Resolving conflicting loyalties

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Resolving conflicting loyalties

Postby ALF on December 21st, 2011, 7:18 am 

We live in tribes (nations) and the question of loyalty to our tribes often comes up, usually conflicting with our other loyalties: to family, humanity, religion, etc. The human species is a tribal species, just like the wolves and the gorillas. We depend on each other for our survival. The relationship of our social concepts can be seen as follows:

1./ Nature created us near identical, with near identical needs of survival.

2./ Our near identical needs created near identical values.

3./ Our near identical values created a set of ethical rules (do-s and don’t-s)

4./ Our dependence on each other created a need for loyalty to our ethical rules

5./ Our loyalty to ethical rules created an unwritten social contact. This contract is not the same as the laws of the land as defined by the ruling elite. As a matter of fact it can be diametrically opposed to it. The laws are specific to one culture or one nation-state. The unwritten social contract, recognizing our human interdependence, is universal. All cultures through history have known that murder, rape, incest and theft are wrong. Being aware of the rules of this social contract is called our ‘conscience’. Sometimes it is described as knowing right from wrong. This universal concept of ‘right conduct’ is called morality.

6./ The unwritten social contract created standards of socially acceptable behaviour. Any act or attitude that enhances the chances of survival for the group is good. Any act or attitude that harms the chances of survival for the group is bad. Since individual members accept the protection and nourishment of the tribe, the only moral conduct is to seek individual survival/welfare only through the survival/welfare of the tribe. If the two are in conflict, the needs of the tribe come first. Primitive human tribes take this for granted, only ‘advanced’ human beings want it both ways. We call those who consistently demonstrate their willingness to defend the tribe, even at great personal sacrifice, ‘heroes’. Those who betray the tribe for personal gain we call ‘traitors’ and treason is usually punishable by death or expulsion.

7./ In our complicated world, individuals have simultaneous and often conflicting memberships in many tribes: immediate family, extended family, work-group, religion, political party, social organizations, country, race, species and life.

8./ Resolving conflicts requires prioritizing our loyalties.

9./ Since an individual group accepts the protection and nourishment of the larger group it depends on, the only moral conduct is to seek survival/welfare of a group ONLY through the survival/welfare of the containing group. If the two are in conflict, the needs of the containing group come first.

10./ In this sense our ultimate loyalty should be to life. Life on this Planet is the ultimate containing group. We are all part of it. It nourishes us all. If we betray it, if we destroy it, we will have destroyed ourselves.
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Re: Resolving conflicting loyalties

Postby ALF on December 24th, 2011, 5:19 pm 

I forgot to ask how other people resolve these kinds of conflicts.

That may explain why no response so far.

Anyone interested in this very important philosophical question?

I will try to clarify it a bit more here, for my take on the subject:

Morality is about survival of the whole we are part of. Just like at Nuremberg, claims of loyalty to country did not excuse crimes against humanity. There should be 'crime against life' trials for those busily destroying it. Like cancer cells in a body, we destroy the host giving us life. Guess what happens to cancer cells after the body dies.

I felt ashamed during the first Gulf war when they showed us the oily cormorants on TV. I felt that 'we' betrayed our common heritage. I felt the need to apologize to the cormorants. To other animals at large. To life.

Many unspoiled native cultures think of Earth as their Mother. One can betray one's mother. Even rape her. If I ever had to face the terrible choice of saving my own species at the price of destroying all other life on Earth, I don't think I could do that. And I think my choice would be a moral one.

Morality has always been in human consciousness. Not always verbalized: defined, analyzed, explained, but lived by a sufficient number of the tribe to assure survival. Tribes that failed the test of morality died and disappeared.

Morality is the prerequisite of survival. Nature created us. We are an inextricable part of it, and have no choice but to behave by its rules. Morality is our interdependence embodied.

Morality is life affirming. Immorality embraces death. Maybe not immediately, not personally, but the human species can die by many, many little incremental steps. Destroying our habitat bit by bit will do it. We see it around us every day: the poison in our air, our water, our food – it is all a material manifestation of immorality: of some human beings, somewhere, in some capacity, failing the test of ethical, honourable behaviour.

We have to sort out our loyalties in a way that doesn’t destroy us. Each containing group takes precedent. My loyalty to my country has to take second place behind my loyalty to humanity. And my loyalty to my species has to come behind my loyalty to universal, interconnected, miraculous and fragile life we are all part of. It could take one dumb asteroid to destroy it. Or it could take one dumb humanity that developed too much power before developing enough sense. Morality could save us from that fate.

Random House defines the word ‘honour” as: “high respect as for worth”, or “honesty or integrity in one’s belief and actions”. ‘Honourable’ is defined as “worthy of honour and high respect”. An honourable man is someone who follows the universally accepted rules of right and wrong and, as a consequence, is admired by human beings everywhere. Gandhi was admired around the world, even though he was treated, by the British ruling class, as a criminal.

The word ‘honour’ (just like love, faith, patriotism, etc.) has been hijacked and co-opted by the elite, that holds most of the wealth and power, and its primary motivation is to maintain this position. Honour came to mean ‘loyalty’ to whatever group, standing for whatever goal or principle. German officers’ sense of ‘honour’ prevented them from standing up to Hitler. However, we all understood why John Le Carre named one of his best books “The Honourable Schoolboy”. Even though Jerry Westerby betrayed his masters who had thought he was one them.

‘Honour’ does not mean loyalty. SS guards had loyalty. It does not mean ‘integrity’. Bin Laden had integrity of some sort (his belief in his horribly misguided crusade seemed genuine).

Honour is the highest praise among human beings. A judge is called ‘your honour’ because he is supposed to have the wisdom and integrity to represent our best interests. Honour means representing this interest, even if it contradicts our paper-obligations. A spy, pretending and lying in order to defeat evil from inside is an honourable man. A law abiding citizen in the same regime is also a dishonourable human being.

Our social concepts are linked into a cause-and-effect logical chain: survival – needs – values – ethics – social contract – morality - honour.

This chain ties honour to our survival needs. Regardless what our rulers pretend our interests are. We know what our interests are, without being told. We want to be healthy, secure, productive human beings, raising our families in a healthy, peaceful, cooperative society. We don’t believe we need to send our sons and daughters to the other end of the Globe to kill and be killed. Only madmen and morons could believe in that.

And, most important: scientists have a very special moral obligation to humanity. No matter what the justification, do not help immoral leaders acquire the tools they need to force their will on the moral majority. Do not participate in weapons development and do not work for industries damaging the environment. If you do, you will betray the highest loyalty you have: to life, including yours and your loved ones.
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Re: Resolving conflicting loyalties

Postby Serpent on December 24th, 2011, 6:48 pm 

The hierarchy of loyalties as described here may be examined more closely, perhaps as represented by this one quote:

Morality is about survival of the whole we are part of.


Maybe so, but we're normally unaware of larger and larger containing groups. Indeed, the intensity of our experienced loyalty diminishes outward. Self; immediate family, clan, tribe, (nation,*) species, life - not the other way around. People do almost anything necessary to preserve their own life, even at the expense of others around them, often though it threaten their family or tribe. Therefore, morality on the larger scale is the opposite of instinctive bahaviour, which will make it impossible to apply with any consistency.
This may be the fatal flaw in the legal system of federal states.
*"Nation" is a projection of tribe. Some nations are tribes, others are federations of tribes (with a tendency to break down into component parts under stress.), still others are compounded of fractions of many tribes.

Just like at Nuremberg, claims of loyalty to country did not excuse crimes against humanity.


"Crimes against humanity" is a charge that sounds noble, but what does it mean?
Surely the war itself, which was considered moral by the authorities leveling these charges, posed a far greater threat to humanity than the acts of those few indicted men. Does it mean that their acts were especially [more than thousands of bombs on hundreds of cities] damaging to the species as a whole because of their peculiar nature, rather than their magnitude? In what way was the survival of mankind diminished by their acts? Does it mean that attempted genocide is peculiarly damaging to humankind? Was there not an element of hypocrisy in the American prosecutor leveling such charges in the wake of Hiroshima?
In fact, the crimes were directed, not by individuals against humanity, but by one tribe against another - hardly a new phenomenon in humanity's annals: all wars are about the ascendency of one tribe over another. To refuse service to the tribe in the name of all humanity or all life is the role of a saint. (Tribes mostly kill saints for this. At the very least, exile or shun.)

Loyalty to the tribe transcends blood-ties, friendship and sworn oaths. Nations do demand such transcendent loyalty in times of war and crisis, and people do comply to the best of their ability. But the cost to individuals and families is enormous: the psychological wounds inflicted by the sacrifice of self, spouse or child to the nation's service are so deep and lasting, that the nation itself couldn't survive such a condition for very long.
Paradoxical, but true. Most of the time, we need to be allowed to indulge the little local selfish loyalties that sustain and nourish us, so that we can rise to the higher level in times of crisis.

There should be 'crime against life' trials for those busily destroying it.


Yes, but i think this is a different class of crime altogether. I don't think the main perpetrators are doing damage to life out of loyalty to their children or townsfolk, but rather for their own enrichment and aggrandizement - with loyalty to none.
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Re: Resolving conflicting loyalties

Postby ALF on December 24th, 2011, 7:17 pm 

Serpent wrote: morality on the larger scale is the opposite of instinctive bahaviour, which will make it impossible to apply with any consistency.

Absolutely true. However, many of our actions in life show signs of social evolution by individuals overcoming their 'instinctive' behaviour in order to assure the survival of our tribe, species and even life.

"Crimes against humanity" is a charge that sounds noble, but what does it mean? Surely the war itself, which was considered moral by the authorities leveling these charges, posed a far greater threat to humanity than the acts of those few indicted men.

This is also true and the concept of "crime against humanity" does not depend on the magnitude of damage caused by the crime but on the 'nature' of the crime itself -- when it exceeds all recognize bounds (death camps, holocaust, genocide, medical experimenting on prisoners of war, etc.), then we, as a species, feel fundamentally attacked at the very root of our existence.

To refuse service to the tribe in the name of all humanity or all life is the role of a saint. (Tribes mostly kill saints for this. At the very least, exile or shun.)
.....
Paradoxical, but true. Most of the time, we need to be allowed to indulge the little local selfish loyalties that sustain and nourish us, so that we can rise to the higher level in times of crisis.

That's true, too -- we can not be 'saints' all the time, every minute of our lives. We have to preserve 'sainthood' for those critical moments when we feel that the stakes are so high that we could not live with ourselves if we did not act the 'right way' -- no matter what personal sacrifice we have to endure. History is full of examples of individual heroism.
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Re: Resolving conflicting loyalties

Postby Serpent on December 26th, 2011, 12:38 am 

Saints are nearly all people who were tortured and killed for claiming a loyalty above their tribe or nation. Humankind does not cherish boat-rockers and revolutionaries - though we raise statues to them a century or so after their ideas have become mainstream.

Loyalty is a difficult concept, and sometimes uncomfortable to bear.
In a healthy, balanced world, loyalties ought to build a single, coherent edifice from closest to largest: robust self-esteem makes for strong interpersonal bonds with family, mate and friends; cohesive families make a strong community; strong communities make a sound, unified country....
It should work that way, without conflict of loyalties. Our biology and psychology would be in harmony if it worked that way. If our loyalties are in conflict, one with another, it's because somebody's been screwing with the natural order of things.
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Re: Resolving conflicting loyalties

Postby ALF on December 26th, 2011, 6:45 am 

Serpent wrote:It should work that way, without conflict of loyalties. Our biology and psychology would be in harmony if it worked that way. If our loyalties are in conflict, one with another, it's because somebody's been screwing with the natural order of things.


You are almost absolutely right, Serpent, but for one thing:

The natural order of things is the way things are. Screwing each other is part of our nature.

You were referring to the logical/sane order of things.

Wouldn't it be heaven on Earth?
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Re: Resolving conflicting loyalties

Postby NeoTheseus on December 26th, 2011, 8:57 am 

[quote="Serpent"]Saints are nearly all people who were tortured and killed for claiming a loyalty above their tribe or nation. Humankind does not cherish boat-rockers and revolutionaries - though we raise statues to them a century or so after their ideas have become mainstream.

Serpent, this is a beautiful definition. I agree whole heartedly!

Alf, pleasure to converse w/you sir. I believe that the unnamed concept you refer to Plato called Justice in The Republic. It is the virtue which builds up society; while injustice tears down society. Justice also is accomplished when everyone minds their own business. When we attend to our own tasks of building the society and stop meddling on affairs not our own.

I agree w/Serpent, and I think you too Alf, that our first commitment is to self, our immediate circle of influence, then abroad (i.e. tribe, state, nation, species, planet, etc...)

I find this discussion facinating. Gentlemen, please continue & I will interject as I can.
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Re: Resolving conflicting loyalties

Postby Serpent on December 26th, 2011, 11:58 am 

Sometimes rising above our clear set of animal loyalties is problematic. Sometimes, identifying with the larger containing group, we misread or misdefine the best interest of that larger group. It's easy to see what's good for one's child or friend in a normal, human-scale situation; much harder to decide what's the best direction for a nation, or mankind, or Life. We need to be careful not to confuse ambition with altruism, ego with loyalty.

That reminds me, how is Julian Assange doing these days? Sainted yet?
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Re: Resolving conflicting loyalties

Postby ALF on December 26th, 2011, 12:56 pm 

Serpent wrote:It's easy to see what's good for one's child or friend in a normal, human-scale situation; much harder to decide what's the best direction for a nation, or mankind, or Life. We need to be careful...


You are right again, Serpent, too many dictators with grand vision caused unmeasurable harm to the world.

This thread was not meant to tell people how to run the world -- only how to run their own individual lives.

I believe, in the second post of this thread I explained exactly what I mean by that, so I won't repeat it here. I know I was talking about "we" but, of course, I was only talking about myself -- my own deepest convictions and attitudes regarding conflict-resolution. A few may agree, most won't, but that is the nature of the beast and could provide a lively debate on how others resolve their own conflicting loyalties.

There are many examples in ordinary life. I will describe one:

Suppose, in your job, your boss wants you do something that you consider unethical (for example participate in a research aimed at developing biological weapons). You would get promoted if you did -- fired if you did not. You know that it would be very difficult for you to find another job and only at drastically reduced salary. Your son is in medical school and he could not finish his studies without your financial support. Maybe your wife needs a surgery that your insurance does not cover.

You have conflicting loyalties here.

How do you resolve them?
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Re: Resolving conflicting loyalties

Postby NeoTheseus on February 4th, 2012, 10:35 am 

The Utilitarian would say the Greatest good for the Greatest number. I guess you could look at the Greatest number as most important number, being friend & family. If this pertains to pharmaceutical companies that do research w/embriotic stem cells & you are against this kind of research or perceived abortion, this is one thing. If you are trying to maintain a level of comfort for you & your family within Nazi Germany, that may be a problem. Some may see no distiction between the two states, many do. However, the decision is yours, or who ever has such a decision. I just feel that the decision should be defensible & not whimsical.
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