Tuesday, May 24, 2005
I've been working on my color-coded Absolute Morality Spectrum for some time now and I just can't seem to get the damned thing calibrated properly. The idea is to produce a fixed quick-reference chart, not unlike the handy multiplication tables and weight-conversion charts you used to get as an insert with your brand new Trapper Keeper. Only instead of telling you how many pounds make up a kilogram, it would let you know the amount of sin you're committing when, say, shoplifting versus something else, like torturing prisoners-of-war.
I thought it'd be a lot easier to compile than it has turned out. I've been working on it for almost 3 days now and I haven't quite cracked it. It turns out that compiling, interpreting and codifying tens of thousands of years of evolving human history from every nation and race on the globe in order to produce a universally acceptable code of basic conduct isn't really a weekend project. It's more like a 2-week deal.
The hard thing isn't really coming up with ideas of things to do that are bad. To be safe, I'm including everything. For instance, eating beef for a Hindu is horrifying, both religiously and socially while here in America beef, my television tells me, is "what's for dinner". To leave it off the list completely would be the ultimate exercise in cultural bias, something I'm trying desperately to avoid. Right now I have it down there between laughing at the misfortune of others and not saying "excuse me" after belching.
As if dealing with a bunch of heathen foreigners weren't enough, I've got my hands full trying to sort out the moral code right here in the U. S. of A. I'm starting to think relying on the mass media to explain and rank morality for me might have been a mistake. My original thinking was that, look, if things weren't more important, more heinous, more depraved, the media wouldn't bother to spend all kinds of time and energy on it. So I broke out my trusty stop-watch and started measuring the amount of news-time spent on individual stories involving moral lapses (the human interest stories about people overcoming great personal obstacles or bunnies who can surf didn't qualify... although I've started to reconsider the surfing-bunny thing), assuming every second of air-time corresponded to the egregiousness of the moral failure in a directly mathematical way.
I'm having some doubts about the results now, though. As I collect and compile the data, though, I'm getting more and more uneasy. I'm finding that it's just possible--and please understand, this is still just a working hypothesis--that media coverage of events is more slanted toward the sensational than absolute morality.
I know, it doesn't make any sense to me either. But come on, if a horse gets stuck in a river, that's 25 minutes of live coverage while the undermining of American democracy through blatant, documented acts of bribery gets 90 seconds, tops.
The main distorting factor is celebrity, either existing (however tenuous, like Robert Blake) or media-manufactured (Scott Peterson).
Here's what's hanging me up:
What's a worse thing to (allegedly) do, ply children with alcohol and then engage them in sex acts or lure hot chicks back to your creepy bachelor pad, try to get them to sleep with you, and then shoot them through the heart if they refuse?
The hands-down winner according to the media is the first one, as in the Michael Jackson case. Meanwhile the Phil Spector murder case gets almost zero coverage. The only discernible difference between their respective biographies is that while Michael creeped people out in public with his melting face and faux-military dress sense, Phil did his creeping-out behind the scenes with people like John Lennon and the Righteous Brothers.
I just can't figure it. Yes, there's a special place in hell for child molestors (right next to the furnace in the Nixon Wing), but I guess at least the victims generally tend to survive and could possibly live full and productive lives with some therapy. People shot dead, well, their futures are somewhat less ambiguous. That whole death thing does come across sort of final-ish, doesn't it?
Maybe we'll never know for sure. I don't know. Maybe the Absolute Morality Spectrum was a bad idea. Not only can I not figure out where to put Phil Spector's crime, I can't for the life of me decide what to do about his hair.
I know it's not in any of the great spiritual teachings like the Ten Commandments or the Vedas or Donald Trump's The Art of the Deal, but any heinously willfull act like that has to be a sin. I don't know if it's as bad as premarital fisting, but it definitely has to score higher than jaywalking or video piracy.
We may never know for sure. I'll have to let you know.
This post on the Narcissus Scale: 2.1
PS- 300 posts.