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Sense of rightness: a double-edged sword

기사승인 2017.12.04  13:26:12

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The world is full of rules, kept in place by clear rewards and punishments. For example, an average person would not commit murder because he or she is afraid of the law. However, it is not only the fear of police force that stops a person from taking someone else’s life. Many coil away from the idea of murder simply because it is not right. Also, when a thief is caught he or she is criticized not only because the action of stealing itself was illegal, but also because theft is deemed inherently ‘wrong’ in itself. In this way, an internalized sense of right and wrong keep the human race on the right track, most of the time.
What about the other times, though, when such sense of rightness proves a curse rather than a blessing?
Think back to the early 19th century, when the British women were fighting for the right to vote that the other half of the humanity took for granted. Those who frowned upon these activists’ demands as ‘nonsense’ were following their own natural sense of right and wrong; for them it was simply not the way things worked, all these women making troubles and bringing evil to the society. In a similar way, many white slaveholders thought that keeping an abundance of African slaves working in their fields was merely the normal thing to do. For those people are an ‘inferior’ race, and anyway, without them who would get anything done?
It is true that those who supported the women’s suffragette movement and advocated slave emancipation were also following their own moral beliefs. If it was not for those people who were willing to go up against the majority simply because it felt right to do so, the world may still be seeing a severely limited number of people enjoying political and physical freedom. At the same time, it cannot be denied that many have often confused what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ with what is ‘familiar’ and ‘unfamiliar.’ Such confusion obstructs positive change; one may think that he or she is being incredibly logical and moral by going against something, when the truth is that he or she is just uncomfortable with a new concept. 
Thus, the sense of rightness is a double-edged sword. It keeps the world sane, but at the same time it fuels the strongest waves of insanity. Friends, families and sometimes even entire societies fall apart because some people are just not ready to give up what they think is the right thing to do without really thinking about their reasons. Of course, it may be extremely difficult to provide a minutely detailed and logical explanation as to why one should not commit a murder. Some things may be morally self-evident. However, we should stop to think before jumping to hasty conclusions. We should always be careful when wielding the double-edged sword.

Ewha Voice evoice@ewha.ac.kr

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