Special matters

Two new elements, named 114 and 116 joined the periodic table this week. I didn’t see that on the television news, which isn’t surprising as I’m such a rare watcher of television. This evening I was home and watched though, as there was a plane emergency that I’d heard about on the radio while driving. Then there was $1 ski passes, an IT hiccup in the police communications system that didn’t create any problems other than greater use of pen and paper and, before I started drifting off, some redundancies and the OCR announcement today.

The president of the International Criminal Court says he might have evidence of institutionalised rape in Libya i.e. soldiers are being supplied with sexual performance enhancing drugs (I should have just said Viagra, now I have) – but it’s not funny at all, in fact if it’s true is appalling – to facilitate mass rape of women and children. Their own people.

In my observation, somewhere from the centre to the margins of any institution that purports to own morals are things that truly moral people find repugnant. For example, fundamentalists of any description have moral rules about stealing, murder, rape etc which we can all relate to, in fact we don’t need them as “rules” as we’re moral. But go out a little and you’ll likely find that it becomes immoral to, for example, divorce or work on certain days. None of these things are morals, they’re rules. Or is it circular? They might think that they are morals if you view the deemed inappropriate behaviour as immoral. But why do you view it as immoral? Dig a little deeper and you’ll find the rule that sits behind the so-called (and I’d say fake) moral.

Which of course begs the question about how we get morals. And do they change? There’s greater minds than mine alive today who can argue that morals are part of us, and part of us that grows as we evolve and develop greater insights into our own happiness. We’ve been finding new elements on average every two and a half years for the last 250 years. If we looked back 250 years we’d find some pretty strange things called morals. Strange for many of us, but not so strange for some people, still stuck in the rule book.

So does all this matter? Yes. It matters greatly if a government assaults its citizens. It’s an outrage and the work of evil people. Or an organisation spreads lies about the preventative impacts of condoms, to conform to its “rules”. Even as we evolve and grow, parts of our species stagnates, goes backwards, but I hope, will again lurch forward again one day.

A lot of variations in perceptions of right and wrong – morals – have surfaced in this information age. At the same time our understanding of our environment marches on, and new elements are discovered and put on the school science tables.

These elements are special matters in our world. Science quietly advances and challenges our thinking of what we assume is static and settled. No chance. Morals are like science too, which we’ll keep growing and evolving. I hope we will look back and wonder how primitive we were.

Morals are special matters too, that deserve our special attention to ensure we are all happy. That’s the core of what a moral is about. Whether in Tripoli or Takapuna.

Stephen

Say it for Valentines Day leader

Two news items came out in the last couple of days concerning religion. One was about the leaders of one religion saying it was against the religion and it was immoral for unmarried people to celebrate Valentines Day as terrible things (my words!) might happen, like kissing and sex. Then two religions are accused of marrying off 13 year-old-girls. Apparently, if it’s within the confines of a religion then it can be moral, if it’s like, not.

Of course religion has no right to own morals any more than I have and one should never be confused with the other. Otherwise, we end up doing all sorts of things from the downright stupid (like not allowing young people to court) to forcing children to marry. Religion might agree with some of my morals, like not stealing, not killing and not perjuring myself. Thankfully in this beautiful country (I’ve just had a late evening walk on Tamaki Drive from St Heliers to Kohimarama which puts the phrase beautiful country in my mind!), most of us realise the difference between morals and man-made rules.

When John Key was asked today at the Big Gay Out if he supported civil unions he refused to answer. It is reported that he voted against the legislation when it was introduced into Parliament. I guess it was a conscience vote, whatever that means. I wonder why he wouldn’t say whether or not he supported it. To at least some of the people there, it is probably important to know what his view is, especially as he had previously voted against it. And he’s the leader of our great country.

If you want to enter into a contract with another person of your own free will, go for it. It’s none of my business and if you don’t kill or steal while you’re doing it, I wish you luck. If you’re a young person and you want to express your love for another person on Valentines Day, go for it. Do the same if you’re older, whether you’re in a contract or not. None of this is my concern. So should we be concerned of a leader who thinks he or she can tell you whether or not you can even do any of these things?

Yes, because, if the answer is no you can’t do it, then we are entitled to ask: Why? A leader, especially a political one, should empower and enable us to live happy and authentic lives. Anything else is a slippery slope to places you don’t want to go. If the answer is no on moral grounds, that’s even more disturbing. What moral? Where could such a thing have come from?

But this is a leadership blog! And I reckon that there is an important leadership question in all of this: say it when it’s important to your followers. Agree with you or not, you’ll be seen as authentic. And if you really don’t want to say, you might like to ask yourself, why not?

Whatever the origins of Valentine, if it’s for you and gives you and your loved one happiness, enjoy. Don’t let anyone stop you. It’s your right to be happy.

Stephen