Defining Morality, Continued
On Thursday, I wrote about the theory of "moral psychologist" Dr. J. Haidt and his stubatshit desire to extend the accepted categories of moral behavior beyond "do no harm" and "do unto others" to include "loyalty," "respect for authority," and "purity."
You'll recall him saying:
“It is at least possible,” he said, “that conservatives and traditional societies have some moral or sociological insights that secular liberals do not understand.”And you'll recall me saying (in my letter the SciTimes):
This of course ignores the fact the millions of individual secular liberals were raised with traditional values, and that the Western secular liberal society itself emerged from a traditional society. It ignores the fact that the secular liberal tradition consciously and purposefully limited the importance of these three "traditional" categories for moral, yes, moral, reasons: "loyalty" is also "toadying" and "sycophancy," and it makes people compromise their morality; "respect for authority" is also "cowardice" and the relinquishing of one's personal moral compass -- do we still remember the Milgram experiments?; "purity" is also "prejudice" -- the cause of innumerable purges, massacres, genocides.Well I thought I was being pretty on-point persuasive, but I wasn't even scratching at the glass of this particular shop of horrors. I realized how far from the nut of this issue I was when I read the story in today's Times Magazine about Zahra al-Azzo, just another rape victim in the Arab world who has been murdered by her brother in an "honor killing" -- as we call it; its Arabic euphemism translates as "washing away the shame," the article tells us, as though the girl herself were the shame.
Just another rape victim who becomes just another honor killing victim -- or she would have been, if she hadn't turned out to be the the Syrian equivalent of JonBenet or Jessica Smart:
Bassam al-Kadi, a women’s advocate, told me that Zahra’s case made an ideal rallying point. “We have hundreds of Zahras,” he said. “But there are some stories that you can campaign with, and others that you can’t.” Zahra, in other words — extremely young, a victim of rape, married at the time she was killed — makes a sympathetic figure for a broad Syrian public in a way that, say, someone older who was killed after being seen with her boyfriend in a cafe might not.Yes, Syrian society is taking on honor killings. It's going to be a tough fight. There are many leaders who support making it illegal, including popular religious leaders, but this man-on-the-street quote gives some sign of the problem:
“It’s an Islamic law to kill your relative if she errs,” said the man, who gave his name as Ahmed and said that he learned of Zahra’s story on Syrian television. “If the sheik tries to fight this, the people will rise up and slit his throat.”[Note: these "honor killings" are not, the article makes clear, Islamic law; but most of the population apparently believes they are.] I recommend reading the whole story. It's really interesting. But here's where we get back to our "categories of morality":
Zahra's husband was apparently "undecided" on the issue of "honor" killings until his wife was murdered by her brother:
Values. Not morals, but values. Conservative, traditional values: "loyalty," "respect for authority," "purity": values which drive men to the most immoral act a person can possibly perform: murder.
But Fawaz told me that he didn’t understand his own feelings about honor killing until Zahra’s death, and that he hoped the publicity surrounding her case would help other men to re-evaluate theirs. “In Zahra’s case, the girl was basically kidnapped,” Fawaz said. “If she’d been a bad girl, if she’d decided to run away with a man, I’d say, maybe. It’s a brutal solution, but maybe.”
His father broke in. “Even then! When a girl does something wrong like that, especially a girl that young, I don’t think that she is responsible. The family is responsible. The father is responsible. I don’t want to give anyone excuses for murder.”
Fawaz nodded. “I start thinking about Zahra lying there, dying, and I don’t think I can believe in that set of values any longer.”
So I offer this as a case-in-point to Dr. Haidt: how can your three so-called "morals" survive the fact that they lead to the most immoral possible act? Should you not instead conclude that these are anti-morals, rationalizations for immoral behavior, the enemies of morality?
Syria is apparently having a national conversation right now that will make them more like the secular liberal west, more moral. Should "honor" killings begin to fade into their past, they will be following the universal morality that all humans agree on: "do no harm," and "do unto others -- including your sister after she's been raped -- as you would have them do unto you."