When considering the current political landscape in the United States, a discussion of Psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg’s Six Stages of Moral Reasoning is particularly relevant. Have you heard of it? This theory identifies six different ways individuals make decisions and what influences that decision-making. The idea is that the higher up one is on the stages, the more advanced their approach to ethical decision-making and working for the greater good.
The stages are broken into three, with two-sub groups per stage. The stages are: Pre-Conventional, Conventional, and Post-Conventional.
Pre-Conventional (typical of children, some adults)
1. Obedience and Punishment Orientation “How do I avoid punishment?
2. Self-Interest Orientation “What’s in it for me?”
Conventional (generally adolescents and adults)
3. Interpersonal Accord and Conformity, adhering to social standards, “good girl/boy”, individuals are receptive to approval or disapproval to others as it reflects society’s view
4. Authority and Social Order – conforming to the rules, when someone violates the law, this view espouses they are morally wrong
Post-Conventional– Basic Human Rights, Liberty and Justice
5. Social Contract Orientation – those laws that do not promote the general welfare should be changed to bring the greatest good for the greatest number of people (democratic)
6. Universal Ethical Principles (Principled Conscience) – Laws are valid only as much as they are grounded in justice, there is an obligation to disobey unjust laws using Universal Ethical Principles – an individual acts because it is right for humanity
So, putting the protests in perspective, I would say protestors are guided by Universal Ethical Principles (#6). They act not because something necessarily benefits them directly per se, but because an unjust action is occurring that is hurting humanity.
When we look at what is going on with the administration, I observe lower levels of moral reasoning exhibited, like, say at a Level 2 (guided by self-interest), and notably, reasoning that is typically exhibited by children. That, my friends, is not very reassuring . . .
So, with this psychological framework let’s take a look a few happenings around the world of news . . .
Somehow a little news story by Reuters about a recent sale of twenty-percent of Rosneft, a Russian oil company to an unknown source, has barely made its way into the media.
“It is the largest privatization deal, the largest sale and acquisition in the global oil and gas sector in 2016,” Putin said.
It was also one of the biggest transfers of state property into private hands since the early post-Soviet years, when allies of President Boris Yeltsin took control of state firms and became billionaires overnight.
Have you come across this small bit of news in your various media sources? Something about a discussion that occurred about a property transfer after the lifting of certain sanctions against Russia . . . No one seems to know who the buyer is, as the sale has been cloaked in a series of nesting dolls . . . Who could the buyer(s) possibly be? I expect we will be hearing more about this in coming weeks . . .
Sally Yates, acting Attorney General was fired for refusing to defend Trump’s executive order banning refugees from immigrating from Muslim countries. She was clearly operating at a Post-Conventional moral reasoning level, and was fired because she refused to conform to executive orders (with her firing, the administration was operating from a position that could maybe be classified at a Level 4 (rule conformity), but this raises the issue of the validity of the rules and whose rules, so I would probably place this action, again, at a #2 (self-interest).
And now the hopeful. People acting on what they feel is right and just, even when their views are not validated by the government.
Donations to the ACLU reaching $24 million in one weekend after the executive order aimed at the muslim refugee ban was put in place. This, apparently, was six times the annual donations given to the organization in a year, AND the donations were given in one weekend. (Level 6. PERIOD!)
The National Park Service has a group of workers who refer to themselves as Alt National Park Service, and who are standing up to the administration (with a little ‘a’) to defend and protect our national treasures, even when ordered to do otherwise. Again, whose rules? Does a ruler’s view prevail over what is in the best interest of the larger society? Alt National Park Service, you ROCK! Definitely, LEVEL 6!
So, that is my short synopsis of moral development. For a more in-depth description of Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development Wikipedia has a good, detailed description.
So, keep on keeping on, you of the Level 6 Resistance . . . Someone’s gotta stand up to these tantrums . . .
Our inspiring song of the day is Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’s The Lion The Beast The Beat 🙂
Can’t stop the beat, can’t stop the beat,
Run, but you can’t hide from the heat
when life is a record, playing on repeat
I’m runnin’ wild with the lion, the beast, the beat . . .
Note: A a reminder that today is the last day to sign up for the Affordable Health Care Act “Obamacare.” An additional side note: the featured photograph I took at the Women’s March in Portland, Maine.