This is a question that many settlers may or may not be asking themselves. And before this bubble of awareness pops – after all, the media loves its trends – I offer here some further food for thought.
Spoiler alert: This is not about me making moralistic judgements. You get to read this post and decide for yourself if the choice you made was right or not.
Moral decisions (what is the right choice? What is the good outcome?) are ones that we make all day, every day. Yet, a great majority of people make these important ethical decisions based on their past experience rather than present personal responsibility.
In Yoga this phenomenon is explained by saṃskāra-s, which are stores of residual imprints in your subtle body from past experience that mix you up and muddle you in the present, keeping you in a perpetual state of disempowerment.
find out more about what yoga really is here
Are you familiar with the study of moral philosophy?
I believe that if you weren’t explicitly taught philosophy or logic/reasoning in grade school, it is because during those formative years the colonial system didn’t want you to know that there’s another way to make decisions besides based on past experience.
After all, this would create opportunity for dissonance and to question the status quo, which the Western Tradition of thought cannot tolerate.
So here is my mini exposé.
Did you know that – based on philosophical research – there are four basic ethical theories? They are:
- Virtue Ethics: good character causes right choice
- Consequentialism: good outcome justifies right choice
- Deontology: right reason justifies good choice
- Yoga/Bhakti: right procedure causes good outcome
Based on these options, let’s explore why you may or may not have made the right choice regarding the Canada Day celebrations last week.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THESE FOUR BASIC ETHICAL THEORIES HERE through the work of Dr. shyam ranganathan, MA, MA, PhD.
If you are a Virtue Ethicist, you may have chosen to celebrate Canada Day because someone who has been deemed to have a good character has said that is the right thing to do (or didn’t speak out against it).
The paradigm case of what it means to be a person in the Western tradition dates back to the work of Plato and Aristotle. The paradigm case is someone who holds the following qualities: they are in a white body, were assigned male at birth and self-identify as such, are heterosexual, are well educated by the system, are a citizen of a first world country, speak fluent English, are able-bodied, and are relatively ‘fit.’
This paradigm case is conflated with good character, so as one holds fewer privileged identities, their character becomes less good.
Let’s take Justin Trudeau as an example.
Justin Trudeau exemplifies very closely the paradigm case of what it means to be a person in the Western tradition. So by the Western account, he has a good character. Therefore when he doesn’t cancel Canada Day – or even mention the harm that continues to be uncovered by the Canadian government against the Indigenous peoples of this land on the day that celebrates formalized and normalized colonial occupation – it is taken by the Virtue Ethicist that (consciously or not) accepts this definition of good character as a reason to observe the holiday. Trudeau’s good character causes him to choose well.
This extends to anyone that you deem to be of good character. If you do something because someone who you admire or respect does that thing, you are choosing in the way that a Virtue Ethicist chooses.
If you are a Consequentialist, you may have chosen to celebrate Canada Day as a means to some end that you have deemed good.
Perhaps you have deemed the minimization of your pain as good. With this in mind, you may have celebrated in order to avoid the pain of considering the violence that this country was built upon. Or maybe you chose to avoid the pain of considering how your ancestors – and you – have benefitted from this violence.
Alternatively, perhaps you have deemed the maximization of your pleasure as good. With this in mind, you could have celebrated in order to experience the nostalgia of good times past, or to revel in the awe of a fireworks display.
Whatever end you deem good, if you are justifying your choices as a way of achieving that end, you are choosing in a way that a Consequentialist chooses.
If you are a Deontologist, you may have chosen to celebrate Canada Day because there are rules or duties that have been deemed as right which justify good choice.
Let’s take national pride as an example of a right reason.
This has been baked into the fabric of our society and serves to uphold white supremacist delusion. Nationalism only gets off the ground when you give more privilege to people who hold similar intersections of identity to you; it creates an us/them (i.e. domestic/foreign, citizen/immigrant) dynamic with a rule that it is the right thing to do to ‘take care of your own.’
So most notably during the various international war periods, if you weren’t willing to fight for your country when you were asked/told to, there was something wrong with you because you weren’t fulfilling your duty.
And now we see, “Aren’t you proud to be Canadian?” as a question whose expected affirmative answer justifies the choice to celebrate colonial occupation being written into law through the creation of Canada.
If you are choosing based on duty, you are choosing in a way that a Deontologist chooses.
If you are a Yogi, you may have chosen not only to not celebrate Canada Day, but to disrupt it.
Not because someone who you admire was doing it (Virtue Ethics), or because it was a means to an end (Consequentialism), or because it was your duty to do so (Deontology).
Instead, you could have made this choice because it is part of your procedural practice of devotion to Sovereignty (Yoga/Bhakti). (Yoga Sūtra II.1)
The pre-practice of Yoga starts with creating an environment that is safe to practice living life in.
Creating this safe environment is described in the first limb of Yoga, the Yama-s.
Patañjali – the compiler of the Yoga Sūtras – shares that when one practices interrupting harm (through direct action, civil disobedience, activism, etc.) (āhimsa), what results are the facts of the world (satya) that leave people’s property intact (asteya), and their personal boundaries intact (brahmacarya), all while the practitioner does not hoard or enrich themself in this pre-practice process (aparigrahā). (Yoga Sūtra II.30-.39)
The colonial system that is the Canadian government was built on harm, and it is harmful to this day.
Learn more about the harm that Canada was built on in this free course offered by the university of alberta.
I can think of two reasons why someone might argue that the colonial system is not harmful:
- The system gives them and the people that they love more privilege than marginalization, so that person is incentivized to uphold it.
- The person doesn’t realize how the system is harming them and the people they love, because it is all they know.
Both of these are not Yogic as they involve identification with experience rather than taking responsibility.
You can start to understand where the system of white supremacist delusion gives you privilege and where it marginalizes you by completing this social location exercise.
The Yogi is the researcher: they practice making choices based not on their personal experience, but based on facts that emerge from the interruption of harm.
They do not make choices based on facts that emerge from harm.
As the Yogi starts working with the facts of the world that emerge as a result of harm interruption, they make a commitment to the practice of Yoga, as described in the second limb, the Niyama-s.
The five commitments are: abstention from un-Yogic things (śaucā), contentment with the Great Vow of the Yama-s and the commitments of the Niyama-s (santoṣa), unconservativism (tapas), self governance (svādhyāya), and devotion to Sovereignty (Īśvara praṇidhāna). (Yoga Sūtra II.30-.39)
Devotion to Sovereignty is devotion to the ideal of what it means to be a person: that which is unconstrained by inherited limitations, and free to live according to one’s own values. (Yoga Sutra I.24)
The Yogi’s devotion to Sovereignty impacts all people, because it is a devotion to the ideal of what it means to be a person, not a devotion to the ideal of what it means to be a specific person.
Yoga is not a zero sum game; when personhood is respected, every person is respected.
Sovereignty is a normative ideal which all people have an interest in. If you are choosing based on devotion to Sovereignty, you are choosing in a way that a Yogi chooses.
So – based on the above – would you consider yourself a Virtue Ethicist, a Consequentialist, a Deontologist or a Yogi?
And based on that, did you make the right choice on July 1?
Would you like to continue making moral decisions under the ethical theory to which you currently subscribe? Would you like to explore different ways of decision making?
If you are interested in exploring something different, I invite you to remember that you are not constrained by your past choices unless you choose to be. Just because you have chosen using one theory for many years doesn’t mean that you can’t choose differently next time.
You are a Sovereign being now and always.
This post is inspired by the work of: