A note to my co-bloggers: I wasn’t at all sure how to categorize this post. Please let me know if anybody thinks it would be more appropriate somewhere else. An “Ethics” category perhaps? And I added the tag under the assumption that there will be a series, which it would be useful to connect — I have no qualms about deleting it if others feel it’s unnecessary or undesirable.
It occurred to me that it might be fun to post a discussion question or several as jumping off points for conversations, especially in these first few weeks. And the “question of the day” is a neat tradition at some other blogs, so why not here as well, especially since we’d like this to be a discussion-oriented space (I think)? I’m sure I’ll think of at least a few (assuming this one is successful), and co-bloggers — do post your own if the spirit moves you.
So, readers and fellow Revolutionary Act bloggers, I invite you to answer this question, provided you find it sufficiently interesting:
What one value or quality is important to you above all others? That is, if you had to reduce your value system to one fundamental principle from which all others flow, what world it be? Or, to come at it from another angle, if you had to rank virtues and qualities, which one would you deem most essential, most worthy of praise?
I think the question is an interesting one for a group of progressives, because I’m quite sure we can all work our way to the same (or similar) positions and priorities from many different starting points.
As I was thinking about this, I found myself weighing the competing values of justice and compassion, as I frequently do. I think striking a balance between those two may be one of the essential question of my life. It is clear to me that horrible damage can be done when one over-emphasizes justice, losing sight of compassion — yet I am no Gandhi, no Christ. Justice is profoundly important to me. Like most of us, I am sometimes deficient in mercy. (I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.)
The balance I have struck between the two today (the best I’ve found so far, I think) is responsibility. Responsibility is the quality that is important to me above all others — the importance of our immense obligations as human beings and as adults. The root of most of my outrage is my sense that people have failed to meet their critical responsibilities. This is what infuriates me about global warming and pollution, about corruption, about war, about rape and abuse, and so many other things. I believe in the marrow of my bones that each of us has a tremendously important obligation to protect those weaker than ourselves, to use resources wisely and allot them fairly, and to save a life if ever we are in a position to do so — and if we do not meet these responsibilities, we have, in a profound sense, failed as adults, as human beings.
I recognize that it’s more complex than just “responsibility,” because I do have a very specific sense of what our responsibilities are. Ultimately, though, I think that’s the best way to sum it up: that we have duties and must meet them, that we must be accountable if we fail to do so. Justice and compassion both, for me, are derivatives of that: compassion is amongst our responsibilities, and justice a result of meeting them.
(As an aside, my value system has clearly been influenced immeasurably by my Jewish upbringing. The weight of the importance of our sacred obligations is a physical pressure on my back and in my gut.)
This way of looking at things is, of course, very subjective and specific to me. So what do you folks think? Is it mercy, is it fairness, is it something else entirely?
This post was written by Daisy on September 26, 2008