach children about being ethical. I'm not going to argue for one side or the other tonight, I'm simply going to plead that people STOP using the E word to have a go at other people who don't make the same choices as them - are our children really learning what ethics are, or are they simply learning that the word can be used to make other people behave the way you want them to? There is no such thing as a single ethical point of view. Dictionary dot com defines "ethics" as:
–plural noun1. ( used with a singular or plural verb ) a system of moral principles: the ethics of a culture.
2.the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.:medical ethics; Christian ethics.
3.moral principles, as of an individual: His ethics forbade betrayal of a confidence.
4.(usually used with a singular verb ) that branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.
So, basically, calling yourself "ethical" is really only referring to the framework you choose to operate within, not some universal understanding of what is ethical.
So, okay, you don't buy Nestlé products, you don't buy "Made in China", you only buy organic food products, you get all your produce directly from the farmer, you drive an electric car, you live in a hay bale house you built with your own hands, you never buy new anything, you have your own happy chickens, you have your own happy milk cow, you don't eat animals at all because all slaughter of animals is unethical and immoral, you don't wear wool or leather, even if it is second hand, you don't buy books or receive paper bills, you only use cloth nappies and tank water you've collected yourself ...
GREAT! Really, I support everything you do! I'm grateful to you for your conscientious choices and the positive effects you are having on the earth and her inhabitants.
What I'm not so enamoured by is the implication that anyone who doesn't do everything you do to the extent you do it is a person without a heart or a conscience, an immoral person who is dedicated only to mentally mapping every hair and crevice of their own bellybutton. For every ethically correct choice you make, there will be an ethically correct argument against your choice. Whenever you believe you are on the right side of the ethical fence, there will be another person on the other side of the fence adding you to their list of "most likely to go straight to hell for their lack of compassion and understanding".
Some of us actually can't afford to be ethical in your understanding of the word. Really, it's not that we don't care, or that we're not trying hard enough, it's honestly a case of not being able to squeeze enough value out of the money we do have to afford to make your understanding of the "morally correct choice". When I've said to some people, "I can't afford to buy organic", or "I can't afford to buy Australian owned and made", I've been told how the other person was simply willing to make sacrifices so they could make the necessary changes to be on the moral high-ground. I make sacrifices right now, sacrifices I'm not happy with, just to make ends meet. I have no private health insurance, or second car (or even an only car), or holiday, or childcare, or children's extra-curricula activity that I can cut to make sure I can afford organic or Australian.
Funny thing is, I consider myself a moral and ethical person, nonetheless. I do not define my morality or ethicalness only on my consumption habits...