01 July 2016


While re-reading Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith I came across this profound and timely passage:
Mma Ramotswe knew that there was a great deal of debate about morality, but in her view it was quite simple. In the first place, there was the old Botswana morality, which was simply right. If a person stuck to this, then he would be doing the right thing and need not worry about it. There were other moralities, of course; there were the Ten Commandments, which she had learned by heart at Sunday School in Mochudi all those years ago; these were also right in the same, absolute way. These codes of morality were like the Botswana Penal Code; they had to be obeyed to the letter. It was no good pretending that you were the High Court of Botswana and deciding which parts you were going to observe and which you were not. Moral codes were not designed to be selective, nor indeed were they designed to be questioned. You could not say that you would observe this prohibition but not that. I shall not commit theft--certainly not--but adultery is another matter: wrong for other people, but not for me.
Most morality, thought Mma Romatswe, was about doing the right thing because it had been identified as such by a long process of acceptance and observance. You simply could not create your own morality because your experience would never be enough to do so. What gives you the right to say that you know better than your ancestors? Morality is for everybody, and this means that the views of more than one person are needed to create it. That was what made the modern morality, with its emphasis on individuals and the working out of an individual position, so weak. If you gave people the chance to work out their morality, then they would work out the version which was easiest for them and which allowed them to do what suited them for as much of the time as possible. That, in Mma Romatswe's view, was simple selfishness, whatever grand name one gave to it.
Wise! Very wise. 

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