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Conscience

David Meakes June 6, 2018

 

At times of decision it is our conscience, that intangible, ingrained, mental, restraint/release mechanism, that impels us to think or act in a specific way. Ideally, it is spontaneous and reflexively immediate. But thought, or NO thought, may precede the action. As a child the sense of conscience is usually impregnated into our thinking by our parents. However, no matter how great the respect we have for our parents, that indoctrination is not inflexible. and maybe subject to adult thought and perception. A classic example of this was John Newton, who as a 35-year-old slave ship captain, in 1755 AD, relished his “easy and creditable way of life.”  By age 45 he had renounced slavery, and authored the famous hymn, the first verse of which is: ‘Amazing Grace how sweet the sound — That saved a wretch like me. — I once was lost, but now am found, — was blind, but now can see.’ His new belief had totally rejected what his former conscience had accepted.

Some wise commentary.

Albert Einstein- In the Great Quotations wrote: “Never do anything against conscience, even if the state demands it.” I know, by experience, that it can become a life time burden.

The philosopher Voltaire is quoted: “Conscience is not the voice of God, but the fear of the police; it is the deposit left in us from the stream of prohibitions poured over the growing soul by parents, teachers and the press.”  Reasonable commentary. But reversible.

William Morley Punshon, English clergyman. 1824-1881. The Arizona Republic. “Cowardice asks: Is it safe?  Expediency asks: Is it political? Vanity asks: Is it popular?  Conscience asks: Is it right?”  Could it be said better?

The Great Quotations- In 1948 General Omar Bradley, made a very convincing comment: “The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.” He had just witnessed our world’s greatest ethics failure — the Holocaust.

Later came our Bible-quoting, ethics pretending President George W. Bush who, with his cohorts, planned, initiated and managed the immoral, unnecessary Iraq War, ravaging Iraq and killing thousands of its people, wasting thousands of young American lives, while putting it all on a still unpaid ‘Chinese-credit-card.’ I think that President Bush’s conscience today, SHOULD be agonizing.

There is what I think of as a generally accepted ‘national conscience,’ probably in our case, Judaism-Christian based.

Ideally, that should be a morality-based conscience. Our personal conscience, by osmosis, or a ‘group-think.’  If our national majority thinks so, then IT must be right? Not necessarily.  Our current President Trump influence, brings stark confirmation that HIS ‘group-think’ should not be relied upon.

Those who sign up for military service, are considered as potentially “putting their lives on the line” in defense of their country. That is a formal level of sacrifice. But how about one who gives his/her life as an intended, planned, protesting event?

The book Vietnam by Stanley Karnow. In Vietnam in May 1963 Tri Quang. a Buddhist monk, having had gas poured over him, set himself on fire in protest of the events leading to the Vietnam War. A month later, on June 11th Quang Duc, another, monk did the same.  Soon after a large number (in my memory -15 or more) as a group, did the same. In Retrospect by Robert McNamara, he said that on Nov 2nd, 1965 Norman Morrison, a Baltimore Quaker did the same under his Pentagon window. In my own book, Perspective – The Golden Rule, quote: “About 1966, Florence Beaumont. a middle-aged lady, in anti-Vietnam War protest, burned herself to death on the steps of the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles. A few days later I attended the memorial service held on the same steps. In the crowd I saw my close friend, Dr.  Sol Balkin and his wife Janelle.”

These are some examples of the utmost integrity of conscience.

For more stories of this, grab a copy of my book, Perspective: The Golden Rule. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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    David Meakes

    David Meakes

    David Meakes is a Canadian-born World War II veteran. He is ninety-five years old and a retired podiatris... read more

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