Category Archives: Religion and Philosophy

Comment of the Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘An Unethical Website, Golden Rule Malpractice And The Worst Anti-Bullying Program Ever’”

Atom bomb cloud

Responding to according2grayson’s passionate defense of non-violence and the Golden Rule while encountering bullies (as well as while opposing despots on the march), Steve-O-in-NJ enriched Ethics Alarms with an epic response including historical perspective, ethics and personal experience.

Here is his terrific post—long but not to be missed—and the Comment of the Day, on Comment of the Day: “An Unethical Website, Golden Rule Malpractice And The Worst Anti-Bullying Program Ever”:

I question this litany of life experiences, since it sounds a bit too pat and a bit too neat to be real, or at least it sounds sanitized/incomplete. Those with truly outstanding records usually don’t feel the need to trumpet them. That said, I wasn’t there, so maybe it is all true.

I know I tried the non-violent approach a few times, and it just lead to more bullying. I also tried the fight-back approach, smashing one bully’s head against the sidewalk and nearly strangling another, and it frankly didn’t get much more done beyond getting the bullies off my back temporarily. That said, a temporary respite from abuse is better than absorbing abuse every day without a respite. What really broke one group of problem people was a combination of finally going to the authorities and the people overreaching.Despite the justified criticism of Catholic schools (a whole separate discussion), they did have one very big thing going for them: no one who was enrolled had to be, or had any right to be, and dismissal or necessary discipline was easily accomplished. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “An Unethical Website, Golden Rule Malpractice And The Worst Anti-Bullying Program Ever”

He chose his adversaries well.

He chose his adversaries well.

Debut commenter according2grayson submitted a heartfelt, extensive and thought-provoking reaction to the post about a Lincoln, Nebraska school’s  much-criticized anti-bullying advice and the website that spawned them. I’ll have some comments at the end; in the meantime, here is the Comment of the Day on the post, An Unethical Website, Golden Rule Malpractice And The Worst Anti-Bullying Program Ever:

The rule is “Do not attack” immediately “If I attack you.” You’re being asked to place yourself in the shoes of an attacker. NO ONE attacks without feeling angry, hurt, or victimized. Why do homophobes beat up gay kids? Fear that they might be gay too, or offense at people mocking their God. Fear of what’s different. No, fear isn’t always a rational response to something that might put us on a breathing tube. The word “phobia” by it’s definition means “irrational,” and this pertains to everything from Xenophobia to Homophobia to Genderphobia to Arachnophobia. I guarantee that a garden spider isn’t going to put anyone on a breathing tube, but how many people shriek when they see him anyway?

Now here’s the issue– if you lash out irrationally because you’re afraid of someone, and you punch them in the face– that person now has a very rational reason to punch you in the face. But, being an emotional creature and not understanding why your own initial attack was wrong, you’re not going to say “Well, I punched him…..” You’re going to say “Ow! My nose is bleeding, you little shit!”

 

Until someone does decide to turn the other cheek, it’s only going to keep going back and forth, if not escalating. That’s the entire purpose behind such things as the Golden Rule and Christ’s “Turn the Other Cheek” argument. Read Gandhi. Try to follow the rules of Satyagraha. These rules lead a nation to Freedom without bloodshed. No, it wasn’t a “perfect revolution.” Yes, there were years of hardship that followed. But if you want a perfectly demonized bully (aside from maybe Hitler) British Empire’s your best bet. And these tactics DID take them down.

You can argue that “kids aren’t ready for this.” But I’m sorry, I can only laugh at you for underestimating children. I was 12 years old when my older brother was killed in 9/11. I grew up involved in activism against the wars. I was shoved into lockers, thrown down stairs, beaten up, called a “terrorist” and a “traitor to my nation.” And that was just the latest permutation of bullying I had faced.

I was taught, however, that our duties were to “think globally, act locally” and “become the change we wished to see in the world.” I was told that I wanted to be a voice for a non-violent response to a terrible act– I HAD to learn to respond non-violently to children being children.
And you know what? It didn’t turn me submissive. It didn’t take away a single ounce of pride.

I knew that the assholes picking on me lacked fundamental understandings of most of the reasons -why- they claimed they were picking on me. I knew that if any of these rich kids with their Hallmark Card homes (and, yes, when you go to a private parochial school of 8 kids, you do pretty much know that) had stood so close to national tragedy as any of the family members I was working with– they wouldn’t have handled it. They already couldn’t handle adversity. The gay kids? The black kids? The poor kids? They beat them all up. If other people’s hardships were so terrifying, how would they react to their own?

I laughed at these kids. I went on to graduate third in my class, was the first accepted to college. By which point I’d already worked for 3-4 years with a twice Nobel Prize nominated organization. Already helped organize lobbying campaigns (including one to shut down GITMO with PT & Amnesty International, which Obama recalled the involved groups to respond to in his first press conference) I’d already been a founding member of the World Conference for Peace and shaken hands with one of the last of the habakusha, with a minister who trained under Desmond Tutu, with mothers from Israel and Palestine working side by side (minority though they’ll always be) to end conflict.

In college, when I came out as pansexual, no one batted an eye. Afterwards, when I lost weight and started performing with the NYC Rocky Horror Cast (to an audience of at least 200, weekly. Not factoring special performances at other venues and in NYC cultural events) started performing Off-Broadway, started working with NPR (where a workshop I head-lined along with a few other youths effects by 9/11 won 4 awards including Bronze for “Best Radio Doc of 2011″ from the Society of Professional Journalism) People FLOCKED. Not only was I a hot commodity professionally. But socially as well. I’ll refrain from speaking of my exploits, as this is a mature site– but, when my buddies and I play the “Cassanova” drinking game, I’m usually one of the first to lose, and I always do so in a single scene.

The only argument you can make against any of this is “your life’s not that great” and no, you’re right, it isn’t. I’ve faced many hardships including the death of my brother. Lost my job and apartment in a hurricane last year. But none of that had to do with my response to bullying. And while some of those events may have had me, at times, not in places where I was able to deal to the best of my ability it’s not MY ability in question

ANY child can learn to find personal pride in their own accomplishments, can learn not to take bullies seriously (BECAUSE THEY AREN’T) Can learn not to perpetuate cycles.

And in the end, years down the road, they’ll be getting Facebook requests from their former bullies with notes saying “I’m sorry.” It’s not delusion. I’ve lived it.

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Gender and Sex, Religion and Philosophy, War and the Military

ABC Quietly Apologizes For Being An Unethical, Unprofessional, Biased and Unfair News Organization. Not Accepted.

"Oops! Did we use THAT clip! Silly us!"

“Oops! Did we use THAT clip! Silly us!”

“Reporting”—in scare quotes because it was in fact advocacy, character assassination and blatant news manipulation—on the successful totalitarian movement by gay rights advocates to force Mozilla to fire its CEO (for the thought crime of not opposing an anti-gay marriage ballot initiative in California, but rather being so evil as  to exercise his rights of political speech and support the traditional definition of marriage), ABC news accompanied the report on “Good Morning America” with video of a Westboro Baptist Church demonstration, complete with its charming “God Hates Fags” signs.

This, of course, implicitly sided with those, led by the CEO of OKCupid,  trying to rob Brendan Eich of his job for having a different view than the intolerant Left, while imputing to Eich ugly attitudes that there is no evidence whatsoever he possesses. It seem ABC selected the same clip in 2012 in a story about the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling, making the illicit  suggestion in such a choice that there are just two sides in this issue; those who “hate fags,” like the Phelpsians, and those who want all Americans, whatever their sexual orientation, to be able to have their relationships with committed loved ones recognized as a legal marriage.

Mr. Eich has the money and the team of lawyers to make ABC pay dearly for this slur on his character (there is no similarly expensive way to make the network—and the others, for this was just ABC’s turn—accountable for blatant news distortion and advocacy in the guise of “objective news reporting.”), so ABC pulled the false video and issued this wan and dishonest apology: Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions, Religion and Philosophy

Unethical Quote of the Month: OkCupid

Not OK...

Not OK…

“Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience. Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid. Politics is normally not the business of a website, and we all know there’s a lot more wrong with the world than misguided CEOs. So you might wonder why we’re asserting ourselves today. This is why: we’ve devoted the last ten years to bringing people—all people—together. If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal. Equality for gay relationships is personally important to many of us here at OkCupid. But it’s professionally important to the entire company. OkCupid is for creating love. Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.”

-—Dating website OkCupid, calling for a boycott of Mozilla, including Firefox, its webserving software, because of the past political/social/religious views of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich

Full disclosure: 1) I use Firefox. 2) I detest boycotts,and 3) I am biased against them by nature, because they are almost always coercive, extortive, and unfair.

This statement, however, has more wrong with it than just its advocacy of a boycott.

Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Ethics Quotes, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Religion and Philosophy, Romance and Relationships, The Internet, U.S. Society

Fundraising Ethics Controversy in Michigan! Naming Buildings After Big University Donors: Ethical or Not?

Enron-Field

I worked in the development (capital fundraising) office of Georgetown University for many years, and am well aware of the sausage-making that goes into attracting big donations. Thus the controversy that recently erupted in Michigan is of interest both for its ethical content and the way it dances around inconvenient truths.

With the college student’s wonderful knack for avoiding the obvious, the student newspaper of Grand Valley (Michigan) State University declared ethics war on what it called “billboards”: buildings and lecture halls named after corporate and individual donors. With naivete and boundless ignorance of the world of philanthropy and non-profit fundraising, the editorial declared (among other things)…

  • “What’s next? Will we turn Lake Huron 133 into the “Amway Lecture Hall?” Will the backs of our chairs have plaques dedicated to the lower-level donors?” COMMENT: For enough money, of course the university would rename the hall. Why should it care what a lecture hall is called, if it can avoid having to raise tuition? As for the backs of seats: did the editors do any research at all? Opera companies, theaters, museaums and other non-profit entities do exactly this. So what?

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Education, Etiquette and manners, Marketing and Advertising, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

All Right, I Can’t Let This Pass: Reading Comprehension At The Chicago Tribune, Or Why Do We Rely On People Like This?

THINK, Jack---if the best of the breed was a biased dimwit, why do you still want to trust these people?

THINK, Jack—if the best of the breed was a biased dimwit, why do you still want to trust these people?

I am grateful for the Chicago Tribune website readers who have followed blogger Eric Zorn’s link to the Ethics Alarms Noah post, but is it too much to expect a major newspaper’s  columnist to read and comprehend the plain meaning of a post before criticizing it? Zorn, who authors the Trib’s Change of Subject blog, was cheering on Bill Maher’s atheistic take on God, the Bible and the Noah story, and then quoted me, writing…

I found this refutation of Maher particularly unconvincing and circular:

“God makes the rules, he is literally incapable of being immoral; it is a contradiction in terms. If God kills, it is by definition right and good, because God himself defines right and good. Does Bill really not get this? … If you don’t believe that God “works in mysterious ways” and that everything he does in the Old Testament is justifiable as part of some greater plan, Maher is indisputably right. God is a mass murderer.”

How more wrong could Zorn be?

1. I wasn’t refuting Maher, but defending his anti-God statement as completely accurate from his narrow and biased point of view, which includes a basic misunderstanding of what morality is and what it means to believe in an infallible deity. Continue reading

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Filed under Journalism & Media, Religion and Philosophy

Comment of the Day: “Noah” Ethics

noahs-beaver-problem

Patrice, the Ethics Alarms resident Catholic theologian (and a dear friend), weighs in on the “Noah” controversy, in the this Comment of the Day on the post, “Noah” Ethics:

My undergraduate theology degree is indisputably from a Catholic perspective, although many of the scholars we studied were not Catholic, nor even Christian. I was required to take only 4 semesters of biblical literature, but even those few academic hours of biblical studies taught me enough about biblical analysis to understand how “The Bible” (which, as I’m sure you know, is just a mutually-agreed upon canon of literature which omits as much as it includes) came to be. I often think that it is a shame that true knowledge about biblical literature mostly seems to reside only in academia. Unfortunately, most of the zealots out there would and probably do regard biblical scholarship as an attack on God. The battles over the centuries over biblical inerrancy/infallibility/literalism are merely unread footnotes to most people. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Popular Culture, Religion and Philosophy

“Noah” Ethics

God

There is nothing unethical about “Noah,” the biblical spectacular that harkens back to the grand old days when Cecil B. DeMille reigned supreme. I haven’t seen the movie, and yet I can say that with absolute certainty. The reason I can say it that there is no way on earth that a movie about Noah and the Ark, in this day and age, could possibly be unethical. Even if the Old Testament were literal fact, which it is not, cannot be and in all likelihood was never intended to be, “Noah” couldn’t possibly be unethical, because it is a movie.

Never mind that of all the Biblical fables, with the possible exception of Adam and Eve, the tale of Noah is perhaps the most obviously impossible. The movie is art—of one kind or another—and does not represent itself as a documentary or make any factual assertions whatsoever. Thus it can be distinguished from a truly unethical film like Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” which intentionally misrepresented recent historical facts to “prove” a theory of the Kennedy assassination that was irresponsible and almost certainly false. Is “Noah” dishonest? It is impossible to be dishonest about a presumptively non-historical event about which there is no direct evidence whatsoever, and when there is no intention to deceive. Is it disrespectful? Art has no duty to be respectful. Is it fair? Fair to who? An artist’s stakeholders are those who appreciate his or her art. Does it do harm, or intend to? No. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Humor and Satire, Marketing and Advertising, Religion and Philosophy

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Matthew McConaughey

Matthew-McConaughey

It happens but rarely: an Oscar acceptance speech with something of substance to communicate, other than a list of thank-yous. Yet last night was one of those rare occasions, as actor Matthew McConaughey used his well-deserved award for Best Actor to express his views on how to lead an ethical life:

Here is the text of his speech—much thanks to reader Phil Kraemer, who located it:

Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you to the Academy for this—all 6,000 members. Thank you to the other nominees. All these performances were impeccable in my opinion. I didn’t see a false note anywhere. I want to thank Jean-Marc Vallée, our director. Want to thank Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, who I worked with daily.

There’s a few things, about three things to my account that I need each day. One of them is something to look up to, another is something to look forward to, and another is someone to chase. Now, first off, I want to thank God. ‘Cause that’s who I look up to. He has graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand. He has shown me that it’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. In the words of the late Charlie Laughton, who said, “When you’ve got God, you got a friend. And that friend is you.”

To my family, that who and what I look forward to. To my father who, I know he’s up there right now with a big pot of gumbo. He’s got a lemon meringue pie over there. He’s probably in his underwear. And he’s got a cold can of Miller Lite and he’s dancing right now. To you, Dad, you taught me what it means to be a man. To my mother who’s here tonight, who taught me and my two older brothers… demanded that we respect ourselves. And what we in turn learned was that we were then better able to respect others. Thank you for that, Mama. To my wife, Camila, and my kids Levi, Vida and Mr. Stone, the courage and significance you give me every day I go out the door is unparalleled. You are the four people in my life that I want to make the most proud of me. Thank you.

And to my hero. That’s who I chase. Now when I was 15 years old, I had a very important person in my life come to me and say “who’s your hero?” And I said, “I don’t know, I gotta think about that. Give me a couple of weeks.” I come back two weeks later, this person comes up and says “who’s your hero?” I said, “I thought about it. You know who it is? It’s me in 10 years.” So I turned 25. Ten years later, that same person comes to me and says, “So, are you a hero?” And I was like, “not even close. No, no, no.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because my hero’s me at 35.” So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero’s always 10 years away. I’m never gonna be my hero. I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.

So, to any of us, whatever those things are, whatever it is we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to, and whoever it is we’re chasing, to that I say, “Amen.” To that I say, “Alright, alright, alright.” To that I say “just keep living.” Thank you.

You have to wonder about the various tweeters and pundits who objected to McConaughey’s candor about his inner compass as “bizarre” (Time) or egomaniacal (several). Yes, by nature and necessity actors are unusually self-absorbed; the latter complaint is akin to faulting a dog show winner as inarticulate. What was admirable and inspiring about  McConaughey’s speech was his exuberant explanation of how his personal hero is always who he will be in the next ten years.

I doubt that this is an original formula, but I have never heard it before, and it is the essence of ethics: we strive to keep learning, getting better, and aspiring to be the best people we can be, or life is pointless. Ironically, this was also the lesson of “Groundhog Day,” the comedy masterpiece of the late writer-director Harold Ramis, whose name and career were evoked more than one during the Academy Awards broadcast. Having other people as heroes doesn’t accomplish much, unless we aspire to and learn from their values and conduct, and eventually  capable of similar heroism ourselves.

As for all those who are criticizing the actor for his religious sentiments: back off. Religion has played a major role in minting some good and remarkable human beings, and McConaughey seems to be one of them. If he chooses to thank God in his moment of exhilaration and triumph, that should be beyond reproach.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Quotes, Family, Professions, Religion and Philosophy

Ethics Blindness: The Pro-Abortion Ethical Disconnect

To anyone who is capable of compassion and objectivity, the abortion controversy represents a classic ethics conflict: two ethically defensible positions based upon undeniable ethical principles that are in opposition. Both factions have their absolutist wings which would deny the other side’s interests, holding that either the life of the unborn ( abortion opponents) or a woman’s autonomy (abortion advocates)  is such a societal priority  that nothing should be permitted to compromise its primacy in any way. Yet the best solution to most ethics conflicts, if possible, is balancing, resulting in acceptance of a  reasonable middle position that acknowledges the validity of both interests.

Recent comments from prominent pro-abortion advocates are ethically troubling, because they suggest a complete denial that any valid interests on the other side exist at all. This signals a retreat from reason and fairness into zealotry and fanaticism, and it makes balancing not merely more difficult, but unimaginable.
In an interview on the cable station Fusion, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards had this revealing exchange (video above): Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Character, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Religion and Philosophy, Science & Technology