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How Strong Are Your Moral Values?

Posted 11th June 2017

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The Real You logo

Hey! You, over there! Ever wonder how moral you are? Don’t look at me like that. It’s a straightforward enough question, and easy enough to answer. Isn’t it? No?

Well, never fear. I have a BBC Micro program here which will tell you ALL you need to know. Published by Collins Soft in 1985, The Real You contains 16 tests to – and I quote the back of the packaging – “inspire you and challenge you to discover who you really are”. And one of those tests is simply titled: Morals.

The test consists of 50 questions, and I thought I’d run through some of the most interesting ones here. Feel free to download a copy and play along at home1, though the below gives you enough of a flavour, I feel.

Killing a person in self-defence.

Ah, starting us off with a biggie. Please note that everyone who thinks killing in self-defence is a complex issue is very much mistaken. There are no details of a specific case here – all you have to do is judge on a scale of 1-10 how wrong or otherwise you think it is. What could be simpler?

Forging a cheque

Again, note the sheer simplicity here. No discussion about the circumstances – is this a scummy business owner ripping people off, or a parent just trying to feed their kids? No matter: the key to judging morality is that circumstances just don’t matter.

An asbestos factory maintaining working conditions for its workers known to be detrimental to their health

Wait, we’re given rather more detail for this one, suddenly. Never mind! I’m sure it’ll all make sense in the end.

A doctor allowing a badly deformed baby to die when he could save its life but not cure its deformity

No information about either the wishes of the parents, at what point the doctors found out about the deformity, or any discussion about the quality of life the child might have. Unimportant!

Having affairs while one is married

Admire how such a complex situation can be summed up in six words.

A jury freeing a father who has killed a man for raping his young daughter

Note: in a real trial, this is all the information a jury would be given in order to reach a verdict, obviously.

Using artificial insemination as a means of impregnating a married woman whose husband is sterile

1985, there.

Being arrested for demonstrating against the deployment of nuclear weapons

Why were they arrested? Were the police being heavy-handed, or not? The answer, of course, is that it doesn’t matter: whether you have been arrested or not is a moral absolute.

A prosperous company paying its workers less than the minimum wage

Now, this is very interesting piece of social history. Because this quiz was written in 1985, it certainly isn’t referring to the minimum wage Labour established in 1999. I can only imagine it is referring to the Wages Councils, abolished in 1993.

Peddling heroin on the streets

PEDDLING heroin. Not selling, or dealing. PEDDLING.

Also, the background of the person doing the HEROIN PEDDLING is not relevant to how moral this act is, obviously.

Some might say this one was very leadingly phrased.

Not me, of course.

Some people.

Definitely not me.


Falsifying a child's age to secure a reduced train fare

The economic situation of the person doing the falsifying is, of course, unimportant.

can’t breathe for laughing sorry

Euthanasia (causing the death of another person painlessly so as to end suffering) as a way of dealing with victims of incurable diseases

The phrasing of this question fascinates me. It portrays euthanasia as something you just do to someone, not something which the person themselves requests. It takes away any agency from the person with the incurable disease whatsoever, and just labels them as “victims”. There is no way this question would be phrased like this in 2017; it’s fascinating that it was in 1985.

A fifteen-year-old buying a bottle of scotch

Scotch is, of course, the drink of choice for 15-year-olds.

Seeking divorce because of incompatibility, when both parties agree

It would be really, really easy here to make some sarcastic comment like “believe it or not, this is from 1985, not 1945”.

It’s worth remembering though, that it was only the previous year (1984) that the law was changed so you could apply for divorce after a year of marriage. Before then, you had to be married for three full years.

Taking one's own life (assuming no near relatives or dependants)

Considering some of the questions above, it’s amazing they deigned to give us the extra information in brackets here.

Using offensive speech in mixed company

“Mixed company”.

Reminder: punk had happened by 1985.

Using the cane at school to punish a child for misbehaving

A fascinating piece of history. This program was released in 1985; the very next year, corporal punishment was banned in state-funded schools in the UK.

Using genetic engineering to produce a highly intelligent test-tube baby

I’ve never laughed as much about eugenics before now.

Of course, all criminals are the same, and every offence should be treated exactly the same way.

Nations at war using napalm on the homes and cities of its enemy

Whole books have been written on this. I don’t really understand why, when the entire subject can be summed up with a rating from 1-10.

Open displays of affection by homosexuals

I fucking hate 1985.

A fourteen-year-old girl 'on the pill'.

I like that they phrase it this way, rather than “A fourteen-year-old girl gets spunk up her”.

A man not marrying a girl he loves because she is markedly his inferior socially and educationally

…I think I want this test to be over now, please.

Luckily, it is. I’m expecting a complicated examination of my moral code. Let’s see what’s what, shall we?

Basic morality - 2, Family morality - 4
Criminal morality - 6, Economic morality - 5

Exploitative morality - 6, Social morality - 2
Political morality - 4, General morality - 4

Oh. Erm. Hmmm.

Ah, wait a minute! All I have to do is refer to the accompanying booklet which came with the software! I’m sure this will explain everything!

“Of course one has to remember that morality is man-made and varies from one culture to another, and from one time to another. This test is relevant to the Western view of morality in the twentieth century, and may be at odds with views in other cultures in the world today.”

I love that this really, really tries to not be prescriptive about morality… while entirely failing to recognise that you can’t be prescriptive about “the Western view of morality in the twentieth century” either. So close, yet so far.

“Compare your scores in each of the seven categories of morality which appear on the score screen to find out where you are most and least moral.

High score: 8-10 – very strong moral feelings
Average: 4-7
Low score: 1-3 – very weak moral feelings

And that’s how my BBC Micro taught me that my approval of open displays of affection by homosexuals indicates I have a very weak sense of morality.

Thanks, 1985. Stick to Victoria Wood as Seen on TV and Edge of Darkness, please.

  1. You’ll need a BBC Micro emulator, and the disc doesn’t auto-boot unfortunately. Type CHAIN"REAL" to get it working. 

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Anthony on 11 June 2017 @ 1pm

Unreal! Nice breakdown, thanks.

Here’s a copy of The Real You that you can play online in the JavaScript BBC Micro emulator JSBeeb:


John Hoare on 11 June 2017 @ 7pm

Cheers, thank you! (The fact I keep forgetting you can do that may indicate my *own* brain being slightly behind the times.)

Interestingly, that version uses Mode 1 rather than Mode 7. Wonder why they changed it.

Hamish Wilson on 13 June 2017 @ 10pm

“Being arrested for demonstrating against the deployment of nuclear weapons.”

Jeremy Corbyn, is that you?