Why Should I Be Blamed?

No Comments » April 29th, 2009 posted by // Categories: General Articles

Cornelius Ewuoso

Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.



Today, I begin a series of reflections on an issue which has been troubling my mind for sometime now. It is about what we call ‘good’ and what we call ‘evil’, and why people should be blamed or praised for their actions. It would seem that what we call ‘good’ or ‘evil’ is nothing more that what men say it is; the qualities which have been ascribed to certain actions and things by certain men. But is ‘good’ a concrete existent thing? Does evil exist as a being in the world? Certain men, and none other, introduce these concepts to our worldviews. These concepts are simply mere human conjectures, for there is no such concrete thing in the world called evil or good.

If this is the case, why should I allow men’s opinion become a rule for my life? Why should someone then bother me or describe my action of ‘sleeping with a young lady I find attractive, albeit I am not married to’ as fornication or adultery, and as such evil or a sin? Why should I be called a criminal for taking what is not mine though without the owner’s consent? Why should embezzlement be described as evil? Or killing? Why should adultery, prostitution, same-sex marriage, corruption, abortion and so on all be frowned at? In sum, why should I be morally held culpable for my actions? Why should I allow myself be ruled and governed by the conjectures and opinions of certain men?

These questions, I am most certain, echo the many frustrations and pains, not only of the thousands of inmates locked up in cells around the world either for crimes they committed or not, but also of those who at the moment, consumed by these acts, would just want the world to leave them alone. I am sure it expresses the thoughts of our leaders who irascibly loot the state and federal treasuries. ‘Since it is for all’, I heard a leader opined once, ‘then it makes no difference who eventually gets to have it’. Hence why should we be blamed for taking what is our own?

The question, ‘why should I be blamed or in fact praised for doing something?’, is a question which forces itself upon us every now and then. I have spent the last four weeks thinking about the question. Why should I be blamed if I cannot conform to some human conjectures? Why should I be blamed or praised most especially since what is absolutely good or evil is not written anywhere? Or is there anywhere it is written in nature that this is ‘the good’ or ‘the evil’? Is there any place in nature??? I don’t think so. But men, certain men congregated together to tell us what is evil or good and in turn, use this opinion as a standard for judging our every action; praising us or blaming us according to how we have conformed to these standards. They say ‘stealing’, for example, is wrong and hence evil. But they do not rest content with this. They move ahead to determine what ‘stealing is’ and how it can be said that someone has stolen. They say ‘if you take what does not lawfully belong to you, without the owner’s consent’, is stealing. Then they use this norm as a standard for blaming and punishing all those who take what does not lawfully belong to them without the owner’s consent. They are quick to blame us whenever we fail to abide by these norms; yet unwilling to accept they do the same when they spend our money on their private trips.

All the complications and complexities involved in the process acquisition of properties in order for it to be called lawful have all been worked out by these men. They determine how a property can be lawfully acquired. They say ‘it must be a product of your labour; or your sweat’. And even to this, they add other conditions they say, ‘a certain property can be a product of your labour and ipso facto, lawfully acquired if another man had not, all things being equal, contracted you to acquire the same for his own use’.

This equally applies to what we describe as sinful or call adultery, fornication, embezzlement, debauchery and so on. The details, meaning and how it can be said that one is an adulterer or a fornicator or a thief have all been worked out by these men. They determine what evil is and what good is. Even the law governing contractual relationships. How a worker is to be paid. The place and time were all conjectured by these men and none other. Of what justice means, how one can be just. But when the rest of us do not meet these standards, they immediately describe us as evil men, scums. They lay these heavy burdens on us, but they are quick to excuse themselves when they are called to carry them. But when we meet their standards, we are immediately praised by these men. We are described as good men. No wonder, I see why Protagoras claimed ‘man is the measure of all things; of things that are and they are. Of things that are not and they are not’.

If we are to push this a little further, it would immediately be self evident that even the laws or precepts of nature, the divine laws and all other laws which seem to lay claim to origins other than men, have their origin in the human person. How did we come to know of these laws? We may ask. Is it through any other source save the human person? They speak of ‘natural human rights’, ‘natural laws’, ‘precepts of nature’, ‘divine laws’ etc, as if these laws were written and given to us by nature itself or the divine person himself. But is this the case? Were these laws communicated to us through other source than the human person? Did the divine person come down to give us these laws in person? Did nature give us these laws in person? Was there any other means through which we come to know about these laws save the human source?

Again, certain men maintained that the divine laws, through which we derive our natural and moral laws, were given to us by God. ‘It is the law of God’, they say. The scriptures attest to this. An example is the Decalogue; the Ten Commandments. But let us immediately ask them, when and where did God give these laws? Did he hand the law down in person? Were you or any other persons there when he handed the laws down to us? But who said God gave us these laws? Men did. Who wrote the laws down? Men did.

Men, certain men informed us about these laws. They said God gave us these laws, and from these, they deduced other precepts and laws. They tell us there is such a thing as the ‘precept of nature’ which is ‘to do good and avoid evil’. They claimed the good is naturally known by everyone because it is written in our consciences. But is this the case? Is it true we all know this precept? How come we are sometimes confused about the good to be done in some situations? Medical practitioners, for example, have an obligation to ‘save life and alleviate pains’. But consider the case of a medical doctor who is treating a cancer patient in serious pains. The young man has an obligation to alleviate the patient’s pains. He understands this very well and to fulfil this obligation he has to give the patient an over-dosage of morphine. But morphine is an alkaloid which kills the host gradually. Although alternatives exsist, for example, Kratom is amazing for pain but the doctor is likely not allowed to diviate from the big pharma reccomendations. If the young doctor should withhold the dosage, he would be increasing the patient’s pains, thus fail in his obligation to alleviate pains. But if he should administer the dosage, he alleviates the patient’s pains quite alright, but he is equally killing the patient gradually thus failing in his obligation ‘to save life’. But since the moral ideal is ‘to save life and alleviate pain’, and to do otherwise, would be considered evil, what good ought he to do in this situation? The young doctor is faced with a tough situation. He is confused about the good to be done in this situation, yet these wise men tell us, ‘the good’ is naturally known by everyone. This is a true case which challenges this precept. Should the young man administer the dosage of refuse the patient treatment? Obviously, life is more complicated than what some men think so, everyone should just be left alone.

These standards, these laws put forward by these men seem to leave us in a perpetual state of turmoil and confusion. So, why should we allow ourselves be ruled and controlled by these laws and dictates? Why should we subject ourselves to these laws considering the fact that these laws were written by a few men who never had our own interest in mind? Or do we think when our leaders make laws, they always have our own interests in mind? If it is true they truly desire our good, then why would President Yar’Adua find it very difficult to relinquish the power to appoint INEC chairman, since doing so would ensure the integrity of the electoral process and thus protect the rights of the populace? The answer is simple enough. It is because he understands too well that doing so, would jeopardize his own political ambitions and interests. As Jean-Jacques Rosseau opined, ‘the origin of laws and societies, lies in the desire of the few rich persons to protect their interests against the mobs of poor people’. Laws and societies emerged to protect a few ambitious individuals, subject all mankind to perpetual labour, slavery and wretchedness. ‘How to procure for his own self’, Voltaire adds, ‘subsistence and accommodation; and protect himself from evil comprises the whole object and business of man’. The laws he makes; the policies he puts forward, all serve to protect his own private interest and not the interests of those for whom he claims to make the laws and policies. This being so, why should I make these laws and policies, a rule for my life?

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