Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/29/19: A Meme, A Sub-Heading, And A Risky Tradition

Let’s pray for a more ethical culture…

1. Unethical meme of the last couple hours or so...Esteemed Ethics Alarms commenter Curmie (Where have you gone Curmie? Ethics Alarms turns its lonely eyes to you… Oo-oo-oo…) posted this on Facebook, I assume in a tongue in cheek mood, since I know that he has a brain:

Sadly, it was greeted with cheers from the Facebook Borg as if the message was profound. This is a good illustration, however, of the intellectual rigor of the open borders crowd, which, please note, includes almost all of the Democratic Presidential hopefuls. How can you argue seriously with people this silly and shallow?

2. And an unethical sub-heading! Socialist propaganda turns up where you least expect it, which I guess is the idea. It’s insidious, and works on young brains like that bug Ricardo Montalban put in Chekhov’s ear in “The Wrath of Kahn.”

In this Sunday’s “Social Q’s” column, a weekly trove of ethics insight and blunders, a teacher complains about moving to a region where teacher salaries are much lower than what he is used to.  The culture shock was required in order to accommodate his wife’s career opportunity to achieve her “dream job.” He says that he is obsessing about earning so much less, and even though he says he did not get into teaching for the money, and that his wife has the primary income in the family, he’s wondering if he will still be motivated to do his job at the drastically reduced salary.

Columnist Phillip Gallane’s answer is far too kind. What I would have said is that if your motivation to do the job you have contracted to do in your chosen profession is based on your compensation,  you are in the wrong field, and you are letting non-ethical considerations dominate ethical ones to te detriment of those who have to trust you.

There’s nothing quite like making a sacrifice for a loved one and then being bitter about it afterwards. Gallanes does point out that since the teacher’s salary clearly isn’t crucial, he shouldn’t “stress about it” and should take satisfaction from allowing his wife to get her “dream job.”

The sub-heading for this segment in column: “It’s almost as if Capitalism is…broken?”

What??? Salaries are lower in parts of the country where commodities, including real estate and homes, cost less. There’s nothing broken about that. At one point Gallanes says that “salaries are often arbitrary,” which is nonsense. Capitalism isn’t “broken” when a teacher moves to an area where prices are lower, and his salary goes down as well. The assumption behind that headline is the fallacy behind the current “income disparity” debate, which is a warped comprehension of “fairness.”

Interestingly, this question is in the print version of the Sunday Times, but isn’t in the online version I just checked. Maybe an editor, or Gallanes, had second thoughts.

3. “Everybody Loves Raymond” Ethics. To be fair to Gallanes, today’s column does have an interesting ethics question I meant to write about a few months ago, but didn’t.

In an episode of the long running Ray Romano sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Ray’s sad sack brother finally finds the love of his life, proposes to her, and after she assents, agrees to ask her parents for her hand in marriage according to the ancient custom, because, she says, they would appreciate it, and it would endear him to them. So he asks..and they say no. Hilarity ensues. Spoiler: They get married anyway.

The question is whether it is ethical to ask for approval when the supplicant won’t take no for an answer. There are also the subsidiary issues, like whether the tradition is demeaning to the intended bride, since the tradition dates back to the bad old days when a woman was chattel.

Confession: I asked my wife’s parents for their blessing, and damn right I would have married her anyway if they had refused. The tradition has become a ritual like the father “giving away” the bride, and part of the ritual is for the parents to answer, “Yes!” or “Whatever she decides, we support.” (This does not apply, of course, if the daughter is 12.)

And, come to think of it, my parents would have gotten a big kick out of it if she had asked for their blessing too. If the “Everybody Loves Raymond” scenario occurs, then you have useful information: your future in-laws are assholes.

Good to know.


26 thoughts on “Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/29/19: A Meme, A Sub-Heading, And A Risky Tradition

  1. #1, You can’t, and you’re wasting your time to even try. It’s like trying to talk to the big-mouth black secretary in my office who says “you white people are racists, you’ve just learned to hide it better since ’64, but we know y’all couldn’t stand that a black man whupped yo ‘ass and became president.” She’s made up her mind, and nothing will change it. Whoever wrote that meme also made up their mind, and good luck changing it, since any refusal to admit anyone claiming to be fleeing violence is the equivalent of sending people back to Nazi tyranny.

    Just for the record, the Sound of Music is only based on fact. It is not fact, and actually there are some significant differences between the show and what really happened. First of all, the Nazis never were going to arrest Georg von Trapp immediately after a concert and escort him to his new command. He left Austria without giving them a yes or no to their offer of a commission, which he seriously considered, since his family was in a bad financial place and he had no marketable skills other than as a naval officer. Second, and most important, they did NOT escape to freedom by hiking over the Alps to famously neutral Switzerland. Salzburg is 330+ miles from the Swiss border. Because, however, von Trapp was born in Dalmatia before the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which afterwards became part of Italy, he and his family were automatically Italian citizens, and simply boarded a train and left for Italy. There are more differences, of course, but that’s the main one – they didn’t illegally cross ANY border to leave Austria, they went where they had every legal right to be. It’s not enough to remember history, you also have to remember the important details.

    However, as I’ve pointed out a few times, whether you’re well-read or whether you’re pedantic depends on whether the listener agrees with you. Anyone who’d take this meme as a profound statement on human rights isn’t going to give a damn about the history or the truth. They’ll just call you pedantic for trying to distract them from the real point, and a xenophobe to boot.

  2. If teachers aren’t doing it for the money, as they are all quick to point out, why do they bitch about it constantly (caveat: my dad was a teacher but never complained about the money, of which we had very little. ).

    • My wife is sick of me quoting Hyman Roth (from Godfather 2) every time she bemoans the inconveniences and sacrifices of running an ethics business because we decided it was the right thing to do: “And I say to myself: This is the life we have chosen!”

      • And Mrs. Jack says: “But Jack, Hyman Roth was a mobster and mobsters made LOTS of M-O-N-E-Y! He lived in a small house. But it was on North Miami Beach!”

              • Well, that’s the traditional answer to the question. My Am. Lit. expert professor friend always answered “The Education of Henry Adams.” Or said maybe there isn’t one. Melville certainly understood American capitalism. Ahab is a great character. Brilliant at what he does but essentially suffering from PTSD having worn himself out killing whales by hand since he was a boy for the benefit of his employers. But Puzo has a pretty darned good grasp of how the cow eats the cabbage in the U.S. as well, and also treats the immigrant aspect. Just finishing “Two Years Before the Mast.” Another interesting treatment of maritime capitalism (and the shoe industry in Lynn, MA.)

                Melville’s prose is spectacular but Puzo’s is perfectly serviceable and likely American in that regard. And there’s always, “It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.” Right up there with “The business of America is business.”

                • Puzo’s work is the apex of sleazy midcentury pulp, so it depends how you’re defining “great” and “American”.

                  I for one appreciated his great concern that a female POV character couldn’t enjoy sex because her vagina was too wide.

            • “The Godfather” would need a pruning by a good editor to make the cut, I think. I don’t think you can have the title “Great American Novel” if a significant part of the book is about a minor background character’s vaginal reconstruction surgery.

    • I taught for a while, couldn’t afford doing so, and left for law school. I couldn’t see punishing my kids for the benefit of other people’s kids. Plus, I found I wasn’t one of those rare teachers who could stay fresh year after year. I was out in two and a half years. Glad I did it. Glad I got out.

  3. 3. I said to my son-in-law when I finished walking our daughter up the aisle, “She’s all yours!” It didn’t go over all that well with either of them. Not my problem. I thought it was apt.

  4. 2. What’s the cost of living difference? One reason we chose to return to the south was higher quality of life at a lower price point. I took a pay cut but reduced my commute time by 90%. The trade off for family more than compensated.

    Also, you’re right. He made an agreement and now wants to be seen as a martyr. It will probably be raised at every disagreement. “But I mooooved for your dream joooob. What about my dream?”

  5. I like the meme. It almost perfectly captures the type of logical skills displayed in so much of social media.

    And, I say almost simply because it seems to come so close to implicating Poe’s law. I am not sure this meme is genuine, or a satire of leftist thought.

    Regarding professional compensation, I took graduate courses in philosophy before deciding to apply to law school. That decision took less than 3 months.

    It was based on 3 key observations: 1) law pays better than philosophy (and if I am going to argue about pointless minutiae, it better pay well); 2) you can practice law anywhere, because everybody needs a lawyer (the reality behind the joke is that academics chase jobs all around the country and that had no appeal); and 3) I did not respect my peers intellectually and could not imagine competing with them for jobs (did not have that reservation at the Law School I attended).

    So, if I left philosophy for the money, maybe I made the right decision. But, the decision to pursue law was as much about ability to live where I want as anything else; I had a short drive today to pay my elderly parents their bi-weekly-ish visit.


  6. President Obama said gun violence only happens in the U.S..

    the anti-gun cult claims that the U.S. has the highest gun violence rate in the world.

    Why, then, would people fleeing violence flee to the U.S.? Are they not aware that the U.S. is the most dangerous country in the world?

  7. 2: The amusing part about the “capitalism is broken” subheading is that teacher salaries are decided by a system that is pretty far from a free and open market. Most teachers work for the government, which uses the law to put up all kinds of barriers to creating any alternatives to the public school system. Salaries in most districts are locked in by union contracts based on seniority, not on the relative merits and abilities of each teacher. The whole system is skewed and distorted by multiple factors that prevent it from being even remotely close to anything resembling capitalism. If you have a problem with teacher pay in the U.S., your beef isn’t with capitalism…

    3: I think the ethics of asking when you won’t take “no” for an answer kind of depend on which question you’re posing. If you’re asking the potential in-laws for their permission, then it would be unethical to not abide their wishes. If you’re asking them for their approval, then if they say no, it’s perfectly fine to proceed with a “well, screw ’em, then” attitude. I suspect very few people these days are actually seeking permission, but rather, as you say, going through the motions of a cultural custom.

  8. 2. Sometimes I read things and ask myself: “Do they actually believe this, or are they saying what they’ve been told, assuming it’s true, or are they being obtuse/pedantic/other?”

    One of the tropes on the socialist-left is that a unit of work should have an invariable value. Oh, they’ll never say it quite like that, but the example above applies: “I was making X as a teacher in Y, I should also be able to make X in Z.”

    Why should that be true? How could that possibly be true?

    Salary fluctuation is a feature of capitalism, and it functions. The market needs more teachers relative to the number of teachers graduating? Teacher’s average salaries will get a premium. A certain state has more teachers than it needs? The average salary will discount. Now, teachers are an AWFUL example, because there has always been more people able to teach than society has had need for. You know what you always hear? Teachers kvetching about wages. You know what you never hear? States with an emergency shortage of teachers. That’s how that works. You want to talk about how important your job is? Fine. It’s important. It’s also low skilled, not physical, indoor, and there is a line of people about a mile long gagging for your position.

    Let’s say, for the sake of being contrary, that a unit of work, *did* have uniform value.. What would that look like? To use a real example, Canada Post has a National union. They don’t have regional bands, which means that Canada Post employees coast to coast work their way up the same pay scales. Canada Post, unlike, say UPS or Loomis, cannot say that they won’t deliver to remote locations, and they cannot offer a red penny more than they could to employees in metro areas, so in order to operate these locations while maintaining their CBA, they have to, in order:

    1) Hire as many people who would normally make the cut that they can get their hands on.
    2) Hire as many people who would not normally make the cut but have a driver’s license and can pass a urine test.
    3) Contract out the remainder.

    And guess what contractors make?

  9. 1. “Curmie” being short for what it is, the only correct response to that poster would be: “Hey, that’s a great two-fer!”

    2. If there’s no respect for “higher” education these days (for good reason) and the subject matter is either dumbing down or being diversified out, it increases the chances of students wanting certain degrees or experience based solely on guaranteed openings and assured income. They will choose their jobs by corresponding values. Which may be the reason why parents don’t want their children to grow up to be cowboys.

    3. Nothing wrong with asking for approval: it could be the only time there’d be a chance to air possible grievances on all sides or inform the couple of impending impediments, such as previously unannounced intimate genetic connections. Requesting approval is often just a way of informing parents of the couple’s current status: “this is what we’re doing; we hope you go along with it because we respect you and want to stay connected to this family circle.” Asking for permission, as a child of an adult, is inviting hesitation (“we’ll have to think this over”), and at worst, an automatic negative..

  10. 3. I had traveled to my college girlfriend’s home for hunting, holiday, and so on. I knew what I was getting into. Her family was a mess… but so was mine, so who was I to judge?

    Asking permission was never even considered. We informed them as to our plans, and gave them sound, logical reasons why (no, she was not pregnant; yes, her mom asked her privately) We were prepared to pay for the festivities ourselves, but in the interest of having control over the planning, they invested the minimum possible.

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