“Of all tyrannies a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
– Clive Staples Lewis
There are many forces in the world that attempt to regulate and control the activities of the individual human being. Nation-states, religious institutions, legal courts and municipalities are just a few examples of these forces. These various concentrations of power are an attempt to keep us from destroying each other during the course of our daily lives. Sometimes they work in this endeavor. Sometimes they just clean up the mess that’s left behind after we exert our free will. Sometimes these institutions make things worse.[su_pullquote]Moral Turpitude A phrase used in Criminal Law to describe conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty, or good morals.[/su_pullquote]
Crimes involving moral turpitude have an inherent quality of baseness, vileness, or depravity with respect to a person’s duty to another or to society in general. Examples include rape, forgery, robbery, and solicitation by prostitutes.
Many jurisdictions impose penalties, such as deportation of Aliens and disbarment of attorneys, following convictions of crimes involving moral turpitude. The idea of what constitutes moral turpitude and how an individual should be punished for engaging in such behavior changes drastically depending on time and place. A gay man in Russia in 2014 may be punished with a beating or by having containers of human urine poured over his head. It’s true. I watched a documentary containing video evidence last night. A gay man in Afghanistan is likely to face little to no backlash. They reckon the year differently over there, and that man probably won’t admit he is gay, but in the time and space I’m referring to it is perfectly fine for two men to copulate as long as they don’t talk about it publicly. Today in the United States a gay man can get married to another gay man in some places. Here we are – the human race – spinning through space on a ball of rock. And somewhere in Africa a gay man is being killed for being gay.
You’d find lots of people who, if interviewed, would passionately claim that being gay or engaging in homosexuality is a crime of moral turpitude. You’d find another large swath of humanity that would argue the exact opposite. I fall into that category. I feel no physical or sexual attraction to my own sex. On the other hand I have to ask myself how something consensual can be wrong. Human beings who engage in consensual behavior that doesn’t harm anyone else are not engaging in moral turpitude.
That’s where things tend to get fuzzy. Some people think they are being harmed if you do something they disagree with. If you do something that offends them. If you engage in behavior that they themselves wouldn’t engage in. These people are wrong. Human freedom is more important than your personal moral code. Human freedom is more important than your personal agenda. Human freedom is more important than anything you believe in.
When a human individual engages in behavior that makes you uncomfortable you always have the option to disengage. The only exceptions are when an individual perpetrates force or fraud against others. These are nonconsensual activities. You have every right to defend yourself in such cases. I study the communities and power bases in the world around me on a daily basis. I watch the ways that my fellow humans attempt to exert unnecessary control over one another. I spend a lot of time thinking about moral turpitude and my own moral compass.
I’ve made a million mistakes in my life to date. Engaged in a million choices that could have been improved upon. I’m probably guilty of lots of moral turpitude according to the people who decide that sort of thing. I am fortunate enough to have been born in a society that has mostly supported my ability to learn from each action, decision and mistake I’ve made without locking me in a cage, torturing me or stoning me to death.
I’m still allowed to exercise my free will and to publish my thoughts. These freedoms are gifts I don’t want to squander. They lead me to a mental plane where I spend a lot of time reflecting on the idea that I should be contributing to the evolution of personal freedoms in every human society I am able to engage with.
Moral turpitude. It’s not worth much if you use it to censor or censure people who aren’t harming others. Which leads me back to the quote at the top of this piece of writing. I won’t force my conscience on you unless you are directly harming others. Can you say the same?