How do I live a moral life in an immoral world?
How can an American Consumer not Contribute to Slave Labor
How do you live ethically when many goods you buy are produced using slave labor? How can one live an ethical life when one supports and encourages crimes of abuse every day by feeding an unethical, immoral process of manufacture with one’s purchases?
Answer: It is difficult to be selective in our purchasing because we have little insight into how products are produced and how any particular production process affects the entropy of the larger consciousness system in the long term.
You cannot be held responsible for what you don’t know – unless your ignorance is purposeful (i.e., you go out of your way to avoid knowing things. The moment you find out about an unethical process to which you are a contributor is the moment that you gain the responsibility to stop (or minimize if stopping is against the law or does more harm than good) contributing, encouraging or enabling the unethical behavior. Of course, one should always be actively open to, and be searching for, new data. However, be aware that there are people bending and coloring “the truth” on all sides of any issue. The world runs on belief, image, and propaganda, not truth. Unfortunately, truth is most often only a minor player in decision/choice making. It is very difficult to get honest, straightforward information, and even more difficult to assess that it is so.
Thus it is very hard to assess the existence and extent of unethical behavior unless you are a firsthand witness to all the issues and circumstances, all the acts, and all the intents behind the acts. We hear facts about acts and then often fill in the intent from our own fears, expectations, and beliefs. It is the intent, not the act, that matters most. Example: A 10 year old child working in a factory in the US is illegal and unethical. A 10 year old child in a country with no public education system, no social services, and no child labor laws; and who is working in a factory by his own free choice, (perhaps shuffling papers between offices, and delivering mail to the management staff) in order to keep his mother and five younger siblings from starving to death, is another thing altogether. Here, forcing this particular child (who is thrilled and very lucky to have the opportunity to do this work and save his family) to stop working because he is only 10 would be the immoral choice. If the factory manager was getting pressure to fire the child because of bad press (created by competitors or by watch dogs who need issues to justify their jobs, or by people who mean well but do not understand the bigger picture), he is ethically required to resist that pressure and maintain the child’s employment. If the country were under pressure to consider imposing child labor laws, they must figure out the balance of how much good and how much evil will be done because of the law and act only in ways that benefit the vast majority of its citizens now and in the future – and find ways to protect those it harms.
Also you may stop buying A’s products and start buying B’s products when in fact B is a much more unethical company but you are simply ignorant of their immoral behavior. B may have even funded the negative propaganda about A.
So, as always, one must learn how to live gracefully with uncertainty. That is, you must form your intents and execute your actions based on what you think is mostly likely to be the truth. One should always err on the side of caution (do no harm) and always remain open to, and actively seeking, more information that might modify your position. Employing open-minded skepticism is the key. You need to develop trusted sources and put serious effort into doing effective research. Remember, trust must be earned, not just given to someone or some organization because their PR machine is doing a good job.
There are two basic requirements to living an ethical life: Be an ethical person and (1) Make the best ethical choices you can, based upon the best information you can gather at the time (assess accuracy and completeness of data without adding distortions due to your fear, ego, and belief). (2) Learn to live gracefully with uncertainty (use open-minded skepticism to assess the truth in terms of tentative probabilities -- avoid adding distortions generated by your fear, ego, and beliefs). Accept that you will make mistakes and be imperfect -- that is okay because you will fix the error as soon as you discover the error and you are continuously working on it. It is not your responsibility to fix the world, your responsibility is to fix yourself, and if you are actively working on that as effectively and efficiently as you know how, you are doing your part. Beyond that, let the cookie crumble however it does – learning opportunities and challenges are provided for all.
Trying to Make a Better World
Shouldn’t we be working for the betterment of all – going out into the world and trying to make the world a better place?
Answer: Some might think that it is self-centered to primarily work on yourself as I suggested above.
By “working on yourself” I do not mean a lifetime of meditation contemplating your navel. In this school house, the action that matters is interacting with others. Yes, of course, we should be concerned with helping others, but if our intent (motivation) is not right, our help will be ineffective and perhaps even destructive. Helping others is a primary trait of low entropy consciousness. If you first fix yourself (lower your entropy) you will automatically be motivated to help others. The intent of making things better for everyone naturally flows from a low entropy being. And such a being will do his work for others without the fear, ego, expectations, and beliefs that would make his effort ineffective or counterproductive.
If a person goes out to do good without first fixing himself (without getting rid of fear, ego, expectations, and beliefs) then his efforts will necessarily be focused and implemented in ways that reflect his fear, ego, expectations, and beliefs. This will make him both ineffective in the big picture and the little picture – he is likely to accomplish nothing useful to others in the long term or make things worse. One cannot hide or suppress the true quality of their being level – what lies at your core, is what you express with your intent and interactions. You simply are who and what you are – there is no way to be better than you are. Acting better, though sometimes appreciated by those superficially interacting with you, is just an act that always reveals the truth on deeper inspection.
Acting is very different than being. One may try to act in a good manner – to do the things he thinks (working from the intellectual level) represent good -- but if his sense of what is good is primarily informed by fear, ego, expectations, and beliefs, because that is what dominates his being level and is consequently also reflected at his intellectual level, he will most likely accomplish little good in the big picture and may do harm. His intellect expresses the quality found at the being level, consequently, it primarily serves his fear, ego, and beliefs and spends most of its energy convincing himself that all his acts are necessary and good.
However if a person is good (low entropy consciousness) then he simply does good by acting naturally – he never has to think about how to act – he just is and expresses himself as he is. He operates from the being level. His intellect serves his core being and expresses the quality found at being level. His intent is always focused on service to others and service to the whole, and he will likely accomplish much in both the big picture and in the little picture. This does not mean that he will necessarily be rich and famous – I am speaking of accomplishments that are significant to himself, others, and the larger consciousness system.
So you see, the first step to fixing anything (others attitudes, political system, economic system, philosophical system, correcting wrongs, enforcing what is fair, making the world a better place, etc.) is fixing yourself. If you really want to work for the betterment of all – to go out into the world and make the world better, then start working on yourself – produce a low entropy being that naturally expresses and spreads the quality of love and compassion rather than fear, ego, expectations, and beliefs.
What Improves us at the Being Level
“But how do I improve myself (at the "being level”)?”
Answer: Get rid of fear, belief and ego. All three are related: Belief and ego are products of fear. I know, it’s Easy to say but hard to do. Here is how I recommend going about it. Most people who have been seriously working on their quality of consciousness increasingly find it difficult to spot the fear and beliefs, but ego is less subtle and more obvious when you are looking for it. Begin by inspecting your intent or motivation in everyday interactions. Honestly inspect every action, thought, feeling, want, need, and desire – particularly as you personally interact with others (spouse, family, friends, office coworkers, strangers, etc) – or as you process (think about things, daydream, muse). Discover the real cause -- the cause behind the cause -- of why you say, do or think what you do. Then ask yourself: “Is this cause, intent, motivation about me” (your wants, needs, expectations, desires). If it is mostly about you (managing things to be the way you want them to be), then it is very likely that your intent/motivation is ego based. If it is ego based, you can generally find a fear or belief at the root (a fear of things-you-others not being or working out the way you wish). If you find a fear, that is the thing you need to get rid of. The only antidote for fear is courage and the honest desire to change. If you find a belief, then dig one level deeper and find the fear that drives the belief. Eliminate the fear and the belief and ego will simply fall away because it is no longer needed to deal with the fear. This process takes focus, dedication to succeeding, and perseverance. If you work diligently at this process, in three or four months, the difference in you and your quality of life will be quite noticeable by you and others.
Flow Chart Illustrating What Improves us at the Being Level
Here is a flowchart of the above text, with input and approval from Tom Campbell:
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