Ming the Mechanic:
Morals and Freedom

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Morals and Freedom2005-03-29 17:57
13 comments
picture by Flemming Funch

One of my standards for evaluating how free a society would be would be the inverse of the degree to which it suppresses various kinds of "vices" and "indecent" or "immoral" behavior.

Sex and drugs and free communication, primarily. You know, is nudity illegal? Or saying "bad" words. Or smoking or hallucinogenics. Or prostitution. Or odd sexual fetishes.

Personal choices and life styles and modes of expression. The degree to which a society feels it needs to use force to control those is closely related to the degree it is being oppressive.

When a lot of people share a society, it can be quite practical to have laws that regulate the interaction between them and protect their health and liberty. Driving in the same side of the street really makes things much easier. Having somebody to call when your house gets burglarized makes you safer. But for a public authority to try to control your personal habits, for no other reason than that somebody doesn't like them, is a totally different matter.

Victimless crimes, essentially. Which generally aren't really crimes, but manifestations of the existence of slavery and mind control, enforced by physical or economic violence.

A society where you aren't allowed to say "fuck" or show your breasts on TV is kind of sick. It indicates there are some perverts in charge who have a big hangup on sex, thinking they have to control everybody else, because they're afraid of their own thoughts, probably.

The view that sex or nudity is somehow bad or evil or indecent or offensive is at best a little strange. Certainly has nothing to do with what we find in nature. We're all born naked, and remain so under our clothes. We all got here by some people having sex and enjoying it greatly. There can hardly be anything more natural. That it is an evil thing comes out of a twisted religious mindset, which itself is the cause of much evil in the world.

"But we need to protect the children!" many people would say. From what? From the knowledge of how they came about? The idea that sex and children have to be kept far apart, or some kind of disaster happens, is in itself rather weird. From nature's hand, things tend to progress by themselves in a healthy way, if you don't mess with it. Little kids just don't have much interest in sexual subjects. But at some point they reach adolescence, and they certainly do. But then they run into oppressive laws that tell them they have to be children in that regard until they're 18, and that they have no right to choose to be sexual. Depends on the society. The age of consent is higher in the more oppressive societies.

So, what in some places is a healthy expression of sexuality, at a natural stage of one's life, will in other places be considered child pornography and molestation, and something one will lock people up for life for. You know, the topless girls in a Danish tabloid newspaper might just be 15 or 16. Which would be unthinkable in the United States, where there certainly wouldn't be any nudity in a newspaper, and it certainly wouldn't be teenagers.

Now, I've lived in the U.S. for so long that even a couple of years later I still instinctively get the american moral reactions some of the time. Even if I never believed in them. It is more a matter of looking over your shoulders for the police coming to arrest you because you did something unthinkably horribly bad, like serve alcohol to somebody under 21, or take a photo of some naked kids running through the sprinkler in the summer.

Now I'm in France, where even the gas company uses nude people in their commercials on TV. Which is absolutely non-controversial. People here would have a hard time understanding how there possibly could be any kind of issue with that.

And "bad" words? Most French try hard to be very polite, and expect others to be polite, so there are certain things one would tend not to say when one is in that mode. But that has absolutely nothing to do with whether it is illegal to say certain words in a public medium. You can say fuck all you want, or the equivalent, if that's somehow fits the mode of communication you're using. And a lot of the time it doesn't fit. See, it is your choice.

Here they serve wine in the cafeteria in high school. Zero issue with that. If you want water, you take a water carafe; if you want wine, you take a wine carafe. So, are the kids drunk all the time? Stupid question. On the contrary. Everybody has a very relaxed relationship to alcohol, so it isn't a problem. Oppressive and unnecessary regulation only makes things worse.

Smoking. Well, the cigarette packs in all of Europe by law have forceful hypnotic commands on them. Essentially: You're going to die!! Horribly, painfully, slowly! I could say a lot about the pitiful lack of understanding of the human mind that goes into producing such a campaign, as a self-fulfilling prophecy, but that's another story. Anyways, it is quite likely most of Europe would end up with similar control of smoking as in the U.S.

Am I saying that's bad? I'm saying that lack of choice is bad. And lack of good, balanced information is bad. "Smoking Kills!!" is propaganda. It is probably illegal in many places to provide any more balanced information. Smoking is a drug addiction. There are many drugs with various pros and cons and things to say about them. Coffee, sugar, heroin, nicotine. They're not all the same. But generally nobody is taking them for their harmful effects.

So, drug use. I'd say a society that leaves it up to the individual to choose, but which provides good information and support, is way more healthy than one that just makes it all illegal. The statistics show quite clearly that Holland has way fewer problems with drugs and drug related criminality than places that try to outlaw it. Lower rate of drug use, fewer fatalities, fewer health issues, less crime. Making the use of certain drugs illegal merely fuels a huge multi-billion dollar criminal drug industry, and puts a lot of people under serious health risks, because they don't know what they're getting, and there's no help available for them. And, as always, making a whole bunch of different things all the same in the eye of the law or in education brings all sorts of nasty problems. Heroin is not the same as marihuana. Neither is the same as most hallucinogenics, which typically aren't addictive. Making those illegal is probably mostly a matter of trying to stop people from stumbling into thinking out of the box. And, again, the negative effects are much greater when it is illegal, and you buy some unknown substance from some guy on a street corner, rather than from a pharmacy. Quite likely it is because somebody in power actually desire the population to have the negative effects, rather than any more balanced and healthy experience. Or because they benefit from the big money is the criminal drug industry.

Prostitution. I think women (or men) should be free to choose who they'll have sex with, as long as all parties agree. And if one of them earns money from it, so what. Making money from providing a service is an empowering thing. Prostitution is a valuable service, which relieves all sorts of pressures that otherwise could be let out in harmful ways. Making it illegal will only create a criminal industry around it, with pimps and violence. Making it illegal will ensure all sorts of health issues, and make it hazardous for both prostitutes and their customers. Again, countries that have legalized prostitution, like Holland or Germany, can clearly show the beneficial effects in their statistics. People who're trying to outlaw prostitution will usually do it out of some religious or moral belief, for some reason believing that women should not be free to choose where and when to apply their sexuality.

The question is who comes up with the "shoulds" and why, and the degree to which they succeed in getting government power to enforce their particular view. Somebody's personal choice gets elevated to law, so that everybody will be forced to make the same choice. A society that lets that happen has problems.

Real life is full of nuances. Everything has degrees and pros and cons. Some things are fun, but dangerous. Some things are risky and enjoyable at the same time. A free society needs to allow people to make choices that fit their nature, particularly when it is personal choices that don't harm others. That others might take offense is not a good enough reason to outlaw something. It just isn't good enough that there are groups that think that certain behaviors are bad. They're free to make their own choice, but not to enforce it on everybody else. If they don't feel like being gay or engaging in S&M or taking ecstasy or smoking or drinking or appearing nude in a magazine, no problem. But some people do, and feel like a whole lot of things that might be horrifying to others. That's what choice is about. It is up to you what you choose. It is not up to you to rule that all traces of those things you don't choose get weeded out of society. There needs to be room for all of us here.

So, again, a good test of the freedom of a society is how it deals with all those personal behaviors that might be considered by some to be immoral, bizarre, dangerous, perverted, unhealthy, indecent. And the funny thing is that if such choices are freely allowed, they right away become a lot less unhealthy and dangerous and strange. Because oppression and repression and suppression are the real dangers.


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13 comments

29 Mar 2005 @ 18:25 by Andrius Kulikauskas @193.219.5.40 : Money is a Sign of Nonfreedom
Flemming, I agree with your logic, I think. But I want to point out that any society that relies on a single currency is reducing life to one dimension. And to do that it has prohibitions against printing your own money. In other words, money is backed up by force. So, by your logic, everything that money imposes itself on is unfree. Or at least it carries with it the sum of all the unfreedoms that our society suffers from. When we pay taxes, partly its voluntary, but partly its a matter of a force. Likewise, there is violence everywhere that money exerts pressure - it is by your argument because it brings with it a great weight of legality. Now, if somebody takes money for sex, there is nothing wrong with that. But if somebody pays money for sex - that is generally an act of violence. Unless you print your own money - in which case your obviously backing it up with something hot. Now what I imagine about sex is that it is just about the most sensitive, intimate interface to one's body. And that is why rape is greatly damaging even though there may be no damage to show. Rape is forcing a person to shut down that intimacy, that sensitivity they have - that is a vicious thing to do. Now casual sex may - in an incomparably smaller way - desensitize a person, but then again that can be their choice, and so just a moral, not a legal issue. But paying money for sex - placing economic pressure on them - is diminishing their choice, looking for their price point. In that sense, paying money for sex is an act of violence - because there is force in our money - our economic system is not purely voluntary - and it can't be because it reduces everything to one dimesion and one currency. It is a brutal thing. And certainly it's the purpose of law to counter violence with force. Sadly, the law is applied to the victim instead of the perpetrator. My thoughts - in response to your caring ones - thank you.  


29 Mar 2005 @ 18:32 by Andrius Kulikauskas @193.219.5.40 : Paid Advertising is a Sign of Nonfreedom
I will add - likewise, advertising is based on force - we are desensitivized because we're forced to choose - if we want to read what we want, at the price we can afford, then we have to suffer with the advertising that comes with it. There is nothing wrong with reading what we like - but there is a lot wrong with forcing people to read advertisements. By this reasoning, there isn't any point in having laws to keep people from reading. But it makes perfect sense to restrain advertisers at least a bit and establish rules for them - this adds greatly to the quality of life.  


29 Mar 2005 @ 19:02 by ming : The freedom to choose
In general I think it is all about choice. Are we free to choose or not? Those things that take away our choice tend to limit our freedom. Obviously. Per definition, pretty much. Although there can be good reasons for restricting choice in certain areas, in order to create more freedom of choice in general. Like, again, whether we drive in the right side or the left side of the road. Or the distance between the railroad tracks. We restrict freedom there, in order to achieve the freedom to drive on the road, over hilltops and around corners, where I technically speaking can't see what's on the other side, but I can be fairly confident that it only very, very rarely would be somebody driving in my lane in the opposite direction, thinking THEY have the right of way.

And, yeah, money. Feels like a lot of freedom when you have it in abundance. And can feel like a maximum security prison when you are required to have it, and you see no way of getting it. It is indeed a problem that there's a de facto monopoly on creating money. Which means that whether you have it or not has more to do with whether you're plugged into the machinery that creates it than with whether or not you have something of value to offer. Which means that many money transactions aren't balanced at all. One side would frequently be greatly at a disadvantage. They can say no, but they might have limited options available, so they might feel forced to say yes.

Then again, even having something to say yes to is a step up from having no options at all. So, being a prostitute or a drug dealer might be a very attractive choice for somebody who lives in an environment that otherwise seems devoid of possibilities for them. Do you want to be a homeless bum in the ghetto, or do you want to drive a red porsche and be the aristocracy of the ghetto, gee that's hard.

Being forced, by physical or economic violence, into doing something one wouldn't otherwise do, and which one doesn't feel good about - that's certainly a bad thing. Taking away the choice of accepting that will only make it worse. Having more choices available makes it better.

And, yes, we need more choices in terms of how to relate with each other economically. Other money systems, other ways of measuring value. And we need more choices in terms of how we want to relate to the world information-wise. If I don't want to watch commercials, I should be able not to.  



29 Mar 2005 @ 21:09 by astrid : Quite interseting Thougts, guys!......
.... both of you ASSUME that a more open, loving = moral Society would function with and under the same rules as the rotten, corrupt one!... ?????..... What's wrong with that picture???!!! It is the Rules that make the Game -NOT the Players!
It is perfectly legal --what ever THAT is supposed to mean, REALLY!... --to print and use your own money!.... PROVIDED the money will NOT be confused with the Fed's money, by its LOOKS!!!.... And it certainly is perfectly MORAL to have your own community and its monetary system fitting the community. Once again: LOOK it up! READ it: [link] GET THE MONEY KIT!!! Call Itacha. TALK to Paul Glower.

The ONLY TRUE free Choise/Free Will each indivual of Humankind has, is whether to go WITH LIFE NOW, LATER -or never!... and each person's life will reflect that choise! That choise, btw, is done EVERY TIME we make ANY CHOISES in our Every-day Life!!!.... simple choises about dish detergent, coffee, our home/car(=travelling methods) toilet paper etc. EACH and EVERY CHOISE has IN IT the LIFE DECICION WE HAVE CHOSEN as our LIFE DESTINY. It's that simple!  



30 Mar 2005 @ 05:16 by celestial : Flux
Everything is beginning to flow, like in a state of flux. A big change, internationally, is in the works and there have to be several basic rules observed and agreed to by ALL players. These rules will define the New Civilization emerging from this very BLOG!

It should be apparent what does and doesn't work. Too many laws that even the lawyers can't keep up, so many laws the taxman can't keep abreast of the rules. Some banks don't even recognize older valid currency because so much new money has been printed. I took a one hundred dollar bill issued by one bank to another bank and they siezed it as counterfeit. I think I'll start using Camel Bucks for my currency of choice!

Ming, you've touched on some very important topics. I hope quality comments keep pouring in so as to iron out some new rules.  



30 Mar 2005 @ 21:09 by Hanae @69.33.46.10 : The morality issue
I don't know, Ming, look at the last American Presidential election, for instance. I am not normally one to care much about politics but I can't help but feel that there are somewhere there, some great lessons to be learned — I'll get back to you when I have figured out what they are — lol:

"The Democrats' mistake was in thinking that a disastrous war, national bankruptcy, erosion of liberties, corporate takeover of government, environmental destruction, squandering our economic and moral leadership in the world, and systematic Administration lying would be of concern to the electorate. The Republicans correctly saw that the chief concern of the electorate was to keep gay couples from having an abortion."

Thank you for posting this — certainly very central to the concept of a new civilization and an important and most relevant social comment. The questions this presents are certainly crucial to the growth of a healthy pluralistic society.  



30 Mar 2005 @ 22:49 by celestial : Update
On the counterfeit bill in my previous comment:
The bank sent me a note that the Secret Service returned it and said it was a valid bill so they deposited it to my account.
I guess I better save my Camel Bucks for the big crash!  



30 Mar 2005 @ 22:50 by ming : Gay couples having abortions
Hahah, that's a brilliant way of putting it. Yeah, the US election showed quite clearly what it was that mattered to most of the people. At least it seems like it might have been most of the people. And it was moral issues. Not the moral issues of leaders lying and running the economy and human rights down the drain, but the religious/sexual types of moral issues.

Which certainly shows there's a long way to go, to create a more truly moral society, that allows free people to live together.  



31 Mar 2005 @ 13:32 by jerryvest : Rules vs Laws
This is a very good article showing how ignorant our humanity has become. I don't think that most people understand the difference between Rules & Laws. As parents, when we tried to impose our beliefs and values on our children they responded--"Who made that rule?"

Now it looks as though everone in authority can make a rule and no one asks why? and for what reason? And, more importantly, how will this rule reduce our freedom? What is the impact of this "law" or "rule?"  



24 Apr 2005 @ 19:40 by Nick @199.94.95.130 : Nothing new to say
I am a college student who came across this researching for an upcoming debate. I read through the article and was surprised to see that everything that was said, was just a reiteration of what could be said by a high school student. This is not an argument, or even poignant comments about a socioligical taboos that are in place without validity. The truth is, we live in a society that has rules, some based on preserving the welbeing of those in the society and others to protect the moral standards of the cultures within the society. Now, while some of these "Moral Standards" may not make up everyone's particular moral consitutution, they are set up to promote the greatest amount of happiness and appease the masses as opposed to each individual. John Stuart Mill defined morality as something that will succeed in promoting happiness and preventing pain. Further more, his Harm to Other's principle is something you may want to reference when discussing the topic of "society's rules." Overall, I think that these concepts are void of any originality and only convincing to those unwilling to be more introspective.  


24 Apr 2005 @ 20:05 by Ge Zi @24.126.199.23 : purpose, Nick...
I am wondering, Nick, what the purpose of your comments are. You entered the idea of rules set up to promote the greatest amount of happiness. hmmm, thinking about that you tell the writers of these comments here that they don't have any originality and don't amount to anything remotely relevant. I can not imagine that that makes them feel any happier, and I don't see anybody who might be any happier by those comments either, except maybe your personal ego - so your comments are not very moral, right? If you were not a college student that my son at one point might be in danger being taught by, I would just let it go, but so I have to make at least one attempt to ask you to look at your own morals or ethics and might look at the real purpose of your communications.
Amen.  



25 Apr 2005 @ 14:11 by ming : Originality
I don't think it requires originality to challenge the make-up of our society. On the contrary, I think it is better done in very basic terms. Yes, any high school student should be able to challenge the society he or she is being introduced into in the same manner. Any requirement that you have to refer to a lot of academic papers in order to make your point is just taking us away from the real issues. But it illustrates well some of the mechanisms that are in place to make things stay just the way they are. You know, common sense logic just not being good enough. You need to let some well-educated authorities summarize for you that things are they way they are ...just because. No, I believe in people thinking for themselves.  


25 Nov 2009 @ 20:33 by Justthefactzplz @66.30.119.222 : Minor details
Coffee is not a drug (although caffeine is; think of NoDoze rather than coffee, as coffee doesn't have too much in it). Sugar is not even close to a drug. Your body can be physically addicted to heroin after a single use. Choices are good, sure, but many people are too immature to make rational choices for themselves. Preventing someone from being able to choose heroin could be very beneficial to a vast majority of people. Are choices good? Sure. But there's other choices you can make without harming yourself so much.  


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