Monday, December 19, 2011

Defining Right And Wrong

While discussing my WIP, Restoring Experience, with some really excellent beta readers, a question came up that I thought would be interesting to share with you.  See, Alexia is going to have to make a decision, sooner or later, about the way she's going to live her life--whether she's going to do what she's supposed to, or what she wants to.

This led me to thinking about how our concept of "right" and "wrong" is so often defined by what others expect of us and not by what we really believe ourselves.  And actually, even that belief, the inner thoughts and commentary we provide ourselves with, is also based on others' expectations, in some degree, isn't it?

How do we deal with that?  How much does your world--your society, your family, your environment and culture--matter in the decisions you make, the way you choose to live your life?  Is it a positive influence?  Negative?  Both, maybe?

If you had been born in a different country, even a different city, a different decade or century, or even just to a different family, your life would probably be very different too.  But--not just your life.  YOU, and the way you see the world, would be completely different as well.

This extends to every single aspect of your life, every single decision you've ever made, even the simpler ones, like what clothes you wear, or the kind of earrings you like, or what you eat.  But let's take a drastic example: the taking of a life.

Killing is wrong, right?  Anywhere, anyhow.  Right?  Yes, I see you nodding vigorously.  But what about if someone's trying to kill you?  What if, in the course of defending yourself, say from a rapist, or a Jason-like psychotic murderer, you kill him/her?  That's different, you say.  Anyone can see that, right?

But here's a radical tidbit of information: according to my Dutch clog-wearing and tulip-bearing boyfriend, in Holland "self-defense" is not a valid defense.  That's to say, if you kill the hockey-mask-wearing and bloodied-ax-wielding guy who was trying to kill you, you're still going to jail.

Note that I've done absolutely no research on this, other than a three-minute conversation with said tulip-bearing boyfriend (I know--he's a sweetheart), so I may be wrong--and if you know for a fact I am, then please, by all means, correct me.  It will make me sleep better, I swear.

I may be stating the obvious here, but I find this thought fascinating--the way we define right and wrong, the way we define ourselves, even, is a product of our cultural background, our time, our parents, our siblings.  It's a very--really, very--individual thing.  And yet, with globalization and the inevitable cultural exchange it's producing, I wonder: will this change?  Will right and wrong be globalized too, acquire universal definitions?

I hope not.  I hope individuality survives.  Because that individuality, those differences in how we--each of us--defines right and wrong, how opposing they are, how contradictory, is what makes every human on the planet unique.

And the quest for that definition--well, that's the journey of a lifetime, isn't it?


  1. Fascinating post :)

    I've had many a conversation like this with my father who has a degree in Philosophy and is a consultant for Human Resources departments, large and small.

    I don't think individuality will disappear, because even within the same culture, the same family, the same experiences, people can (and will) have completely different experiences. There's no possible way to experience life in a *control group*.

  2. It's good you feel that way, Ms. Monkey... I agree--individuality can't be supressed, I believe that. I just wish we'd stop trying :))

  3. Hahahaha, true :)

    Honestly, my wish is that individuality wouldn't divide us as human beings.

    I think I am blessed for growing up in Vancouver, BC (Canada), because of how diversified it was. Where I live now... people are so much less willing to be friendly if you look different, think different, or live different.


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