Sunday, June 12, 2005

Ethical Illegality

At our age, the border between legality and illegality is as blurred as ever. Between drinking underaged, getting fake ids, sharing music, there is an obvious tendency to do things that are illegal. At which point we have to question the effectiveness of these laws, and more than that, the necessity of these laws. It would seem, through simple inspection, that if our ethical minds tell us that sharing music is okay, that drinking at 19 is okay, then we ought to do it. This of course does not include abuse of anything, but if we are to be truly true to ourselves and our society, would it not seem logical for us to follow our ethical decisions in our neo-utilitarian way?

I have heard many people say that utilitarian moral philosophy has won out and as a result this is who we are. And as Nietzsche says this and Rawls and others, I believe that in terms of reality we have another player at hand. The economic-legalistic framework that stands contrary to the utilitarian perspective. As the RIAA meddles in favor of maintaining its profit share, it honors this relatively new-American concept of intellectual property. They proclaim that a person's art is owned and operated by them alone. This of course is absurd, actually, and a recent suit brought against Al Franken involving the terms 'Fair and Balanced' has proved that the kind of intellectual property rights garnered through words are in no way protected. Moreover, intellectual property rights do not protect if I am to film a piece of work (e.g. a picture of a painting is considered in itself a new artisitic creation, the MPAA then would be faulted in attacking bootleggers, and any law against bootlegging should be struck down (in the name of intellectual property rights)). If I rearrange, slightly, the notes in a song it has become in itself a new song -- if I cover the song, it can be considered my own. There are a wide array of faults in making this low form of art intellectual. Art has in the past garnered its fame because of its excellence and its originality. Art in its intellectual escape is not the popular misfits that are put out today -- we look at a Monet and not a copy of a Monet because we can say it is a Monet, and we can enjoy its aging grace. We look at new art today that excites us and label it great because it reminds us of how we feel when we look at other great works of art [and this is me simply summarizing -- and definately not bringing to justice -- the art history philosophy of Danto]. Ciara's 1,2 step, however, doesn't breed a similar kind of appreciation. It ought to fall under the category of Pleasure Property where its primary focus is inciting pleasure in the subjects. It is within us that the satisfaction is garnered and is transfered to the 'artist' through a back-channel of economic success. The reason why true phenoms don't exist in the pop music business is because in truth the RIAA and the record executives mass produce these relatively worthless talents into catchy poppy personas that we just can't get enough of listening to, but 10 years down the line wont give three shits about. Does anyone care about Juvenile? Anyone read the recent NY Times article on the decay of Limp Bizkit? The ought not be protected on anything besides the sentiment of greed that ingratiate these business maestros who commondeer our attention and our cash. When in truth the artist is undeserving of attention, they only sustain the very shifting taste and pleasure of a person, and in that regard the business of suing people shall only serve to deflect the real issue. People will continue to push the quick fix until either music becomes good again, or the RIAA stops hiding behind this unsuitable veil of intellectual property rights.

We are also confronting an equally evil danger: the parental-authoritative impulse where our elders presume to know more of life than us and wish to eliminate our sentiments legalistically. When we of course know at 19,20 and the like that the desire to drink far outweighs our personal obligation to law. It is but a farce written down on a whim to please the moral values of a select few americans [concerned parents]. The same people who unknowingly ruin school for their children through the incessant badgering of teachers and administrators have popped their little heads in order to redefine an ethical relationship on the basis of a this confuscian non-americana perspective. What is agreeable to all is that people learn to drink responsably, and more so that we do not with a signature on a piece of paper make 15 million Americans instantly criminals for having impulsive and still legitimate, assuming excess is not involved, desires. This would be the utilitarian determination. It would be Aristotlelian. It would be good. But in imposing personal beliefs on others we have lobbied for a law that stands directly in contrast to the national benefit, and personal excercise. If we said that a majority of college students did not drink, perhaps we could stand on the slippery slope and still hold our ground, but as this is not the case America just seems to be falling into denial, self-delusion and a bunch of other neurotic conditions that force it to pretend as if all is well, when it really isn't.

And thus, if we hold this truth to be evident that the moral philosophy for which we believe in is to be utilitarian: then by the goodness that is in our young hearts may we remain ethical in our lives, albeit contradictory to our backwards laws.