Friday, March 22, 2013

Moralism - the enemy of Reality

If Moral Virtue's Christianity
Christ's pretensions were all vanity
The Moral Christian is the cause
of the unbeliever and his laws.
- William Blake

Morality and politics are a toxic mix. 

I'm thinking of thousands of prisoners banged up because of the spasms of moral outrage their actions cause to - wait for it - those guardians of moral rectitude, the tabloid editors. 

Wind the years back, and in 1945, homosexuality was also seen as immoral, and the moralists made it illegal. So much so that when the concentration camps were liberated in 1945, some gay people imprisoned in concentration camps by Hitler found themselves imprisoned again by the "liberators".  Sick.

In our lifetime, suicide also was treated as a moral crime. One of my patients was banged up after a failed suicide attempt. The shame of imprisonment affected his or her whole life.

That was then. In our more enlightened times, thousands of dope heads are in prison - at huge cost to the taxpayer - because they seek instant pleasure, at risk of modest mental and physical harm to themselves. The tabloid editors, whose preferred drug is ethyl alcohol, see that as immoral, and so the absurd criminalisaton continues.

Morality sucks. Lao Tzu, the writer of the Tao Te Ching, said

When the Tao is lost, we have goodness
When goodness is lost, we have morality.

Just listen to the Moral Maze on Radio 4. A maze is a place deliberately designed to make you get lost. It is set up to create confusion, because morality deals in absolutes, in black and white categories where no compromise is allowable or possible. 

In cognitive behavioural therapy, the main aim of treatment is to identify such good-bad, right-wrong absolutes in the mind of the client and to help them to see that a more graded evaluation of things reflects reality more accurately, and results in a more harmonious way of being.

Which is not to say that we can do without ethics. But that is a different thing. Think of moralism as ethics gone rotten.

That's all.

PS Blake meant by pretensions, the things that Christ was putting out - such as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus found himself continually at loggerheads with the moralists of the day.

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