An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Morality is a tool for Inter-group Conflict

Anyone who has read my blogs would know that I am no fan of the concept of Morality.  It is contextual and above all a pretense.  That is why I found the review of the book Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s  The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion very interesting

Here is a very insightful paragraph that was mentioned in the review which makes a lot of sense.

Morality binds and blinds. This is not just something that happens to people on the
other side. We all get sucked into tribal moral communities. We circle around
sacred values and then share post hoc arguments about why we are so right and they
are so wrong. We think the other side is blind to truth, reason, science, and common
sense, but in fact everyone goes blind when talking about their sacred objects. If
you want to understand another group, follow the sacredness. (pp. 311-312)

Morality, Haidt contends, has been used a the cohesive force to bring together a community via rituals and beliefs built on a Moral foundation peculiar to a group.  In fact, Morality is a tool used in Inter-group conflict.  If one group needs to insulate against the other, the most potent way is to create a different set of morality principles and then insist adherence.

Haidt, it seems, also likes works of Mercier and Sperber, who argue that human reasoning has not developed to help people get to the truth, but as arbitrary contexts which can be used to win arguments.

These are interesting observations.

Morality is always backed by a certain set of reasoning in every culture.  If the reasoning in any culture has been developed to create an artificial boundary around that group, then it is not only a way to perpetuate and intensify group conflict, but also a way to help this group win argument in that conflict, if it comes to that.  But even in cases of violent and disruptive conflict, the moral narrative comes in handy to push the group members towards giving their lives.  The example of Suicide Bombers is a very potent one here.

Interesting thing is that Morality is always enforced using the concept of “God”.  The concept of a higher being having blessed the common and collective set of principles is a better way to sell them without much opposition despite faulty and inadequate reasoning.

But, if one was to take this further – one would see that not only does Morality comes from the need for Survival within a group – where one person who wants to propagate his power enlists others to his Moral constructs and thus create a large enough group for his survival and that of his own “reasoning”; but its presence in a group necessarily leads to its Exclusive nature.

Saying it in another way, if a group has an explicit Moral Narrative and construct, its conflict with any other group is assured.

In such a situation, where there are different Moral narratives in one society or country, how does diversity work?  For, it is imperative for a diverse culture to value Inclusivity.  Without that, Diversity is a short lived virtue.  But if there are one (yes, even one is enough) or more of Morally oriented groups, then the destruction of Diversity is assured!

So is the answer for long term survival of Diversity in a society the stripping apart of all Moral constructs within the individual groups?  Can any group even live without ideas seeped in Morality?

From my understanding of Indian society, I aver that Indian society before the advent of the Abrahamic religions, was one where Morality wasn’t the central pillar or even glue for the society.  That is why a large amount of experimentation in Spirituality and search for the larger purpose was done without much conflict.  Even when the principles governing the group were enunciated, they were not explicitly “God Given”.  For example, different groups like Suryavanshis would have a certain set of principles, but they were given or enunciated by the elders of that group and not Divine principles.

In the world of God and religiosity, it was understood that there is no set format or way.  It was ok to bring your own God to the party and have fun with others.

The question of diversity and its survival when the Morally predominant Abrahamic groups came to India and resided next to erstwhile groups which didn’t have God-certified Morality as central, then the conflicts have become terrible.  As long as this traditional group gave way, the conflict was contained.  But encroachment of the areas and the society of the Abrahamic groups by the non-Abrahamic groups has been met with severe bloodshed and annihilation.

The Moral constructs have often been used as a cover up for any conscience when killing the other and annihilating the others.

I personally am convinced that Morality breeds Exclusivity and Exclusivity (however contained by Economic interests for certain time) can never be a recipe for Diversity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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