Situational ethics

I previously wrote about my attempts to balance pragmatism with a certain kind of idealism. Last night I had to weigh these things again, only this time, my relationship with my parents entered the equation.

For Valentine's Day, my parents bought me a Redbox gift voucher, good for 10 movie rentals. No doubt they chose this gift because we had rented a couple of movies in the previous month and had enjoyed them together. But this created a conflict with my desire to avoid feeding the ethically bankrupt movie industry, who after all just tried to sabotage free expression on the Internet with SOPA and PIPA. What to do?

Now, the second time we rented a movie was after the famous anti-PIPA black-out, and I had misgivings about renting the movie. I said something like, "Why are we renting a movie, when the movie industry just tried to censor the Internet?" And Mom simply said, perhaps in an exasperated tone, "Because we want to watch a movie." So maybe I didn't express the dilemma well enough, but she didn't get it, and we rented the movie.

So some may blame me for caving in the last time. Perhaps if I hadn't acquiesced, I wouldn't have been confronted with the dilemma of what to do with the Redbox gift voucher. But come Valentine's Day, it was too late to undo what I had done, and thinking about what I should have done a week or two ago is probably not healthy.

So I had the gift voucher, and last night, it was time to make a decision; our previous movie rentals had been on Friday nights. I had two choices: accept the gift, rent a movie, make my parents and myself happy, and cast one vote for the movie industry and its practices; or reject the gift, disappoint or even upset my parents, pass up a potentially enjoyable form of entertainment, and cast one vote against the movie industry. If I rejected the gift this first time, perhaps we could have requested a refund for the whole gift voucher.

My vote, for or against the movie industry, would be infinitesimally small; I'm just one person among the millions who rent movies. Still, I'd like to believe that if enough of us stop feeding the movie industry, then that industry will lose its clout in our government, and thus its ability to sabotage the Internet and general-purpose computers. Conversely, if enough of us continue to feed the industry, by renting or buying movies, then the industry will retain its corrupting power.

If I were choosing whether or not to watch a movie by myself, then the above would be the only thing I needed to consider. But as I said, my relationship with my parents was also a factor. My choice would have a far greater impact on that relationship than it would have on the movie industry's power over the Internet. I'm well aware that my reasoned rejection of Christianity last year was a major blow for my parents, so I have made a conscious effort to be on good terms with them in every other way that I can. And because I still live with my parents, despite being 31 years old (a problem which I know I eventually must address), my relationship with my parents is one of the most important relationships in my life.

So we rented and watched a movie last night, and enjoyed it. And, I suppose, we helped reinforce the movie industry's power in our society.

I guess this post is an attempt to justify my decision. I admit I've given the decision more thought this morning than I did last night. So did I make the right choice? I really want to know, because I have 9 more opportunities to make a different choice.