The Relativity of Right and Wrong

When it’s time for one of the life-changing events to happen to me, it usually comes out of nowhere – hard and fast. On Tuesday, I got a job interview and on Wednesday was my first day of work. After my third full day of work, I finally find the time to think up and write another post, this time on something that’s been bugging me ever since I came to this realisation some ten years ago.

See, one of the things my mom loves to nag at me about is my seeming obsession over my laptop. I can sit before it for hours on end. Not completely nonstop, of course; I still tend to move around a little, but I can pretty much sit there for a long time. It’s been a long battle between us, whether it’s due to fanfiction (yes, I’m an avid fanfiction reader and proud of it), dramas, or little projects like blogs, research, and brainstorming. You would think that when I get a job where I sit in front of a laptop for 7 hours a day crunching numbers, among other things, she would be against it. Think again.

Then there’s how my mother refused to let my sister take the highways to get anywhere. I fortunately escaped this, as I went to a university outside of my city, but on top of that, I suppose my sister didn’t mind too much, but you bet I was surprised when I had given my sister directions to go to the mall and had instructed her to get on on the highway only for her to shoot questions at me at how it works because it was her first time driving on the highway. The sole thought running through my mind: how in the world did she get her license??

I understand the motivation behind both of these situations. After all, staring too much at a computer of some sort isn’t good for one’s eyes or health – you become a blob, something America doesn’t need more of. As for driving on the highway, cars do tend to travel at high speeds – I know because I’m one of them – so if you don’t have a good reaction speed or aren’t very observant, there’s a chance that it can be a dangerous trip. However, apparently slowly harming yourself due to a job (read: money) – the fact that I work for a company that deals with oil companies makes it all the better – makes it all right. My sister also isn’t helping the environment any nor is she getting anywhere fast, due to spending a good amount of her time on the road after an hour long commute to school and back. Granted that though the traffic here doesn’t get quite as bad as the traffic in L.A., it’s still nothing to scoff at. So then, it all comes down to how there’s essentially no right or wrong, as everyone’s perception of either idea is essentially up to them: their priorities, personal beliefs, particular circumstances, and I suppose this generally accepted idea of what is right (helping the elderly woman cross the street) and what is wrong (killing people) having been enforced since childhood.

Speaking of which, let’s start with that. Killing. And just for the record, this isn’t because I’m a mostly a vegetarian, though I also used this first because it was when I first started to eat less meat that I came to the conclusion that there’s no such thing as this concept of “right and wrong”. Killing is seen to be wrong, but there are moments when it’s okay. Capital punishment, anyone? Wars and battles? Self defense? Food? Trespassing of property (and I’m talking about exterminators in addition to other trespassers, here)? It’s all generally and perhaps reluctantly accepted by the public. Why? because we have this idea where we weigh which option’s better; exactly how much do you want something and if you had no choice, what would you pick? This may also lead us into a talk on morals and that infamous trolley problem that absolutely gets me giddy at all the implications, but I won’t get into it here. However, why is death “wrong” anyway? It’s natural, yes? Everyone will go through it, but I suppose the unknown and that fear of the aforementioned unknown really doesn’t help.

We have exceptions for everything. Humans won’t die if they don’t eat meat, but they do it anyway, either because of habit, convenience, taste, and even simply because they can. I love the manga Death Note because of the two main characters: L, the genius detective who stood for justice but might, on occasion, revert to less mainstream methods, and Raito, the genius student who also stood for justice but did it by indiscriminately killing anyone who escaped the official justice system. Why did I like it so much? It was because I couldn’t pick one character and their ideals over the other, because I truly believe in those shades of grey. To think of all the good that might have come to be, if only if they ended up working together. Highly unlikely though – they were both self-righteous, proud, stubborn, and their high IQs only reinforced it because neither would have yielded. Getting back on track, both methods aren’t quite wrong – and in this sense, I mean that both of their methods would have earned what they wanted eventually – but it was the stuff that was attached to it. This is where I add in how it’s best to fight fire with fire. Sadly, I’ve realised that someone who is the Nice Guy might eventually get to their goal, but when compared to or in competition with the guy who bribed and cheated his way to the top, he might lose out or get it later. And hence, we’ve reached reality because of the fact that we’re all mere humans who all think highly of themselves in one way or another, but because of that, there really is no black and white. Just like every up has a down and vice versa, every wrong has a right.

Seriously, though. If you really thought about it, when standing next to a guy in the urinal, what’s so ‘wrong’ about looking over? They’re both guys so it’s not like one’s a female looking over (but even if it was, why would that made it socially unacceptable anyway?). It’s sort of natural; you have eyes and if you’re talking to your Urinal Neighbor, it’s only “right” to look in their direction and if you were to accidentally (or perhaps accidentally on purpose) catch sight of something, well, no big deal. WRONG. It is. I’ve heard so many of my male friends talk about it that I don’t even know anymore. Why is it so wrong – so unnatural – to stand nude before others (nudists excluded as they’ve embraced it all)?

Before my first outing to the jjimjilbang, or public bath house, with some friends in Korea, I distinctly remember us promising each other not to look below the chin. In fact, I had several friends who were adamant about not going because of the lack of clothing, even though the sexes are separated. Funny enough, once my friend and I got in and took off our clothes after a, “Uhm… I’m going to strip now,” in a hushed tone, it became natural because everyone there was stark naked and even when I try to think about that time, the images of nude bodies were all a blur. I know I went to the jjimjilbang with so-and-so and I know I saw them naked, but it was as if it was just a normal occurrence.

And so we come full circle. What exactly makes things largely considered “right” or “wrong”? I honestly don’t have a single answer, nor do I think there is one though there could be a close call, and I know I flip flop between what I consider acceptable and not, since everything depends on something else and I’m already an internally indifferent person to begin with. However, I just wanted to put this out there and see if there are any theories to this idea. I mean, I certainly know that if my mom doesn’t agree with something, there’s a high chance that she considers it “wrong”, like when she found out I got a tattoo. Yep, she definitely thought that was wrong just because of that social stigma that anyone and everyone who had a tattoo was apparently a member of organised crime. Excellent. So I guess she’s also a part of a gang when she got her eyebrows and eyeliner tattooed on as well, am I right? According to her, getting tattoos for direct cosmetic reasons is completely different from my form of self-expression. But then again, some of the debates are so mundane and unimportant that it’s almost irrelevant.

And while we’re thinking about this lack of the concepts of right or wrong, let’s ponder this–

Why in the world is that?? Humans just doesn’t make sense – and people wonder why I decided to study them.


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