Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Conflict between Morality and Etiquette

Usually morality and cultural etiquettes are aligned. But there are few instances in life where they come in direct conflict.

It is usually a tradition/etiquette in some cultures that you do not speak ill about a person once he/she has passed away no matter his/her wrongdoings in the past. But this is something that has recently started to generate lots of conflicts.  Or atleast I’ve started noticing it now.

With the recent demise of Margaret Thatcher and Barbara Bush – both personalities who had made some unsavory comments, which hurt the feelings of a large section of public, this tussle seems to have risen in intensity. Whether we should mourn the person and let go of the past instances which hurt feelings and offended people OR be as blunt as the person in question when he was alive was with others feelings.  

Without a doubt, these are divisive times with social media providing a platform to voice your opinions about anything and everyone to large audiences. It has been put to use in a good way (ushering positive change) and in a negative way (trolls in the garb of anonymity wishing unspeakable ill for anyone they don't like). Clearly, morality and etiquettes are not the top considerations anymore when number of views/TRP/viral nature of content can be strong determinants of the paycheck.

I’m just trying to weigh the arguments in this tussle although I do not claim to reach at a conclusion at the end.

We all have a fairly decent idea of why one should not speak ill of the deceased. Courtesy, decency or respecting the person’s life on the planet and nothing can be changed/undone now. It is usually these.

The reasoning given on why scrupulous scrutiny should continue is: 
i) There are different yardsticks for influential and powerful public figures. It seems like Public figures not only forego their privacy when they step into the public limelight but are also held against high standards thus exposing them to be critiqued long after they have passed away. There’s this piece in The Guardian where it says this line of argument. 

ii) Another interesting one is – “Respect should be earned during the lifetime and not after it”. This is indeed very profound and emphasizes importance on actions.
iii)Speak the Truth -  Irrespective of the situation with the person around or not say what you feel the truth is.

It’s hard to wrap your head around all these arguments on both sides. Someone well-versed with religious scriptures could offer any quotes on this topic but I feel like most things in life – this is not a black or white question but a Gray one having no clear answer.

So far, all attempts to regulate what is said on the Internet has failed (I’m not in favor of any regulation. Self-regulation is the best but that’s whole another conversation). What is scary is now that everyone has picked a side aka tribalism this conflict is going to get worse in the future.

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