Moral separation, or disconnection between action and consequence, emerges as a symptom of the broader state of social fragmentation wherein people and processes that were once closely linked are now far removed. This scattered condition distorts our intentions as a phrase is distorted when youngsters play telephone: each step that consequences become removed from actions is a new opportunity for unintended effects.
Fragmentation is not without benefit, however, for it gives rise to pluralism. Precisely because society’s constituent elements now dwell in so many places, we are able to closely examine different parts of the whole–which from a distance appear contiguous–and see them as separate and incompatible. In light of this, we either accept the limitations of our own experiences and knowledge or devise an illusion to obfuscate the true nature of the monster.
Ideology is this illusion. Ideology uses abstraction and symbolism to sew the limbs of different beasts into a grotesque whole. Where a careful inspection reveals the leg of an alligator and the head of a bird, ideology sees only a living, breathing creature. Our daily lives are permeated with absurdity that goes largely unnoticed. Because ideology veils the monster as such, we continue to act as if society were a logical, complete structure. We continue to use decision making tools informed by the veil of wholeness rather than the reality of fragmentation. This is why moral separation exists; our intuitive ethical reasoning is ineffective in preparing us to operate as moral agents in a chaotic, disjointed world.
If we do indeed accept the limitations of our experiences and knowledge, if we see that the monster is a monster, we must then abandon the old tools no longer functional in a pluralist society. Tools like altruism, which once served us well, now do little to facilitate moral agency. So how do we reify basic human goodness without relying on ideology or moral absolutism?