“Do the ends justify the means?” Throughout most of human history, there was no doubt to this question. One simply has to look at how the actions of ancient societies to see that the ends always justified the means. For most of their existence, humans were very similar to the rest of wildlife on earth: they were focused on survival above all else.
Another way to phrase this common question is simply to ask whether consequences of an action are more important than the reasoning behind it. Anytime necessity of survival shows itself, there can be no doubt. Morality becomes plain when it is a matter of life and death. That which allows for continued survival is good, that which harms is bad.
Survival is no longer a hard task for anyone. Even the most unfortunate amongst our societies can scrap together a meager living from the pity of others. Abundance is the rule, not the exception. What becomes of our morality then? Our primary mandate from nature has disappeared. Should not the morality that drove each decision disappear then as well?
This is clearly not the case. If anything, modern society has become filled with more preachers of morality. Nature abhors a vacuum. We see people telling us how to we should act each time we leave our homes, turn on a TV, or go on a social network. Yet, this sort of moralizing seems to fulfill another purpose entirely. More and more, we are told to do the right thing rather than to be the right thing. Modernity has taken away our purpose for survival and replaced it with the goal of appearing to have a purpose.
With each generation that passes, society continues to move farther away that which initially drove us. Each new generation has its own causes and own morality. In the United States, their are two prominent moral issues that appeal to the latest generation more than anything else. If you ask almost any young adult their opinion on marijuana legalization or gay marriage, you will see almost complete consensus for both.
In each case, there is an almost complete reversal of opinion from prior generations. Where once people saw gay marriage as against families, a basic building block of any society, the youth today see as an issue of allowing love and equality. Pot was once seen as unproductive. It was a drug that prevented any motivation. Now, it is seen as simply another outlet for recreation.
Regardless of your opinion on these matters, the great shift in opinion is something to take note of. In each case, the argument against the issue was based on the outcome that both of these behaviors caused. The argument for each issue is now based on the intention behind each action. The opinion has shifted away from judgement and towards personal freedom.
Judgement requires a purpose. To deem an action as unwanted, it must first be understood as detrimental to some goal. Societies require this goal to be shared amongst the populace for a consensus to arise towards any judgement. Modern morality can be described as the complete lack of this shared consensus. As each year passes by, consensus will continue to wear away until no one will be able to be judged for any action.
Ultimately, this is how societies perish. Societies are formed as a way to encourage a set of behaviors beneficial to all members. A society that is unable to judge is a powerless society. Nature and her consequences no longer have any bearing or meaning. This It is the ultimate form of collective hubris. A society without any values is a society detached from reality. A society, like any living organism, that does not respond to reality will eventually be proven wrong. There is only one outcome for those that choose not to heed nature’s rules: death.