Cross Cultural Ethics

Jerry Spoor

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Revised: 08/30/2007

 Who are we? How do we fit into the grand scheme of things? What control do we actually have on our destiny? What will it take to maintain survival of the Earth? The following information is highly condensed and may require additional reading. There are many issues I do not have time to elaborate on. I do not note any credits during the article but will mention a few at the end.

 Consider the subject of cross cultural ethics. A fundamental understanding has developed as a result of having lived in many cultures and it makes a philosophical approach more enticing. This subject has led to the study of many related subjects. Cross cultural ethics arises from a philosophical approach to life and it does not seem to be a precisely defined subject. I’ll touch briefly on various aspects of the subject. I then try to combine them to some degree and finally touch on a few related discrepancies in our society.  I will also describe a hypothetical political scenario that seems to be in tune with human nature.

 Ethics can be called a moral philosophy. Although every culture has developed ethics we (in the United States) tend to think in terms of western philosophy. Ethics can be considered good in themselves or because they conform to a particular moral standard. If an ethical concept or attribute is good within itself it might be considered an absolute value. Further research into the subject tends to diminish the realm of absolutes.

 Some philosophers believe a child is born with a natural predisposition to moral behavior. Of course that natural predisposition must be nurtured in order for it to develop. To what extent this means we have absolute moral standards is debatable. Minute aspects of absolute moral standards could be a product of evolution. People with this attribute are more likely to survive because they are more likely to support the group in positive ways. Groups are more powerful in war and I’ll get to that later. Another belief is that this natural predisposition was designed into us by a creator

 Modernity is a good measure of various cultural aspects of societies. We have two dimensions that can be measured. One axis would be survival/security verses self expression. Each direction has its values. Individual preference is important but the most important aspect is the understanding of the broad spectrum of beliefs or needs amongst people. A higher level of modernity would be towards self expression. The United States tends to be on the self expression end of this axis and this might be due to the youth of our nation, the degree of freedom we have and the diversity of people. The extent of civilization is important in this area. The former Soviet Union is a good example of survival/security.

 The other axis on this 2 dimensional chart and a significant area of consideration is rational verses traditional where rational is considered more modern. In using the word rational we could refer to it as secular/rational but this may sound an alarm to some people. It should be understood we are talking about modernity and that it does not have to reflect directly on the spiritual value of a culture. The United States is slightly below average in this aspect of modernity. High in this area would be protestant Europe. Two modern entries here are Japan and the Confucian philosophy. Confucius was a cool dude.

 So what does modernity have to do with cross cultural ethics? I personally believe the most relevant factor here is the ability to change. A modern person is more likely to be able to negotiate in a conciliatory manner. Those concerned with traditional areas of survival may be more rigid in their beliefs.

 Negotiations might be the most important element in cross cultural ethics. When you go to the negotiation table, should you represent what is best for the whole or for yourself? There are those who put emphasis on not being selfish and probably do well in some aspects of ethics. However, it may be wise to assume you represent yourself in any negotiation process because you most likely do not know in advance what is best for the whole. If you did know, you would be less apt to negotiate and reconcile just like all other people who already know what is best for all. Each person in the negotiating group should realize they are opinionated as a result of their own unique environment. Now the most important consideration is how often do we unite for the sake of conciliatory negotiations that move cross cultural ethics in a more absolute direction? I suspect few of us will ever do it in our life. History says we are more likely to go to war in order to determine which culture shall prevail. Recent history is showing improvements in our relationships and interactions.

 How should we deal with the issues of abortion as well as other issues that come up in politics? This article is sensitive in nature but so is real life. So please try to understand the article is directed at how we deal with issues. I am not trying to reveal my personal opinion.

 In reading this article I ask you to consider if we should vote on an issue with one side winning and the other side losing or if well informed professionals should try to represent what is best for all. Should the issues be used to provide a platform on which to base a campaign?

 There are a variety of sensitive subjects that can be used to reveal our particular cultural preferences and human nature. I will use the abortion issue and it is strictly as leverage in making a point. The examples I give throughout this article assumes the world is not perfect and that in the pursuit of optimum survival we must choose the least of two evils in some situations. This choice might be best made through negotiations and the final joint solution may not be at one extreme or another. As in most legal battles you go in representing your side but it must be known that other points of view are being represented and a conciliatory judgment must be made by some entity that represents the best of all concerned. The nature of judgment will change with the type of groups being represented. Are both of the two debating groups contained in a well established culture or do they consist of two separate cultures in different parts of the world that do not have a common political jurisdiction?

 In using the abortion issue in our examples I will preface the issue with relevant information. The Supreme Court voted 5 to 2 in favor of Roe v Wade. The final decision left room for discretion amongst the states. Room is left for debate. We might question why the Congress has made so few laws on the subject and why the Supreme Court fails to fill in the gaps. Even when one Executive Branch appoints its judges on the Supreme Court the total change in the issue may have minimal affect on the average person.

 In what stage of the reproduction cycle does a new life have the rights of a human being? Is it a black and white judgment or do we have shades of grey? What statistics do we apply to our determinations? What other aspects of life or survival do we weigh into our final decision? To what extent do we consider the health of the baby or the mother? In all stages of development what rules should we attach to each stage? Would there be a difference in rules based on pain, health, status, ethics or morality? Where would a variance be applicable and where should the rules be rigid?

 We might also try to determine if a belief at any specific stage of development is based on religion or not. Is this belief of such absolute value that it should be applied to the law of the land? Does this belief stand out amongst all other beliefs regarding the injustice of life in our society? 

Some people think abortion is wrong and others think it is right. There are extremes and variations. Does this mean that the two ends of the spectrum here have different views on the nature of morality? No, because both believe murder is wrong. What they disagree about is the nature of the fetus. Can a fetus be murdered? The disagreement here is about the status of the fetus and not about what makes an action right or wrong. This disagreement is about what will save the most lives and how we will improve the quality of life. For comparison I might ask if it is ok to go to war in order to improve the quality of life. What is an acceptable sacrifice of life? A belief to promote one area of life more than another is dependent on familiarity and experience (cultural ethics).

 There are other issues we could consider. One issue is pain. If we were to pursue an absolute value in cross cultural ethics this might be the best issue to base it on. Most people agree on pain but unfortunately not all. Most people understand the personal pain they have experienced at one time or another. Some people do not acknowledge the pain of another person. They might not be sympathetic to a woman who has been abandoned with 3 children and knows she cannot bring another life into this world and still maintain the quality of life she wants for the existing children. We often do not acknowledge or support the hardships of others even if the other people were not responsible for their demise. Our perceptions are largely influenced by our own personal group culture and the life we have experienced.

 Now, how do issues of this type properly fit into the realm of our political system? How should the issues be determined?

 While absolute values seem distant there are universally held convictions that seem to be prevalent. Most people espouse the need to be mutually supportive and loyal to their fellow members of the group. They decry violence, betrayal and deceit practiced on members of the group. People demand a form of justice that distinguishes between right and wrong with respect to rules they understand within their group. Unfortunately they probably do not understand other groups. 

I use the word group but we ought to realize the size of the group can vary. Survival can be referred to as self survival, family survival, group survival and survival of society. A person with more cultural diversification may apply survival to larger realms and tolerate more diversification. A wiser person is more capable of conciliatory negotiations.

 Science and religion do not always agree or promote a mutually acceptable concept of culture or ethics. Science is highly dependent on external sources of material evidence while religion is based more on the needs of the human individual or a spiritual group. By the standards of many cultures, religion is a form of self expression and a belief that is in tune with human nature. With no disrespect intended religion can be a subset of a more complex subject of philosophy. A truly gifted and concerned philosopher might establish this parallel in a format the average person can comprehend. This subset may or may not be true to the nature of human beings and our true philosophical composition. In referring to philosophy I am thinking in terms of western philosophy. The word philosophy comes from Greek and means “love of wisdom”. It is the rational and critical inquiry into basic principles. Philosophy is often divided into four main branches: metaphysics, the investigation of ultimate reality; epistemology, the study of the origins, validity, and limits of knowledge; ethics, the study of the nature of morality and judgment; and aesthetics, the study of the nature of beauty in the fine arts.  

Please keep in mind that western philosophy is subject to the same examination criteria as western science. Science is divided into many categories and disciplines. These disciplines cross the boundaries of each other. All disciplines must agree with each other. There can be no contradictions. Not only must a theory or hypothesis be totally open to examination but the method by which it was developed must also be totally open to investigation and scrutiny. Fortunately, this is not required for spiritual concepts in our society which allows for the freedom of individual expression. Spiritualism allows for rituals that can be applied to a group to bring out positive qualities of human nature. A total lack of spiritualism or theology can lead to a cold and independent nature in some people.

 Philosophy goes far back in our history. The Greeks entered the realm of philosophy with many people contributing their theory. Western philosophy is generally considered to have begun in ancient Greece as speculation about the underlying nature of the physical world. In its earliest form it was indistinguishable from natural science. The writings of the earliest philosophers no longer exist, except for a few fragments cited by Aristotle in the 4th century BC and by other writers of later times.

 From the 4th century BC to the rise of Christian philosophy in the 4th century AD, Epicureanism, Stoicism, Skepticism, and Neo-Platonism were the main philosophical schools in the Western world. Interest in natural science declined steadily during this period, and these schools concerned themselves mainly with ethics and religion. This was also a period of intense intercultural contact, and Western philosophers were influenced by ideas from Buddhism in India, Zoroastrianism in Persia, and Judaism in Palestine.

 During the decline of Greco-Roman civilization, Western philosophers turned their attention from the scientific investigation of nature and the search for worldly happiness to the problem of salvation in another and better world. By the 3rd century AD, Christianity had spread to the more educated classes of the Roman Empire. The religious teachings of the Gospels were combined by the Fathers of the Church with many of the philosophical concepts of the Greek and Roman schools. Of particular importance was the First Council of Nicaea in 325 and the Council of Ephesus in 431, which drew upon metaphysical ideas of Aristotle and Plotinus to establish important Christian doctrines about the divinity of Jesus and the nature of the Trinity.

 Positivism is a system of philosophy based on experience and empirical knowledge of natural phenomena. Popular advocates of Positivism are Bertram Russell and A. J. Ayers. I guess there is something to be said for positivism and the cold hard analytical analysis of true and false but I get totally bored reading it and will not torture others with it. 

Where did philosophy come from? The word modern in philosophy originally meant “new,” distinguishing a new historic era both from antiquity and from the intervening middle Ages. Many things had occurred in the intellectual, religious, political, and social life of Europe to justify the belief of 16th- and 17th-century thinkers in the genuinely new character of their times. The explorations of the world; the Protestant Reformation, with its emphasis on individual faith; the rise of commercial urban society; and the dramatic appearance during the Renaissance of new ideas in all areas of culture stimulated the development of a new philosophical worldview. 

Modern philosophy covers an enormous amount of territory. In the 20th century alone we have phenomenology, existentialism, analytical philosophy, postmodern philosophy, contemporary political philosophy and applied ethics. Prior to this time there were many people in the 19th century who expressed important concepts of philosophy and their theory is well known by their name.  Some of them are Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Bentham, Mill and Marx.

 In reading the areas of philosophy it becomes mind boggling when trying to comprehend the theories of all eras and people. As you read each theory it makes sense to some extent. Who is right and who is wrong? I believe they are all correct to some extent and none should be dismissed. I think the study of philosophy is seriously restricted by the language we use to describe it. The human language cannot fully describe the realm of human experience. The languages of the world do not convey culture on a global scale. One person does not understand the philosophical culture of another country any more than the language. Even when we do understand the language it is a further leap to understand foreign cultural ethics. When we consider the variations in philosophical theory from some of the brightest minds in history we can only conclude that the true composition of philosophy is beyond the comprehension of any one individual. It can also be said that each individual is limited by their own individual experiences in life. A rational and accurate understanding might best be achieved by a global effort but first we must master the art of negotiations within a global communication system.

 When we talk about cross cultural ethics we tend to think of the cultures in different parts of the world. We think of some remote society where we have never been but only read about. Cross cultural ethics should not only be a global consideration but it also applies right down to the family unit. One sibling will develop differently than another and cross cultural ethics will present a problem within the family unit. One sibling will not be able to comprehend the experiences of another.

 Conciliation is a big word. We may assume a conciliatory attitude is not natural for humans.  Why? This is a touchy subject and there will surely be many opinions that will not achieve a satisfactory level of agreement. Conciliation is absolutely necessary to achieve any degree of cross cultural ethics. We surely are born with a minute tendency towards group ethics and we should have a fairly mutual understanding of pain. What we have beyond these basic tools to work with would be in the realm of education and experience. Our attitude towards negotiations will have a significant effect on our degree of success. Three presumed approaches to negotiations could be political, philosophical and spiritual.

 Politicians are experienced with negotiations even though they may represent their own party or constituents to a fault. When one party wins with the majority vote there will be concessions as we all fall under the command of the majority. The negotiation procedures as outlined in Sturgis Rules of Parliamentary Procedures and Robert’s Rules of Order provide a civilized method to achieve common ground.

 The philosophical approach to negotiations also offers compromise if it is derived in a scientific manner. This means the philosophical theory must be completely documented and open to the public. Furthermore, the method by which the theory was developed must also be documented and completely open to scrutiny. The method of discovery and its open nature lead to a greater awareness and a more equitable hypothesis. The hypothesis may appear to be more complex but this is partly because we are forced to think outside our own box of ideas. The hypothesis may actually be simpler.

 The spiritual approach may be a virtuous way to approach negotiations but it has restrictions to conciliation. Religious theories are based on laws derived from a supernatural entity and this entity is usually not subject to Parliamentary Procedures. The beauty of spirituality is in the freedom of religion but this also means it is not based on a majority vote. The negotiator is not free to offer conciliation with respect to the word of a supreme being. When a person brings his religion to the negotiation table there might not be any compromise. The exception to this is when religion is used as Martin Luther King advises when he says, “The church is not the master or the servant of the state, but the conscience of the state”. Religion should be brought to the negotiation table as the base upon which we found our ethical values. We never bring our religion directly to the negotiation table because this would deprive all others the freedom of religion.

 US government and the Constitution. Let’s take a controversial subject such as abortion laws and determine if it is a subject we should vote on or negotiate? Political campaigns use this subject as a strategic campaign tool. It is easy for both sides to see where life will be lost or damaged as a result of the other side’s extreme position. It would probably be more practical to save as many lives as possible but due to our individual code of ethics and the ease at which we become biased we are prone to vote for one extreme or the other. The interesting thing is that while the candidates campaign on abortion issues they cannot make new laws on their own. Congress controls all power to write legislation, and has two chambers—the House of Representatives and the Senate. Congress can pass a law over a president’s veto through a two-thirds vote of each chamber. There are ways a President can influence an issue but it is limited unless questionable subversive techniques are used. Subversive techniques? Please, let’s not get into that.

 Another predisposition to behavior would be the warring nature of humans and also our tendency to take sides. This predisposition might not be based on morality but it can be used by leaders as a control mechanism under the guise of morality. Anyone reading this is a child of the winners of thousands of years of war. Some of us have fought in wars. There will be more wars. It is easily justifiable to say we are a warring species and perhaps the only species that is known to kill for religious reasons. We are amongst a few species that kill for pleasure. Some monkeys kill for pleasure.

 Those capable of establishing a hierarchy and forming groups have much more power than disorganized individuals. This theory also explains the fall of the Neanderthal man. So we as humans have a strong tendency towards taking sides and going to war for various issues. If an issue does not exist we will create one.  It is easy for a good leader to control his troops. As Hitler said, “How fortunate for leaders that men need to be told what to do.” You may deny that you are being controlled but you can tell me your political opinions and I can tell you where you get your news from.

 The abortion controversy serves as an issue where people take sides. We get on our soap box and preach and then go to the voting poles and vote the hell out of the other side. We really have little influence on the issue and it will continue to exist with little variation over time because it is too valuable as a tool the government can use for the release of energy we inherently have with regards to war. If this energy is not released in a controlled manner it will crop up in areas that may not be as easily controlled.

 It may seem that a person voting at one extreme of an issue is having an adverse effect on the issue. Fortunately there are often the same number of people at the opposite extreme and they cancel each other out. The primary issue here is the dissipation of hostile energy that originates from our innate tendency to take sides and go to war. The belief in itself is not even generated by the individual. People are mostly told what to believe. To prove this point you can take all the political issues of our two primary parties. Most Democrats believe in all the Democratic issues. Most Republicans believe in all the Republican issues. The high degree of conformity tends to lend proof that we conform to the culture of the group. This gives us common identity with the group and a common set of ethical standards we can defend. Human nature is fulfilled. The issue cannot be resolved because the issues are needed for governmental control of the people.

 External wars are another way to maintain control. This type of control is essential. An internal war is very difficult for a government to control and can take on the form of a cancer. An external war can be turned on and off like a light bulb by the leaders. If internal problems are anticipated it is wise to get involved in external conflict where the control of society is strengthened. Changes in society can be better implemented during times of war. War time Presidents have usually been more popular. So essentially it can be said that the warring nature in people can easily be used as a control by a government that understands the nature of people in a society where relevant common cultural values are mostly understood. The disposition of extreme views conform to known stereotypes that are not capable of negotiation but are easily controlled. A constant emotional drain serves to defuse more hostile and dangerous actions.

 How compassionate are we as humans? How fair are we? To what extent do we really share with our children? Do our children simply serve as our amusement and gratification? Are we different than the people of Easter Island?  You should read up on Easter Island and compare it with our present day Earth. Easter Island is over 2,000 miles from the nearest population center, (Tahiti and Chile), making it one of the most isolated places on Earth. By chance some Polynesian people landed on Easter Island and had no other choice but to stay there. The population of Easter Island reached its peak at perhaps more than 10,000, far exceeding the capabilities of the small island's ecosystem. Resources became scarce, and the once lush palm forests were destroyed - cleared for agriculture and moving the massive stone Moai. In this regard, Easter Island has become, for many, a metaphor for ecological disaster.  What should these people have done for continued survival?  How does it relate to our existing rate of consumption and the fate of our great grand children? Do we even care?

 The family unit is very strong for most people. Many animals are sensitive to the family and the hierarchy within it. Each member of the family finds his place within it. The family unit is a necessary part of an individual’s culture and is mostly universal. The immediate biological family has its attraction but can easily be replaced by other groups that resemble a family unit. Spiritual organizations are very good at supplanting the biological family unit. There are many forms of groups and many provide the family needs for people. People have a tendency to go from one group to another until they find a group that meets their cultural needs and concept of ethics.

 Whenever we make a moral judgment about an action, we may have a certain feeling towards it. But having a feeling about an action cannot be what makes the action right or wrong. Believing something to be right does not make it right. If it did, we would all be morally infallible. It is hard to negotiate with someone who is infallible.

 Each sentence in a negotiation should be carefully analyzed. The words good, bad, right and wrong are exclamations and pertain only to the individual. Those words cannot be applied to group negotiations unless you are familiar with the individual. Moral sentences cannot be verified because goodness or rightness cannot be sensed. Any sensation here should not be used as evidence in negotiations. Good people and right actions do not have a particular look, feel, taste, smell or sound even though our cultural stereotyping may lead us to such conclusions. It is more likely that our stereotyping of people will create a negative result that did not formerly exist as many people have the tendency to play the counterpart of a presumed role in society. They do this because we do not give them another role to play. Playing the role of villain is better than solitary confinement.

 As we grow we accept our limitations as individuals and accept the concepts of right and wrong based on the culture we live in. Unfortunately we do not comprehend the variations in the many cultures that exist. In some cultures it is ok to have sex in public but shameful to eat food in front of other people. Some cultures burn the wife alive along with the dead husband. Some cultures still surgically remove a female’s clitoris with no anesthetic in order to make her more pure. Some cultures deprive women of the freedom of speech in spiritual locations. Does it appear that women catch the brunt of our abhorrent behavior?

 Achieving a universal culture is possible with philosophy and science if rigid negotiations are followed. A universal religion is impossible because if it worked it would no longer be religion, it would be a philosophy.

 The determination of what is right or wrong can take place in different realms. I’ll briefly mention a few that are worth further investigation.

Subjective absolutism is a doctrine where an action is right if the person concerned with it approves of it. Sounds rather simple but it could be considered in more detail. Keep in mind that an individual may have certain feelings about an issue. It must be understood that having a feeling about an issue does not make it right or wrong.

Subjective relativism is a doctrine. What makes an action right for someone is that it is approved by that person. This sounds a bit like subjective absolutism but in this case the moral judgment is only relative to the individual. It is not a belief that the individual imposes on all people. Once again, believing that something is right does not make it so.

Emotivism is the doctrine that moral utterances are expressions of emotion. I would denounce emotion based on the presumption that good people and right actions do not have a particular look, feel, taste or smell. To the extent we apply emotions we stereotype other people and confine them to play the role we envision for them. Bad people are a product of their environment and we are the environment. Expressions of emotion might be words like hooray or boo. Politicians use more complex expressions of emotion. While it influences people the words have absolutely no meaning.

Cultural relativism is the doctrine that an action is right because it is approved by the culture we live in. The culture cannot break the laws because the culture makes the laws. The culture grants itself absolute authority. Absolute authority corrupts partly because one particular cultural belief will be different in another culture. This will separate one culture from another and eliminate any form of constructive dialogue. Another aspect of cultural relativism that often occurs is when a leader surrounds himself with “yes men”. By the term “yes men” I am referring to people who support the leader but do not have qualifications for the position they hold. Their entire culture becomes no better than the sole leader of the culture. This leads to a severe weakening of the society the culture is dominated by. This subject could be expanded on to write a book. It applies very heavily in the realm of cross cultural ethics.

 Is an action right because God wills it or does God will it because it is right? Now in conjunction with that consideration try to explain the variance amongst the thousands of religions in the world. Look in the Bible used by many western Christian beliefs and it says in Exodus 21:17 “He that curseth his father or his mother, shall surely be put to death.”   Exodus 31:15 “Whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death”. Once again I will ask you what makes an action right for an individual or society.

 From a moral or ethical perspective I present a challenging question for you. If a person follows a given command for fear of going to hell then is this person performing out of virtue? Assume I am an old person and you are a young athlete. We both see a child being swept away by a river stream. I point the gun at you and say I will kill you if you do not save that child from drowning. If only under those circumstances you are motivated to save the child do you get credit for it? To do something for fear of burning for eternity in hell does not say much for your virtuosity. Good people do good for the sake of goodness and not just to avoid the possibility of punishment. 

Ethical consideration, a true story: George shattered his spine in a motorcycle accident. He is now a quadriplegic and his predominant feeling is an intense and constant pain. He said to his brother Lester, “I want you to promise to kill me. I want you to swear to God.” Lester returned to the hospital with a sawed off shot gun. He pointed the gun to the temple of his brother’s head and pulled the trigger. Was this an act of murder or an act of love? Although Lester’s actions arouse strong feelings in most of us, we can’t base our judgment of his action on our feelings alone because our feelings may be irrational. Our feelings may be the product of prejudice, fear, or cultural conditioning. Here is an example where we might consider the feeling of pain in a cross cultural composition of common ethics and morality.

 You surely consider yourself to be ethical and capable of morally good decisions. Do not be too sure of yourself. Consider for example the Roman Catholic Inquisition between 1400 and 1600 AD. They executed 250,000 to 2 million women on the grounds they were witches. At least some of the inquisitors must have been men of good character who thought they were doing God’s work.

 It appears that ultimate reality from a scientific perspective is different from the natural realm of the human brain. It might seem that evolution would create a brain more in tune with scientific reality. It would seem that the brain should have formed in a more formal philosophical or even pragmatic way. But can you envision a caveman drawing a vertical and horizontal line on a flat rock? Then he would draw more horizontal and vertical lines to create what we refer to as a graphing chart. Now he plots the sightings of animals of prey over the past year. He takes all these plots and calculates the average location of highest density and then determine the mean deviation from the center. Well guess what? Life did not develop that way. Had a caveman spent that much time concentrating that hard in front of his graph rock he would probably become the prey of some tiger or lion. Evolution and the growth of the human brain has been a struggle. There is much to be said for our current educational system but it is not easy to leave our animal heritage behind. Let me take this a step further.

 Try to evaluate the intelligence of a dog. After you have made your determination I will ask what you used as your reference. In all intelligence determinations we use the average human brain as our reference. Now measure the distance between your ears. What is the size of your brain? Now imagine a brain the size of a football stadium. Does one exist? I do not know. Could one exist? I believe it is theoretically possible. The point I am trying to make is that the intelligence of a human brain is limited. When we use ourselves as a reference for ourselves, we are rather limited in our imagination of what does exist or what could exist. Now we are faced with the question of how we pursue and achieve a higher form of intelligence. How could we combine our intelligence? We have evolved beyond other animals in that we can comprehend our self. We can look in a mirror and analyze the person we see. But have we evolved enough to analyze the person or the culture on the other side of the world?  Our brain looks very much like the brain of a dog only larger. Using ourselves as a reference may not be adequate. Our reference should at least be a combination of many brains combined in a supportive network of communications that supports collective intelligence. I do not mean in a storage vault such as a library or hard drive. I am referring to live memory that acts in real time such as the random access memory (RAM) of a computer. How could we use a computer to capture the real-time knowledge of many people?  Could we transfer our knowledge into a computer? Could we transfer our conscience into a computer? --- I just heard a big “no” out there but you are thinking within your own brain. Think outside the box. Remember that you heard it here first. Yes, it is possible to transfer our conscience into a computer. It may not happen in our life time but it will eventually be possible.  To think otherwise would be to compare yourself with a dog. Please do not use yourself or the dog as the reference. Do not think in terms of emotion. Think only in terms of logic, positivism and the transfer of information from one place to another. It also helps to think in 3 dimensional terms. All of our computer technology is primarily two dimensional. We will eventually move on to three dimensional designs. We will use computers to design computers. We will integrate with them more and more.

 We live in a dynamic society opposed to a static society. It is the dynamic aspect of our society that maintains our middle class and it is the middle class that maintains our strength and innovation. You can view our social and economic structure as a ladder. People can go up and down the ladder according to their effort and ability. In countries like Mexico you do not have a middle class which is comparable to not having any middle rungs in the ladder. The poor cannot become wealthy and the wealthy will not become poor. Their economic structure is static.

 We can have the same problem of stagnation if the middle class is too wealthy and the unemployment is too low. Then the middle rungs in the ladder become saturated and no one can go up or down. Once again we lose the dynamic aspect of our economic system.

 The ideal situation is to fluctuate the middle class back and forth, up and down, etc. This keeps our country alive and really allows the poor to become wealthy or the wealthy to become poor. A dynamic society keeps innovation alive and provides strength.

 The best way to maintain a dynamic society is with at least two political parties. One party can lean out the middle class and the other party can fill it up. Each party can operate under premises that appeal to the needed majority at any given time. While the voters can control when cycles will occur I think it is greatly under the control of the corporate and political leaders in our country. I sometimes feel the vote is a social exercise rather than a freedom. Money buys advertising. The people watch the advertising and the people do what they are told to do.

 Based on history, the length of civilization does not last very long. A new society and a new government like our own began only a few centuries ago. How long will it last? The newness, the creativity, the escape from suppression and the freedom of religion created a Constitution that has remarkable attributes. Our positive attributes could easily support the realm of cross cultural ethics.

 History shows that the beauty of such a constitutional masterpiece, such as ours, can be eroded by excessive familiarity and any weaknesses in the system that provides an imbalance of power. The imbalance would probably not be between two powers as much as between the powers and the people. With the weakening of the system, the lack of ingenuity and some degree of complacency, it is easy for leaders to stack the deck by surrounding themselves with “yes men” rather than qualified leaders. The proof of this condition can be seen when one party votes totally one way on an issue and all members of the other party vote the other way. The issue is no longer about ethics or morality. The issue is about power.

 Constitutional Amendment 1.

¨  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

This law alone should explain why there must be separation of church and state in order to maintain freedom of religion. To the extent the state enters into the realm of religion it takes away our freedom of religion. Any campaign strategy aimed at religion should be highly suspect as abusive to religious people. Any talented marketing agent can project images that influence perceptions based on faith but this same strategy would never be subject to criticism in a court of law. Therefore abuse can go unchecked.

 Not only should the government be separate from religions but it should also maintain a separate but competitive relationship with corporations. When the business world throws money into the political system it could sway the balance of power away from the people. Corporations can easily lack incentives with regards to the welfare of our Earth. The profit and loss statement becomes the code of ethics. With the lowering of taxation for the super wealthy it would appear to promote monopolies. However, the factor of control might be changed more than the attribute of greed. The lower tax structure would eventually leave about 400 super wealthy people in control which is comparable to the number of effective government leaders. Now we have balance between 2 forms of leadership. The top 400 corporate executives would have wealth that is not practical in terms of greed. It would be practical in terms of control. If they lead wisely, they continue to pay less tax and control more. This paragraph is hypothetical. I have no idea if it has any value.

Corporate and government control must answer to the rest of the world. Abuse of the Earth is disastrous for cross culture ethics and will cause the rest of the world to distance from us. So this corporate control philosophy should consist of the super wealthy on Earth rather than just the United States. Membership in the controlling elite would only be limited by how much you actually control (own) and not what country you belong to. Then of course you must be able to work with your piers. If any corporate leader fails to be a team player he is shuned from the controlling group and his country suffers also. A unique thing about this system is the capitalistic philosophy tends to apply to the super wealthy. The rest of the world falls into a much more of a socialist environment. It actually takes on some of the attributes of an Aristocracy combined with a vast media giant that creates illusions and keeps the liberal/conservative mindset entertained.

This political awareness problem is mostly attributed to the average family being too busy to delve in depth into politics. Parents have to work, take care of the kids, take care of the house and all the chores that make family life work. The little time remaining only allows them to view images on TV that depict characterizations that at best induce emotions. No factual information is used to make decisions. Essentially, we vote for the party that puts the most money into emotionally designed advertising. So who has the money? The super wealthy have it. They have substantial control of who we vote for. This can be a good thing if sufficient balances exist in the right places.

The past few paragraphs have been a struggle to introduce my perceptions of control on a global scale. This really would require a very lengthy article. Essentially, I do not believe the common citizen understands the concept of control on a global scale. We might try to make sure balance exists in various forms. When the arguments and debating stops we should be concerned. When one side totally overpowers the other we would have a serious problem.

 Conservative and Liberal are relevant terms that actually apply to human characteristics. Liberals are in general more open minded in their pursuit of creativity, novelty, and diversity, whereas conservatives seek lives that are more orderly, conventional, and better organized.  Seventy five years of research have confirmed these characteristics. The results have an effect on a person’s openness to experience and conscientiousness. These variances are revealed in the way people evaluate themselves. It shows up in their beliefs, values and preferences. It is evident in their social interactions, their personal possessions and the spaces they occupy. Our political world is designed around these characteristics. Any global effort to improve civilization should be well aware of these characteristics. Further reading is in the article “The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives” by Dana R. Carney. Based on the nature of these variances it is easy to say good or bad things about either side. I’ll let you read the genuine article to determine which side is better for the sake of civilization building.

It could be said a person would be better off under corporate control if that person, or common man, is not capable of participating in government. If an individual can accurately participate in government then government control would be the best choice. The integration of Liberal and Conservative in this concept becomes quite complex. The need to study accurate information is essential. The tendency to pursue information that conforms to a preestablished belief is not wise. A good rule of thumb would be to determine if your information is derived directly from the source or second hand opinions from people you do not know. Preestablished beliefs leave no room for logical analysis.

 If you want to practice negotiations or interactive communications the ideal group size is 4 to 6 people because this allows each person to talk and be creative. When the groups get too large they should be subdivided into groups of 4 to 6 people. One person in this group will be the moderator who cannot under any circumstances voice his own opinion. The moderator only prompts and directs the conversation of others. The moderator encourages people to talk equal amounts of time. If there are several groups then after a predetermined time the moderators of each group can announce the findings of his group while addressing all groups. As the groups evolve, the moderator is not needed for moderation and can become an interactive communicator like everyone else. A group of this size is ideal for practicing parliamentary procedures. This communication technique gets people personally involved and active.

 A thought provoking idea you might consider is that evolution was and still is the only scientific theory for life that can explain how we get complexity from simplicity and diversity from uniformity. Intelligent Design begins with complexity, a supreme being, and ends with complexity. Darwin admitted that if an example of irreducible complexity were ever found, his theory of natural selection would crumble. The human genome is made up of some 3 billion DNA base pairs and contains about 25,000 genes. Go ahead. Reduce it. Then try to calculate our degree of advancement via evolutionary process or by the support of a supreme being. Will either one of these maintain support of our Earth as our population increases and our natural resources are depleted. The equation for survival is becoming more difficult to write by any man’s standards. How likely would cross cultural ethics be the course of resolution. Is it possible?  While I have very strong opinions here I will leave you to your own.

 I have two conclusions. One is positive and the other is negative. I'll give you the positive conclusion.

 Positive Conclusion:

 We grow in many ways. We build upon previous generations to better ourselves and the world around us. This is especially relevant in relationships. 

There is growth within our individual personal life. Eventually we look into a mirror and see ourselves. We become introspective and recognize self. We continue to grow and those who are fortunate will also recognize the independent and unique human being inside the minds of others.

 A marriage is symbolic of many virtues in our society. While it holds emotional values of sentiment and warmth it also holds values we recognize as virtuous based on structure and commitment. It holds values whereby we change the course of our life so it is in harmony with someone we value as a friend. 

 A proper mate is someone you love as a friend. A friend is someone you know all about and still like.

 On a logical level, I think, therefore I am.  With my mate as my friend, I achieve the highest level of identification because, my mate thinks, therefore I am.  Now take it to the next level. Apply your higher level of friendship to the group, to society and then to the Earth.

 Jerry Spoor



¨  Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia is my favorite reference source of information. It is the greatest product generated by the computer industry.

¨  Modernity was derived from the writings of Roger Doyle in a News Scan article called Measuring Modernity.

¨  The article Doing Philosophy by Theodore Schick, Jr. and Lewis Vaughn is an exceptional writing with much information and thought provoking concepts. This is one of the best articles I have read in the realm of philosophy.

¨  I will also thank the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Austin Philosophical Discussion Group. They promote a better understanding of the world we live in through study and discussion.