Moral dilemma

I know when I’ve wasted my time away when my joints feel stiff, my eyes inflamed, and my mind unstimulated. Instead, I’m playing TF2 to waste the time away, as I had originally planned to watch a movie, but the plans had fallen through.

It’s difficult to stay motivated when most of my friends are in Austin, doing whatever. For me, the only real excitement will be flying to the East Coast again for the yearly plane competition, but undoubtedly there will be an extremely stressful problem that will counterbalance the excitement.

Sunday. Watching Detective Pikachu with a small child laughing at my side apparently did not do enough to abate my conscience that was too busy reeling from an unsettling headline spotted in the bookstore only about half an hour before the movie.

I tried to imagine how my friend would take the movie. She would probably laugh; maybe I take movies too seriously. But what bothers me is that the film lacked any inherent meaning. It did not cause me to think, perhaps because I was too busy cringing from listening to Ryan Reynolds casting as the voice of a squeaking little thing as a Pikachu. While it was explained at the end of the movie the true reason behind this, I would rather have had a lady play the role.

I left the theater reconsidering my life decisions again, while my brother balked about how he was “fine” with watching meaningless movies as long as they entertained him. He then suggested some profound Japanese films, such as Ghost in the Shell. I said yes, anything. I don’t care how mind-boggling the subject matter is anymore. At this point, I could probably take it.

I need to begin a major research effort on the topic of morality. I do not feel particularly accepted in the hacker community due to my beliefs and values – or rather, that I seem to have any to begin with. The topic of religion, for instance, is taboo, and any political belief other than the default liberal stance commonplace in the East Coast seems to be viewed as if it were 21st-century animism.

From the liberal standpoint, I see a completely different definition of law. Law is a set of policies enforced by the government to promote and ensure human progress. What constitutes steps forward and not steps back is entirely at the discretion of politicians. Individuals are free to make any choice as long as it does not negatively impact the rest of society.

From the conservative standpoint, law is an enforcement of moral standards designed to preserve stability. Tradition, rituals, and a strong set of values define a conservative culture where deviation from the norm is taught as a telltale sign for danger. The reasoning goes that stability has led to success, and therefore individuals should be guided into making consistent choices that lead to the making of a predictably successful society.

There is some truth to every philosophical argument posed, but we seem to have reached a momentous period where political groups seek to make changes with incompatible ethical theories. As a result, we end up with a legal code that is really a patchwork of laws based on inconsistent theories of interpretation, all of which must then be carefully weaved through in a court of law. It is like 200-year-old source code, with hacks built on top of each other, and the drastic changes in design principles and paradigms across the years can be seen as clearly as tree rings on a trunk.

Since it does not seem possible to agree on a universal ethical framework, and since the currently-established ethical frameworks are primarily along cultural lines, perhaps the world’s jurisdiction should be divided back into its respective cultures. (Weeks after writing this, I realize: wasn’t that already the founding fathers’ line of thinking when they established the federalist model? That states would independently implement potentially conflicting legal frameworks that reflect the local culture, while the federal government provides economic and military protection for states that remain within the system?)

While multiculturalism has shown that people of many cultures are perfectly capable of collaborating, and humans are perfectly willing to assimilate to the dominant culture, it does not discount the idea that culture defines discrete boundaries between the in-group and the out-group. It strikes at the very nature of how humans identify who is an enemy and who is a friend. If these hot-button debates continue in the United States, the heterogeneity of culture might mean that soon Americans will see everyone as a potential enemy. We will see how true this really is as the story unfolds in the coming decades.

In the meantime, it is difficult to entertain myself when existentialism clouds my thoughts.

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