Fydell House

Material determinism-promoting moral behaviour in a free society

One of the problems of the modern world is that there is too much emphasis on each of us getting our own way; having what we want; being stimulated for a short time with for example drink, drugs or sex. Such personal preoccupations and obsessions can and do lead to cruelty because we sometimes find we get less than we think we deserve and we can behave cruelly and get away with it because cruelty can be and often is under the radar of the law and decades ago we mothballed our collective moral radar in the drive for inclusivity, making previously immoral behaviours, acceptable. This in itself was a good thing but to hold us together as a society we need some moral principles to avoid social incoherence and a plethora of competing moralities. We will examine how economic determinism can provide a legitimate moral framework that can apply evenhandedly around the planet. To bring life to our ideas we will focus on what we believe to be the Western words seven deadly sins. We begin with cruelty.

The sort of cruelty seen most often but not exclusively is within families or other close-knit groups. Cruelty has to have an element of viciousness or vindictiveness about it as the perpetrators aim is to cause hurt to another as a response to their own error of judgement in getting into a situation they no longer value respect or like.

We rush into ill-considered relationships driven by our urge to enjoy the stimulation and dream-like effects of sexual activity. We don’t stop ourselves from this headlong rush to get “intimate” and indeed there are people who see little harm in promiscuity and “pop up relationships” like you can dial up on Tinder or Grindr.

However the prevalence of promiscuity reflects two fundamental issues closely linked to cruelty; the extent to which people throw away something which should be special; the company of a partner and friend whom they wish to love and cherish, and from whom they should expect the same; and the lack of any  consideration about whether any new relationship has long-term social or economic value. This is where materialism comes in. It is always necessary to consider the wider economic implications of especially a free choice.

By the time people realise their mistake there may be children and responsibility plus the boredom of a relationship that has “intimacy” but one neither respects or loves. This is the environment within which cruelty breeds.

It is manifest in a number of acts some easily understood such as adultery, all the way down to causing someone to worry (staying out later than agreed and not returning concerned calls), words of indifference “oh do what you want”, words of irritation “oh go away” to words designed to cause harm “you are stupid/ugly/useless”. These casual acts of cruelty harm the recipients emotionally and ultimately are a sign that the perpetrator and victim have made poor life choices. Often the perpetrator is unprepared to take responsibility for their behaviour. Grinding low-level cruelty causes depression and suicide drug and alcohol misuse.

The proliferation of pornographic material is to meet the needs of men and women trapped into unsatisfactory relationships yet preoccupied with sex. Its overt use can be an act of cruelty itself. Its existence reflects a market driven by short-term socially and economically shallow obsessions with the here and now.

At its most extreme cruelty is domestic violence and child abuse, seen in all too many households. This is the reason that in the western world cruelty is one of the most prevalent of our modern seven deadly sins.

To avoid committing this common modern sin we need to return to a way of life that requires us to consider relationships carefully and avoid getting trapped into situations where cruelty is used as a means of feeling better about ourselves as we cope within a self-inflicted dire situation.With freedom comes personal responsibility, you can blame no one else.

The Western world has since the eighteenth century championed the three principles of Consent, Choice and Contract as a means of protecting the individual in business. These bourgeois legal and economic principles have over the years taken on a social character so we use them in life, in general. We need to observe them as secular moral principles and use them wisely in all our dealings with each other. If we don’t there is a risk that we will leave ourselves open to the claim that we should have morals imposed upon us by government diktat or religious uprising, because without them we simply behave with animal-like cruelty.

Contract, choice and consent when deployed thoughtfully and particularly in all potentially intimate scenarios will provide a framework for respecting others, deter rash behaviour and prevent harm. We have much to gain by re familiarising ourselves with three of the principles of the 17th-century bourgeois revolution.