Friday, March 31, 2006

Let the Editing Begin!

Heading into the home stretch now with Small Magics. The editing process is underway, and the publisher wants it done for Christmas for a 2007 release. Almost seems like enough time.

I'm very excited, though somewhat worried about time management. Aside from Small Magics, I have another book I need to start pre-publication editing (meaning editing before sending it off to the publisher), another I need to finish writing, a novel I'm turning into a play that I need to finish adapting, and another book (non-fition) in the pre-proposal stages.

Oh, yeah, and I'm unemployed at the moment. Imagine what my time is going to be like when I'm working for a living.

Still, I'm very happy. Here's hoping for good editing, good results, and that everyone out there buys a copy. And by everyone I mean all six billion people on the planet. Not just the dozen or so that read this blog.

I should really install a counter.

Back to work.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Down with Morality Part 2 - Morality Laws and what to replace them with

A morality law is a law written specifically to prevent a behaviour that members of the community feel uncomfortable with, or believe to be against God's will, or against public standards of decency, or against whatever uptight feelings they have on a specific day.

Interestingly enough, some morality laws are kept on the books long after their original purpose has vanished. For example, in Toronto, you need a permit showing you live in the area to park your automobile on the street over night. This was originally a morality law that kept unmarried individuals from staying overnight at the homes of other unmarried individuals. Since that time, it has become a huge cash cow for the city, and the only way to keep neighbourhoods from clogging up with unwanted parking congestion.

But I digress.

I have said before (see previous post) that I stopped believing in morality, and instead believe people should focus on behaving ethically. The same, I believe, applies to the law. So how does one change from morality laws to ethical laws?

In my mind, the ethical approach is to have laws deal with harm. In looking at an action, rather than saying whether or not the action is moral, determine whether or not the action causes harm, which Merriam-Webster's dictionary of law defines as: loss of or damage to a person's right, property, or physical or mental well-being.

Now (and let us brace ourselves for the reactions of the narrow-minded), most morality laws are about sex; who should be allowed to have sex, when they should be allowed to have sex, how they should be allowed to have sex, and whether or not they should be allowed to create images of themselves or others having sex, and whether or not anyone should be allowed to look at those images.

Many of the laws currently in place are arbitrary, poorly thought out, and designed to keep specific groups--usually young people or gay people--from engaging in sexual behaviour. This is done not because of evidence indicating that these groups having sex causes harm, but rather because the people making the laws are afraid or disgusted or otherwise misguided as to how these laws should be written.

If these laws are changed to no longer reflect what people think is "moral," and are instead based on whether or not an action causes harm, things become much simpler. Here's the basics:

If two (or more) individuals, capable of informed consent (that is, understanding what they are agreeing to) engage in consensual sexual activities of any type, then there is no harm involved, and those activities should be legal.

If a person (or persons) who is capable of informed consent forces another person who is capable of informed consent into non-consensual sexual activity, or engages in sexual activity with a person who is not capable of informed consent (unable to understand what they are agreeing to), or uses a position of trust, authority or dependency to influence another person to engage in sexual activity, or sexually exploits another individual for profit, those activities cause harm, and should be illegal.

Interestingly enough, in Canada, the laws about sex (that is, heterosexual sex) are written specifically to deal with the possibility of harm. For the most part they seem reasonable. However, section 159 blocks young homosexuals from enjoying the same rights as are extended to heterosexual couples. This section has been declared unconstitutional in the appeals court of Ontario and Quebec, and one would hope will eventually be struck down across Canada.

In the USA, on the other hand, laws vary from state to state. In other countries, other laws prevail. In some places, sex outside of marriage is a death penalty offence. In many more, homosexuality is the same. Many people have been imprisoned or put to death, not based on proof that their behaviours are wrong, but because someone else believes them to be. "Morality" is used as a tool for repression and control.

So, down with morality. Let us embrace ethics. Who knows, we might all just be better for it.

Back to work.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Down with Morality: Part 1 - Language Issues

Every time I hear people talking of "Morals," I get nervous.

I have heard people use the word "moral" to define actions that I believe are reasonable. I have also heard those on the opposite theirs are the moral actions and ours are immoral. I have heard about immorality of gay marriage, about the morality of George Bush. I have read of the immorality of women in the workplace, whites marrying blacks, Christianity, Non-Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Yoga, Meditation, the lower classes, the upper classes, the middle class, and the list goes on.

"Morality" has become just another buzz word; a tool used by those of those who wish to force their world view on others. Its meaning changes with the time, the speaker and the location.

So let's stop being moral. Instead, let's be ethical.

Now, "moral" and "ethical" are really not that far apart in meaning. If you look in a dictionary (and I did) you discover that moral and ethical are considered synonyms, and that some of their definitions are fairly similar:

Moral: 1. Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character:" moral scrutiny; a moral quandary." 2. Teaching or exhibiting goodness or correctness of character and behavior: "a moral lesson." 3. Conforming to standards of what is right or just in behavior; virtuous: "a moral life." 4. Arising from conscience or the sense of right and wrong: "a moral obligation." 5. Based on strong likelihood or firm conviction, rather than on the actual evidence: "a moral certainty."

Ethical: 1. of or relating to the philosophical study of ethics; ethical codes 2. conforming to accepted standards of social or professional behavior; an ethical lawyer 3. adhering to ethical and moral principles; "it seems ethical and right"; "followed the only honorable course of action"; "had the moral courage to stand alone"

The interesting thing for me is that "goodness," "right," "just," and "conscience" all appear in the definitions of "moral." All these words describe things that are subjective and personal. Further, according to the fifth definition, a person does not need evidence that their actions are right or just or good, they just have to have a firm conviction. If a person thinks an action is right, then taking that action is a moral thing to do. This means that the man who walks a girl through the crowd of anti-choice protesters to an abortion clinic and the man that blows up that clinic are both acting morally, each according to his definition of the word.

The definition of "ethical" on the other hand, contains none of those subjective words (though it does contain the word "moral," which shows how the words have been used interchangeably) Instead it talks of "accepted standards of... behaviour" and "principals." Of course, these words bring up their own difficulties. What are "accepted standards of behaviour?" Each culture is different. Each family is different. What seems acceptable to one group is certainly unacceptable to another. How do we judge?

Well, a friend of mine who knows far more about religion than I do, pointed out that "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is not a moral statement, it is an ethical one. This statement, known as "The Golden Rule" appears in almost every major religion in the world. It does not judge the person you are facing, it does not decide whether their behaviour is right or wrong, it does not question the value of that other person's beliefs or code of conduct. It very succinctly says how we should behave towards other people: as we would like them to behave towards us.

So, let us stop worrying about being moral. Let us instead worry about being ethical. We will all get along better.

Part two: "morality laws" and what to replace them with, coming soon.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Afghanistan

I believe in the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.

With the deaths of several Canadian soldiers, there's been a lot of questions raised about our mission; some new, some old. I'll address four of them:

  • What is Canada doing in Afghanistan?
  • Should Canadian troops be there?
  • Should they be engaging in the more combat-oriented missions?
  • Isn't our presence there just freeing up US troops for Iraq?

Before I weighed in I wanted to have some idea what I was talking about, so I went looking and found the Canada in Afghanistan website. I suggest you visit it, too. Reading the information there made me realize that we are doing what we have done since the second world war: building peace. The role is difficult. Afghanistan has been a war zone since the Soviet invasion in 1979. After them came the Taliban, terrorism, and finally, civil war supported by Canadian, US and other troops. The country is a mess.

Canada and the international community are now working to clean up the debris of war and make certain it doesn't happen again. We are cleaning up landmines. We are supplying food to the needy. We are helping to build infrastructure and local business. We are working with local police and courts to create a judicial system that works and is enforceable. We are working to disarm the militias and help the members return to society, and we are making progress.

So, my answers to the questions above:

What is Canada doing in Afghanistan?
From the website: "The Government of Canada's main objective is to help Afghanistan to become a stable, democratic and self-sustaining state that never again serves as a terrorist haven. To this end, Canada is working with other countries, the UN, NATO and various international organizations to provide the security and stability necessary for the implementation of multilateral and bilateral development programs in Afghanistan, to ensure a systematic reconstruction of the country and to rebuild its economic, political and judicial institutions."


Should Canadian troops be there?
In my opinion, yes. We helped start the war that overthrew the Taliban, we helped to create the system that brought the new government into power. To leave now would be to abandon our responsibilities, damage our international reputation, and undermine the very important work that is being done in Afghanistan.

Should they be engaging in the more combat-oriented missions?
Unfortunately, yes. Part of peacekeeping is preventing those who would disrupt the peace from doing so, and in this case, that means searching out the remaining Taliban and Al-Qaida fighter in Afghanistan.

Isn't our presence there just freeing up US troops for Iraq?
No. When George Bush invaded Iraq, he did pull troops from Afghanistan to do so. He would have done this whether or not Canadians were there, and in doing so, made a very serious mistake. The war in Iraq is one of the biggest obstacles to peace in the middle east right now. The US is being seen as an ineffective bully who does not have the will or strength to hold the country or to leave it peace (as opposed to in pieces, which seems to be happening). Afghanistan, by contrast, was a chance for the US to show that it could help the people of the region; that it would not abandon its allies like it did in the 1980's following the collapse of the Soviet Union. George Bush could not see this. He could not understand that, by building peace in Afghanistan, he could salvage the US reputation in the middle east, and gain respect both from allies and enemies.

We are needed in Afghanistan, and we need to stay there until the job is done. And yes, it may take ten years. If we commit to Afghanistan, if we help rebuild the nation, we will do far more to bring about peace and end terrorism than the so-called "War on Terror."

So that's my opinion on the matter. While you think about yours, why not take some time and write a message to our men and women in uniform? They'd love to know you are thinking about them.

Back to work.

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