Who cares about Ethics?
Most everyone claims to care about ethics. To profess to be ethical is now socially required of us. State legislatures have mandated that courses on ethics be included in continuing education for professionals. Most professional associations have codes of ethics. Has this made us a moral society? We think not.
A truly thoughtful, introspective, and considerate indiviual, will examine their motivations and actions instinctively and regularly with close attention payed to the values of respect for one's fellow man, honesty and integrity, and good faith dealing. Unfortunately, we don't all agree on what kinds of actions are necessary to engage in or refrain from in order to show respect for our fellow man. The criteria of ethics for many, is that which is legal. For others it's a bit broader.... that which they are likely to get away with, even though it might not be legal. Many believe in "honoring, obeying, and sustaining the law" such as one religion in particular professes. Others recognize that some laws are immoral and feel ethically or morally compelled to break them in order to be decent human beings.
We understand that in the spring of this year (2008), a baby seal was found in La Jolla, California, helplessly tangled in a gill net. Literal interpretation of Federal Law prohibited the rescue of the seal for technical reasons reported to involve the disturbance of other seals by the simple, momentary presence of a human in close proximity. After days of watching the baby seal struggle and nearly die... we understand a brave soul, dressed in black, snuck out onto the beach at night and freed the baby seal, risking stiff fines and possibly jail. Was this ethical? What would you have done? Many ethical questions are fairly simple and straightforward. Many others are quite challenging and pose serious dillemas and thoughtful consideration.
Shortly after the so called "Bay of Pigs" fiasco in Cuba, the United States sponsored flights to freedom to assist refugees who wished to flee from Cuba at the onset of the communist regime of Fidel Castro. The Castro government, unwilling at first to simply block the exodus, attempted to discourage it by requiring that those who wished to exit apply for permits. Castro's government systematically granted permits that would break up families. One family decided in advance that if the children's permits were granted without the parent's, they would send the children on to the United States alone, as orphans, so they could live out their lives in freedom while the parents stayed behind. Imagine the ethical dillemma and the gut wrenching emotional challenge for the mother and father when the children's permits were granted, as expected. In this particular case there were three children, about 9, 10, and 11 years old, respectively. The parents told the children they would not see each other again, and that they could not cry at the airport or the parents would be put in jail. Arrangements had been made in advance through a religious organization for the children to be met at the airport by loving families not known to the parents to receive the children and care for them until arrangements for adoption could be made. Could you have done this for your children? Was it the right thing to do? On what basis would you argue that this was the right thing to do? How would you base your arguments if you disagreed?
Ethics deals with the question of what is morally right and what is morally wrong to do, and more particularly, what it is that makes it morally right or wrong? One religion professes that adultery is second only to murder as a mortal sin. Is adultery really that serious? Why? What makes it that serious? Is the extra-marital sexual activity the problem... or is it the betrayal? What if the adultery was consentual by all affected parties. Is it still a sin? Is it still wrong? By what standard? Should it be illegal? By what standard? Should the state involve itself by police force and criminal prosecution in the consentual sexual behavior of it's people? Is everything that is deemed to be "wrong" appropriate for the state to involve itself in?
Ethics is a long and involved subject. Everyone seems to have an opinion on ethical behavior. Unfortunately, we don't all share the same standard of measuring what is ethical and what is not. For some, the Bible is the standard. For others, the golden rule of doing unto others what we would have them do unto us is the standard. What is your standard? What is your life partner's standard? Do they match? Should they match? Ethics, while seemingly a simple subject on some levels, can be quite a difficult matter between marital partners as they grapple with how to invest the shared time and energy of the partnership.
Some religions and philosophies hold that we should sacrifice our lives in the service of our fellow man and that "losing" ourselves in the service of our fellow man makes us good people. Others hold that our own self interest is our highest responsibility and duty and that we must place ourselves and our own interests before all others. What do you believe? Which is the greater good? Where do you draw the line? How much "service of our fellow man" is too much? We recognize that the pursuit of our own self interests, within the context of an environment of mutual respect and harmony with our fellow man, is our moral duty. We do not believe in abdicating responsibility for our own welfare or excusing our self neglect on the basis of our contribution to others. We recognize that we can be of the most value to ourselves, our families or life partners, and our fellow human beings if we are stable and successful human beings. We believe this is our responsibility.
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We think, therefore we are.... We care, therefore we act.™