We children of the modern world are guilt-ridden creatures.
In times gone by, the dichotomy of good and evil was one pondered with respect to all things material, and all bodies mortal. Men and women fought and died for beliefs and values pertaining to the great schisms that arose from arguments over murder, theft, freedom, and the will of our collective deities.
Valour, honour and pride graced the lives of those of all affiliations; the subjective nature of right and wrong never once marred an individual’s certainty of their intrinsic righteousness when having had completed a good deed.
Our world is a far-cry from its former self. The twenty-first century is hewn from more meagre battlefields, its palette one of shades of grey. The grand internal conflicts of the past have been settled; set in stone and rendered incontrovertible by the mere passage of time.
What is left to us is a plethora of comparatively menial ideals that pale before their ancestors, which are often contradictory, and border on being mere tasks of self-improvement.
Indeed, it is entirely justifiable to ask whether it is possible to be moral in the modern world.
The fixation on being seen by the many as a righteous warrior; a ‘good’ person, is increasingly becoming the central focus of entire lifetimes, with only more sources of uncertainty emerging every day.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be an issue to lament —but instead only one that was a consequence of the progression and evolution of our civilisation —if modern morality were not so fraught with such crushing guilt.
Worse still, modern guilt is tainted.
A fifteenth-century peasant who had killed his brother to avenge his wife’s infidelity knew his standing in the world precisely. His remorse was truer than any mere proof of logic, and his guilt utterly pure.
A man who spent the Noughties too busy with his career to clean every single yoghurt-pot before recycling it, however, is privy to a private hell altogether more twisted, and torturous.
In truth, it’s entirely possible that this child of the digital age could care no less for the Planet Earth or its perils. And yet, he would never say such a thing, lest his good-standing be revoked by the world’s new arbiters.
Where before, these arbiters took the form of kings, queens and religious leaders; positions that demanded true devotion, and were considered by all to be the ultimate responsibility, we instead have elected the media and the famous to dictate the moral code of our lives. Thus, the denizens of our cities live under the tyranny of their respective society’s celebrity elite.
The list of must-do’s and must-not’s continue to grow, but for some of our time’s greatest controversies, there is no end in sight:
A typical weekday may see a news-report detailing the obesity epidemic amongst the nation’s children, caused by poor diet and a chronic lack of exercise. Demands are made for measures to be put in place to ensure that the children go outside, take to the streets and play in the wholesome, traditional manner instead of playing video-games in their bedrooms.
The very next day, another report will emerge, spouting the woes of the youth’s loutish nature, hanging around in great droves instead of toiling away inside, studying for their exams. Suddenly, their obesity and exercise regime is unimportant, and demands are made to ensure that the nation’s youth is kept away from public spaces (such as inside, where they can’t latch their feral jaws onto anybody. Why not give them a video-game? That ought to keep them quiet).
Which is the correct course of action? Both? Surely it must be both. But how could such a thing be possible?
We all try to eat well; plenty of fruit and vegetables, fresh fish, lean meat, only the low-fat cuts, organic instead of processed, nuts and seeds. The perfect died. So surely such a thing is good?
Sadly not. A lot of those fresh fruit and vegetables are shipped from far-flung lands (think of all those food-miles). If you elect to go for the organic route with your food and avoid processed meals, then despite improved health and guilt-free trips to the doctor for check-ups, you inevitably end up throwing away great heaps of food which has elected to rot and grow stale without the aid of preservatives, which in themselves are an entirely justifiable ingredient.
Fresh fish often marks you think of salmon-farms (how sustainable); the only problem with them is that they require such vast quantities of baser fish such as anchovies to rear said salmon that these baser stocks are being utterly depleted. There is also such an incredible over-farming of the world’s oceans that all fish stocks may be completely and irreparably depleted within the next few decades.
Then there is the issue of the meat. While perhaps the vegetables could be forgiven, due to their ability to be mass-produced in a relatively small area, meat requires a truly enormous amount of land to produce. Entire tracts of the world’s rain-forests have been cleared as of late for the sake of cattle-farms and their ilk. In fact, this issue extends to the point that, if the world’s population was to become vegetarian overnight, a sizeable chunk of World Hunger would disappear.
Using an internal-combustion engine to get around these days? You monster. Surely the Hybrid is the way to go? Surely therein lies the answer to the guilt felt by all after a not-quite-essential run to the supermarket?
Sorry. As many of us by now know, Hybrids such as the Prius are assembled piece-by-piece in a great many far-flung regions of the world, and components such as their batteries (which require a sizeable chunk of nickel to be dragged out of the ground) are far from sustainably attained.
Unfortunately, by the time the shiny, finished product arrives in your local dealership, it has most likely travelled more miles than your good old-fashioned diesel hatchback is likely to do in its first year.
At least, for now, being green isn’t feasible, and the Hybrid ‘solutions’ are scarcely more than fashion-statements.
Indeed, I could go on for some time, but then I’d be wasting valuable electricity and calories, and my guilt over the world’s famine and underdevelopment might just reach a new maxima.
Better to sign off now, and thank you for reading, you immoral swine.
Perhaps the bloody wars waged in ages past over things apparently trivial aren’t quite so difficult to understand, after all.