Despite what religious folk might tell you, what’s right and what’s wrong is no fixed or written affair. Indeed, even fair-spirited Christians have shifted the goalposts about a thousand times in the last millennium to ensure their holy doctrine concerning murder, homosexuality, slavery and other ethics have shuffled along to keep up with societal changes.
I find it weird how people look back to times gone by and vilify those seemingly advocating attitudes we would shun in the modern era.
Think how slave owners, fascists, wife beaters and colonists are demonised in Hollywood fiction and the minds of most people.
Those people are not considering how morals are changing.
They are not set in stone. They evolve, and improve, over time.
What we consider unacceptable today was totally fine a century ago, and it’s only living in a relatively secure, peaceful and enlightened civilization that allows us to reconsider and adapt our shared moral code.
Think of homosexuality. Think of slavery. Think of women’s suffrage. Think of capital punishment.
These subjects were all thought of dramatically differently just a few generations ago.
Citizens of Britain and elsewhere in the 16th century were not evil, or blind to morality, rather they were just ordinary, mainstream, everyday shitmunchers (like you) that adopted the ethical framework of the masses.
Being homosexual to them was as wrong as rape is to us today.
However, arguing that we shouldn’t judge our ancestors on modern standards of ethics isn’t my point, though I do believe that it’s a valid one.
My point is instead that I’d like to know what’s next.
Looking ahead ten, one hundred or even one thousand years, which of the things that we do today will our great grandchildren look back upon with shame and critical judgment of our philistine, immoral ways?
What do we consider entirely fine and acceptable today, that in time will seen to be ethically disgraceful?
It’s a really hard question, because our minds have been firmly molded by 21st century Western thinking, and many of the things we do wrong in society (like pollution, gender inequality and rampant corporate exploitation) are generally already seen to be ethically questionable, even though we still engage in them.
Most ethics today revolve around three things – liberty, fairness and the minimizing of suffering. There is no reason to believe that the future won’t continue to develop these ideals.
I thought of a few issues that although may get some attention today, still remain a minority viewpoint, yet I anticipate they will become ‘common sense’ in years to come.
1/ Legalisation of recreational drug use
The idea that the government should control and even punish those that choose vice and leisure activities in their own free time may well be seen as uncompromisingly totalitarian by future generations.
2/ Infant circumcision
I’m certain that one day it will be widely regarded as wrong to mutilate a baby’s sexual organs before they are old enough to consent or influence the decision.
3/ Faith-based education
It’s bizarre that we label five year old children as Muslims or Jews. We wouldn’t call a five year old a liberal democrat or a Marxist. It’s unfair on a child to indoctrinate them with anything that limits their choices later in life. Segregating and dividing the lives of children by what their parents believe happens when they die, will one day be considered massively wrong.
4/ The meat industry
This is a big one, for me. Much of our fiction (The Matrix, Independence Day, 12 Years a Slave) focuses on how evil it is for one group of beings (robots, aliens, white people) to exploit another group solely on the basis that they are able to and want to reap the benefits of doing so.
Why the vast majority of people think it’s OK to do the same to animals in the way that we do, on such a gargantuan scale of abuse and suffering, is beyond me. In the future, I truly believe we will look back on our meat processing industry with shame and horror.
The oldest profession is still viewed as shameful and disgusting, and in most places remains illegal. Again, why Governments should control how people use, sell and abuse their bodies will be puzzling for liberal-minded people of the future. I’m not suggesting it should ever be encouraged, but a broader policy of acceptance could be inevitable.
The last one I’ll list, and it’s one that is emerging already. Once more it comes down to liberty, and individuals’ right to die. Everyone should have that right, even those with no other control over their lives. I hope that someday we live in a world where people are able to influence their own fate in a safe and supportive environment, and believe that eventually we will.
Though moral conservatives will likely disagree, the evolution of ethics in human history has basically been a linear graph of liberalism rising over time. That’s why I think we can reasonably assume that greater liberty in our ethical code is yet to come, regardless of how ultra-liberal they may seem to us today.
Though few people ever bother to comment on my posts, I’d love to know what other ideas you have for ‘things that future generations will think we’re cunts for doing’, so let me know, yeah?