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What is and what is right

March 29th, 2012

The general opinion about the world is that it is filled with corruption and misery. The noble intentions of “Kony 2012” were dimmed by the news that only 30 percent of the company’s income goes to the cause. A dark shadow was further cast over the cause when Jason Russell allegedly frolicked around in his underwear. Even when a good thing comes around, there is always something negative to be found. While malice and misfortune do exist, and on a frightening scale, what’s often overlooked is the presence of affection and pleasure all around us. Though some acknowledge this, its significance is often diminished. We are left teetering in an uncomfortable fissure where good and bad are tugging at our shirttails, complicating the decisions we make and the endeavors of our lives.

Species interaction is at the foundation of life. Actions generally either have good intentions or bad. Identifying the intention is half the battle. The other half is deciding what to do about it.

A difficulty the judicial system faces is its inability to objectify every action since all occurrences are subject to their context. Unfortunately, things we observe are too often interpreted as if existing in the same context that we do.

In order for those of us who are carnivores to eat, animals must die. The slaughter of cattle, chickens, pigs, etc. is repulsive to some people. Videos made by PETA have converted many a meat eater to vegetarianism by showing the brutality of the meat industry. Images of human vs. animal brutality are censored from (even fictional) films. This is wrongful death.

On Animal Planet, majestic and powerful lions and cheetahs are shown tackling the gracefully athletic gazelle and crushing its trachea with their powerful jaws until death. Five-year-olds watch these shows and they are educational. However, some turn their heads and shriek when they encounter a visualization of death or killing. “That’s so sad,” they exclaim. They see the gazelle as a victim and the large cat as a vicious murderer. But the lion is not malevolent. The cheetah has no vendetta against the gazelle. This killing is just life; an action required for the continuation of species.

What makes the killing for food seem so bad is the miscontextualization of the action. The offended view these deaths from a “civilized” human perspective. Murder is so prevalent that a rancorous impression of all death is ingrained in our minds. This imposition of falsely constructed intentions, emotions and norms to situations such as this cause a slew of false information to be created and spread.

It seems more understandable to misinterpret animal intentionality since we are so divorced from our own animal nature. The kicker is, we misconstrue behaviors of our own species far more often.

Perhaps our intimate immersion in the ways of our species serves to complicate the factors that must be considered when deciphering the maneuvers of our fellow homo sapiens. The introduction of social media only exacerbates this problem. Body language and vocal inflection are eliminated in Internet interactions. There are so many indicators and qualifiers that contribute to determining meaning that if some are neglected, significant interpretive accuracy is compromised.

It is sometimes easy to offer advice on a subject we are separated from. We can see the situation objectively and without emotion. We don’t read too much into things that those involved do. However, the all-encompassing perspective of one involved would lead to a better action in the end, if only emotional distress could be eliminated.

If the number of contexts is infinite, the possible interpretations are of equal number. The unreliability of our intuition is so vast that we might never be sure about anything. What are we left to do if we are so likely to be wrong?

The most secure course of action is defined not by procedure but by technique: do not be hasty to reach a conclusion. There will be more comfort and confidence felt in an ignorant, well-thought-out decision than an informed, quick one. Even though you might be wrong, you worked with the equipment you had and used it to it’s maximum potential. Being wrong isn’t so bad if you did what was right.