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If hawks and doves married moral codes

By Andrea Grazzini - posted Friday, 16 December 2011

When you juxtapose soldiers and peace activists you notice both follow a code of moral conduct so compelling they are willing to put their lives in peril.

"Doves of peace," believe humanity ceases to be humane when it is organized around killing and war. "Military hawks," believe societies can't survive without establishing clear boundaries via military engagement.

Both, at their core, care about human potentials. Both, in their most idealistic moments, care about human justice. Both possess some level of empathy for others.


But, is it working?

The harder questions they face, however, aren't whether their morals are the better angels or lesser evils. But rather, how effective their methods are in achieving their most humane ideals.

For hawks this means: How are all those billions of dollars and millions of deaths working to achieve human progress?

For doves this means: How are your humane methods missing the mark, if ever more millions are still dying?

Answering these hard questions requires understanding the often-flawed rhetoric around which we orient our moral codes.

Empathy, like compassion, which suggests concerned action, has lost much in translation. Indeed, I'd say they've been so over-used they now imply something closer to inertia and impotence, if not, at worse, cloaked insincerity.


We've attached too much self and social identity to these internalized thoughts; "aren't I humane because I feel and care." And too little to externalized notions of; "it's my job as a person of conscience to take humane action."

Though it is true people of humble morality feel compelled to act without need for reward. Their challenge still amounts to one of philosophical transaction. Something of an "if/then" equation. The variables are short-term  self-gain v. long-term moral-self gain.

The Limits of Empathy

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About the Author

Andrea Morisette Grazzini is a leadership innovations consultant and participatory researcher. She founded the cross-partisan initiative DynamicShift in 2009. Her work has influenced numerous regional and national conversations on co-productive change. Including online forums at TEDTalks.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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