Washington Post Metro columnist Petula Dvorak just modeled hypocrisy, stupidity and willful complicity with irresponsible public policy and exploitation. Her sole justification is “everybody’s doing it.” She apparently thinks this is funny. It’s not. It’s typical human conduct, but there’s nothing funny about it. It’s tragic.
In a column yesterday titled, “I despise lotteries, but I bought four Powerball tickets anyway,” Dvorak, who has been justly scorned on Ethics Alarms for ethics idiocy before, goes to great length to describe what is wrong with state lotteries–they are corrupt, they prey on the poor, they are regressive taxes that substitute for real taxes that would require political courage, they promote gambling addictions—even going so far as to call them “evil.” Then she cheerily tells us that she couldn’t help participating in the current lottery craze, because just think of all the things she could buy if she won a gizzillion dollars!
Dvorak apparently believes that by acting irrationally and irresponsibly and thus supporting what she claims to revile, she can make a more powerful point about how seductive lotteries can be. Or she’s an idiot. Wait–the two are not mutually exclusive.
It’s not complicated, Petula, not at all. When you identify a system, an enterprise or a movement that is harmful and corrupt, don’t support it, participate in it or strengthen it. That’s all. Every ethical system dictates that result. If you think, indeed, as your column proves, you know, that state lotteries are corrupting, cowardly scams, don’t play them. If you know that pro football makes billions by inducing healthy young men to destroy their brains, don’t watch pro football. If you know that illegal drugs ravage the poor, destroy livesm businesses and families don’t use illegal drugs. If you know that American politics are corrupt, stop supporting corrupt politicians.
There are so many societal evils that could be eradicated or significantly weakened if those who understand what is wrong about them just had the integrity, personal responsibility, courage and determination to reject them unequivocally, and show others with less certitude and resolve that it is possible and right.
What lazy, simplistic, weak, hypocritical people like Dvorak do is claim to understand the ethical implications of a phenomenon, but indicate by their conduct that it really isn’t worth the energy and sacrifice to actively oppose it with conduct rather than words.
Columnists are supposed to impart wisdom, perspective and knowledge. Lazy, simplistic, hypocritical people like Dvorak do none of this; what they do is encourage unethical, society-harming values and behavior by encouraging the belief that it’s acceptable to keep on doing the wrong things as long as you know they are wrong.
Henceforth, Ethics Alarms will refer to conduct consisting of supporting a system, process, organization or individual that one knows and admits is unethical, corrupt, harmful, illegal, and bad for society “a dvorak.”