remember to pack your moral compass

Many of you would know that I am a law student. I have a year to go before finishing my degree (not that I’m counting…). I have spent the last 5 years (plus 1 year away) absorbed in legal theory, legislation and case law. I have studied legal history and the legal response to changing society.

More recently I have been doing legal work, providing suggestions and pointers for people facing a myriad of legal issues.

And today I have a community service announcement: Don’t Forget to Use Your Moral Compass.

Because whilst the law has something to say about nearly every facet of our lives and society, that does not make it right.

The law is a construction of the past values of society. Or maybe more accurately, a reflection of the past values of those who created it. The law struggles to keep up with changing beliefs, attitudes, practices and technology.

This is why hetero marriage is still the only type of marriage recognised by Australian law. This is why refugees are treated like criminals when they have broken no law.

This is why the Great Barrier Reef may be destroyed in the course of shipping mineral resources (and their accompanying profits!) overseas.

Did you know that most genocides and other social atrocities throughout history have been committed under the auspices of law?

The worst perpetrators of the World War II holocaust were bureaucrats performing atrocious, yet legal, day-jobs and then going home to their families in the evenings.

The invasion of Australia in the 18th Century was legitimate under British law.

Stealing Indigenous children from their families and placing them in white homes was perfectly legal at the time.

Apartheid was formally ended in South Africa in 1994.

The High Court recognised that marital rape was a part of common law in 1991. The year I was born. Not that long ago.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Tasmania in 1997!

The list goes on.

The point that I want, hope, pray that people take from this is that the place to test today’s moral wrongs is rarely in the courts that apply yesterday’s laws.

The overwhelming majority of us have an inner moral compass that quietly tries to guide us.

Do you ever find yourself trying to justify behaviour or decisions that no one has challenged you on? Your moral compass is probably kicking in.

Just don’t get it confused with your ego. Your ego will tell you that you’re not good enough, never good enough and that you need to prove yourself.

Your moral compass is much quieter. Easier to suffocate. It will challenge you to fulfil your potential. It will ask you to do right by others. It will suggest that you apologise and forgive. It will cheer you on when you’re generous.Listen to it. Please.