So. About the various debates about "knowing whether action X, Y, or Z is wrong" going around the world lately. Over on Ozy Frants's new blog a commenter named Joshua Bennett nails the general case.
Socrates admonished us that no one knowingly does evil. Everyone has a reason for what they do, even if it’s a ridiculous, selfish reason. Our actions seem like a good idea at the time. Only in retrospect do we realize we were wrong. We all do this, so some measure of empathy is in order even for those who hurt others.
But this doesn’t mean we should just say, “Oh, your heart was in the right place,” and let shit slide. Condemnation is a powerful social tool to change people’s behaviors. People who are shamed or otherwise punished for their actions are more likely to avoid doing the same thing in the future, especially if they can see in retrospect why their actions were wrong.
Furthermore, when society makes a Big Deal™ about things like the importance of consent, we’re less likely to think our own reasons make our actions okay. The more we talk about this, the more it sticks in people’s brains: “Having sex with someone without their explicit consent is never okay! No, not even then.”
Source: Ozy Frantz's Blog
He was talking in the context of a post about "date rape," (a.k.a. "rape") but like it or not the same metric applies to countless other contexts both larger (shooting up a school in Connecticut, piloting a drone into a school in Pakistan) and smaller (grabbing the parking space someone else was clearly waiting for, grabbing the nice gloves in the lost and found that "nobody will miss.")
What I particularly like about Joshua's point about making things a "Big Deal™" is that it really has worked in other realms of crime and violence -- assaults, murders, and even domestic violence are way down compared to 50 years ago and waaaaayyyy down compared to 150 years ago or further. In particular it'll continue making it harder to blow off other people's or our own excuses. For that reason I agree that continuing to make a Big Deal™ about "date rape" (again a.k.a. "rape") will continue to make a difference.