Comment of the Day: “Ethics Dilemma: What Do You Do With Steve King?”

Pennagain, who also acts as the volunteer and indispensable Ethics Alarms proofreader, submitted this Comment of the Day, packed with ethics, and trenchant observations about how diverse cultures have enriched civilization. It begins with a quote from another commenter on Rep. King’s descent into white-supremacistspeak, and heads to wonderful places.

Here is Pennagain’s Comment of the Day on the post,  “Ethics Dilemma: What Do You Do With Steve King?”

Still, most of the really big failings over the ages have been ah, east of Suez.

Rewrite: Still, most of the big failings over the ages have been during the first couple of thousand years of any particular civilization. That’s considering national and natural barriers that don’t go along any particular meridian. If they last beyond a millennia or two, they’ve usually learned a thing or two.

Some of those things might be an understanding of the concept of comparative values and why basic ethical principles have always been in vogue – including under the Shogunates, the Mughal emperors, the dynasties of China (going back to 2100BC, by the way), and other long-lived non-democracies). Or why certain types of governments or power structures work best with certain cultures at certain times, barring catastrophic disasters and military dictatorships (North Korea is still in its 68-year-old infancy and ailing). Or why philosophies of aesthetics differ to an extent that makes comparing art or architecture, or its presence or absence idiotic. Or why a majority of us believe our own way is best (and some of the latter think they need to Disneyfy, Democratize, and Develop everyone everywhere else on the planet).

Example of some basic Asian principles aka Their Ethics: harmony, benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom, honesty, loyalty, filial piety.

All of the above can be incorporated into the principles of what us non-Asian, non-African folks call universal ethics; our ethics:

  • Concern for the well-being of others
  • Respect for the autonomy of other
  • Trustworthiness & honesty
  • Willing compliance with the law (with the exception of civil disobedience)
  • Basic justice;
  • Being fair
  • Refusing to take unfair advantage
  • Benevolence: doing good
  • Preventing harm

Different principles may take precedence in different circumstances. We don’t put Harmony first, for example, in fact, we don’t consider it at all as a spoken goal — but that’s what is created by combining most of the universal principles. Harmony (requiring coordination and co-operation, not uniformity as is sometimes assumed by non-Asians who tend to mistake peaceful homogeneity for a marketing opportunity) is exactly the cake we want in our hands while diversity, originality and, yes, creativity (for their own sake) are swallowed whole by the slice, as if “individuality” required we strive for separation from all others. . . . Civil Disobedience is unique to few cultures, and as an exception, more misunderstood as a principle and more misused than any other privilege. . . . Refusing to take unfair advantage goes to hell on the playing field (except if the Red Sox are involved, of course), and the lack of such a principle can be considered standard practice elsewhere. . . . Filial piety? Hmmm. When did we last hear the word “piety” or ever not identify it with orthodox religion? Call it “ancestor worship” or child slavery and it’s a dumb pagan superstition or a moral injustice. Call it “honor thy parents” and make it sort of mean “obey” them until you’re old enough to leave, and become them when you have your own kids … and visit the graves once a year. And don’t mention anyone else, much less remember great uncle Morty or second-cousin Gertrude and what they contributed to the harmony of the family and the community and perhaps the nation. Gone. And Forgotten. You probably never knew about them anyway.

That’s enough, especially since it was a rational response to the bait hanging from a stupid-argument trap. There was I, just hanging around Jack’s Garden of Ethics minding my own metaphors when . . . .


5 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: “Ethics Dilemma: What Do You Do With Steve King?”

  1. Always an honor and a goad to have a COTD slot, Jack. You picked a time when I was out of sight and mind for a couple of days — what a grand surprise! I have to admit though that this has been hanging around my building-blocks document for some time begging to be put together; I’m tickled that it fit (with all its typos).

    Speaking of which, if you can explain that I ignore little ‘uns, just so I don’t get called out for not flagging thigns like this . . .

  2. Thanks, Tom. I agree with you about ranking. The first time I was assigned to do a “Best Films” list back in the reviewing days, I submitted an alphabetical list of Favorites instead. It was summarily rejected. In fact, nobody ever liked it and quite a few wanted to argue in spite of my reiterating that “favorites” by definition arise out of intimate perceptions, personal experience, and maybe professional standards as well (a good eye, a good ear) which means that “The Ballad of Narayama” is on the list, along with “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Bad Day at Black Rock” and “Red Headed Woman,” “Twelve O’Clock High” and among the 117 others the one that gave a (former) acquaintance apoplexy and, as I recall, brought severe criticism from Jack on these screens as well, “The Lone Ranger.” See? No ranking; no comparison either … Ouch! Quit throwing rotten tomatoes at me!

    • Since you mention it, don’t you think “Bad Day at Black Rock” is one of the weirdest films of all time? Who lives in that town” What do they do all day? Where are the women? Is Ann Francis the only one? Why doesn’t Spencer Tracy just leave immediately? Why doesn’t anyone who isn’t a psychopath? Why would Walter Brennan stay? Why would a train ever stop at a place like that? How does that bar stay in business? How does the auto repair stay in business? I love all the actors and performances, but ultimately suspension of disbelief eludes me. It’s like a horror movie without the horror (I know, racism is the horror). It’s one of those classic that I wonder how anyone could say that. Cult film, yes. Unique, yes.

      • Sorry I brought it up. You may get answers on this yet. I’m going to consult with my reviewer guru, Jesse Hawthorne Ficks. He will appreciate how you’ve presented the first title in the off-kilter thinking man’s do-it-yourself film criticism kit.

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