We used to say live and let live, but in this ever changin world in which we live in… it isn’t as simple anymore.
So complex, in fact, I’m sure Paul McCartney said it makes him ‘give in and cry.’ And that was back in 1973.
The discussion of LGBT rights coming to the surface in the SNP leadership contest has reminded me of a classic philosophical conundrum: is killing worse than letting die? Is doing harm worse than allowing harm?
If not, there should be no moral objection to things like active euthanasia… coincidentally, something Forbes and Yousaf are at odds with. At least on paper.
If not, how culpable are we for the millions of children dying of malnutrition in foreign lands as we stand idly by?
Well, how about we cast our minds back to last week when we asked you to understand the importance of teachings expressed by the Make PSH Illegal campaign & the need for active bystanders...
If you stand idly by, if you’re tolerant of encouraging behaviour, if there’s an opportunity to act and you choose not to… are you culpable?
Or is there something inherent in our morals that tells us otherwise. Is it more complex than a consequential-style calculation? Do our emotions tell us something different?
I’ll gee you a breather wae the questions, but I’d urge you to have a gander at Phillipa Foot’s example of the Judge having to choose between the framing & killing of an innocent person whilst five others are at life-threatening risk. Or the train driver heading in the direction of several innocent people, with the option to change tracks at the sacrifice of only one.
Philosophy errs on the side of ridiculous at times but it allows us to look inwards and gain clarity of our emotions and how we should put our moral principles to practice. Politics happens to be the first stop in where these principles hit the ground running and how we choose to govern and shape our society in line with our beliefs. Ethics is riddled in politics.
The Scottish parliament, in particular, is one in which solving ethical dilemmas are the sole purpose of its existence. Economic calculus is largely dictated to us from Westminster, leaving only the decision of how that money is distributed and what laws we need to ensure human rights are shared by us all.
This makes ethical analysis entirely relevant.
We’re currently distinguishing between a leadership candidate that adheres (perhaps too accurately) to the very letter of teachings determined by her faith & one that is rather shrewd in the way he lets his personal practices interfere with political judgements.
Assuming the polls are correct in the unlikelihood of a three-horse race.
It’s similarly hypothetical to Foot’s abstract examples because the matter at hand is long dealt with. It’s now several years on from the settled debate… yet people are raising eyebrows as to how ethical calculations will be made in the future of this parliament.
Kate Forbes, for instance, says she wouldn’t vote in favour Same Sex Marriage, in line with her religious teachings.
She wouldn’t renege on the settled will of the Parliament… but if she was the only one voting that day the bill wouldn’t have passed.
Yousaf, on the other hand, says he would’ve voted in favour had he been present – in line with his decision at the early stages of the bill.
It’s perhaps worth noting, or indeed unworthy of noting, that in the scenario where the SNP has either candidate as First Minister at the time, they would've posed as the only party to have a leader absent or voting against the bill.
It’s this thought that leads some to wonder.
Cos if we were to alter that scenario; let’s say the Same Sex Marriage bill was unlikely to go through. Let’s say, for whatever reason, Labour had united in opposition as part of a wider faith-conforming agenda. Or there appeared a threat of rebellion towards Scottish Independence meaning a lot of SNP members didn’t want to chance it… would the business that compelled Yousaf’s absence still have been as important as he’d made out? How much would it have bothered him if his name wasn’t on that final bill when Same Sex Marriage was denied?
Again, hypothetical as philosophy is… it does make you wonder.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Scotland has the potential to be an all-encompassing, liberal society and it would be a shame for the face of our country to be one led with a gut that doesn’t quite agree with marriage rights extending to the LGBT community. Something on that moral compass making it sit uncomfortable with her.
Maybe we’re wrong to cite Angela Merkel as an example of a leader in which this can work. Maybe we’re wrong to put risk on the wonderful developments towards the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community that I see in my city in Edinburgh… at the football, in bars and clubs, in the workplace and so on.
I fear, however, by doing so, we are stretching the search for leaders too thin.
If the premise of this argument is that a leader of Scotland must have an unquestionable commitment to LGBT rights, then is being absent from that historic vote worse than voting against it?
Or rather, is letting die worse than killing?
Again, our ethics in question bears relevance even in the context of ridiculous, unrealistic examples. It’s probably the reason why every single politician doesn’t “want to get into hypotheticals” – one of the most tried and tested methods of conversation since conversations about anything began.
Adding to the ever-growing imaginable possibilities when considering relevant calculations, social equality can be determined in countless ways.
If Kate Forbes was to, for example, implement the most radical of transformations in Scotland’s economic history and lift several social barriers that are keeping back impoverished Scots… does this add any weight to ethical calculation?
Would a member of the LGBT community, the same community who is statistically more likely to suffer from drug deaths and mental health problems, begrudge Forbes’ faith if she were to rectify cuts to the mental health budget under Yosaf’s watch?
After workers are paid, services are financed, projects like Sports Scotland are accounted for, social care… in amongst the £19bn that Forbes handed over to Yousaf to deal with health matters - this pivotal crises was not only granted £240m, it was then cut by £38m after reflection.
So as a member of the LGBT community, more susceptible to problems such as addiction and suicide, where does this factor into our ethical calculations?
On drugs alone; with poorer communities turning to their use, higher death rates than anywhere else in the world, on whose authority do we question in determining value to social equality?
I’m not saying Humza is a bad guy… far from it. I think he’s a man of decent principles who’s been drawn the short straw on ministerial accountability… I can’t even begin to imagine the sleepless nights he was having during that pandemic.
I also respect his commitment to LGBTQ+ rights, it’s a decent reflection of the modernised Scotland we all want to live in.
And as someone that isny affected, who am I to suggest how these calculations are made?
What I’m saying is we ought to be careful when deducting such drastic, reactive ethical judgements of people. Take a look in the mirror, have a moment of reflection before you do this. Think deeper about what it means to be a generally good person.
If after this reflection you still come to that same conclusion, the same view that writes Kate off for her remarks… I’d say fair enough. It will be, and justifiably so, enough for some to disregard a candidate that merely ‘tolerates’ the LGBT community.
But I’d also say gee her, and anyone supporting her, at least a yard.
One or two questionable judgement aside, I don’t think Kate is a bad person.