Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Straight thoughts 101

February 25th, 2003

(I have a choice to make: To state the obvious: Morals 101, and sound a bit patronizing, or to say something smarter and easier to swallow. I'll choose the first option, in spite of the risk.)
In considering our options, when deciding whether to support one political party or another, we may run into a dilemma: to either follow a moral path or to rather take a path that strategically seems to lead towards better results.

Sometimes the two courses of action coincide. This is when we can support a political candidate and a party that satisfy both the moral and the strategic requirements. But in many cases these two options lead us into opposite directions.

This has never been so true as in today's political climate where all major political parties have espoused the secular view that morality should be left out of politics.

If there is a contradiction between the two courses of action, the one inspired by our conscience and the one inspired by strategic considerations, which course should we take?

The answer, as difficult as the consequences may be, is that we should choose the moral option and disregard strategic reasoning to determine our decision. Too often instead, we tend to use strategic arguments to avoid our moral obligations.

Can you imagine if Maximilian Kolbe, when a man next to him was picked by the nazis to be sent to the gas chambers, thought: "Strategically it would be wrong for me to give my life for this man: I am an ordained priest; I can convert hundreds of people. Staying alive is a must, for me to carry out God's will".

If he did reason that way, we would probably not even know of him. Millions of people would not have been inspired by his supreme act of charity.
This "life-and-death" dilemma reminds me of a joke:

A small plane is in serious difficulty during a storm and the pilot bails out with his own parachute. Five people remain on board: A priest, a boy-scout, a politician, a doctor and a lawyer, but they have only four parachutes.
The lawyer quickly points out that he is absolutely needed on earth to carry out justice for all the people. He quickly grabs a parachute and jumps out of the plane.
The doctor then explains how he can save many lives on earth and how his life is very valuable to others. He also grabs a parachute and jumps.
The politician then argues that he can change the nation, indeed the whole world for the better and quickly jumps with the third parachute.
Now the priest tells the boy-scout: "I am quite old and have done what I could to convert the people in my parish. You are young and have your life in front of you. Quickly, take the last parachute and jump!"

Let me pause for a second. The story here shows that a moral decision may at times be very different, indeed the opposite of the best strategic decision.
The end of the joke?
The boy-scout replies to the priest: "Do not worry father… there ARE two parachutes left. You see… the politician took my knap-sack".

(Yes, this joke puts down politicians a bit more than doctors and lawyers!)

In this coming election I urge you to make this point clear to the people you meet.
To use strategic reasoning to justify voting for a political party that supports policies contrary to natural law and moral law, is to compromise our conscience.
In cases of apparent conflict between choices, the moral one is the one to select, no matter how costly.

In retrospect, we will see that the moral course of action was actually the one that produced better results as well.