On vice and virtue


On the whole, men are more good than bad; that, however, isn’t the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill.

Albert Camus, The Plague

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

18 thoughts on “On vice and virtue

  1. judyt54 says:

    Im tempted to say, ‘define ignorance”. A child is ignorant of the world, but only dangerous with a crayon and a white wall.
    A blind man is ignorant of color, but only a danger to himself if he chooses to walk without a cane or nearby help.
    Ignorance is often used as an excuse for bad behavior: “He shouldn’t be blamed, he didn’t know the difference’. Or, “it’s not her fault, she was only trying to help.”

    But it can go both ways, and in reading that passage carefully, I get the strong sense that Camus was inadvertantly describing our fearless leader, all too closely. But that ignorance is born of arrogance, and instability. Is that the same?

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    • makagutu says:

      A child is ignorant of the world, but only dangerous with a crayon and a white wall.

      This causes no harm.
      If you have time, you can watch this movie. Ignorance that leads to death is what he finds is a problem.

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  2. basenjibrian says:

    Ignorance is also a matter of will. We CHOOSE to be ignorant of consequences, causes, factors. Heck, I would argue that modern capitalism depends on ignorance. Would we choose to eat chicken if we were really, unavoidably faced with the conditions in battery raised poultry farms? Consumerism is based on not fully recognizing conditions and consequences.

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    • makagutu says:

      Consumerism is based on not fully recognizing conditions and consequences

      Exactly. We are ignorant of the shitty conditions those that produce our garments in say Indonesia work as long as we get our garments cheap.

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    • Barry says:

      Unfortunately for the least well off, it’s either cheap goods made under inhumane conditions or go without. They literally can’t afford to be moralistic about what they purchase. I’m fortunate to be able to choose not to consume battery raised chicken, eggs or pork, or wear clothing from sources where exploitation might be an issue. I can choose to purchase a pair of casual shoes made by people earning a living wage ($20 an hour in NZ) for $150 instead of a similar pair from a parallel importer for $12 made in a sweatshop where the workers earn as little as a $1 per day or even less.

      It’s not always ignorance at play. Those in desperate conditions are often choosing the lesser evil, balancing personal needs against the needs of others. Admittedly I don’t have any friends/acquaintances who are hard up, but one or two have experienced hard times in the past. They’ve told me they’ve felt unease buying products that have probably been made through exploitative situations, but at the time justified their purchase by thinking that even though the workers might have been paid a pittance, what would be the alternative if there was no factory work available. Starvation? Crime? Prostitution?

      On the other hand, there are many well off individuals who don’t think twice about getting the “best deal” possible regardless of what it costs others in terms of health, wealth or freedom. Modern capitalist consumerism depends on training the population to think of self above others and discourages ethics when making purchase decisions. Even I, as an autistic with no concept of social ranking and has tried all my life to live by the principles of SPICES (Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Stewardship), have have on occasions found myself, like a hare caught in headlights, mesmerised by the powerful marketing machine of modern commerce. It often takes considerable conscious effort to break free.

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      • judyt54 says:

        People who kill deliberately and without apparent rational thought involved (beyond “my god says it’s permitted”) are using the excuse of their god to do what they want to do. If their god has been endowed with murderous tendencies, then, wow, so will its believers. We give our gods permission to give US permission to behave badly.

        Then we get to blame the god, or the devil, for all of it.

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        • Barry says:

          I’m not sure why you’ve brought up the subject of gods, or killing. I was responding to basenjibrian’s comment on consumerism. Where’s the connection?

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      • judyt54 says:

        It’s the way race horses sometimes have to wear blinders, so they can finish a race without taking out the horse that’s “chasing” them. They have to be kept deliberately ignorant of the possiblities thundering down the track behind or beside them.

        If you want to raise a society of violent people, you equip them with blinders, and tell them what they need to hear, to keep them that way. They see it as protecting themselves from dangerous enemies who probably aren’t dangerous at all.

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      • makagutu says:

        SPICES (Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Stewardship),

        This is a good way to live.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. judyt54 says:

    Everyone’s ignorance is different: if you’re a raiser of chickens, or rabbits, or beef animals, your reality and truth is far far different from mine.
    I used to be friends with a woman who raised bunnies for food. Cute, wiggly noses, soft little ears. She would hug them all and say, “which one of you wants to be part of dinner tonight?”

    Recognizing conditions and consequences varies from person to person. I prefer to not have too much reality on my hamburger, even though I KNOW what it is. If we all faced the realities of what nourishes us, or protects us, or dies for our toxic illnesses, it wouldn’t help matters a bit, and we would still need to eat, and be sheltered or protected, or kept alive in some way.
    Definitely, a choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      I think for Camus, the question really was ignorance such that leads to the taking of another human life. For example those who think they have the right religion and can kill those who believe differently. It is really a question of ignorance.

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