February 20, 2009

Reflections on Morality

I am writing an essay for one of my political seminars these days. The title might seem a little cryptic to you: "Legal positivism or natural law - Reflections on legality and legitimacy in the context of South African transitional justice".

I also have been reading two books in the last week, both of them I had actually read before. But it is funny with books. Although the words have remained the same they relate to your life and your experience in such a different way so that how you read them changes completely. Both books talk about love and guilt, about the past and about morality in the face of lies and responsibility.

Suffice it to say that my view of what is to be considered right or wrong has been challenged and mulled over these days. And so the books have hit me with a lot of intensity.
The books are Milan Kundera's "The unbearable lightness of being", which I had totally forgotten until a good friend gave it to me a short while ago, and Bernhard Schlink's "The reader", which is currently in cinemas and aspiring to an academy award.

I would like to give you some quotes that I found relevant when I read them...

He told himself the real question was not: Did they know or not?, but: Is man innocent, because he is ignorant? Is a dunce on the throne free of all responsibilty, just because he is a dunce?
He went about pondering, until he finally reached the conclusion that it was actually normal for him not to know what he wanted.
You can never know what to want, because there is only one life that you can neither compare to former lives nor correct in ones to come.

I am not saying that thinking and deciding have no influence on action. But action does not simply follow what has been thought or decided before. It has its own source and my action is my action in the same independent way that my thinking is my thinking and my deciding is my deciding.
No, I am not talking about order and obedience. The hangman does not follow orders. He does his job, doesn't hate the ones he executes, doesn't take revenge, doesn't kill them because they are in his way or because they threaten or attack him. He is completely indifferent towards them. He is so indifferent that he may just as well kill them as let them stay alive.

Take a moment to think about this,
don't be indifferent to other people,
ask why you are doing what you are doing
and remember that this is the one life that matters!

Take care everybody and have a great weekend :)

1 comment:

Leila said...

How odd. Just yesterday the title The Incredible Lightness of Being came into my head and I had no idea why or what it was or where I had heard it.