By Roland Watson

I now want to consider the many irresolvable social issues that we have, those problems on which we cannot even agree to disagree. But, I do not intend to give a full exposition of these issues. Rather, I will do a brief form analysis of them, to distinguish the underlying "existential" dispute (if one exists at all), where no certainty attaches to a specific view, from the form surrounding the dispute and which has been added to it including through the use of such things as volatility.

The issues that I will consider are as follows:

1. Civil rights, human rights, discrimination, including via sexual preference
2. Sexual harassment, prostitution
3. Poverty
4. Persistent conflicts
5. Violence on TV and in film
6. Guns
7. Drugs, including tobacco and alcohol
8. Corporal punishment, leniency to criminals, capital punishment
9. Abortion, birth control
10. Suicide, legally assisted suicide, euthanasia
11. Animal rights, hunting and fishing, wearing furs, eating meat
12. Nuclear weapons and power
13. Genetic engineering, cloning, eugenics
14. Great wealth inequalities

1. Civil rights, human rights, discrimination, including via sexual preference

No existential issue; solely matters of form; therefore, at least in theory, resolvable.

Given equality, we should all have the right to live our lives as we please (within reasonable ethical constraints), and also the ability to fulfill our various needs. However, as was described earlier, a right is nothing if it is not won. The motivations to deny rights and equality are many, and must constantly be combatted.

The issues that are under consideration here reflect the problems that arise when the choices of the majority (or of those people in power, especially with media power), conflict with those of a minority or of individuals. For instance, some people have suggested that the society that yields the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people is the best. This is the so-called "greatest good" argument, and we can see clearly that it uses the end as the sole measuring stick. There is no consideration of the means, and it therefore supports a society that in achieving happiness for the many also yields great unhappiness, through oppression and even slavery, for the few. But this is not justice, or equality. Indeed, if the system is unjust, any individual has the right to rebel against it. The will of the majority, even a majority equal to the entire population less one, becomes a tyranny, if it is directed at forcing that one person to act in a way which deprives them of their rights or which causes them injury. You have a right to oppose that which you do not support, including fighting in a war, or the use of your taxes for such an effort, even to paying taxes at all, or to being a "national" or a "citizen."

"The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."

- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

For the members of groups that are the subject of discrimination, if to have their identity, to be black, or gay, or of an above average size, is not the end of their world, then why should it be the end of yours? Give them, and yourself, a break. Learn to see them as people, as individuals.

I would also comment here on the social consequences of sexual discrimination. Men have the power, but this is the power over our social institutions. Even though women have been forced to accept (for the time being) an inferior role in this regard, this does not mean that they are powerless. They recognize their subjugation, and use their will to fight back. In many societies women have the final say over the choice of a mate, and this is great power indeed. And, in relationships (heterosexual relationships) where men consciously or unconsciously subordinate their partners (or ignore them), women fight this as well. Their desire for equal status is the main factor behind the prevalence of power conflicts in these relationships. But in general they are not to blame for such conflicts. They simply refuse to be victims, and use their will to fight against it.

One could also say, because of this imbalance, which is so common, that as a species we are only just beginning to learn how to love.

In addition, one can make the case that men seek adventure to a greater extent than women, and that women want children more than men. Furthermore, the widespread production of children leads to a settled society. Our society is settled. Hence, women do have power, and they have exercised it, and through this gotten some of what they need.

For discrimination based on race, ethnicity, sex, age, etc., this is the end of the story, but additional complications, and forms, arise with obesity and homosexuality. For the first, the question must be asked: what does the fact that so many people in developed societies are seriously obese (or addicted to drugs or gambling or status) signify? What this represents is a lack of individual and social development. We are stagnating. We can feed ourselves; now what? The answer: eat more! We are not finding real ways to grow. Our focus on success rather than on knowledge has left us at a dead end.

Regarding homosexuality, it is a special case because it is viewed as a "non-traditional" or "non-standard" minority trait (compared to race, ethnicity, etc.). Because of this, different people react to it, and seek to explain it, and exploit it, in different ways. For example, some people, including many adherents of Christianity and Islam, view it as an "aberration" which must be "cured" (or at a minimum not tolerated). To them, homosexuality is a determined form, with genetic or environmental links. They do not allow for the possibility of will, i.e., that individuals could choose to be gay or, in those cases where it is a genetically or even environmentally based trait, that they would willingly accept this as part of their nature. These people are seeking to impose their form, their judgment, for whatever reasons, and this must be resisted. It is important to note that many societies around the world accept homosexuality openly, without any bias at all, and that this does not degrade their balance or the values of family. Also, if such people are successful in their attempts to manipulate us, to get us to view homosexuality as a "disease" which must be cured, by whatever means, this opens the way to labeling any personal characteristic as a problem, with a similar demand for its elimination.

(I would say, though, that the possibility of a link between the dumping of estrogen-like chemicals into the environment and the prevalence of homosexuality, and not only in our species, is deserving of serious study.)

2. Sexual harassment, prostitution

Solely matters of form. Harassment is in fact one of the clearest examples of form: it is the use of power and position to impose oneself on others. In the workplace it constitutes culpable, punishable abuse, as does "reverse" harassment, the accusing of someone who is innocent of such sexual advances to gain a personal end. The ethical challenge, of course, is to define harassment: to draw the line. This is because of the problem of subjectivity of perspective. (Also, as with political correctness, we can fight a form so hard that we create a new one in the process.) One guideline, though, which can be used, is the basic distinction between form and education. If I seek to impose on you, forcibly influence you to have sex with me, this is form, and harassment. On the other hand, if I make it clear to you that I am available, and that this is an excellent opportunity for you, to get together with me, but that I understand if you decline, then this is education and not harassment. (At this point the issue becomes one of the basic challenges of life: attracting a mate. It seems there is an existential side to it after all.)

Similarly, prostitution is also an issue of form. There is no fundamental basis for prohibiting anyone, man or woman, from sleeping with other people for money. However, and as we shall see with many of the other social issues, there are numerous forms attached to it as well. The first of these is that for many people selling their bodies is not a matter of will. Through harsh life circumstances they have either felt compelled, or been physically forced, to do so. In such cases engaging their services reinforces these forms. Also, even in those cases where people willingly choose to provide sex for payment, they still must deal with the many unavoidable consequences of their behavior. They expose themselves to violence, and disease, and they also put the satisfaction of their higher needs, and therefore critical aspects of their identity, at risk. This is because if you have sex with many, many people, you degrade your ability to form a strong, lasting bond with one person, and to give and receive love.

© Roland Watson 2016