If people had their way, just about anything could become a moral issue: pet ownership, consumerism, relative wealth, divorce, transgender surgery, capitalism, alcohol, tobacco, meat, wool, fur, accommodationism, inoculations, drugs, hunting, firearms, free speech, sexual orientation, on and on. I say, don’t preach to me unless I’m personally culpable . . . and you’re not.
There seems to be many ideas of what constitutes a moral issue. To some, it’s a matter of belief (as opposed to preference). To some it’s visceral: they know it when they feel it. To some, it’s a matter of avoiding harm to others; possibly including animals or even plants. To some, it’s a matter of the greater good. To some, it’s a matter of consensus or majority opinion. To some, it can be any combination of these or other things.
My own idea of what constitutes a moral issue is personal culpability when it can be reasonably avoided. Could I have avoided causing harm to somebody else? If so, crossing that line is a moral issue. My reason for this stance is to preempt being pulled into every personal, social or political agenda that grabs the fickle limelight of the public. Like veganism/vegetarianism, for instance.
My idea of morality separates moral issues from other kinds of issues: humanitarian issues, political issues, environmental issues, legal issues, health issues, dietary issues, national sovereignty or security issues, personal issues, religious, ethnic or racial issues, or whatever. It’s not a moral issue to me, unless I am personally culpable of reasonably avoidable harm. Got an axe to grind? I hope it has something to do with me before you launch into your well-honed speech.
World hunger is not a moral issue to me. I’m not personally culpable for it. It’s a humanitarian issue. So is birth control, slavery and overpopulation. Abortion? A legal issue. So is murder and animal cruelty, unless I’m the one committing them. Pollution, strip mining, deforestation and global warming? Environmental issues.
As in murder, other kinds of issues can become moral issues when you are personally culpable. If you dispose of used motor oil in your local lake – knowing it’s illegal and environmentally hazardous – it becomes a moral issue for you as well as a legal and environmental issue. In other words, many issues may matter to you but you are only accountable for those you are personally responsible for.
What I particularly hate is intolerance masquerading as morality – you know, when people turn their personal preferences into beliefs they then foist upon others. These pseudo-issues and their advocates can go to hell as far as I’m concerned. Their intolerance is easy to see when it comes to religions. People born into one religion or another often prefer it over others and might even believe theirs is somehow better or more valid. Well, they can believe what they want but as soon as they try to advocate or discriminate against some other religion(s), they are practicing intolerance – not pursuing moral imperatives. The same goes for veganism or vegetarianism: as soon as it is wielded as some sort of moral billy club, it becomes intolerance: and when advocated publicly, it enters the political arena. A personal preference is not and should never be a political issue: not even if it’s the majority view.
If you’re a bleeding-heart charter member of the Moral Issue of the Month Club, I ‘m not interested in your latest cause célèbre.
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