Okay, I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, but I do think I am a fairly ethical person. I will assume that most of you in this group will hold the same opinion—about yourselves of course, not me.
I know that I do not live a blameless existence—but that is hard to do in this day and age anyhow. For example, when I looked around for some fair trade certified clothing, I found that choosing ethical clothes was way beyond my budget. I simply cannot afford to pay $80 for a T-shirt. It is not that I disagree with the price—not if that is a fair price for fair trade clothing. But it is still beyond my budget. Instead, I bought a $10 T-shirt that was probably made in a country where employees work 10 hrs a day for a buck fifty.
So that is what I mean by not living a blameless existence. Unethical behavior and predatory economics is so endemic in the world economy that it is nearly impossible to avoid it.
But in day-to-day affairs, in the one thing that I can control—meaning my behavior—I do try to be ethical. If I back into someone’s car in a parking garage, I get out and leave a note with my name, number, and an apology. If a cashier hands me too much change, I hand it back, often to astonished looks. If I find a wallet on the streets, I call the person and return it, money and all. It would never occur to me to do otherwise, and that’s the truth.
Again, I’m not trying to toot my own horn or pat myself on the back by saying what a swell person I am. I am simply giving examples of what I believe to be natural, personal, ethical, and obligatory behavior.
I use the term natural
here because I think that for me it has been natural. I never experience inner turmoil over what is the correct course of action in these situations. I’m never tempted to take the money and run. The correct action always seems obvious.
However, I’m not more intelligent, more empathetic, more learned, more pure, more holy, more special, or more anything than the average Joe. I didn’t grow up in a home or an environment that discussed ethics. It wasn’t covered in school, and I certainly didn’t learn it in church. And yet I’ve always felt as though I had a pretty strong grasp on right and wrong.
So if I can get it, why don’t other people? As the title says, it ain’t rocket science!
And it sure seems that a lot of people don’t
get it. Every day seems to bring another news story about someone, usually in the political, business, or religious sphere, who just can’t seem to play nice—who corrupt others or situations, who accepts or gives bribes, cuts corners at someone else’s expense, embezzles, cheats the system, bends the rules, lies and deceives, and acts in ways that are unquestioningly unethical.
I could go on and on listing examples, but unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll know of plenty examples yourself. Even our neighbors, coworkers, and family members are often guilty of unethical behavior, too.
So here are my questions (please copy and paste into the comment field for easy reference):
Do you consider yourself to be an ethical person? If so, can you give examples of day-to-day ethics?
Do you ever struggle with ethical decisions, or does it seem to come naturally?
How did you gain your sense of ethics? Learned, instilled by your parents, instinctual, etc.
Do you take pride in being ethical, or is it something one shouldn’t take pride in?
Do you agree with me that unethical behavior seems to have swelled to epidemic proportions?
Why do you think so many people find it so easy to behave unethically? Or better yet, why does it seem that some people have a conscious and some people don’t?