Do You Say It Best When You Say Nothing At All? and other ethical quandaries

I have a question for you, hope you don’t mind me asking.

Is the safest thing to do, nothing? Whenever you wake up in the morning, as you try to ponder on what you might do that day, the safest thing is to remain horizontal and staring into emptiness, perhaps to the accompaniment of Magic FM or any radio station that attempts no form of engagement beyond nostalgia and whistling. You might have to get up, even go to work, and if so, only do what is immediately required of you, any more and you may be forced to contemplate ethics, morality or ideals. Do not look any charity collectors in the eye, ensure that you have persuaded yourself that it is either a scam or inappropriate as those collecting are on a percentage and while all other forms of work should be paid, charity chuggers should eschew all needs. Avoid all actions that may be seen as political, offer opinions confirmed by columnists, end your conversations with, “but what can you do about it?” or “what’s the point? do you want another?”

I mentioned No More Page 3 again on Twitter and had some responses of “well, that is all well and good, and I am not really pro it, but aren’t there more important things in the world?” (previous blog on this HERE)

I would say there are, so dos that mean inaction is the only choice until the register of causes has been properly collated, analysed and numbered?

I have found that many of those who live in the “aren’t there more important things in the world” echo chamber, don’t actually do anything about the more important things in the world either, it’s a catchphrase that may be more of an opt out than a call to tackle the epidemics caused by dirty water or genocide. It is a triumphant shrug of disengagement. 

This is not to declare that I am on the frontline, rejecting all wealth and succour as a selfless fighter for other people’s welfare and justice. I am adept at being furious at injustice, but far less good at chaining myself to railings, creating human barricades to dam builders’ bulldozers or risking arrest on arctic protests. I am a coward with a lazy streak whose alibi is that I sometimes tell jokes for 15 minutes at benefit gigs or writes blog posts that nail my colours to the mast while remaining safely on land. 

Is it better to try a bit, aware of your failures and possible hypocrisy?

Personal actions can be seen as affronts to others. Should someone be forced to state they are a vegetarian at a party as the host attempts to force Scotch eggs on them, some antsy meat consumers will turn feral. Though you might meekly explain your reason for Scotch egg rejection, some omnivores hear, :”sorry I don’t eat meat” as “the those with sausage meat on their lips are as guilty as Albert Speer in being the architects of a slaughter of innocents, your party houses an unruly orgy of pig death and egg murder,  abattoir fornicators!”. Then the inquisition begins, the search for the flaw in ethical commandments that you never even assumed in the first place. Shoes will be scrutinised, tales of screaming lettuces told, history’s maniacs will be designated vegetarian status as if Hitler’s (I believe mythical) vegetarianism means your use of Linda Mccartney’s sausages and tofu links you directly the use of Zyklon B in extermination camps. If a ham eating, mustachioed painter ever attempts such tricks, remind him he shares more traits with Adolf than you do. I presume this anger and examination comes from deep guilt, as if your personal action is a direct attack on any who don’t follow your position. 

As for the “there are more important things in the world”, then you find yourself like an inert philosopher, failing to make any decision on any issue until you have scrutinised the statistics and Marcus Aurelius so thoroughly that you can be sure you can commit, the problem then lies in the fact each action becomes pointless as the starvation, misogyny, extinction has done its work by the time you leave your cave. If I start to make a list of charities and causes and then place them in an order of importance before I start my sponsored walk or direct debit, I will find myself in a quandary. Is the rhinoceros better to save than Bactrian Camel? Should I give to a charity that helps homeless people with dogs or one where pets are not in the equation? Clean water or cataracts? The Actors’ Benevolent Fund or the British Legion? It’s not a side where just have to pick one. 

“I’d love to help Medecins sans Frontieres, but I am afraid I am fully committed to occasionally wearing a T shirt saying ‘No More Page 3’ and tweeting intermittently, so I can’t really. Bye now”. One week, I found myself doing a benefit for Reprieve which deals with appalling human rights abuses of the incarcerated and another one that was to buy a new stair carpet for the Lyric Hammersmith. Are there more important things than the carpet beneath your moccasins as you go to see a musical based on the cautionary tales of a German doctor? I’d say yes, but it wasn’t much bother. 

(I think I seem to be starting a new blog post here, hmmm)

There are people who say, “I’m not political”, but it’s too late not to be political, our technology and civilisation doesn’t give us that luxury. Where we shop, the computer I am typing this on, the groceries I buy, all have ramificiations. Am I ethically pure? hell no, I am murky and muddy, surrounded by quandaries, but does that make it safest to do nothing for fear of being trumped each time a new hypocrisy is unearthed, as I eat a banana that comes from the wrong farm or have forgotten to check the history of a cup of tea, ah balls, it’s better to try a bit isn’t it? Maybe not, you tell me?

My 2013 tour is nearly over, final London gig HERE and Cirencester, Kings Lynn, Tunbridge Wells, Dartmouth and Leicester, plus Christmas shows with Brian Cox and the like HERE

Happiness through Science DVDs HERE 

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8 Responses to Do You Say It Best When You Say Nothing At All? and other ethical quandaries

  1. What you are writing about is something that bothers many of us, I’m pretty sure of that. I’ve been through the vegetarian thing more times than I care to remember and each time I’ve ended up feeling like a hypocrite – there’s a bleeding leather chair sitting in my study (the cat sleeps on it and it’s a carnivore) my boots are not of manmade material and I just found out that the soap I use is made out of palm oil, bad for the survival of precious orang-utans. Oh, but palm oil helps poor people make a living…you, see I cannot win this game because each time I try to be good some know-it-all tell me differently. But this doesn’t mean that I lay in bed staring at the ceiling pondering the futility of it all. Hell no! I’m up and angry enough to try my bit making this planet a better place. And it’s necessarily a small bit, cause I have very little in the way of money, status or brilliance, what I do have is a will to learn, to be aware and to care about those who suffer by doing what I can. I will keep the leather chair because the cat loves it and I love the cat, but I’m not sure about what to do about the handmade soap labelled “Green Palm Sustainability? Do you?

  2. This is so true. Self-examination is uncomfortable and hard; it’s much easier to stand on a soapbox and shout cliches and remain inert. In the end, I would rather do my best, know where I have failed, and know where I’ve succeeded than to blindly parrot what others have told me and never affect change for anyone- including myself.

  3. adsnads1976 says:

    If it is any consolation (it isn’t I suspect, one negative response tends to dwarf 10 glowing reviews…) I think that a) you consistently make some thought provoking points b) apathy is not an answer to anything and c) I value a world (and blog community) that cherishes intelligent, sensitive and articulate thinking with a positive intention. Keep up the good work!

    And you are not alone. Just yesterday I published a post about sexism in the UK and made precisely the same call to abolish page 3 now.

  4. I’ve definitely been there too with the [no-one expects the…] Veggie Inquisition – though suffered even more probing scrutiny (and disdain) when dining with hardened vegans!
    Very pertinent point about how *all* our consumer choices make subliminal statements about our political and moral stances. That’s one reason we subscribe to the Ethical Consumer magazine, which I *highly* recommend for anyone ready, willing and/or able to make better-informed decisions about spending their hard-earned cash in a conscientious way…

  5. Mary says:

    I love this. I have suffered from self inflicted ethical paralysis for a lot of my life (hover on my photo, read my blurb, and you might decide my inner philosopher is somewhat to blame!)
    I have started doing things to change this lately. I feel better, but you are right – the responses from others are unpredictable and not always supportive. But who gives a monkeys.
    Anyway, thanks for this post. It has inspired me to think that the ’cause’ in a post I am working on is not as terrible a cop out I originally thought. I will let you know how it goes.
    Off now, to make a lettuce scream

  6. Embrace hypocrisy. Its denial stagnates.

  7. Pingback: Letting out the judgmental bitch, part 26; arrogance | Vive ut vivas

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