• Compelled to choose between truth and loyalty, I would (all things being equal) come down on the side of truth. One reason: The history of this century suggest that those who put loyalty above truth (loyalty to Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, and even Richard Nixon) are capable of doing terrible damage to the world. It's hard to imagine that kind of damage arising when truth is put above loyalty. Having to choose, I feel safer and more comfortable honoring what is true than following human allegiances.
• Compelled to choose between the individual and the community, I would (all things being equal) lean toward the community. One reason: Individualism and its emphasis on rights has run to such extremes in this century that it has done serious damage to community and its emphasis on responsibilities. Were I a citizen of a post-Soviet county, I might feel otherwise: Seventy years of oppressive communism might have driven me to support the individual at any cost. But I'm not: My history, and that of my culture, has been different. Another reason: Community includes self, but self does not always embrace community.
• Compelled to choose between short term and long term, I would (all things being equal) favor the long term. One reason: The long term always includes the short term, whereas short-term thinking (as the history of greed in the American 1980's demonstrates) does not always provide for the long term.
• Compelled to choose between justice and mercy, I would (all things being equal) stick with mercy, which to me speaks of love and compassion. One reason: I can imagine a world so full of love that justice, as we now know it, would no longer be necessary. But I cannot imagine a world so full of justice that there would no longer be any need for love. Given only one choice, I would take love.
"The world, of course, hardly ever presents a truly level playing field. All things are rarely equal. An action that is right in the abstract may, in the push and pull of human interchange, be less right than some other. That's where the tough choices arise.
"By themselves, these four paradigms won't make those choices for us. It's hard to imagine a leader who succeeds simply by staking out one side of a paradigm and doggedly adhering to it no matter what happens. That's not to say people don't try: In a society schooled on quick fixes and educated by sitcoms that solve everything in half an hour, there is an undeniable temptation to find a formula and live by it. Too often, however, these Johnny-one-notes of the values chorus miss the point. Clinging to one value to the exclusion of others, and failing to assess the complexity of the issues surrounding them, they substitute thoughtless moralizing for moral thinking.
"And for that there is no longer any room. More than ever before, our age is making short shrift of those who preach without acts, indulge selfrighteousness without humility, and chastise others' wrongs without understanding their own. A morality of repetition mouthing unexamined values inherited from a ghostly past is rapidly giving way to something new.
"What's coming? That will depend in large part on our responses to the world around us. What's coming, unfortunately, may be a resurgent morality of relativism, in which core values fall into cynical disrepute and cold-blooded self-will finally drives out all vestiges of honesty, love, fairness, and respect.
"On the other hand, what's coming may be a new morality of mindfulness, in which the light of ethical reason and intuition dispels shadows, builds firm conclusions, and leads to goodness, worth, and dignity.
"We will not survive the morality of repetition: The twenty-first century's choices are simply too tough. Nor will we survive the morality of relativism: There is too much leverage these days behind even a single unpunished act of evil. We'll survive by a morality of mindfulness. We'll survive where reason moderates the clash of values and intuition schools our decision-making. There's no better way for good people to make touch choices.