When we speak of “Morality” we think of the difference between right and wrong, the difference between the good and the evil. We use morality to justify our actions and decisions. More often than not, people impose their morality on others and expect them to act in the way they find fit. They believe that the idea of right and wrong is universal. In her essay “On Morality”, Didion contradicts this theory and believes that everyone can have different ideas of morality based on their own perception. To make her point, Didion uses the examples of Klaus Fuchs and Alfred Rosenberg.
Fuchs was a British traitor who leaked nuclear secrets to the Soviets, and Rosenberg was the Nazi administrator of Eastern Europe, where the Germans committed their most heinous and most murderous acts during World War II. Both of them claimed that what they did were morally appropriate. She then goes on to say that Jesus justifies what he did based on morality. The juxtaposition of these ideas affirms Didion’s theory that the conviction of morality is vastly based on perspective. This juxtaposition also helps prove that people use morality to justify almost anything.
Osama Bin Laden believed that it was morally right to take the lives of millions of innocent civilians in the name of religion. President Snow, along with the Capitol, in The Hunger Games saw it fit to throw 24 teenagers in a battlefield and let them fight until only one remains. Morality does not seem like a tool to distinguish right from wrong, but a method to have a clean conscious, irrespective of whether one’s acts are good or bad. Didion also says, “For better or for worse, we are what we learned as children.
” (158) This shows that the ideas we have of good and bad and the so-called “morality” is part of what we’ve learnt growing up. A lot of people might find it pointless to stay with a corpse on a highway. But to Didion, it is the moral thing to do. We do not leave behind our dead. Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Fear is the mother of morality. ” Didion maintains that morality might differ from person to person. In my opinion, a lot of factors influence the decisions we make and then blame them on morality. “The right thing” is too abstract to be universal.
Didion debates about the cannibalism acts and talks about the vestigial taboo that no one should eat their own blood kin. This might seem appalling to some while being a being of another’s culture. Didion says that morality has “the most potentially mendacious meaning. ” (159) And I couldn’t agree more. There is a very thin line between right and wrong, and morality is what shows one where to draw it. But the basis of that line is so ambiguous, that people end up using morality to cover up their actions.
The idea Didion presents is that humans are not equipped to distinguish between the good and the bad. We think that all actions are sound as long as they don’t hurt another person. But then we see people like Adolf Hitler. The man murdered millions of people. Yet, he had a bunch of supporters who helped him with these inhumane acts. But he did what he did in the name of morality, in the name of ‘respect for the greater race. ’ The central idea of this essay is that morality depends largely on perception. What one finds wrong may not necessarily be seen as inappropriate by another.
“I followed my own conscience. ” “I did what I thought was right. ” Didion questions the reader how many madmen have said this and meant it? Didion doesn’t believe that these men shelter themselves under the illusion of morality but actually believe their actions are moral and justified. Maybe we ourselves have said it before and been wrong. Our conscience isn’t always the best judge of things. But the concept of morality makes it okay to just be impulsive and do what we think is correct in the moment. The relevance of our logic lacks frequency.
One might not kill people on a daily basis but one might find it moral to do it someday and go ahead with it. Does this make them immoral? Is the act of killing immoral? What if the victim is a killer? The answers to questions relating to morality are not black or white. There could be various different instances where individuals might have different stands on issues. All of which they might believe to be morally correct. So the question is, who decides what is moral and what is not? What gives them the power to do so? Should the morality of one person be forced on another?
Clearly, universal standards of right and wrong do not exist. The evidence Didion provided as well as instances we see around the world proves that fact. A lot of people do not agree with Didion’s idea of differing morality. The people who adhere themselves to a supposedly universal moral code can delude themselves into thinking people who do not follow that code are less humane. People need to stop fretting over moral absolutes and let morality run their life and effect every decision they make in order to ensure the future is safe from oppression and terrorism.