Much is made today about ‘ethics’, the aim being to teach and promote mutual goodness in our relations to each other, and even to the natural world around us. This is a desirable mentality; however, some clarification is in order, along with some checks and balances. Let me illustrate what I mean.
Take for sake of example the ethic of ‘unity’. Singleness of mind and purpose, cohesion and mutual support, especially within a body of individuals, be it a sports team, a business venture, a military unit, whatever. Unity in these examples is a must, a driving force, a desirable ethic. But now consider this - to what is the unity attached? Unity among the Nazis was a powerful ethic, yet one of the most destructive forces ever unleashed among humankind. The KKK; unity for sure, but the attachment of that unity to racism and hatred renders dark the virtue.
This same case could be made for loyalty, diversity, democracy (remember when women couldn't vote because the ‘majority’ thought they shouldn’t be allowed?); even something being ‘legal’ is ethical only if attached to a transcendent virtue. Slavery used to be legal, which spread over it the thin, artificial skin of ‘ethical’; but we all know now that a greater, transcendent ethic overcame this diabolical practice.
Here’s a thought provoker - who or what is going to determine what are the worthy attachments that hallow the ethic? This is where competing ideas and virtues, the democratization of ethics, as messy and frustrating as they can be, are probably the only protection we have against the tyranny of any single group or idea.
And so, let us take care to see to what our ethic is attached. We’ve all seen great individuals and causes become tainted, even gutted of morals, by attachments that degenerated from the original ethical intent.
Ethics are only as honorable as the virtues and practices to which they are attached.