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Captain TUG’s Log: The Moral Compass.
+13° 42′ 2.51″, +123° 13′ 10.91″ Philippines Archipelago.
On land today, I came across a kitten with pink eye. With such intense pink eye that there was no room left for the eye within a socket so overfilling with yellow puss streaming down its cheek; that I assumed it had hidden itself somewhere in the back of its skull.
At first It made me sick.
Then it made me sad.
Then it made me think.
I instinctively returned to the ship and proceeded to locate the medical kit I had been entrusted with back in Australia and searched for the eye wash, gloves and the ipad oops eye pad.
Upon returning to the kitten I noticed I now attracted the attention of a few locals. I was there now too with my country counterparts, they all looked at me wondering:
Why was I starring at such an ugly kitten for so long?
Why all the attention? And
What did I plan to do with those gloves?
The answer was, I wasn’t sure.
My trusty local counterpart looked at me and said quite calmly ‘it will die, some live here & some die’. You see, I was in a small provincial town in the Philippines and my moral compass hadn’t adjusted fully from the ole country. My compass orientated me to the idea that if a kitten has such intense pink eye that in shock, you should instinctively try and aid it. However, upon further thought, and my counterpart’s wise words, I concluded that what I would actually be doing would be extending the pathetic excuse of that cat’s existence. An existence riddled by pain, quotidian hunger and sans love.
What logic later suggested was that I grab the nearest stone and smash it against its head in one motion, a stealthy kick into the sea perhaps, as an old sailor friend of mine had done. Kill the Kitten and Kill the Pain of its own life. If the kitten would die soon, and was currently dyeing a slow death, would that not be the more moral thing to do? kill it quick, now(without enjoying it) Arghhh.
What did I do?
Nothing. Which is of course always something.
So in summary, and spare a little thought about what you might do and why? I came up with these three likely actions in response to this everyday land situation of the pink eye kitten.
a. Do nothing resist an instinctual urge*, continue to walk by.
b. Try to aid the dying kitten.
c. Kill the kitten.
a. This ‘instinctual urge’ is in fact not really innate or instinctual at all but yet just another example of ingrained social normalisation i.e resist a couple of times and apathy comes along, soon, instinctually,
b. aiding the kitten in any way is prolonging a death in this context. Even if l let you take it back to your house you’ll be moving soon and cant take it and then you have created a weak monster. Besides you cant apply this logic to every kitten. Or can you?
c. You would get a few strange looks from people around you and blood on your shoes but overall the kitten thanks you.
It got me thinking, just a little.
In nautical terms a true compass reading takes into consideration standard deviation, on account of the angle between the true north and the magnetic north. So can the same be said about our moral compass readings? Do we need to allow for moral deviation and take into account our present chartered waters?
My reaction that day (dressed in rubber gloves) was so bizarre for all reasonable locals watching. Something that took a few days to sink in. Subsequently spending more time here, and since noticing the varying hardships of other animals and human lives in town I began to understand the relevance of relativism.
I recall some towns folk cooking up dog a little while ago, I looked in shock at first but now It leads me to confirm C. C I believe was by far the best moral decision out of the three also resulting in the greatest good (had I have shared the kitten chops).
In Summary todays log.
a. I’m sorry I didn’t smash the kittens head in with a near by rock. I saw one but couldn’t bring myself to do it.
b. When I’m out facing moral conundrums I tend to think about it for too long and finally do nothing.
c. Nothing is always something.
Captain TUG (Tania Undies Groba) is a part time tall ships sailor, quarter time musician and occasional joke teller. With a sensibility for nonsense and a sensitivity that breaks out into rash in the face of sterile pragmatism, she is often seen talking her way out of serious predicaments opting to settle contentions with human pyramids. Having spent a small lifetime in Australia’s oldest circus she has come to realise that the world at large is a pathetic excuse for a show that we are paying for, and if we cant find the absconded ticket man/woman she suggests… lets critic the show. Tania is living in Calabanga, Philippines for a little while longer.