Who, exactly, is right?

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

I speak not of the yuletide season and its expected cheer. Personally, I like my ‘cheer’ throughout the year. The ‘season’ of which I speak is the political ‘silly’ season. Within the next 12 months, voters throughout parts of the Caribbean and the USA will be exercising their franchise, i.e. their right to vote. Interesting times are ahead as voters have become more issue informed and politically astute.

A plethora of questions will arise as the electorate makes their choices. I choose to focus on the question of who is right?

Our years of nurturing were filled with advice, both good and bad. One constant, one all encompassing commandment was the edict of right and wrong. When specifics were missing, those opposite poles of the moral spectrum were riveted in our brains.

When there was an infraction, what was of less importance was the whys and wherefores. More importantly was whether you were wrong or right.

Of interest to me is, that which is perceived as being right becomes synonymous with truth and that which is perceived as wrong becomes the opposite of truth. This premise I think is flawed.

My dictionary tells me that ‘Right’ is consistent with the facts or general beliefs. Conversely ‘Wrong’ is ‘contrary to conscience, morality or law. Unacceptable according to social conventions.’

The subjective or objective nature of the above meanings becomes clearly evident as both these extreme positions are arrived at by human conventions. Invariably, the subject of ‘Right’ or ‘Wrong’ carries with it the weight of truth or falsehood.

Tune into the ‘talking heads’ discussing any issue, be it political or otherwise. Listen and analyse dispassionately and you will realise that most positions advanced are driven by personal or political agendas, not careful evaluation of the issues. The objective seems to be to pursue doggedly the chosen agenda with tunnel vision.

The general tendency is to approach decisions without the awareness that there exists a greater area of gray (in the middle) than there is black and white, the extremes.

Incidentally the organised church is also guilty of this practice. ‘If you’re not with us, you are against us’.

How radical the changes have been over the years in the judgement of who is right and who is wrong?

Scant regard was given to due process and judgement was swift.

Take for example ‘The Oral’ law, which was practiced by some cultures. ‘An eye for an eye’ and ‘an ear for an ear’ was the prevailing thought. Punishment should be identical to the offence. The Babylonian law was substituted by the Anglo Saxon law, which compensated the aggrieved party in value (monetary terms) regardless of the intent. So there was an expectation that the penalty would be equal to the crime.

I made mention of the above historical fact to make two points.

An accused is innocent until proven guilty in our society. Considerations given to the pre-sentencing investigation in some cases.

In developed societies laws currently exist that makes it possible for one to lose a hand for stealing. Decapitation (actually losing your head) could result if found guilty of betrayal. That is the law of The Talibans. Wrong or Right.

It should be clear that there is need for some common values that can inform concept of right or wrong. These concepts should govern our daily lives.

Generally actions that are deemed to be right are those considered beneficial to people where as actions that are deemed detrimental are considered wrong. H. Gregory Suffragan Bishop = Mo Bay Ja.

I’ve always wondered why we human beings consider it of such great importance to be right at all times, considering that by our very nature we are fallible and imperfect. We are quick to judge and ascribe blame without considering the whys and the wherefores.

It is my fervent wish that our everyday lives could be more influenced by the concept of mediation. It escapes the verbal combatants, political hopefuls included that consensus puts one in a stronger position than conflict.

Newton Johnson

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