How Can We Transcend the \u0022Morality Police\u0022?

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Is morality something that can truly be “enforced” by violence? Or must we find it in our hearts.

The news has been global. A 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, wasas she was leaving a subway station in Tehran on September 13 by an Iranian police unit known as the Islamic guidance patrol, a.k.a., the morality police, because she was an inappropriately dressed female. Maybe her hair was showing. Who knows?

“Morality” may well be responsible for more death and horror through the ages than crime, selfishness or mental illness. Indeed, the concept—or maybe simply the word itself—can provoke a lethal certainty, especially if it comes with a certain amount of power, legal or otherwise.

Violence as morally neutral. Hmmm . . . I see the guy’s point, sort of. What if everything we value—our whole social structure—is in danger, either because of counter-violence or, well, anything at all? Isn’t defense of what we value necessary, and doesn’t defense usually require fighting back, which is to say, violence?

Or have Iran’s morality police shattered the sanctity of this paradox? Are they forcing us to think with transcendent seriousness about the true nature of morality, and rescue both word and concept from the forces that have been oversimplifying it for the past ten or so millennia? This doesn’t mean, by any means, that nonviolence is simple. Its complexity is what makes it unpopular among those in a hurry to win. I’ve written, over the years, about concepts such as Restorative Justice, which honors, values and listens to people who were injured by, and who committed, criminal acts. A decade ago, which looks at how that process worked in Sierra Leone in the wake of 11 years of civil war, which shattered people’s lives and killed more than 50,000.


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A big difference between the Old (fear) and New (love) Testaments. Love casts out fear. 'It is an open question whether any behavior based on fear of eternal punishment can be regarded as ethical or should be regarded as merely cowardly.' -- Margaret Mead

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