In private life, no one can help who they really are, but in public life, everything is politics, so who you are in public life is your life project, it is your art. It is a constructed self. Sorry to break it to you. The politics thing, I mean. Now, I don’t mean the type of politics where you turn on your TV and a bunch of rich people are talking over each other and lying openly at each other’s faces – at least not exclusively – but Aristotle’s “Ethics” or Hannah Arendt’s “The Human Condition”.
What you do in your life is the ultimate statement of your beliefs. Actions speak louder than words. What you choose to do with your life is your legacy. Forgetting this allows people who are petty and selfish to gain control of our political systems, because they understand politics better than us, and that’s saying something because they’re absolutely useless. And it’s also what allows people to cheat on their partners, to steal, etc.
If you make a choice that goes against your own beliefs, it is more likely you’ll make that choice again. It’s okay if you aren’t perfect, it’s only human. But, we could all be better. I assume. I wouldn’t prescribe anything on the entire human race. The reason we are the most fit species, in a Darwinian sense, is our diversity. The tendency to tell other people what to do is the seed of a virulent thought that leads to one culture destroying all others and making the human race less fit to survive, like how we’re all going to die of climate change or war, because we need to keep the banks going. But I digress.
In order to gain control of your own life you could take time to acquaint yourself with your ethics. Having a philosophical scaffolding to your life allows you to meet every situation with a clear head. Then you are free to do what you want, because as long as you understand your ethics, you will want to do things that make the World better. It’s a consequence of really understanding how to be an ethical person.
It makes sense that every person think of themselves first. Without a self, a person is very ineffective in the World, and so all the good works you have planned depend very much on your existence. Beyond that, the family is first. Then the community, and then the World. A great person makes decisions globally because they understand that they are a part of the entire history of the human race, and because this way their personal choices by necessity benefit the World. At least, that is my hypothesis, up for peer review (you’re the peers).
What this means practically is that since philosophy is rigorous, that is to say logically sound, a philosophical understanding of your ethics leaves you little room to fail yourself by cheating and gives you a path for what you really want in life. It’s like a math equation. In fact, you can take logical arguments and treat them like algebra. But let’s not do math right now.
As an example, if you decide that you will never lie, then people will hear your inner truth and will be better able to give you what you really want in life. Some people hear this and they are rude to the people they love. That’s not honest, that’s condescending. If you’re honest with yourself, you know you want your life to be pleasant and full of love, and then you see you can no longer afford to have thoughts about people that you would be ashamed to say to their face, lest you face the consequences. All this of course is approximately true in real life, we’re not all Jesus.
When you face a dilemma in life with no clear solution, you can let your ethics make the decision for you, and you won’t have to worry about having made the wrong choice. When you face a situation that genuinely forces you to break your ethics, you could, if you’re open, experience a paradigm shift in thought and evolve your ethics and your life project.
All this is a bit of a tangent, because what I really want to do is present you with a case study of ethics in action:
Some people in Canada are upset about the Muslim ban in the United States, a ban that prohibits people from six different Islam-majority countries from staying in the country. It is a terrible thing to happen to Americans and refugees alike. But here in Canada, years ago, a law passed that says that my kid, if I had one, could be deported to El Salvador if they broke the law. This, even if they were born in Canada and had never visited El Salvador. That means your kids too, people who were born somewhere else.
Of the people who spend all their time decrying the evils of America, there are some who don’t know there is a law that makes immigrants second-class citizens for two generations. What do you think about people who allow human rights crimes to be written into law here where they could make a change, and exert all their energy in other people’s business, where they have no power to make change? I’d offer that the effect of their actions is that nothing changes. They read about America because it’s more fun than Canadian politics, and so Canadian politicians get away with murder. That’s putting other countries first, and before we think about the World, we have to think about our country.
I hope the immigrants to Canada will do their civic duty and bring the wisdom they learned from their cultures to bear on what happens to Canada from here on out. We, who can’t take our home for granted, can show the best of our cultures by living the best parts of our traditions, by leading by example. This country is teetering towards becoming more like the United States, but Canada has its own identity, and we clearly like it better than the one down South, otherwise we wouldn’t be here, right? Remember, what we do at this moment in history will determine what the Latino Canadian identity will be for generations to come.