On the Morality of Order above all Else

What is the duty that man owes to his fellows?

All modern day governments of any legitimacy openly pledge that the goal of their penal and justice institutions are to preserve a spirit of liberty and fairness for all of the citizens represented by them. In times of war, great strife, or simply when it is in all ways inconvenient, this is shown to be patently false. While many activists cry out that justice is not being done for some accused man or another, they fail to note the underlying purpose for established government in the beginning, in its most natural state: the organization of human beings. Simply that: organization. It is advisable that one should never forget that 'justice' is only an incidental feature, added to aid in the proper herding of the majority; should one feel that a law is fair and just, one would be more disinclined to break said law. But to do right was not the purpose of the law initially, only to correct and prevent behavior that is seen as undesirable by the state. During the inception of the United States Constitution, a 3/5ths Compromise- declaring that all slaves count as 3/5ths of a human being for the purposes of congressional representation- was the most reasonable measure to placate the Southern slavers. This was entirely legal- and immensely immoral. To strip someone's humanity is always a sinful, immoral act, whether or not it is done in the interest of preserving and creating a perfect union. Therefore, it is unjust; why, then, was it allowed to be enforced? For the sake of convenience and diplomacy. This is not to absolve the rest of the world. At some point or another, all modern day governments made, make, or will make laws that will serve only to put enough wrong-minded people at ease to head off any upcoming disturbance of the status quo. A fascinating phrase, that: the status quo. Not necessarily an evil phrase, but it does often contain poor connotations, for the simple reason that those who seek to retain the status quo are seldom flexible, reasonable individuals- and many of them are in positions of high power.

Such a consideration- of the legality of (but not necessarily the morality of) retaining the status quo- is of supreme importance to any government, whether it be democracy, autocracy, theocracy, or dictatorship. If the will of the people say otherwise, explicitly and democratically, then the status quo is illegal. In no other case will it be deemed so. But even in a democracy, the legality is all that matters; contrary to most belief, legality does not denote morality. The two are ever separate, and for good reason. Suppose that you, as individual with free will and the ability to consider with clarity the world around you, were given a set of rules that you were to make sure that both you and the people around you follow. Some of these you agree with clearly and immediately- no murder, arson, rape, etc.- while others you accept as not necessarily immoral or moral to do, but necessary in their own right- fastening your seatbelt while driving, regulation of retaining ponds, etc. Some of these rules, however, give you pause. Some of these rules criminalize victimless crimes, insist on thrusting outdated forms of morality on their constituents, and insist on a censored intake of information. Therein lays the problem. Philosophers like Rousseau and Montesquieu would argue that without a serious, irreconcilable breach of the Social Contract between man and government, it would be immoral to not execute these laws, even supposing they were immoral themselves. However, is such a thing true? I wholeheartedly disagree.

Now that the problem is introduced, it is time to properly consider the practical applications of it. Police officers, bureaucrats, soldiers, and many other employees of the state uphold laws that defy decency with regularity. It is certainly an unpleasant thing to consider, but it is a stark reality that all government employees exist only to maintain the status quo and all the laws that uphold it. The heart of the moral quandary is that to pledge yourself to be absolutely beholden to only a code decided by a group of mortal men of occasionally questionable values, is in itself a distinctly amoral- though not necessarily immoral- vocation. In deciding with conviction to be a model officer of the law (whether that be police, military police, bailiff, etc.) you are agreeing to violently support the pre-existing laws of your country. Many such laws are not necessarily contrary to mainline morality, but there is a small but significant portion that are. Order, while nearly always superior to chaos, is not the ultimate goal.

Although it is indeed preferable to dwell in order rather than disorder, there exist forms of disorder, of civil disobedience, of legal gray but moral certainty that must be undertaken for fear of one's soul. Should he possess a certain quantity of heroin, it is legal to send a junkie to prison for the rest of his life. This, however, is often the most morally repugnant choice to make in the situation, given that such a sentence would neither reform a criminal nor treat the addiction and give aid to the man. Financially, it places an unfair burden on the taxpayer. Therefore, the moral choice is to not follow the law- such a solution would be unthinkable for most policemen. This does not only apply to the more recent development of the American War on Drugs, it is also highlighted by other traditional questions that ask the thinker to skirt the line of disobedience and morality or obedience and immorality. For example, is not it moral to steal food to save your starving family? If nothing else, it is not basically immoral, although it is basically illegal. And isn't it immoral to report your brother for allowing his 14 year old son to drive? Yet the law would request you do this. To be only held accountable by the law and nothing else, I would argue that this is basically, unequivocally evil.

This is not to argue that an individual should not be held accountable by a higher power than himself, nor is it to suggest that all laws are inherently immoral; quite the opposite. Many of them serve a legitimate purpose in both the systems of human order as well as ethics. It is, however, to suggest that at the root of all of man's interactions with society- which is a system of other men and women, not all of them necessarily better or worse than this everyman example- critical appraisal and iron, unchangeable focus on virtue should be at the heart of all actions undertaken. Whether or not the existence of God is taken into account, the fact remains that it is philosophical suicide for individuals to live their lives carelessly and unexamined, because it allows more room for evil behavior toward both oneself and those around oneself. So do not pledge yourself mind, body, and soul for another man or collection of men; pledge it only to ideals, to values, to virtues that you hold to be obviously good and self-evident- put not your faith in princes, nor in the son of man, who is no help. Ignore those who would tell you to look the other way when faced with immorality. Above all, do as you are compelled to do by your visceral feeling of humanity, of kinsmanship with all of mankind. The rest is easy.