The Folly of Abstract Morality

If there is one thing popular television shows teach for certain; it’s the shades of grey. I am not sure if there are fifty; for I am forever a nyctophile. These shows indoctrinate that there is no such thing as absolutely evil or pure good. This world is not a battleground of angels and demons, but humans where every saint has a past. Human deeds and morals are categorised as a mixture of both, and not as clearly right or wrong either in their intent or in their consequence.

If this argument is held as true, the soul of Niccolo Machiavelli may rest in peace for he argued that the ends justify the means. However, the archetype of his “prince”; Cesare Borgia, is anything but an ideal for humanity even by the standards of post-Golden Age of Renaissance. Machiavelli, no matter the monumental standing of his treatise, has been refuted many times over during the past five centuries by his critics. Today, the term Machiavellian has a negative connotation; clearly not a shade of grey but deeply dark.

Profile portrait of Cesare Borgia in the Palaz...
Profile portrait of Cesare Borgia in the Palazzo Venezia in Rome, Believed to possibly be a copy of an original contemporary portrait. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The idea that every human deed is abstract and relative blurs the fine line between morality as a construct and the morality of individual human actions. It erodes the difference between right and wrong. Human actions are governed by beliefs which in turn are the product of experience, knowledge and enculturation. The compel in our very nature to decadence, and our internal conflict to do or not to do a deed implies the subtle and tacit recognition of righteousness of a choice.

The matters we confront on daily basis, therefore, essentially are right or wrong. What makes them grey are the justifications of our choices we tell our conscience. The justification doesn’t change its inherent moral value.

Every time we look in the mirror, we know what we have done. It carries a burden on our conscience. We can clearly differentiate light from the dark, and the various shades of grey therein. We know where we have told a lie to make someone happy or proud or just to take advantage of them. We know how we have corrupted our soul for a temporal benefit. We can clearly see how we have destroyed others for personal glory and legacy.

None of which survives, unfortunately. What survives is the sin, and it’s consequences.

There, our own conscience and our own mind consume us. The burden of our actions just doesn’t take a toll on our mind and body but on human posterity. This whole world, the society, and our communities depend on the plurality of human actions. I often wonder whether the man is the product of his time or his time is the product of his actions. And it’s a vicious circle, I must confess, just like the hen and egg conundrum.

What humans like me often forget in our impulsive or intentional quest for advantage, benefit, or legacy is a wise saying;

“What goes around, comes around”

It is a folly to believe that a small evil is legitimate for a greater good, for evil begets more evil. A lie is still called a lie no matter if spoken to mend broken hearts. Its intent neither change its nature, nor it may alter its consequence.