Though the concepts I present here may be generally beneficial, my goal is to help us understand the problem of imposition – establishing a single “Law of the Land” – of a single value or policy over a nation or region of heterogeneous peoples. For examples:
- Outlawing abortion
- Legalizing marriage only for heterosexual couples
- Legislating either for or against any single religion or ideology (Christianity, Islam, or communism)
- Outlawing Burqa, Burqini, or Hijaab
- Criminalizing marijuana possession, sale, or use
An overwhelming amount of our political discourse involves “for or against” issues. These “issues” have been a perennial mainstay throughout elections and legislative sessions for decades. While the important issues of political corruption, failures of the economic system, destruction of ecosystems, and the threat of nuclear annihilation have also been continuous but unresolved. In other words, while we’ve been distracted for decades, debating singular “Law of the Land” issues, greater and more urgent matters have not been addressed. Will we continue to debate and vote either for or against abortion until our planet is destroyed, or human civilization collapses? This is a wake-up call.
Take a look at the following diagram:
Ask yourself “Where is the “problem” of abortion taking place?” If I am opposed to abortion, it causes no problem in my personal life. It becomes a problem when I seek to impose my view at the institutional level: by outlawing abortion via a single “Law of the Land” piece of legislation. In other words, I seek to control what millions of other human beings do OUTSIDE MY OWN DOMAIN by supporting a candidate or legislation operating in a political capitol hundreds of miles away. I am thinking VERY BIG of myself by stretching my hand far beyond my own home and dictating the lives of others. It should be obvious why I am creating conflict and distracting from more serious and universal problems.
If I dislike burqas, when does it really become a problem? If I am in my home, or in public taking-care of my own business, there should be no problem. The conflict will only occur if I reach beyond my own domain and seek to control the activities of other humans, when I become the trespasser into the domain of others.
Why am I not applying the same logic and moral principles of other situations? If I walk into your home uninvited, you will believe me a trespasser. If I take one of your possessions, you will call me a thief because I trespassed into your right of ownership. If I kill you, you will call me a murderer for trespassing into your personal right to life. Yet, you do not consider yourself a trespasser by imposing your clothing preferences on others?
If our personal moral codes provide any value for:
- avoidance of conflict (otherwise known as peace)
- committing time and effort to resolving major, threatening problems (maximizing virtue by all moral codes)
it should be obvious that our personal preferences must be kept closer to our personal domain, and away from public institutions and policy. Institutions and policy are the perennial battleground of imposition, discontent, and distraction.
The logical alternative is to enshrine maximal freedom for individuals at the level of institution and policy. Is it not a virtuous idea to minimize conflict by legislating freedom while my personal right to activities educating or proselytizing my personal moral views? For the religious among us, was that not the activity of those we call Prophets? Going door-to-door and village to village trying to convince others of the virtues in our beliefs? As a Muslim, I will attest to the fact this is how Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, and the other Prophets I believe in spent their lives.
Wouldn’t it be a virtuous and beautiful thing to establish “Law of the Land” that maximizes freedom, work together in resolving the major threats of perpetual war, environmental poisoning and destruction, and our genocidal economic system, and leave other issues to be discussed on the front porch or at the local pub? Sounds wise to me.
More reading on the social ecological model: