Dad, how do we make the world a better place?

Wow, that’s a big question.

Thanks Dad.

But it’s a wrong question to ask.

Hmm…, why? That’s what we talked about in school today

I wish they taught you more concrete and effective things about the world in school. But anyway, let me explain. Question – what is “the world”?

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This planet, and all the people on it.

Okay. Are all people the same?

No, each person is different.

Right, each one of us is totally unique, with different desires, needs and thoughts. So, what do you mean by “making the world a better place”? better for whom? better in what way?

I don’t know – safer, richer, more advanced?

Okay, how do you know that all people want to be safer or richer or more advanced?

I assume that being safer and richer is better for everyone.

Why do you assume that? I know a lot of people that are perfectly fine risking their lives every day in car racing and enjoy it, I know people that won’t like to be richer and are perfectly fine where they are. So who are you to decide for them that the world needs to be safer or that everyone needs to be richer?

I was just assuming it’s good for everyone.

You can’t assume those kind of things. Forget about the world, I don’t even know what is good for you and you don’t know what is good for me. Each of us is so different, that assuming anything about what will make them happier, is false by definition.

So how does one know what is good for him?

Now that is a very valid question and a hard one to answer.

If you want to know how to become happier, you’ll have to know yourself really well and discover what are those things that make you happy. The best way to know, is think about how you react to things – what pleases you, what makes you uncomfortable, what bores and what excites you. Those are important signals to who you are and what makes you tick. Those things are hints to the life you should aspire to live.

You mean, like the way I get excited about a new Manga book?

Exactly, that fact that you like Manga drawings says something about you. I don’t understand what you find in those cartoons, but that doesn’t matter and you shouldn’t care about what I think about Manga – this is your thing and you should explore it all the way.

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So you think I should be a Manga artist?

First, it doesn’t matter what I think. You should be the one deciding about that. Secondly, you need some time alone to think about what it is that you specifically find exciting, are those the drawings, or characters or the storylines, or maybe it is something else?

Understanding exactly what you like and how to go about getting more of it, is one of the toughest things for a person to figure out. For some people it is very obvious, people usually say “they were born to do that” about them. You should discover what you were born to do and what will bring you the most happiness.

But what if what I like is not productive or regarded as important? what if I just like to play games?

My suggestion is not to accept other people’s standards to what is considered “productive” or “important”. Someone is making a very good living from drawing those Manga books, and creating the games you’re playing with, right? Is that “important”?

It’s important for me.

Right, and I guess it is important for him or her as well. So disregard what other people say and just do your thing. Many people “decide” on what they are going to be without thinking about who they really are, what they are good or bad at. You shouldn’t be a businessman if business doesn’t interest you, and you shouldn’t be a doctor if curing people is boring to you. You should take the time to understand yourself and then do what you can to build yourself the right life that will make you the happiest you can be.

If everyone followed that advice – the world will be a better place – one person at a time. No one could or should “make this world a better place” for anyone other than him or herself – if they tell you otherwise, they want something from you.

So I need to think about what I truly like?

Yes. Understanding that is a key to happiness.

Okay Dad. I’ll think about it.

You do that. The time just before you fall asleep is a great time to think about it.

That means I need to go to sleep now?

I guess so.

Good night Dad.

Good night my dearest.

 


“Dad, is abortion immoral?”

Why are you asking?

I saw a billboard saying “Abortion is murder” and I couldn’t decide what to think about it.

You chose a complex one, but I think it is great that you think about those things. So let’s see if we can break it down together.

There is a presumable conflict between the right of a mother to her own body and the right of the fetus to live. On one hand, the mother can decide to abort the pregnancy because it is her body and the fetus is part of it.

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But isn’t that murder Dad? It is killing a human being…

You’re running too fast. Murder of what? What is a human being? It is important to define those first because  wrong definitions of  terms and concepts are the root to the errors most people make. Back to the conflict – is it correct to assume the mother has a right to her own body?

Yes, but she has another life inside her body, it is not just about her any more.

Right. So we have to consider if the embryo or fetus has a right to its own life.

Why “consider”? It is a living thing,  it has a right to live.

This is the root of the issue. The presumable conflict between the right of the mother and the right of the embryo.

Let’s discuss the embryo or fetus. Does an unborn fetus have rights? If you remember, we’ve discussed where rights come from.

I remember. It is what we need to protect in order for people to live a human life in a society. Life, freedom and property.

And those are reserved to humans only. So the question we need to answer is – “Is an unborn baby a human being in a social context?”. Rights did not come from a god or a government, it came from the nature and requirements of human beings living rationally and peacefully together. A fetus does not live together with anyone yet, it is part of the mother’s body.

It will become a human being if we let it develop.

True, but that is not the test it has to pass in order to have rights. The fetus is not a human being yet, it is still a potential and we can’t hold potential as a standard. It will create a contradiction and…

…contradictions don’t exist in reality. I know and I agree. But why can’t we regard the potential as a standard?

Because in reality only actions count, not potential. If we held potential as a standard, we’d have to give straight A’s to the most intelligent kid in the class without testing him or her, or let the best football team  win the championship before the season starts – all because of their potential. The actual reality is what counts and this is why the embryo is not considered a human being yet, and therefore it doesn’t have the rights of a human being.

So when does it become a human being?

Nature has given us a very well defined standard. It happens when the fetus becomes a separate organism – when it comes out of the mother and is separated from her while taking its first breath. At that exact moment its human rights kick in and nobody should be allowed to harm him or her in any way.

This is why abortion is not immoral if the mother decides on it rationally and murder has nothing to do with it because the fetus doesn’t have rights.

But with technology you can take a fetus out of the mother much earlier and keep it alive as a separate organism.

Technology has nothing to do with the moral principle involved. The mother has the right to her own body and the fetus is her property until it it is separated from her. No one has the right to do anything against the mother’s decision and it is perfectly legitimate for her to decide to have an abortion at any given point before the actual birth.

So the fetus doesn’t count at all? It is terrible to think about ending the life of a fetus.

It is a tormenting thing to decide on because the fetus has a huge value, especially to the mother and father who might see in it a potential to become one of a human life’s greatest values – a child. But in some cases having an abortion is the logical, rational thing to do because there are other values to consider.

What could be more important that a life of a baby?

Remember, I said the life of an unborn baby. It’s important to make that distinction.

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Let me give you an example which is less trivial than the case of a deformed or sick fetus. Let’s say that a young couple that did not marry yet has an unexpected pregnancy. Both the mother and father are unprepared to be parents, they are in school preparing for their careers and they’re not even sure that they are going to stay together.

Now, it is hard to estimate or quantify the price this couple is going to pay if society forces them to have the baby. A life with an unwanted child is not the same life anymore. Even if they give it up for adoption there is an enormous psychological price to pay for the rest of their lives. The course of their entire lives will change including the option to become more independent and to have a child when they are ready for it. There are millions of lives destroyed because of unwanted pregnancies not being aborted due to the current morality in our society.

Society should have no say in this case. This is an individual decision by the mother as it is her property. This is why the sign you saw is wrong and dangerous. If we accept the right of society to force the mother not to have an abortion, we will find it impossible to morally defend many other basic individual rights and freedom.

I guess it is the mother’s decision after all. But it still very sad.

It is sad and this is why we should carefully plan our actions to prevent those cases. The irony is that the some of the same people preaching against abortion also preach against birth control. But that is another topic.

I have something to tell you. I think you just proved that you’re ready for it.

What is it Dad?

Your mother and I decided to have an abortion 5 years before we had you.

Really?

Yes, and it is the smartest decision we ever made. We were not ready for a child back then.

And you got to have me…

And I got to have you.

I love you kid.

I love you Dad.


“Dad, are you an extremist?”

Why do you ask, kiddo?

Well, I was arguing with some friends in school and they said I am an extremist and that my ideas are too radical and one-sided.

Interesting point.
You know, whenever you’re confused about a term, the best thing to do is look at the dictionary. After all, every word in our language is a concept trying to describe a specific characteristic of something and to distinguish it from all other concepts.
The word “extreme” stands for a high degree of something in relation to an average or the ordinary. It is easy to understand the meaning of extreme temperature, size, power, etc. The problem that it doesn’t tell us anything about how good or bad that degree is.

Why not? Isn’t extreme always a bad thing?

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Is extreme health bad? is moderate sickness good?
Is extreme intellect bad? and what about extreme stupidity?
In some areas in life like nutrition, exposure to the sun and physical exercise, moderation is good. But in others, the more extreme, the better. The word extreme or extremist by itself says nothing about the value of the thing measured although this term is abused today to describe something negative.

Hmm… so what about holding extreme views or opinions?

The problem with what your friends told you is that extreme ideas are somehow negative. Let’s think about it for a second. If an idea is correct and positive, what can be bad about holding that extreme view? What can be wrong about extremely advocating human freedom? Is it bad to have extreme integrity? To be extremely honest or productive? No.

The worst thing about society today, and especially politicians who represent the common view, is that they praise the ordinary, the moderate and the compromise. If someone holds a non compromising or radical view, there must be something wrong about it.

Reality is extreme. It has unequivocal laws that are consistant and eternal. So if we hold ideas that represent reality, we should be as extreme as possible and as principled as possible. We should be extremely consistant – same as reality.

So are you an extremist?

I am an extremist in my principles. I am an extreme advocate of rationality, of justice, of independence, of integrity and honesty.
I am against people that are moderates in their ideas, those who compromise irrationally, who think that the middle of the road, the center and the ordinary have any virtue.
Radical, principled people are the ones driving our society forward. They do not compromise and they are extremists if you compare them to the ordinary men today. They live their lives to the maximum and I hope you will live an extreme life.

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Good point. So I’m not giving up. I’ll continue to argue with them till they realize they’re wrong.

Don’t waste too much time on it. Some people will never get it.

Okay Dad.

Good night dear. Have extremely sweet dreams.