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CHAPTER IV


MORAL VALUES AND THE POST-COMMUNIST PERSON


KIRIL NESHEV




Democratization of any post-totalitarian society would be impossible without radical changes in the social role and function of morality in educating and molding the person. In a way, the process of democratization is above all a change in the realm of moral values, moral criteria and moral estimation of the individual and society. In the sphere of moral culture this transformation is represented by a reevaluation of the place and importance of moral values in the construction of society thus far, an evaluation of the future, and a discovery of the correlations of such important moral and social categories as society, person and justice.

Here the problem of the democratization of our society has a central place. Democratization itself is closely linked to the search for a new position of the person with respect to human rights and dignity, and with the guarantees for adequate personal realization. Hence, the person has proven to be the major and fundamental "problem topic" of the democratic processes in our country. Morality as an evaluative study of man should give expression to these main trends of democratization; it should manifest the basic parameters for the rationalization of the changes taking place and of the search for an adequate place for everything concerning the human being.

PAST INHIBITIONS

To begin with, a distinction arose between the outmoded, unrealistic normative model and the actual morality of society. Many norms, values and goals, though still unattained but desirable and promising, were declared achieved in our social reality; reality was substituted by what was desired. According to the model of morality described above, the realities of crime, corruption, bureaucracy, social inequality and many other phenomena were considered non-existent. Morality seemed to lose its critical function, while the normative model with its prescriptions for appropriate consciousness and behavior clouded not only the study, but the very existence of true morality in society. In many respects non-actual problems, varnished reality, insincerity, a one-sided stress upon certain results and achievements turned morality and its values into a function of utopianism. This resulted in stagnation and estrangement from real moral problems and the tasks of moral education, in moving away from reality and losing touch with contradictions and conflicts. The moral contradictions and the moral problems were resolved only verbally; as often as not this was done in the spirit of a happy-ending film. In the process true morality was dissociated from its evaluative and educative function; its purpose in most cases was to sing the praises of certain alleged achievements, e.g., the myth of the "harmoniously developed personality".

In many regards morality all but lost its independent character and was subjected to intensive ideologizing and politicizing. Moral values acquired an instrumental and applied character; they related to the performance of a task instead of revealing the principles and the phenomena of the development of true morality. That fact found expression in the practice of proclaiming political truths and aims to be moral values and moral ideals. In this way politics began to appropriate the social functions of ethics and a strong politicizing of ethics stood in the way of isolating specific moral criteria. Without doubt, morality as a function and as a value should be set apart from politics; it must recover its universal criteria of good and evil, of just and unjust, of right and wrong. Of course, the process of eliminating the political elements as a basic evaluative context could not yield instant results. A sufficiently long period of time will be needed for the social and individual moral consciousnesses to restore universal and national traditions as criteria.

The strong politicizing of morality reflected mainly its treatment as a particular social instrument for achieving aims and ideals, the latter having above all a class significance that bred alienation among people. The instrumental character of morality saw it as a means of reaching a "bright future", with obscure horizons and an unspecified program. A moral criterion was considered to be "all that" helps to strengthen the position of a certain social order, to enforce a particular class truth. This attitude not only limited the function of morality as a social phenomenon, as a propagator of moral values, and as a criterion of thoughts, feelings, actions. It was directed above all against the person per se, as a value and a goal of social progress. The devaluation of individual moral values is one of the greatest damages inflicted by the normative model on morality in our former "socialist" society. Thus the illusion was created that only one truth could possibly exist, namely, that appropriated by one ideology and that it is valid absolutely for everybody, most of all for future society and future people. In this way the doubts, the struggle of contradictory ideas, the individuality of each one simply disappeared. A logical consequence of this absolutization of the future and of the "sole ideal" proved to be moral alienation among people. Neither ideal nor relativized values, nor appeal for the common and the collective could hide the absence of moral criteria in themselves or of true personal moral value.

The stultifying of human life and of individual biography is the best proof of social and moral alienation, for how could we strive for the sense of human life without personal presence, universal values, moral equality and justice? How could we strive for the sense of human life if there is no differentiation between individual human paths towards universal value, or if such movements of conscience as compassion, repentance, and sympathy did not exist? Moral alienation is a result of the omnipotence and monopoly of an instrumental model as all-embracing, imposed by force, and therefore breeding fear. Levelling in payment and labor, violence in political life and the relativization of moral values--these are the true roots of the moral alienation of people in our society. The visible sides of this alienation are rudeness, indifference, apathy and cruelty, because the distraction of old and proven traditional means gave birth not only to a spiritual vacuum, but also to the forced introduction of values and norms which do not correspond to the real social conditions in our society.

A second characteristic feature important for understanding the socialist normative model of morality is that it presupposes an untrue, distorted interrelation between personal and public interests, between the person and society. It is reckoned that public and personal interests ought to coincide, that morality ought to express first of all a "total" or approximate coincidence of public and personal interests. Actually, whatever the circumstances, personal interest flawlessly and categorically conformed to the public interest, as the latter was not clearly defined theoretically while in practice often it represented the interests of a particular group, of the administrative-bureaucratic machinery or simply of an upstart official and his henchmen. The flawed dialectic between public and personal interests caused damage which affected the attitude of the socialist worker towards state property, labor stimulae and the value of labor itself.

State property in many aspects proved to belong to "nobody". As public property it actually had no particular owner and was available to everyone. This stimulated embezzlers, people not only unconscionable but "enterprising" enough to serve only their personal interests. A socio-moral paradox appeared: the existence of "no one's" property stimulated consumer attitudes. The embezzling and use of state property for personal goals, rather than its being managed, preserved or developed, became a source of personal gain. Now the restoration of different forms of property--collective, cooperative, municiple, personal and private--makes it possible to react more adequately to contemporary conditions and circumstances without emphasizing or favoring only one of the forms, such as state property. Thus a flexible, grounded and balanced attitude of the working man towards state property could be developed and the ambition to profit from the state property could be terminated by creating the attitude of an owner which changes the consciousness of the worker and provides a different stimulus and meaning for his effort.

Incentive. The stimulae to work could not serve their purpose. Often they were based on a deficit in labor reserves and an increase of production funds. Thus, labor stimulae were marked by levelling: no matter at what one worked, how one worked or what effort one made, one received the same payment as the careless, undisciplined or lazy. Wages were guaranteed regardless of the quantity and, most of all, of the quality of labor. The general feeling reflected the widespread view that social justice meant equal payment for unequal labor. This affected mainly the conscientious workers and qualified specialists. Finally, it had an unfavorable impact on professionalism in the different spheres of labor. The guarantee of an equal right to work should not mean equal payment for unequal labor. The levelling tendencies, both as a psychology and as a morality, contributed a great deal to ignoring the stimulae from a just inequality in payment. The moral damage from levelling affected even the main principle of socialism, namely, the value of labor itself as a central pillar of the socialist way of life.

Work. Thus labor lost some of its most characteristically attractive aspects for the socialist man. In many respects it melted into idleness and uncertainty, and encouragement of quick and easy profit. Preferences for lucrative types of work, mainly in the service sphere, increased sharply. Whence came these results, especially as morality could not be imagined without labor as a fundamental moral value?

Obviously, the relationship between labor and morality changed through the years so that they cannot always be defined one by the other: labor is not always a matter of morality, nor is morality based on labor. This gap between morality and labor is also one of the results of the normative model of morality. The devaluation of labor in our case is due to a number of factors: oversights in education, beginning with family upbringing; negligence in the creation of working habits; changes in the style of living; and preferences for intellectual work. Most important are the still unsettled problems of stimulae, namely, the low payment in some professions of great social importance, levelling, the decreased responsibility and work discipline, the alienation from property and labor.

The person. In the third place, the normative model of morality affected the moral image of the person as well as the assessment of personal roles in the further development of democracy. The basic social unit for the development of morality was the collective body, and collectivism became a moral principle. But the collective body and the collective spirit quite often ignored individual differences and the formation of personality and of persons richly unique whose opinions are not always alike. Thus, collectivism sometimes proved to be a hindrance to a pluralism of views; it preached unanimous consensus which often imperiously impeded points of view and ideas of great social importance and moral significance. Thus the personal right to one's own point of view, different from that of the collective body, was not guaranteed. Another fault could be traced to identifying individuality and personal uniqueness with individualism: the individual lost many of his rights as a moral agent such as the guaranteed right to make a choice and even to be mistaken in that choice. There could be no harmonious and well-functioning collectivity without the existence and the activity of strong, versatile individualities, of personalities with individual opinions, prepared to back them no matter what the circumstances or the opposition.

Sociality as a feeling and as a moral principle becomes pointless without a diversity of views and the conflict of different ideas. This should be a moral way of resolving conflicts aimed at the development of all people and of each person.

That is why in the process of renovation moral values also mean a search for the moral truth for all phenomena and for an adequate expression for those values concerning the person. Social recognition and individual self-realization are most important in the process of change and renewal. Change in social structures, democratization and pluralism, development of forms of property and the search for adequate stimulae can be aimed at only one goal, namely, the progress of the person.

The moral values for renewal originate both spontaneously and as theoretical generalizations in the science of morality through studying the development of moral regulation, the struggle between good and evil, and the growth and dynamics of a social mentality and of concepts about social progress. Renewal values develop democratically, for they are a continuation of the best achievements of the past, an application of universal and national ideals, and a criticism of what has already occurred.

MORAL VALUES FOR THE FUTURE

Universal Moral Values

Moral values reflect the pressing needs of development in the form of ideals or goals which act as a stimulus and motive for action and evaluative criteria for consciousness and behavior, views and deeds. Moral values are a lived unity between consciousness and behavior; they are a lived realization of ideals. Hence, they are complex, socially determined ideas, and reflect a need in the development of society for personal choice directing the active participation of the personality. The real existence of moral values is impossible without persons and personal choice, attitudes and activity in response to the processes taking place in society. That is why moral values always have reflected the degree of social freedom embodied in the individual conduct of each one of us--for moral values always presuppose a personal concern or attitude. Personal commitment on the part of the individual is proof of the social reliability and significance of moral values. At the same time, moral values are the humanitarian expression of social truths at a certain stage in the historical development of the society.

Because of that, moral values act as a barometer of the level of personal interest in social renovation in all spheres of social life. Nowadays, traditional virtues and merits are being reassessed, thereby revealing new dimensions, claiming new places in the moral structure of society and new interrelations with social needs and interests.

Universal values represent the achievements of the world's moral culture, a generalized social experience concerning the nature of man and his existence. These values acquire great and crucial importance in this age of global problems, when the questions about peace and war, about ecological danger, hunger and demographic growth, about life and the rights of man must be settled in every part of the planet. Universal values guarantee and reflect the rights of man, the respect for human dignity, solidarity, and sympathy, compassion and defence of children, older people and women. The preservation of peace, the search for common goals and the interests of humankind--regardless of ideology, religion or view of life, regardless of the color of skin and social status--constitute the most important dimensions of universal values. Thus, we could divide universal values into two large classes:

--those which deal with the preservation of peace, of nature, etc., which concern all peoples and turn the latter into co-masters of one united home;

--those that concern the individual and the guarantees of the personal rights of freedom, choice, work, religion, etc.

Universal human values are closely linked with human freedom. What is more, they are both a starting point and a result of a centuries- old social experience; they are the achievements of a world culture which makes possible the existence of morality, moral choice and moral criteria. This is the great, concept-forming significance of universal human values--without them a truly moral person would be impossible.

However, another problem of a theoretically applied nature is of great importance: if universal human values do not represent by themselves a universal moral criterion, then the "point" of responsibility disappears: moral values and goals are relativized and acquire an instrumental character. But universal human values are an abstract achievement of human experience and human thought. Their application requires a situational consideration, appropriate compromises, and tolerant dialogue when views do not coincide. It is true that universal human values should not and must not be imposed by force; indeed, they are opposed to force. But it is also the truth that they should be asserted in every day actions and practices of the individual as well as of the larger communities which often differ in customs, traditions and manners, in ethnic self-consciousness, religious beliefs, and political parties.

Although universal human values are the sole and constant criterion of morality, if they are not realized in deeds and actions, they will remain just a wish alienated from education, culture and history. They are called upon to make people equal in terms of justice, compassion and sympathy, namely, morality. Universal human values are a true guarantee for freedom. They are not only an appeal and a call, but a real means for the recognition of human freedom, human rights, human conscience and faith.

Universal human values are of extreme importance not only because they are one more proof of lasting force of humanism, but also because they add new value and dimensions to morality in society. The issue is how to find a more adequate way to express the values which have originated in the ancient history of mankind.

Universal human values today represent the transcendent principles that guard, preserve and help the progress of human life. The unity and uniqueness of humankind are their source. Nowadays it is hard to imagine nations separated from one another by impenetrable walls, or free from the ecological menace or the negative "echoes" of scientific-technological progress, or who would direct the fate of other nations. What is most important, man and his right to work, his beliefs, freedom and progress, are the core of the contemporary concept for universal values. Love of mankind is today the universal value; the individual and mankind are the two indispensable poles of this value which reveal the simplicity and greatness of morality.

Marxist ethics has taught that universal values possess an historical origin and nature. Quite often they have proven to be the form of appearance of values with a social context or a call for their realization through a revolution. Universal values manifest the independence of morality, not the other way round. This fact explains the great need for universal values today, the social interest in them, as well as the need to proclaim these values as the supreme criterion of moral norms and ideals. The social core of morality calls attention to them.

These are the first and most general reasons for the existence of morality in certain social circumstances. It is as if morality reveals the already forgotten values which marked its appearance in the far removed prehistoric ages. Love of mankind, respect and esteem for human life, human dignity and honor, personal rights and freedom, and personality as a social and moral value constitute the--not long, but rich--list of universal values which could not be distinguished from morality. Morality could not develop if it did not reflect and realize universal values.

Compassion

To define compassion, most probably we should look for its source in our relations with other persons. The other, however, is in a peculiar situation of every day needs, tensions, discomforts or conflicts. He needs, obviously, not only compassion and sympathy, but definite and active help: here and now, and, if possible, immediately. That is why compassion actually combines the features of kindness, sympathy and co-understanding. These are all feelings and elements of empathy and sympathy without which the civilized person, civilized society, and spirituality as a practical presence of culture among us would not be possible.

For a "classification" of compassion as regards its degree of social activity we could approach it as both social and personal: social insofar as without the support and stimulae of the community it would not be possible, and personal insofar as without our individual participation it could not be realized. From a social point of view it is of the utmost importance to encourage compassion, which depends on us, with our renovated and renovating consciousness. Not long ago, even professional ethicists held that compassion could not be a virtue for it was based on pity and sympathy, and those who offered pity and sympathy to other people were thought to demonstrate superiority and haughtiness. Thus, compassion was argued to be a disguised form of superiority among people. Today, this absurd moral argument has proved in practice its shortcomings. It is obvious that a lack of compassion within the gamut of our human interrelations actually gave way to rudeness, cruelty and disrespect for human dignity. Compassion is a personal virtue, not because it demonstrates any superiority over another human being through offering help and attention, but because in this way the moral person defends a right and duty of human communication with another person; human beings thus manifest moral equality in love of mankind. Compassion does not turn one into an "agent" of mutual help, but into the moral creator of ethical equality as a right.

Compassion is a traditional universal moral and cultural virtue: a specific unity of motive and deeds, of choice and action. That is why only the morally free person could offer compassion, for the conduct of the compassionate person reveals a specific moral power, helping the other and linking with the anxiety, tension and misfortune of the other. What is given to the other is not only respect for his well-being, but most of all for his need, although this is often a misfortune, failure or unhappiness.

Compassion is not an innate human feature; we achieve it through education and upbringing. Of course, this education is based on that initial kindness which reveals itself in human interrelations and guarantees the sincere, undisguised and trusting "temperature" of communication. Goodness and kindness provide compassion and nourish its growth. Compassion, however, also contains elements of behavior that is due, for it takes into consideration the imperative forms of duty, without which it would remain empty.

Unfortunately, the time when compassion will be an inalienable characteristic of our way of life still is not near. We should not believe that we could reach this higher moral virtue merely by appeals and slogans. It is imperative that here, as in all socio-cultural initiatives, we teach ourselves to communicate with other persons. The renovation of traditional Bulgarian virtues such as good will, neighborliness, mutual help, trust, and respect of the other person are sources of compassion in every day life. What counts most are not the deeds only, but the long lasting value attitude. This is especially so when it comes to evaluating the people around us, because compassion itself acts as a kind of universal reflex marking the most important element, namely, respect for human dignity.

Tradition and Custom

National values reflect the centuries-long social experience of Bulgarians in all spheres of everyday life. They are traditional values which identify the Bulgarian people as an original social community, manifesting its authenticity and distinctiveness among other nations by its customs and manners. National values reveal the unity of a nation, its ethnic self-consciousness, moral virtues and characteristics, as grounding its continuity through generations. Thus, national moral values guarantee at one and the same time the continuity between the different generations of Bulgarians, the present unity of our people and the future of our nation. National values are elements of every day consciousness and communication; they constitute a specific behavioral culture and consist of customs, traditions, manners, and love of one's country.

The sphere of application of customs is quite large. In a specific way they "legitimate" those positive elements of social experience which make possible the unity between the individual and the social community; they are the means for the incorporation and identification of the individual within the national community. They have been assimilated and turned into everyday habits of conduct, which constitute a distinguishing feature of the ethnic community. In a specific way customs integrate recurring elements of the working and everyday life of the collective body, group or community, and constitute a perduring stable link between daily actions. That is why continuity in customs is of the utmost importance to the community.

Tradition itself is an active reflection upon the everyday relations between people in the social community; it constitutes a recurring view of life which gives a general orientation to behavior. Thus, tradition helps education and strengthens the community; it helps respond to new creative needs by drawing on the collective experience of past generations; it is a specific way of developing human culture by employing customs as a basis for participating and acting in the social community. Customs and traditions are at the base of the widespread, spontaneous and non-formal influence on the individual which marks the beginning of one's socialization. Customs are the common means of everyday communication between people, which informational exchange is of social importance; tradition is the generally accepted, widespread, compulsory form of specific communication between generations. Through them, communication as interrelation and interaction between people becomes intelligible for different generations as well as for members of the same generation.

Morals (mores) are "designs" for action as well--they outline the forms of human conduct which function in a particular society and are subjected to moral evaluation. The core of mores is the characteristic value system of the society in terms of which some actions are considered to be of particular importance. This is generalized in norms, which guarantee that they be taken into account. Mores (morals) then are the characteristic accepted values of the community; they settle relations whose main criteria are human dignity, honesty and fairness--not in words, but in deeds. As a social institution, satisfying mostly the requirements for stability, perdurance and continuity in the interactions between people, customs, traditions and mores (morals) participate in the process of change and development of the community. The new interests which turn into well-defined goals people require enforce changes in the communication network constituted by customs, traditions and mores.

The process of democratization in a country's customs affects traditions and mores (morals). On the one hand, there is a process of actualizing more or less forgotten customs and traditions; on the other hand, there appear new customs and traditions, corresponding to the spiritual potential of the society.

Traditional Bulgarian virtues such as diligence, hospitality, honesty, good will, fairness, and trust gather new value meaning today in the new conditions of social change. Diligence has lost some of its old features as motivation for a flawless and unselfish drive for work. Instead, nowadays, one needs progress and certification as regards one's qualifications, social recognition and suitably high payment for job satisfaction. The contemporary Bulgarian refuses to work for the sake of the work itself, but takes into account its results with regard to the workers, their families, and their social status.

Certain changes are observed also as regards hospitality; this has become selective, with preferences being given to friends and relatives. Honesty, faithfulness and fidelity with regard to one's word of honor are also changing and in ways which are not always for the better. In the complex conditions of contemporary work and the anonymous mode of contemporary life the traditional Bulgarian virtue of truthfulness changes into a certain confidence found mainly among a definite circle of friends and relatives, but not socially. The same changes are observed as regards trust in man, in our compatriot, in our colleague, whose personal dignity should be accepted and respected without preliminary conditions and doubts.

These changes in traditional characteristics and virtues seem to be due to a decline in paternal morality, to the loss of the moral authority of older persons, and to the fact that new value relations between people have not yet been established.

The Bulgarian people, however, possess other traditions in which they take pride: the centuries-old feeling of social freedom and justice, of equality and dignity. These traditional values have guided Bulgarians during their complicated and dramatic history; quite often they have been the only moral grounds for hope and faith in the future. They gave birth to kindness and to feelings of equality, mutual help and compassion in personal relationships. These values have been adopted by all Bulgarians no matter what their religion. Today the unity of the Bulgarian people is gaining enormous ideological and patriotic significance. This should not depend only upon religious affiliation, but should develop national ethnic self-consciousness which flawlessly reflects a moral-value dimension.

There are three ways of identification of the individual with the national community: nihilism, patriotism and nationalism. Nihilism is the negation of national values by the person, while nationalism demeans the achievements of other nations and countries. Though ancient, patriotism nevertheless represents the contemporary sense of personal belonging to a national community, while the person himself preserves his or her own self-identity. In feeling and practice, as a conscious value attitude towards the community, patriotism does not transform people into a faceless and nameless mob. By definition, in respecting the dignity of one's own nation it includes a respectful attitude towards other peoples and excludes fanaticism.

All this turns patriotism into a universal value which recognizes the achievements of its own people as compatible to those of other nations. Patriotism as consciousness, feeling and practice has four layers: emotional, in that it reflects an attachment to one's native place, to all that has created us as the persons we are; moral, in that it manifests attachment to our homeland, the feeling of co-belonging with a community of people; operative, in that it reveals unity in active co-participation in the enterprises of the people and the nation; and ideological, in that it consists of such main values as a social and national ideal, continuity of tradition, dignity, the basic virtues, and a critical attitude towards past, present, and future. Patriotism is the main value attitude towards the national community; it is both the way and the means for the formation of the person in freely adopting the achievements of his or her people.

In search of a highly effective patriotic education we should direct our efforts to the development of the person, for only one who is truly personal is able to think for himself, to be immune to suggestion and to ignore both nihilism and nationalism. Young people are particularly susceptible to patriotic feelings; but to morally enhance their convictions, they should know the truth about their national history, its recent past and the present. Only on the basis of those truths can a national ideal become the goal and purpose of one's individual life.

Discipline

Today more than ever, discipline in work proves to be the criterion of our attitude towards society, towards daily duties and towards increasing the quantity and quality of our efforts. Attention is focused now on the quality of production, which presupposes an appropriate organization of the productive process and a strict adherence to agreements and to realizing a plan. Discipline is basic for the complex interrelations between companies and working teams. This is not only subordination to regulations, technology and the inner organization of the working space; most of all it represents one's personal rational and motivated attitude toward these. In the process of renovation, work continues to be the foundation of the way of life, and discipline in work is one of the criteria for the development of a person.

Discipline, however, means not only work but also civil order: security and peace of mind in our towns and villages and in public places. This element of social discipline shows that legality and the requirements of jurisprudence are inherent to the norms and values of morality; social discipline as a moral requirement is without doubt one of the characteristic features of democracy.

The human person is the general goal and core of our development. The goal of an harmoniously and universally developed person requires an evaluation of the conditions for its formation, development, and prospects for self-realization. The person should not be torn between deeds and thought; the gap between words and deeds, promises and real achievements, equality and privilege is one of the reasons for hypocrisy and inertia, for the widespread moral mistrust and alienation between people, and for the rudeness and even aggressiveness in our daily relations, in strong contrast to the theoretical professions of the harmoniously and universally developed person. The person today is formed and educated in social conditions characterized by contradictions and negative phenomena which push us backwards and downwards, humiliate and alienate us. The person who accepts the challenge to fight against all of this is himself a creator within these circumstances as well as a subject of moral activity characteristic of a future democracy. That person is bound by universal values.

Equality and personhood are the core problems of contemporary morality. What is the sense of a personal equality from a moral standpoint, and why, therefore, should persons not be levelled? From a moral point of view persons are equal in their capacity for the realization of the good and just; they are equal in responsibility for actual deeds and actions; they are equal as objects of evaluation, and equal in the face of the requirements of universal values and conscience. Only in this sense are persons considered equal. But from here begin the differences which clearly and categorically divide us into heroes and common people. People are not equal according to their moral power, moral conviction, moral stability and trustworthiness; this is the crucial moral problem for all times and peoples. This does not mean that we should condemn people by putting them beforehand into categories and classes. Persons are morally equal because all possess rights and freedom, and all are addressed by certain moral duties. The recognition and realization of these obvious universal facts is one of the great achievements of democratization in our time.

Today, freedom and democratic equality are the great social and moral hopes for better and more secure guarantees of our human nature and existence. The psychology of freedom and equality, which is found everywhere in our renovating society, reflects principles and norms of a legal state and social guarantees, but also of social differentiation and justifiable unequality. Henceforward, Bulgarian society will develop new moral concepts which originate from concrete forms of the universal values and their accepted criteria of good and evil, just and unjust, regarding persons and society.

 

 

 

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