Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

Optimism and low expectations sound like an unlikely pair, but if you think about it, would be unbeatable together. A realistic view of human limitations and of the Second Law, coupled with a powerful radioactive pebble of unreasonable hope. Simplicity, truth, and gratitude for the air and the sun and the seals I saw two weeks ago at Montauk Point. That's who I want to be.

The Spectacle is the best part of me; it is almost enough. It is your email which makes it so rewarding. I can be reached as always at jw@bway.net.--Jonathan Wallace

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I have recently read one your recent article, "Morality and Truth." Though I found it interesting and quite insightful, there are many things I do not agree with you in your essay.

In the essay, you have made it clear that morality does not exist independently from each of us. You claim that it is more of a subjective truth or lies internally. But you have also stated that humans are not wired for morality. If human nature dictates our incapacity to be moral, then how can it be possible to derive morality within us? Are we not attempting to do something that cannot be possibly done due to the limitations of our human nature? You cannot ask a fish to walk on dry land or pigs to fly because it is impossible according to what they are. It would be the same case if we ask a human to be moral or derive morality within them if you say our nature limits that very capability.

You stated that we, at most, would enjoy rulebooks instead. First, where would they be derived? If it were derived within us, then we would be, at some sense, a potentially moral being. But you do not assume that we are, which I have pointed out in the beginning. Second, if we do allow into acceptance that we are not wired for morality, then why would we enjoy a rulebook when it contradicts who we truly are? It is like telling us humans that we should live underwater. It would make more sense to be happier if we lived in an environment that appeals to our nature. So, if we are not moral beings, then we would not at all, enjoy or want to be subjected to a moral rulebook.

If we are not wired for morality, then why do we attempt to be moral? It would seem futile and stupid to try to become someone that we cannot ever become or try to derive something within us that cannot be there. But what compelled you to write about a subject that does not necessarily exist...unless you believe that morality does, in fact, exist? If you believe that it does exist, then the argument you brought forth would not fit. Morality would only exist if we were somehow a being capable of being moral.

Your rulebook seeks to be subjective but it did not seem to accomplish that task. Utilitarianism was one of the principles that were included in your rulebook. The principle of utility is not based upon things that are known to be subjective like personal taste or opinions. It says that something is right because it produced the greatest amount of utility. This is objective because this principle is not depended on the evaluator to decide whether something is right or wrong, but is beyond our personal feelings or prejudice. The conclusion would not be different or relative from each individual but would all agree if they understood the principle.

Beauty was another concept that you strive to uphold. Yes, it is subjective and fits perfectly well in your rulebook, but that is the problem right there. In Thomas Harris's "Red Dragon" and the military man in "Apocalypse Now," they found beauty in the most repulsive and disturbing things. According to you or your rulebook, is it morally acceptable or even encouraged for them to act upon what they see as beautiful? Or is it morally wrong because it is not based upon what you consider is beautiful?

You have recognized the problems of utilitarianism and beauty, but you did not give a second thought to discard them or try to refine them. It is not sufficient that we should accept these rules on the basis that it is in complete indifference to the Bible or God or the universe. If it is so erroneous, it should either be rejected or improved.

There is a problem in morality being subjective itself. If there is no universal or objective moral standard, and deciding something is right or wrong is merely an individual opinion or private choice, then morality cannot exist in this state. Saying that murder is right and wrong, depending on the person, makes the action meaningless. If 2 + 2 = 4 or 5 or 6 depending on the individual and all would be correct, then there is no true value of what 2 + 2 would be. There would be no such thing as being mistaken about what is morally correct or incorrect since it is just a person's opinions. The correct position on a moral issue is simply a matter of personal feeling, rather than reason or shared values, the independent outlets that help distinguish actions with the values of morality. What is the point in having rational arguments then if it is just an opinion, just like trying to convince me that I like or don't like broccoli?

Like beauty, for example. It depends on the individual's perception of what beauty is. What each person sees as beautiful would not be judged whether it is right or wrong, it just be different. So, why should we intervene when a person, who may have adopted your moral rulebook and who also finds death beautiful, is killing helpless innocents, when all that the person is doing is upholding their idea of beauty? You said we should intervene on certain grounds: utilitarianism and beauty. First, by saying that there are grounds is already making your rulebook objective. You are comparing people's beliefs to yours, placing your rulebook beyond subjective to allow it be the measurement of other rulebooks. Utilitarianism is objective, which I have explained. But when the grounds are based upon beauty, then it is not beauty itself that you are upholding, but your own perception of beauty. That is not intervention based upon reason but on prejudice. You are saying that your perception of beauty is correct and anyone who does not have the same opinion would be wrong. Historical precedents have shown that people have committed crimes and people today continue to commit horrible crimes based upon their own idea of beauty.

At the end of the essay, you were denouncing the Old Testament because based upon their beliefs, it is morally acceptable, or maybe even required, to slaughter homosexuals and disobedient children. Is this merely an opinion that these actions are heinous or do you assume that there is an objective moral standard that judged these acts morally wrong and we should also clearly see and and it be self-evident that these were heinous crimes? If it is just an opinion that you were expressing, then what gives you or any of us, the right to judge whether something is right or wrong when it is relative and subjective? Why should we agree with you that this is morally wrong when there are no grounds that judges the rightness or wrongness of an action? Though I cannot actually prove that morality exists objectively, or you prove morality exists subjectively, the best thing I can try to do is convince what would seem more probable. To me, what would seem more probable is the existence of an objective moral truth.

Your essay was thought provoking and I enjoyed reading it and hope to read more, but this whole essay seemed to be more trying to rationalize the concepts of morality that would be compatible with your belief that God does not exist. Instead of fully defending your position that morality is subjective and that your rulebook is the correct one, it sometimes sways from the argument of morality to be lost in another battle of whether God really exists or that He is not moral. Are you not falling under the very argument you proposed many of your debaters are falling under, the Dostoyevski argument? You are holding one position because you can't imagine or believe in the alternative. Fearing that if morality were universal, then someone would use it as evidence to say that God does exist. You argue thoroughly that morality cannot be universal or independent and yet commit many contradictions that tell us otherwise. I do not believe that God exists therefore morality must be relative.

Paul wndrwall03@aol.com

Dear Jonathan:

Your words re: the Cuban child.

These kinds of decisions are usually made by family courts based upon the "best interests of the child." In a case on similar facts without all the political hoopla around it, the court would lean towards returning the child to the living parent unless he was abusive or unable to take care of the child.

You seem to regard it as an open and shut matter that keeping the child in the U.S. is superior to returning him to a parent in a totalitarian country. This is not at all clear to me. I think that many children in Elian's circumstances would rather return to a loving parent than live without one in the U.S. The way the U.S. relatives--who are cousins, not proximate--have turned Elian into a political mascot also seems very distasteful to me.

Finally, you make some statements of fact which I believe are inaccurate. Since the Mariel boatlife, asylum for Cubans in this country is far from automatic. In fact, if the boat had been detained at sea, under current policy it would have been returned to Cuba without touching American soil and no-one aboard would have had a claim to asylum. I am certain that children have been deported to Communist countries before without any media hoopla, for better or worse; which just illustrates the fact that Elian's case is an appalling media circus, and not a genuine dispute over the best interests of the child. Because, if it was, everyone should be content just to let a family court decide it, after asking Elian what he wants."

Thanks for your opinion that you "believe" I made some statements of fact which are inaccurate. Since you did not bother to provide any documentation to support your belief...I still "believe" my facts to be accurate. Since I wrote that piece, a Catholic nun who felt the child should be returned to Cuba hosted a visit between the grandmothers and the child. After the visit, the visibly shaken nun met with the media and said that as a result of seeing the interchange, she had "changed her mind" and now feels that the child should remain in the United States. This is a very telling "statement of fact."

As for the rest of your reply to my piece...you are agreeing with my central point. The decision is a matter for courts of law, NOT the INS. Yes, I agree, there is a media circus ongoing too.

Bob Wilson

Hi Jonathan,

Thank you for the most recent issue. I enjoyed the article on etoy/etoys, which I have followed the last few weeks.

It seemed to me that you deliberately avoided any mention of INS's role in withdrawing the domain name, which I think is a far more serious issue in the long run.

Could you explain why you avoided the issue?



PS: Before the Pinochet coupe, while Allende was the elected President, I toured Chile for a couple of months as a backpacker, so your article on Dictators and Turtles was also of interest. Thanks.

Dear Jonathan:

Could Pinochet have done anything without the democratically elected US government? (I'll answer for you, "Not a chance.")

I hope this doesn't come off as insulting or threatening, because it's not meant to be, but...The UN wants to censor me, and they want to grab my guns. They are even LESS morally capable of governing my life than any of the politicians in Washington, DC. They ignore slavery in Africa, for one thing, and have for years, because they tend to coddle leftist dictators just (as you correctly pointed out) as the USA has coddled rightist ones. The UN does not want to shelter me, they want a military force to control me.

I'm assuming you've heard of, if not seen, the movie "Red Dawn." What did you think of it? I find UN actions in trouble spots chillingly similar (who cares if they didn't start with the USA?) to the movie, which BTW *really* upset the Hollywood community. :) They felt threatened by the movie, I feel threatened by the pronouncements of the UN. I don't want to have to defend my rights with anything but words, and I think you know I'm a peaceful guy.

Anyway, one of the groups I work with uses comic books to reverse the propaganda of the media and public schools, and I'd like to send you a copy, free of charge, if you will send me a preferred snail address that gets to you. You probably won't agree, but if you read it you might find out more about why I think the way I do. Thanks.

Regards, James M. Ray jray@e-gold.com

Dear Jonathan:

Last century is STILL the 19th .. We're still in the 20th century .. And we're still in the second millenium, not the third.

-- Rune Kristian Viken runevi@student.matnat.uio.no

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I just read the letter on your site, the one you wrote to the Wisenthal Center. I applaud you. I have just been reading information about Simon Wisenthal that I find very disturbing, in that he apparently fabricated an atrocity story which never occurred, plagarized photos (copying a photo of three German soldiers who were executed, that appeared in Life magazine, and redrawing it into a "Holocaust" picture.)

I agree with your analysis. You take away a little hate, and soon its something else. And who would decide what is hate? The Wiesenthal Center? That anything remotely anti-Zionist is hate? Anything that puts Israel in a bad light? That speaks about Israeli genocide towards Palestinians? Some hate, of course, is obvious, but other things are open to interpretation. Do we ban political groups that preach socialized medicine because it is against the American Way? Do we ban environmental groups because they "hate" pollution and would like to put the polluters out of business?

Once we have censorship in place, the boundaries are endless....

Yes, it does make me sick to read what some people believe in, and I grew up in an extremely bigoted environment. But the Internet is precious, it is a vehicle of free speech. I recall Rabbi Cooper making about a statement about Heinrich "Herrar, the explorer from "7 Years in Tibet,'" saying that Herrar's explanation was "not sufficient." I don't know, did Rabbi Cooper expect him to jump into a crematorium so he could die for the six million? Herrar (please excuse spelling) was not a war criminal, left Austria before the war, and yes, he was a member of the SS so that he could attain special privileges--like not be an army grunt and be able to climb mountains. I don't know about Herrar's political views or feelings on Jews, but that is not the point. The Wiesenthal Center had him tried, judged and sentenced...just because he once was an SS. Not that his life's accomplishments meant anything--

Anyway, the Wiesenthal Center, I think, has strayed from its original purpose and become something ugly and power hungry. They are in the habit of not responding to criticism, so I am not surprised that they did not answer you. But watch out, they may censor you!


Roxanne Nelson roxie@mongoose.slip.net

Dear Jonathan:

Bob Wilson says he's joking. Okay then, I shouldn't take him seriously. My mistake. I should have known no one could seriously believe the things he writes. Anyway, just so he knows how much of a pathological lefty I am, he's right when he says I'm like Castro, the Unabomber, and every pinko ever defiled by the liberal press over the past 50 years or so (what would a conservative press have said?), because I know he means just the opposite, and he's just joshing me and I was over-reacting my bleeding-heart out. But I still love him. Really. Us liberals are incapable of discerning enemies out there. We embrace all kinds. Really. I'm not joking.

-------Ben Price NebecirP@aol.com

Dear Jonathan,

I stumbled on to The Ethical Spectacle in the course of some surfing in the "panem et circensis" mode. Thank you for putting together such interesting and useful articles.

Warren Eckels


A Search led me to your Ethical Spectacle site (article Is Compassion Tragic) and I find it very well done.

Your analysis is brilliant. Did you hear that "Judge Judy" recently opined that the policy of exchanging clean needles with drug addicts to reduce the spread of disease was all wrong? And that maybe we should be giving them DIRTY needles to eventually reduce the number or carriers of disease?

I think you might like my sites:

There is the "Left" site, directed at "Liberals", urging them not to confuse conservative "Christian Coalition" types with Christ who is one of the greatest Liberals of all time: it's called "Liberals Like Christ" at : http://members.theglobe.com/rayosun/index.htm.

Finally there is the "Middle" site, directed at "Mainstream Christians", urging them not to act like the priest and the levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, but to "go and do like" today's sometime "infidel" Good Samaritans, who care about all kinds of victims in our day and generally go by the name of "Liberals". This site is still in the works, but you can see it coming into being at http://members.theglobe.com/x_liberator/hugs.htm.

There is the "Right" site, directed at "Religious Right" types, showing them that Christ was anything but "Conservative". That one is called "What Christ REALLY Taught" at : http://members.theglobe.com/rayosun/christlike/index.htm.

Ray Dubuque luv_god@juno.com

I recently stumbled across the Interview With a Vampire is the Real Pornography article via a link on a Vampire Chronicles webpage. I am stunned that someone could watch a movie and simply miss the point by THAT MUCH. In fact, I found it amusing at first because it's a direct reversal of the usual criticism the movie gets (that it's an excuse to get a bunch of vacant, beautiful men in one place for women to go and swoon over). I am a fan of all the Vampire Chronicles and all of Anne Rice's books, and I am a female, as are most of her fans. I simply ask that whoever wrote this article go and view the movie again, and try to see what's really going on, and not read in meanings that simply aren't there.



An Auschwitz Alphabet
Dear Mr. Wallace:

I just want to tell you I am giving you the respect that you deserve for making this awesomely informative Auschwitz Alphabet.

Besides that, I am also writing to tell you that it did a WONDERFUL job for me on writing a report about the camp.

Thank you,



As a first year college student studying the Holocaust in depth, your Auschwitz Alphabet has been instrumental in my research. Thank you so much for your time, obvious determination and attention to the most minute detail. While I could never say that it has been pleasurable to study this most horrific time in our history, scholars like yourself have certainly made it easier to try and comprehend. Thank you again.

Tom J Boone tomboone@juno.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am doing a report fro my English class on the Holocaust. We had a chioce on whether to specify the Holocaust to a certain event or place so I chose Auschwitz thinking that it would have a lot of infoormation and would be a qiuck and effortless A. Afterjust scanning through these pages I realized the hate and loss of hope that not a lot of people see. I am not Jewish and if you asked the wrong people, they might say I'm a bit predjudice, but they don't realize that I don't discriminate out of ingnorance or race, I don't like specific people because of what they do individually, and maybe the ignorant act my part is yelling the the inappropraite slur not to judge them because of skin colour may they be black or white. Unfortunately people have abused the privilege of predjudice to the piont that the people that we need to convince are saying "I'll give you something to complain about!" I 've had this thought cros my mind before because now I thought i was the one being punished, but in reality, it is nothing compared to what was shown in WWII and I think that that both sides of what our perception of "discrimination" is should look at what what discrimination really is!!! I want to thank you for bringing to attention this matter for others to see and maybe if the hate and complaining stops we can prevent something like this from ever happening again.