In the early decades of the 21st Century human society is faced with a mind plague – a pandemic of disinformation and lies which jeopardises our civilisation and the biological world.
This series of short conversations by Luke Andreski discusses the weapons we need if we are to resist this plague: weapons of resistance and attack. The following article, which begins the series, considers the first of our two weapons of resistance.
They’re out to get me
Everyone’s trying to sell you something, or take something off you or get you to do something.
Everyone’s out for themselves.
No one can be trusted.
People are greedy.
People are lazy.
It’s a dog-eat-dog world.
That’s how I sometimes feel.
But it’s far from the truth, isn’t it?
These are just the lies we’re being told – or it’s people behaving that way because of the lies they’ve been told.
Our media is our enemy – and much of our schooling too.
We’re victims of cognitive imperialism – and the invading empire has established its outposts in the hinterlands of our minds.
Values we’ve met before
This is the message our media keeps hammering home:
– Selfishness is king
– Greed is queen
– Profit is our God
– The economy’s our religion
– Ownership’s our temple
– Wealth is our sacrament
– Ruthlessness is admirable
– Acquisition is commendable
– Always want more
– Winner takes all
I’m not sure I am.
And that’s the interesting thing, isn’t it? This obsession with having more, needing more, buying more, isn’t making any of us happy. In fact, the very reverse.
The human world is full to the brim with unhappiness.
We’ve been infected by ideas about the supreme value of money and possessions, and it’s not doing any of us much good.
“Apart from the privileged 0.1%…”
And there’s the irony. I think it’s harming them, too.
I’ve a surprise for you.
“A nice one, I hope.”
It’s something you can’t live without.
You won’t be disappointed…
It’s a suit of armour.
Hm. I can see that sounds a little disappointing to you… Well, maybe not armour. Perhaps more of a shiny, chainmail shirt…
“Like Frodo’s, in The Lord of the Rings?”
Well, maybe not quite up to his standards. I’ve no mithril to hand. Perhaps not a chainmail shirt. Perhaps more of a shield.
Yes, that’s it. A shield.
“For medieval battle re-enactment?”
No, for something much more modern. It’s a shield to ward off the ideas that are making us unhappy. It’s like a software firewall, but for the mind.
“You’re right. I’m not disappointed.”
“Everyone should have one.”
I call it a Shield of Values. It takes a little setting up.
“Will you show me?”
I’ll be delighted.
The instructions come with the box
Any shield needs a frame. That’s what gives it its shape, makes it distinctive, makes it a thing.
The shield we’re building – a shield of values – needs to resist the self-harming, eco-destructive concepts jeopardising the modern age. It needs a straightforward frame that out-simplifies the lies.
A frame like this:
(i) Nurture others.
(ii) Nurture humanity as a whole.
(iii) Nurture and protect the biological world.
That’s it. Core moral objectives so simple and uncontroversial they feel like common sense.
Objectives that give your shield its shape.
Just like the human chest a shield needs ribs: to hold the frame in place, to ensure it keeps the shape you’re trying to give it. These are the values which underpin our objectives. Values like these:
(i) Life is precious.
(ii) We are all life: sparks from the same fire; water in the same river.
(iii) All living things, to the best of our ability, should be nurtured and loved.
These are the ribs of your shield: supple, simple and easily understood – a straightforward commitment to all living things.
But what imbues these values and objectives with authority – makes them grab your attention, your imagination, your commitment? What gives this frame of ours its strength?
Any shield of values – any morality, in fact – needs a backbone, a spine, otherwise it becomes just whim: a pick-and mix selection of values and aspirations chosen almost at random from the normative chaos our society keeps thrusting down our throats.
Some people use God as their source of moral authority – but, since many don’t, we won’t.
Here’s a source of authority anyone can use:
Life is our tangible, ever-present, utterly evident source of purpose and meaning. Where else can purpose come from except life?
Dead stuff has no purpose – other than the purpose given it by things that live.
Purpose originates from life… and life’s ultimate purpose? Life itself.
We see this embodied in the vast complexity of the biosphere, in the history of evolution, in the desire of every living thing to live.
Morality doesn’t work without something bigger than ourselves to commit to. That’s what stops it being just ‘personal inclination’. The ethical systems which bind communities, societies and civilisations together need community- , society- or civilisation-wide justifications… and what simpler and more straightforward justification can there be than a commitment to the very essence of what we are: to life itself?
The centrality and agency of life give the spine of your shield its authority and strength.
Now we have the frame, the ribs and spine, but shields also require a skin.
What kind of skin does a shield of values need?
It needs a lie-deflecting but truth-porous skin of quick-fire, easily accessible principles that derive directly from the frame and ribs and spine…
A skin like this:
(i) We’re all equal.
(ii) We all have the right to be free.
(iii) Within your capacity and the opportunities given you, seek the fulfilment of all humans everywhere.
(iv) Do not cause humans or other lifeforms to suffer.
(v) Do not seek power – seek only your fulfilment and the flourishing of others.
(vi) Do not seek wealth – seek only your fulfilment and the flourishing of others.
(vii) Do not idolise individuals – idolise only their good actions.
(viii) Do not idolise possessions – possessions should serve humanity and the thriving of all life.
(ix) Do not idolise artefacts: organisations, traditions, constitutions or nations. These artefacts should serve humans and humanity, not the reverse.
(x) Do not wait to do good until others do good also. Take the first moral step, the second moral step and the third.
(xi) Be honest.
(xii) Be kind.
So we have our shield of values: frame, ribs, spine and skin. It’s well-made and strong. But it needs to be a shield anyone can pick up and use, to defend themselves from the corrupting values and narratives of a greedy and heartless world. Our shield needs a buckle and strap to hold it tight against our arms.
Universality is that strap. The universal applicability of our values. The universal applicability of being alive, of valuing life. This is our shield’s grip and buckle and strap. This is how we bind the shield to us. This is what allows us to stand together, shoulder to shoulder, holding up our shields, resisting the bombardment of a captured press, a lackey media, the super-spreading of socio- and eco-destructive propaganda and lies.
Our shield is universal, just as life is universal.
It’s there for anyone to use.
Our shield is made. A shield of values for our Age of Lies.
Your objectives; your core moral aims.
Your values, supporting those aims.
The authority for your values, arising out of life itself.
The principles you deploy in everyday life.
The universal applicability of your values, arising from the universality of life.
Now let your elbow be an anvil, your legs two pylons… and brace yourself solid as a rock.
Nothing wicked, nothing malign, no pandemic of lies can penetrate such a well-made shield.
Luke Andreski is author of Short Conversations: During the Plague (2020), Intelligent Ethics (2019) and Ethical Intelligence (2019).
You can connect with Luke on LinkedIn, https://uk.linkedin.com/in/luke-andreski-ethics, on WordPress, https://lukeandreski.wordpress.com/, or via the EthicalRenewal co-op on Twitter https://twitter.com/EthicalRenewal.
The introduction to this series can be found here: https://dangerousglobe.com/news/the-21st-century-lies-pandemic/.
With thanks for Shield image (lightly modified) to Kristrun Hansen, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org.
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