Moral consistency refers to the practice of adhering to the same ethical principles and standards regardless of the individuals involved
Moral consistency means being true to the same standards, regardless of who the actor is. If something is wrong, it is wrong whether our opponent is doing it or we are doing it. When pointing out the failings in another, we must also be willing to address the failings within ourselves.
Maintaining moral consistency entails living a life free from contradictions, a state that bestows inner tranquillity upon an individual. While perfection in this regard may elude most of us, it remains an ideal we aspire to attain. Cultivating this attribute demands a degree of self-awareness and the humility to acknowledge our errors.
Children and young people frequently possess a keen perception of moral inconsistencies in the adults around them, serving as valuable reminders of the importance of moral integrity in our lives.
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Moral consistency, however, seems to decrease as power and influence increase. Corporations, governments, and political parties often have idealistic mission statements yet fail miserably to uphold them.
We tend to hold those who disagree with us to a reasonable standard while overlooking the transgressions of those we support. A prominent example of this phenomenon lies in the legal action taken against former U.S. President Donald Trump for allegedly possessing classified government documents in his residence. While pursuing such legal actions in his case is justifiable, it becomes inconsistent when we do not investigate President Joe Biden for a similar alleged offence with equal fervour.
Here’s another example from American foreign policy: There’s a valid argument that Russian President Vladimir Putin is breaching international law by invading Ukraine. However, what often goes unmentioned is that the United States conducted a similar invasion of Iraq two decades ago. It also raises questions when Russians using cluster munitions in Ukraine are condemned as a horrific act while NATO simultaneously supplies the same type of weapons to the Ukrainian side, seemingly without the same level of scrutiny.
Canada is not immune to such hypocrisy. Justin Trudeau has accused members of the official opposition of supporting Nazi ideals, even as his Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland, openly praises her grandfather, a man who published Nazi propaganda using a printing press stolen from a Jewish family during the German occupation of Ukraine. And watching the bantering that occurs during question period in the House of Commons, one cannot help but notice a significant amount of finger-pointing, with a distinct absence of admissions of fault. It also seems to be forgotten that our own wrong actions should not be justified simply because someone else has engaged in similar behaviour.
Finding powerful people who practice moral consistency is becoming increasingly difficult, and ordinary citizens are increasingly displaying signs of disillusionment. An increasing number of people are turning away from mainstream media as they become aware of the insincerity in their reporting. What’s becoming evident is that the prevailing narrative tends to favour what is most expedient and profitable, primarily benefiting industries such as arms and pharmaceuticals.
It is also interesting that the people who try to bring moral consistency to politics are largely ignored. For example, the American Green Party presidential candidate, Cornel West, uses terms like “moral consistency” and “love” when he speaks. He opposes violence, regardless of the perpetrator. He also recognizes each person as a sacred human being, regardless of their opinions, beliefs, what they look like, or where they live in the world. While everyone deserves opportunity and to be treated with respect, West points out that each of us has a bit of “gangster” in us, things that we need to work on to become better individuals.
Perhaps the key to a better world is learning to prioritize what is consistent and true, which takes honesty and humility. We will never be perfect, and our world will never be perfect, but we can still move toward perfection.
Moral consistency recognizes that every person is sacred, and everything that does not celebrate this truth is itself a contradiction of our humanity.
Gerry Chidiac specializes in languages, genocide studies and works with at-risk students. He is the recipient of an award from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre for excellence in teaching about the Holocaust.
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