The Profound and the Mundane – Moral Choices

Our lives seem to be leading to choices; choices we don’t want to make. Life, for most of us these days is sort of like the channel I was watching on HBO this morning. First there was a program called VICE and this particular segment was about the Korean peninsula and America. It is clear that America is not well loved by all Koreans right now. In fact, this director said, school children are fed a diet of anti-American propaganda even in South Korea where we have been “occupiers/protectors” for years (my words not theirs). This is typical of the love-hate relationship much of the world has with America, recently more hate than love. This enlightening information ended with a plea that we should not heed Trump’s “America First” message because staying isolated from the radical change occurring on other continents gives America no say in whatever chaos or structure the world creates as a result of this cultural evolution that we appear to be in the midst of.

The programming then demanded a seemingly jarring shift in mental gears, as when our lives shift between the profound and the mundane, because what followed was the movie version of the musical Hairspray, which turned out to be not the superficial piece of fluff it sounded like. It was about a brave young lady who with a light-hearted spirit jumped right into the most explosive issue of the moment, the argument about integration vs. segregation. So this “piece of fluff” ended up still being about exclusion, inclusion, courage, and staying involved in the fray.

Perhaps the way I found a connection between these two quite disparate programs simply reflects my current interests. It’s sort of like when you get a new car and then you start seeing that car everywhere. Yes, Hairspray really does have a social message, but it starts because a young lady who is not the norm of attractiveness wants to appear on a dance show, and wants there to be one dance show for both black and white teens as opposed to the two separate dance shows that the show rules currently mandate. If is far more mundane than profound. So I may be a bit in my own bubble right now.

In my bubble I am seeing cultural paradoxes, cultural upheavals and cultural revolutions everywhere I look. And I am wondering, is it better to stay above the many struggles – the struggles for freedom, for respect, for identity, for prosperity, for survival – and act like a general with a 3D map who moves small figures and symbols of resources around the map as events unfold, who develops a master plan and tries to get events to fall in line with that master plan. (We seem to have quite a few people (men) in this role at the moment.) What if your master plan clashes with an opposing master plan? People will be caught in the middle of the “battle of the master plans”. There is no guarantee that the winning plan will create a society anyone wants to live in.

When do you get down and dirty? When do you join the resistance for real? Perhaps you never will. Being a true revolutionary, having a cause that informs every waking hour, wreaks havoc on the life you would like to have. How far “in” are you willing to go? Is being arrested OK? Is being tear gassed in your wheelhouse? Would you die for your cause?


Will someone have to die to get the world a fair and free future? Of course people are already dying for this. They also seem to be dying to fight against this. How terrible is it to fight for an outcome that you never get to enjoy? We cannot even seem to organize a present-day culture that offers equal opportunity within and among nations. Can we expect to have a future culture that offers peace and prosperity, tolerance and civility that includes everyone on the planet? Hard to imagine isn’t it?

I’m reading The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy and I have found barely a thread of happiness in it. India is divided by class and by religion and skin color and money into many more groups than we see in our own culture. In India people are often willing to put their lives on the line to defend their social group from persecution and that persecution takes the form of official corruption, brutal interrogation, and outright slaughter by the government, or the military, or just one group opposed to the rights of another group. Even in the face of all of this, people who feel targeted because of their class or religion still get so angry that despite what could happen they decide to resist.

Does the fact that we are unwilling to even protest peacefully when it looks like our government could fail, or turn into a form of governance that will rob us of our rights, our pride and our privileges doom us to accepting whatever happens. If things appear to be moving America towards authoritarian rule or even corporate rule will we object?

I can feel my own complacency and love of the simple joys of daily life fighting with my shock at recent American political tendencies. I can also feel my cynicism that we can never create a way to govern a human culture that will consistently provide stability and fairness. It may just not be time for extreme responses yet. But I’m not sure that I will ever make a very good activist. I would rather be one of those strategists with the big 3D map. Will this end up being a brain thing or a body thing or neither? In the end I hope things work out and all this angst is unnecessary; and I do not have faith that is at all what will happen.

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