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global and local moralities

For reasons buried deep in my psyche, I am attempting to maximise my personal effect on the world. This could be seen as a show of arrogance, insecurity or whatever you please. In any case, I think of this as an enlightened, noble, global morality. It looks at world as a complex system, and attempts to identify and work on the critical points, so as to nudge the world into a healthier state.

I contrast this with a more common 'parochial' morality, in which the self exists only in a network of social relationships and which tries to do right thing by those people. It is by this morality, in my view, that the masses pay no attention to the exploitation done in their name by amoral corporations and governments in far distant lands.

It seems to me that this localised morality was all that could be expected before globalisation, but it seems out of date now. Don't global problems require global solutions?

My binary view is challenged though, by one friend very intellectual friend of mine, who has lived semi-voluntary poverty for decades and has probably the lowest carbon footprint of any council tax payer in England. He has no grandiose notions of improving the world, or even of participating in most of it. And his modest consumption patterns are entirely consistent with that. Why would Nike sweat shops be a concern for someone who probably couldn't even identify the Nike logo? What has that to do with him? To someone with such a genuine localised impact, my 'global' morality is not applicable.

The moral of the story is of course, that mass morality has yet to catch up with globalisation. Humans until the last century practiced morality amongst their social peers. The pangs of conscience do not prick so hard when the consequences are dispersed accross the world, and the specific victims are faceless. But they should.

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