Thursday, September 30, 2010

Who is to blame?

"Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it." I've always loved that saying. Why does everyone talk about the weather? It is something that impacts everyone--the sun doesn't shine only on certain races, genders or social classes. The weather is an equal opportunity event.
Something else that people discusss, but rarely do anything about is ethics. Hang on! Don't let your eyes gloss over just yet. Give yourself a chance to think about this for a moment.
One of the classes I took in college was "Values and Ethics". There was one story in particular which I recall quite well: The Ring of Gyges. It was a story told in Plato's Republic. Basically, the ring of Gyges had the ability to turn the owner invisible at will. The question the story asked was, "would a typical person be moral if he didn't have to fear the consequences of his actions?"
But what if you had another type of power, aside from turning invisible, that you made you feel like you didn't have to worry about the consequences of your actions? "Like what?" you may ask. Oh, I don't know--have you read the news in, let's say, the last 100 years? How many public figures have been "caught" for doing something wrong and ended up going to jail? When I lived in Connecticut, the governor was "caught" taking bribes--so was the mayor of Bridgeport. Both went to jail.
Why would they do that? Did they honestly feel that with their power they could do what they wanted, and therefore didn't care if it was "right" or not? Or was it because of the pressures around them?
In the book, Utopia, Sir Thomas Moore basically said, "If the leaders don't provide the common people with the means to support themselves, and the people are forced to do whatever they can to survive, whether or not it is considered legal or ethical, it is the leaders that are to blame."
Sadly, I've seen this happen in corporate America--and it is getting worse. Bosses are making more demands on employees because with the high employment rate, people are willing to do just about anything to keep their jobs. Some of them are even willing to do things that are by their very definition are unethical, but they see it as their only way to survive. If the so called "leaders" of a company are making such high demands that the only way some people can truly compete is by bending the ethical rules, who is truly at fault? Plus, if all you hear from the leaders is "results, results, results!" and ethics is only discussed after someone is "caught", you have to wonder--where is the focus?
Don't misunderstand me. I believe everyone controls their own choices. But consider this: imagine you had children at home who were starving. You go look for food, and spot a loaf of bread at the same time 3 others did. All of you need it. What would you do to ensure you got that loaf of bread? Would you fight them for it? Steal? Kill?
At one of my jobs, we had to take a very long and intense class around ethics. At the end of the session, the teacher summed it up with two sentences. #1 "Just because it is legal, doesn't make it ethical." #2 "Treat others the way you want to be treated."
Hmmm. I know I've heard that second statement somewhere before . . .


  1. Great post, Jason. I really enjoyed it. I know about leaders taking advantage of the people.

    My husband is one of those people. His boss doesn't care that a normal 5-crew rental store is now run only by 2 people. This store has key positions with very specific skills such as a mechanic, driver . . .

    It's so sad to see my husband's emotional health brittle under each passing day with their abusive mantra. I worry about him because of how fragile his physical health has become. :(

    I truly believe that if there were no consequences, people would be uncontrollable.

    Do you remember the island all the naughty boys went to in Pinocchio? There were no rules. They destroyed everything in their pathway!

    No one would be safe. *shivering*

    I like how your instructor summoned the lecture with those two parting thoughts.

    Great post! :)

  2. Very good post. I believe that we are given opportunities every day to prove who we are and how deep our integrity runs. I also believe that we will be blessed for showing strength of character during hard times. I have always believed that the ethical road is the right road, but when you asked the question about the children and the bread, that put a new slant on things. Taking care of my children becomes the right, ethical thing to do. Killing for it, though? No. Wouldn't do that.

  3. Lloyd,

    You've done it again. Another great post! Thanks for the insight!