I had one of them this evening, after watching the debate and thinking idly for a bit. I realized that despite the craziness of 2016, I do in fact still have utter faith that people are basically good, more specifically, that they are trying to do good. Problem: the vast differences we see between different people in the way they try to do good, say the differences between between Clinton and Trump, arise at least in part because people appeal to different ethical schema. Clinton goes about trying to do good in a meticulous, rational way, which I find personally appealing, emphasizing her specific, dearly held interests such as the good of the children. Trump has a totally different approach, trying to do good in a more tribal way by freeing his people from governmental barriers in order to succeed as he has; unfortunately, he is highly irrational in the way he goes about this, narcissistic in his inability to use criticism effectively, and has absolutely no insight regarding his gaping flaws as a candidate (temper, temper, temper, inexperience, unwillingness to compromise, poor grasp of futurism, the list goes on). But I don't want to just talk about politics. The point is that everybody has a moral code which, despite what they might say, is peculiar to them. Everyone is, I am convinced, trying to achieve some good somehow. Even psychopaths like Shakespeare's Aaron the Moor, a character far removed from any normal who reveled only in what he knew to be despicable, is still human, because he was, in fact, pursuing a personal good--pleasure. The problem there was that his pleasure was incompatible with functional society. In a way, though psychopaths are classically the most terrifying characters we can imagine because they are so alien in their motivations, the more dangerous people in history--Hitler, for instance--clearly have something wrong with them, but are not psychopaths. Rather, Hitler was horribly misguided, delusional, and unfortunately charismatic, so that his delusions misguided a whole nation in his attempt to do good by them. Himmler, the psychopath behind the Holocaust, reportedly a good family man as well as mass murderer, would not have been so damaging without Hitler.
The contrasts we see among people who share identities are as great and as little as the contrasts we see among people who claim to be completely different. People that are diametrically opposed to each other in seemingly every way are still, I have faith, both reaching for something good. Clearly, this faith is not necessarily reassuring.
It would be much easier to believe that people are good or bad. It would be so convenient to believe that Aaron, Hitler, Himmler, and so on, that all these hideous people were just evil. It would be easier, because saying "they were evil" by way of explanation absolves us of any fear, because we are clearly good. Us and them, I and Other. However, once any glint of good is allowed in the Evil Ones, bad sneaks into the good. This begs the question, if none are fully good, or if all are a different kind of good, then who is right? We may all be aiming for good, but some must clearly hit much closer to the mark than others.
This is where people start trying to define objective measures of morality, something that has frustrated ethicists for thousands of years. Aristotle equated goodness with happiness, and thus good acts were those that made one happy. But then there's the problem of Aaron the Moor... Kant appealed to duty to define moral acts, but then there is the innate problem of the people who do not feel duty-bound in the same way as Kant (and I) did. Both Aristotle and Kant effectively fell into the same error, assuming other people would think the same way they do, have a developed conscience like them. Their methods for achieving an objective morality only worked for people who were already fundamentally "moral," with similar opinions on what constituted happiness and duty. Probably the strongest model for objective morality is utilitarianism, which says that a moral act is the option that maximizes happy outcomes for the most people. It is still a flawed system, but more quantifiable, which is why it is favored in fields such as public health where objective ethical decision making really matters. The final, intractable problem is getting people, with their myriad ideas of what good is, to agree to abide by the ethical models which have been objectively constructed to the best of our ability.
The problem of morality is multifaceted. I believe that everyone is trying in some way to achieve good in their lives. I may be wrong, but it will take some convincing to persuade me of the fact. I don't think that this makes me an optimist per se, because the direction of my thoughts is not particularly comforting. Rather, I would conclude that achieving any sort of unity on the subject of morality is still centuries away, and it will never be perfect unity until we are all bred and conditioned as in Brave New World, a setting which I am sure we can all agree is absolutely amoral.