We get trained by the manner of our rearing to turn to a central authority for behavior enforcement. It begins with our parents or nanny and gets reinforced by all the central authorities we learn to deal with as we age. They increase in number and size while we mature, all of them enforcing their own sets of rules. We choose what we agree with and can tolerate, and accept what gets forced onto us, often with reluctance.
All of that grows with us into maturity and hardens into us as we age. We all respond differently to it at different stages of the cycle. We are rarely taught to think for ourselves, but to accept what we get handed as true and try to work with that. Disparity between truth and reality often requires adjustments, but help is always available if you don’t ask too many questions.
Examples abound around each of us from which we learn reasons to practice good behavior:
- Each central authority with which we dealt as we grew up, as a moral act, explained their rules so you would understand them. As we approached adulthood we were expected to already know and practice the etiquette behind good behavior, so rules may not always have been mentioned.
- Personal experience and events involving others provide excellent sources of behavior-related information and examples that go far beyond the normal realm of moral concerns. Television, magazines, newspapers, radios are just a few of the sources hawking tons of information daily. The Ten Commandments look pretty weak compared to what a one-hour shoot-em-up can demonstrate on TV.
- The Law of the Land encodes behavior and punishments at all levels of government, with many opportunities to learn them. Religions work hard to assure themselves that as many as possible of their artificial constraints also become encoded right along with natural concerns.
- Reciprocity, a hedonistic part of personal experience that too-often escapes attention, demonstrates the hedonic pleasure that arises from sharing, giving and receiving, cooperating, or any other acts of an altruistic nature, both in the giving and receiving.
Human nature as a social species demonstrates that nature has provided us with plenty of ways to learn moral behavior, reinforced by hedonic means, to which technology had added increased hedonic support with increased opportunities to imagine pleasure and pain. We are hardwired with only the essentials of morality. The nature of our social upbringing does the rest, which explains our affinity for a centralized authority, and why most of us can so readily adapt to other cultures.
That makes centralized authority seem like a good thing, a product of natural design that should never let us down. Nature never made us that promise. In every category we find errors: stillborn infants, global warming for which we are loathe to take credit, on and on. The weakness of centralized authority by which we are all apt to suffer is its ability to easily hide important information.
A recent example is a trade deal that involved President Obama that was presented by petitioners as a secret trade deal about which little was known; it certainly was not making the news, so the ploy was believable. Of concern was the section purported to give the president unprecedented power by enabling him to ‘fast track’ international agreements without seeking congressional approval. People don’t like secrets kept from them. That so many Republicans supported the bill made it more worrisome. (the bill has apparently passed on a second go round)