Ethical Photojournalism: Out Damned Spot

Ok I'm really honing in on the central theme of the blog.

Our species has evolved to react, individually and as a society, to stimuli.  But for an evolved social network, it goes beyond "greed and fear".
"Human nature is complex. Even if we do have inclinations toward violence, we also have inclination to empathy, to cooperation, to self-control." - Steven Pinker
But if we also are motivated by beauty, by curiosity, and other inspirations (such as "faith" or "loyalty"), that does not mean that the "greed and fear" cease to exist as drivers.

My life goal at 17 was to grow up to be an "Agent of Conscience".  I also wanted to be a philosopher, but professionally to follow Hesse's Siddhartha, a path of hands on experience as a foundation for some revelation.

Not at Nirvana yet, but the meditation and self assessment continues to yield wisdom dividends.

Are we just animals?  Is there no higher power?  Do we just bounce off of each other in reactions to greed and fear?  Does "nurture" for people we don't know just spill over only when our own children are cared for?  Or does the power to nurture give us a justified pride in our self-worth, a self-worth which is tangible and real?

I definitely think it matters whether I'm an ethical and principled actor and agent.  To me it makes a huge difference if I'm given credit for a lie, for someone else's work, etc.  Sacrificing pride, or "spiritual materialism" in part prepares us not to get too "hooked" on the Choir's praise.

What does this have to do with recycling?

1. Recycling is positive energy.  You are avoiding mining more mountains and cutting more forests.  You are conserving energy.  Even if there isn't a good market from year to year, by continuing to recycle we are demonstrating the reliability of the secondary market as a source of supply, and economically rewarding factories which invested in recycled feedstock use.

2. Pride is addicting.  While we can enjoy the positive energy of doing hands on work and saving as much or more of the planet's resource than we consume, we can also fall to "moral licensing".  By using a reuseable shopping bag, we might feel justified in littering, for example.  An economics of credit, liability, and licensing is both evolved and culturally practiced.

3. Saving the World with a Hashtag is "easy".  Like easy money, money we inherit, don't earn, it's great.  If we stumble upon something happening that's bad for the planet, and just hashtag it into a viral movement, we can get all the great feelings with little of the effort.  We have evolved to accept low hanging fruit, literally and spiritually.

4. Honesty, Truth and Accountability is good.  If we make a mistake and "hashtag" the wrong cause and effect, and earn a job "doing what we believe in" but find out what we believed in was wrong... we can be saved by our integrity.  No doubt the Western medicine pioneers who discovered mercury worked as a laxative made a million dollar health care economy out of poisoning people.  But Western medicine saved itself by scientific method and accountability.  We didn't make Hg laxatives "holy" or make them proof of God, so we could fix it and move on.

5. Finding someone who is weaker than we are - morally - can also be used for moral licensing.  We are outraged by KKK racists, as we should be.  But are they really a thing? How many KKK members are out there?  Don't we play up other peoples racism to make ourselves feel better about our own "crossing the street"?  We have evolved to seek out majorities and not stick out, and skin color and culture is a currency with "risk and benefit ratios".  Perhaps whites oppose racism because we see the global numbers?  I don't think so... I think the German immigrants fighting the Irish immigrants and the Navajo or Apache fighting the Hopi are skirmishes which are "diluted out" by more and more mixing of culture.

So sometimes I have to ask myself, how much of my ethics are "enlightened" in a "best for all of us" sense, how much are "enlightened" by my self preservation, or my childrens?  And how much is pure enlightenment, when I sacrifice something dear to me, to my family, or to my tribe, out of pure principle?

The latter is the question we can pose of the Abolitionists.  John Brown's abolitionism took his own life and his sons.  Was his methodology effective?  Or was he just causing the South to "weaponize" and setting the stage for Secessionism?

In the end I believe in wisdom.

And you make yourself more wise both by seeking the truth and by preparing yourself to accept bad news.

And the wise among us can see that the economy of photojournalists taking chump photos of African kids perched like chimps on piles of garbage, leaving without paying the Africans, and allowing the photos to be used by NGO's who don't donate a single penny to the Africans, and who instead exaggerate and proliferate horrible lies which get Geeks of Color thrown in UK jail cells, is as good a cause to feel angry about as any.  A good Buddhist warns that such anger can be blinding, intoxicating, and reduce enlightenment.  But the Western John-Brown savior, the Huck Finn who helps Jim escape ("I'll go to hell") gives us faith that society can change, and that a society which continues to stubbornly profit from unfairness risks losing everything.

My aim is true.... Cover of 1977 (the year I read Siddhartha) hit Alison by Elvis Costello.

The artful balance of the archer analogy returns.

How can environmentalists live with ourselves funding this racist campaign to boycott the poor?  Environmentalists are selling mercury as laxative.  Out damned spot.  We have some dirty laundry in the #ewaste movement, and we need to come together to do the right thing.

Lady Macbeth:
Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!—One; two: why, then
'tis time to do't.—Hell is murky.—Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier, and
afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our
pow'r to accompt?—Yet who would have thought the old man to
have had so much blood in him?
Macbeth Act 5, scene 1, 26–40

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