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21st Century Morality

Standards of conduct and moral judgement change with changing economic and political circumstances. The privatisation, globalisation, deregulation and corporatisation tsunami that has swept the globe over the past four decades has had a profound impact on the ethical standards that were adopted around the world as a result of the Nuremberg Trials that were held after WWII.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was based on the idea all human beings irrespective of nationality, race, gender, religion, ability, political beliefs or sexual orientation enjoyed the same human rights.

The mass murder of millions of individuals on an industrial scale because of their beliefs, race or religion during WWII was the catalyst for the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the newly formed United Nations.

The 21st century brings us a new set of ethical challenges not just in the first world but among ruling classes around the world and the emerging middle classes in a rapidly developing world. The individual is at the centre of the development of a new set of ethical values that challenges what is and what isn’t ethical behaviour in the 21st century. Multi-billion dollar industries that promote the idea fit, healthy and happy individuals are the only ones who are morally sound have sprung up around the world. Everybody else, irrespective of the issues they have had to deal with, who do not meet these expectations are judged.

Ethical behaviour is no longer dependent on character or an individual’s behaviour. It is rapidly becoming the exclusive domain of the fit, healthy and happy. Individuals who cannot achieve these goals, irrespective of the barriers that have been put in their way, are increasingly seen as morally and ethically challenged. If you’re too fat, or smoke, have a gambling habit, a chronic illness, or depressed, the situation you find yourself in is said to be of your own making. Your inability to keep fit, healthy and happy is your fault.

Ethical behaviour has been turned into a commodity that you can achieve by eating the right food, exercising, accessing a life coach or a personal trainer. 21st century morality is rapidly becoming a narcissistic marathon run in the main by individuals who have the luck of finding themselves holding the winning ticket in the genetic lottery and who have the resources and contacts to keep fit, healthy and happy. The only problem is the fit, healthy and happy can, in an instant, join the ranks of those increasing numbers of people who are considered to be morally inferior because they’re not running in the narcissistic marathon.

Dr. Joseph Toscano