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Finding Our Moral Compass

I often feel that as a society we are morally adrift. In searching for clarity on morality, I have found three separate but interrelated values that together feel like they offer a strong grounding in guiding my life and making moral decisions. Read More

Movie Morals

I think one reason for a persistent nostalgia for the 40s (even though 85% of the population was born after 1950) evident, for example, in last summer's Captain America is the moral compass in the images and pop culture from that time. While the real 1940s in the US were deeply flawed, there truly was the sense that, for all our faults, when push comes to shove we're the good guys -- as when the far from perfect Rick Blaine does the right thing at the end of Casablanca. It's how we still would like to see ourselves but don't. It's hard to put such a character in a 21st century setting and make him credible.

A hero suitable for our time is Eddie Morra in the film Limitless who uses a street drug to enhance his mental abilities. Blackouts are a side effect of the drug, and during one he might have murdered a young woman. He can't quite remember and he doesn't care much either so long as he avoids criminal prosecution (which he does). It's not quite the same attitude as the Cap's, is it?

Interesting Point

I haven't seen Limitless, but will have to do so with this in mind. Thanks for the interesting reflection.


Moral Compass

I SO agree ad resonate with what you said.

To quote Elie Wiesel (one of the endorsers, to my amazement...of my book): "When good men do nothing, evil prevails." Sanctuary of the Soul

"Every man's death diminishes me."

I am more impressed by what someone has overcome, than by what they have accomplished."

Kind Regards, Alice (student at age 65, because I wrote about my life, and won a scholarship.

I think it is important to

I think it is important to examine both the role of our government in the decline of moral values and its inability to teach moral values. The structure of government is a terrible vehicle for teaching moral values, unless those values are “might makes right”. The government is far too often a negative force in the three areas you discuss (dignity, well-being, integrity).

Government is fundamentally incapable of teaching moral values. Those with the political skills necessary to gain power teach the version of morality that best suits their political needs. I bristled when Obama, after bin Laden was killed, said, “Today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people”. Killing is what makes this country great? USA!

What a government can do, to a certain extent, is lead by example. It must, at all times, strive to hold the moral high ground. American government currently fails miserably in this regard at every level. A brief look at our government – perpetual war, endless debt, torture, indefinite detentions without charges, assassination of citizens without trial, the criminal justice system etc… – clearly reveals its immorality. While we might disagree on what moral values should be taught, I doubt many see the US government as a blueprint for good behavior.

Our government is losing its legitimacy in the eyes of many citizens. You can see it on the left (OWS) the right (Tea Party) and in the countless non-political others who feel disconnected from a government that serves rich and powerful but in no way represents their values. I believe Gregg’s post strikes this tone to a certain degree as well.

The government deals with the world primarily through violence and the threat of violence. The government incarcerates citizens in horrendous conditions for victimless crimes like smoking marijuana. It is no surprise that people raised to look to their government for moral guidance (and to solve every problem they might have) would adopt similar morals. Obama recently began assassinating US citizens without due process. Not only did he have al-Awlaki killed, but two weeks later his 16 year old son was also killed (along with 8 others, merely “collateral damage”). Should we be surprised when US citizens adopt similarly flexible morals? If the president can ignore the Constitution because he knows he’s right…

The first step in building a foundation for teaching moral values is getting our government under control.

The Moral Compass Foundation

Try this list of fundamental principles from the Moral Compass Foundation

The Moral Compass

• Do no harm.

• Accept responsibility for personal actions and the consequences of those actions.

• Accept a duty of care.

• Affirm the individual’s right to self-determination.

• Put the truth first.

• Never use a person as merely an unconsenting means to an end, even if the end benefits others.

• Be honest.

• Honour agreements.

• Conduct relationships with integrity.

• Leave a positive legacy to future generations.

Moral Compass

Too funny - the Moral Compass project has a link to Dell Computer coupons at the bottom of their web page. I guess nobody is beyond the polar pull of consumerism.

The Moral Compass

This is a new one!

The Moral Compass Foundation runs on a zero budget as few people are interested in ethics and in order to put a free counter on the website so I can see if anyone is looking at it it apparently has a link!

This is what happens when there is no budget! The Foundation has been going now for over nine years and you are the first person that has ever noticed.


Adrian Bishop
The Moral Compass Foundation

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Gregg Henriques, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology at James Madison University.


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