"Nations are bound by the same law as individuals... No human legislature can nullify the moral law. No human legislation can make it right or lawful to violate any command of God. All human enactments requiring or sanctioning the violation of any command of God, are not only null and void, but they are a blasphemous usurpation and invasion of the prerogative of God. The same principles apply to slavery. No human constitituion or enactment can, by any possibility, be law, that recognized the right of one human being to enslave another, ina sense that implies selfishness on the part of the slaveholder. Selfishness is wrong per se. It is, therefore, always and unalterably wrong... That slaveholding, as it exists in this country, implies selfishness, at least in almost all instances, is too plain to need proof... Deprive a human being of liberty, who has been guilty of no crime; rob him of himself - his body, his soul, his time - and his earnings, to promote the interests of his master, and attempt to justify this one the principles of moral law! It is the greatest absurdity, and the most revolting wickedness." - Charles Grandison Finney
The great prophet of the Second Great Awakening, Charles Grandison Finney, wrote this concerning slavery in the late 1830s. Now, perhaps you don't believe in God. Many do, many don't. That is a futile point to argue and is only a distraction from the concept of moral law and the insidiousness of unchecked selfishness.
Perhaps you do not agree with Finney's extremism in deeming selfishness as wrong, per se. But, perhaps, you've seen what happens when selfishness unchecked is allowed to run rampant. Perhaps you've seen the destruction of the environment, as rivers are set on fire, water turned toxic, as animals die and farmland wrecked while energy corporations seek to church out ever greater profits. Perhaps you've seen the collapse of the middle class, the robbery of the poor of the meager security nets they cling to, the attempts to destroy programs that aid the neediest while the wealthiest skate by on less and less contributions.
What I believe unites the many, varied threads of liberalism is the realization that we must tend to one another. This was the argument of the preachers of old, is still the thrust behind why many of us contribute our time to relief efforts and our money to social services, why I spent time handing out food, clothing and helping build homes. Perhaps your moral code conflicts with some of the behaviors around you. That happens. No people, taken as a whole, can be expected to be perfectly of one mind and spirit and all times. I disagree on certain moral issues with my peers. Yet what I also realize is that, in most instances, the simplest answer to all things is to live and let live. It is not my right to impose my beliefs on another. I may discuss them, I may argue for my perspective, but I have no right to legislate my beliefs on another. But more than a simple theory of letting everyone live according to their own, my basic premise for existence demands that I care for them. I may not always be perfect, but I don't question the money I give to a man asking for it on a corner. He may buy drugs, but he may buy a sandwhich. When someone is in need of something, I don't wonder what their race, religion or creed is before contributing my help. What a silly notion. Likewise, I have no issue in contributing a bit more of my tax dollars to helping those in need. It seems like a logical extension of my creed.
For me, there is a law that exists above the simple legislative demands upon me. There is a need, a moral compulsion, to help those less fortunate. To secure their safety, and their profit, as I can.
Which makes the news from Bloomberg about Wal-Mart so damning:
This is not a case of something slipping under the radar. Wal-Mart was complicit in the deaths already, however, it may have at least been argued that they were unaware of the full extent of maintenance and upgrades needed. Not even that excuse is left to them. What is so damning, what is so infuriating, is their full knowledge of the conditions of these factories, and their refusal to contribute toward securing even the most minimal safety precautions for their workers.
What inspired this diary was a comment, on the Bloomberg site, from one individual who said it was not the responsibility to pay above the market demand in order to secure the safety of these workers. Legally, economically, he may have been right. But by God, or by whatever moral compass it is that guides you, there is no way to argue that such a statement can stand the test of moral law. Unchecked selfishness is death, pure and simply, with no other way of detailing its insidious effects.
"No generation before us ever had the light on the evils and wrongs of slavery that we have: hence our guilt exceed that of any former generation of slave holders; and, moreover, knowing all the cruel wrongs and miseries of the system from the hsitory of the past, every persisting slave-holder endorses all the crimes and assumes all the guilt in the system and evolved out of it since the world began." - The Oberlin Evangelist, February 4, 1846
As ever greater light was being shed on the cruelties of the slavery system, men of many convictions began to argue that it was no longer a system that in the slightest could be tolerated. Social organizations, independent resistors, newspapers and churches all began to speak out, because the burden of the system was so onerous, so undeniable, that it weighed down on the spirit of free people of good conscience everywhere. Will we now, say, that we have enacted anything less than a second system of slavery? Will we now argue that the sacrifice of a hundred lives is worth the selfish profit of a few economic investors? Can we really stand by and justify this system by excusing it as less cruel than outright slavery? Is being less cruel, truly any less a cruelty?