Everyday Ethics: The Pizza Mess

ha-ha-nelson

Once again, we encounter the gratuitously hostile stranger phenomenon.

I was running a quick groceries errand today, and a young man right in front of me dropped a cardboard carton containing a hot slice of pizza on the floor. Naturally, it landed top down, and the pizza was smeared all over the linoleum. I was right beside him as he froze briefly, looking down at the mess forlornly.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said, my Golden Rule reflex kicking in. I hate dropping food, especially ice cream cones and pizza; it brings back many childhood traumas. I genuinely empathized with the guy. And you know what? He completely blew me off. He didn’t look at me, acknowledge my expression of sympathy, or even grunt. He just left the dead pizza slice there, turned on his heels, and walked quickly off to call a staffer.

No, he didn’t have ear buds. He was just another rude SOB who has no interest in contributing to a congenial, mutually supportive society. Can you devise any excuse for this behavior? I don’t think there is an excuse. I think this is evidence that he is a member of the growing and thriving jerk component of American society. Why do so many bystanders refuse to demonstrate care for strangers in peril or stress? Reactions like I got is one of the reasons.

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Your 4th Of July Ethics Quiz: Food Racism?

duck_leg_wrap

Let’s play the ever more popular quiz show, ” Is It Racist?”!

Today’s topic: Late-night television host James Corden has long featured on his show a food-centered “Truth or Dare” variation called “Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts.” Celebrities choose to either answer personal questions or take a bite of a food that most viewers would deem nauseating or not properly food at all. Recently the cherubic British comic employed a table in the bit filled with Asian delicacies like chicken feet, pig’s blood and thousand-year eggs.

That was too much for the online outrage squad, apparently. An online petition condemning Corden’s use of Asian foods as disgusting has attracted than 46,000 signatories. The premise is that making fun of Asian food is racist.

Kim Saira, 24, a Los Angeles activist who organized the petition, told an interviewer, “James Corden is a white person and is actively using ingredients from Asian cultures and profiting from it and showing it in such a negative light. There’s a way to not like foods and still be respectful about it.”

The New York Times interviewed Lok Siu, an associate professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley who agreed that Corden’s joke is indeed racist because it disrespects people’s cultures. The choice of Asian foods to highlight as disgusting to typical Americans makes Asian Americans feel more vulnerable or marginalized.

Really, Professor?

Oh yes indeed! “You use food as a metaphor to describe that distance, the kind of strangeness between a group of people that you don’t understand and their habits, the way they’re eating, the smell that comes with the spices,” she said. “There’s something around the way we discuss food, the way we think about food in our acceptance or rejection of it, it’s a rejection of a culture and the people that’s associated with it.” Siu regards the food as a metaphor for Asians not qualifying as “normal.”

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An Everyday Ethics Conundrum: Free Air

air pump

Help me out with this one, if you can.

Our car has a slow leak in my right front tire. It get about seven pounds low every three days or so, and it has not been convenient for me to spend the time to go to the dealer and have the thing plugged. For several months now I have just filled the tire at the closest filling station, which has two air pumps (one is perpetually broken) that require six quarters to start the air coming.

About a week ago, both of the air dispensers—including the busted one— began sporting signs announcing that air would now be $2.00 for five minutes rather than $1.50. At the time, that caused me additional annoyance since I only had six quarters, and had to get change at the 7-11 to acquire the additional fifty cents. But when I put in the coins, the air turned on after only six quarters, as it always had. I finished filling the tire in about a minute, wasting the other four minutes of potential air, assuming the change in price had just occurred and the owner hadn’t yet adjusted the machine. But today when I went to fill up the once-again underinflated tire, it still only took $1.50 to start the air flowing.

The question: Am I ethically obligated to inform the owner of this? Do I owe him a buck for the last two air purchases?

In Which I Settle On The Ethical Response To A Popular Obnoxious Kiss-Off

Bite me

For the third time in a week, I experienced a newly popular faux-polite farewell, finally decided on the appropriate rejoinder, and executed it.

The offending statement is “You have a wonderful day!” and its many variations, uttered by someone who has behaved jerkishly, has been told so, and who doesn’t have the guts or integrity to apologize or acknowledge that he or she might have been wrong. It’s a sarcastic comment that means the exact opposite of what its literal words convey, deliberately contrived so that the speaker can feign innocence if he or she gets a harsh response, and can smirk inwardly for pinching off an adversarial encounter with a coded “Up yours!”

I don’t know when this trick became a fad, but it has. For some reason, everyone who has used it on me has been female. It is a passive-aggressive device. I first became aware of the “You have a wonderful day!” ploy when the staff at a doctor’s office informed me as I went in for scheduled treatment that I would have to pay many thousands of dollars on the spot though they never notified me of this in advance. After pointing out that I found their conduct unacceptable and unprofessional, that their explanation was dishonest, and that I would no longer be using their employer’s services, the snottiest of the desk staff fake-smiled and chirped, “You have a wonderful day!”

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On Having Rational Arguments With People Who Don’t Want To Be Rational

Guest post by Null Pointer

I’m especially grateful for re-postable comment right now, as I still am in searing pain from an oral surgery procedure too disgusting to describe, and drugged to the gills. But ethics moves on, mindful of no man. This one is nicely appropriate, since I am still losing respect for Facebook friends at a breakneck pace, as they have attacked me for suggesting that reasonable doubt existed in the Chauvin trial and that the trial was unfair by any rational standard. It’s like a clinical example of how mobs make themselves stupid and crazy. For example, a lawyer—a lawyer!—wrote this: “Doesn’t “fair” mean fair to both parties?” No! Nothing in the Constitution requires a “fair trial” for the State. Incredible. A progressive lawyer actually thinks it does..or what is ore likely the case, was grasping at straws and got a really stupid one.

I will dedicate this Guest Post (since it arrived in an open forum) by Null Pointer to the sadly MIA (since January) commenter Extradimensional Cephalopod. This is one of his favorite subjects.

It is difficult to engage with someone who is making emotional arguments, but not impossible. You first have to understand person you are engaging with, how they think and why they think the way they do. Throwing facts at brainwashed people isn’t going to do anything, because most people have been taught to ignore facts that don’t align with their viewpoints. Younger people have been increasingly taught in school that feelings out weigh facts. Often the way to reach them is to start with feelings, and move slowly outward from the feelings to the facts. Acknowledge the correctness of their feelings, then explore the way they feel about all the feeder issues around whatever issue you are discussing. Usually you will find that even though they are very dogmatic about some major political issue, they have doubts about some of the related issues. It’s a process, and it takes time. Trying to simply change someone’s mind to your position isn’t going to work, but getting them to think more deeply about their own position will.

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Wherein Having Ethics Alarms Ringing 24-7 Again Proves To Be Inconvenient…

I took Spuds out for a walk in the light rain, and was relieved when he relieved himself with his usual impressive fecal discharge early on. I dutifully collected it in a blue New York Times bag—using the delivery bags for this purposes amuses me, as the final content of the bag is less noxious than its original product. Spuds even did his doo-dooty near a trash receptacle. “Now that’s over with!” I thought. Then I took my sweet dog on walk down one of the boutique streets in the neighborhood: lovely houses, elaborate gardens, perfect lawns. And Spuds walked quickly onto one of the latter, and duplicated his earlier performance. Topped it, in fact.

He almost never does this, but I almost always carry a second New York Times bag in case he’s feeling prolific. This time I hadn’t.

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Exclamation Points, 3/16/21: Duh! Whoa! Yay! Gag! Asshole!” (Item #1)

AngryJudge

The following Comment of the Day by long, LONG time commenter Michael West is especially welcome: there’s nothing I like better than a long, erudite COTD when I feel terrible and every moment not seeping is an ordeal. For a lot of reasons, I was way behind on my usual dental care last year, and the piper must ne paid: I have two toothaches, a related sinus infection and headache, and now face three extractions next week that wish could be in the next minute. My situation is just one more fun benefit of the lockdown, drastic, sot-in-the-dark precaution that had still unmeasurable benefits and many, many costs that have still not been quantified.

But I digress. People citing the Bible as authority for dubious ethical principles or, in the case sparking the COTD, unethical conduct has always been a pet peeve of mine even before I started thinking about such matters as a career. The example abused by Don Lemon was even on the Rationalization List: #6, The Biblical Rationalizations.

As a special treat, Michael ends by taking on “Walk a mile in another man’s shoes.”

Here is his erudite Comment of the Day on the first item in the post, “Ethics Exclamation Points, 3/16/21: Duh! Whoa! Yay! Gag! Asshole!”

***

Oh look, someone who hasn’t cracked open a Bible in decades hopes to lecture Christians or Jews on Judeo-Christianity!

Here’s the whole passage from Matthew-

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

This comes from the famous Sermon on the Mount.

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Comment Of The Day: “Tit For Tat Ethics: The Anti-Biden-Pro-Trump Flags”

Mutual assured

Chris Marschner, in his Comment of the Day, once again raises the persistent ethics problem of when or whether unethical methods to foil the unethical acts and strategy of others become necessary, justified, and thus, except to the Absolutists, ethical. It is one of the great mysteries of ethics, and one that has never been answered to my satisfaction, or anyone’s satisfaction. This has many implications: the ethics of war is part of the controversy. So is capital punishment. And, of course, politics in general.

Here is Chris’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Tit For Tat Ethics: The Anti-Biden-Pro-Trump Flags”:

There is something to be said for the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction which is the ultimate Tit for Tat. The vitriol expressed against Trump and his supporter if left unchallenged will become the tactic of choice for all future challengers to the Democrat machine.

Political pendulums swing back and forth. The pendulum will not swing if sufficient numbers are not convinced that they are not alone. Complaining about what the AUC does has proven to be ineffective. Pick your poison – vulgar flags or riots. Flags such as these, while crass and vulgar, are simply tools to communicate that others feel as they do which gives more people an impetus for speaking out. The electorate seeks safety in numbers. These signs are no different that the BLM or End Racism signs in yards or “Tolerance” stickers on automobiles.

When the bully gets a taste of his or her own medicine the bully tends to behave differently. If there is a better way for the average person to broadly communicate a reasoned alternative perspective, when your local paper limits the number of letters to the editor for their position but promotes the printing of the paper’s preferred perspectives for whatever reason, well, I am all ears. These signs reflect who we are. Only when people see themselves in that mirror will they see just how ugly their own actions were.

Personally, I am tired of talking about the AUC [JM: For infrequent visitors here, the AUC is Ethics Alarms shorthand for the “resistance”/Democratic Party/ mainstream media alliance I call “The Axis of Unethical Conduct” for its behavior in response to the 2016 election.] and I am looking for ways to ethically combat their tactics. I will not, however, allow my liberties to be stolen through unethical practices so that I can be called an ethical player.

Reddit Depresses Me

despair

People are always telling me I should check Reddit for ethics issues and stories. I wish I could. Whenver I am on that site for any significant amount of time, I become despondent about the state of the ethical comprehension and commitment of the American public, begin to feel like King Canute trying to sweep back the tide, and want to pack it all in and lie in a gutter drinking Woolite. I don’t need more discouragement, thanks. There’s enough to read in the news and on social media to lead me that way already.

Almost invariably, what I read on Reddit shows either participants who have the ethics of zombies, or posted evidence of the rotten ethics pervading society by others. Yesterday some link on the site was producing a lot of traffic on Ethics Alarms, so I tried to trace the links back to find out which post here was drawing interest. I failed, but in the course of a half-hour of scrolling, found a parade of ethics horrors, including one popular tweet in which someone opined that since he had received his pandemic stimulus checks and more were coming, and because he had been vaccinated, he thought it was ridiculous that anyone would complain about President Biden “not having enough press conferences.”

Now there’s a responsible voter: as long as the government sends money, that’s all that matters.

Worse, I saw this alarming text exchange:

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Another 7-11 Encounter: There Is Hope.

yankees-vs-red-sox

For over a decade, a cynical, destructive, dangerous and—let’s see, is there another good adjective? Yes!— unethical strategy has been pursued to strip away all trust between the races, to use racial guilt for profit and power, to make black Americans fear and hate white Americans and to cause white Americans to resent their blacks neighbors. This is, disgracefully, a deliberate choice by elements in our society and politics in order to achieve power. It is an existential threat to the United States, our society and our culture, and has never been more so than now.

I was running an errand for Grace to the local 7-11. As I got out of my car, wearing a black #*&!@#!! mask, my path intersected with that of another man on the way to the convenience store. All I could see were his eyes and his skin-color (he was African-American), and the rest was attire: a New York Yankees cap and a Yankees team jacket. I was one up on him: I was wearing my Red Sox cap, a Boston team jacked AND my Red Sox canvas deck shoes.

The stranger, who appeared to be around my age, froze dramatically as we came face to face about ten feet apart, extended his arms, and exclaimed, “What is this, a beer ad?” and laughed. I replied, “I think it has to be!,” and he followed me into the store. We stopped a few feet inside the door, and talked for 20 minutes about baseball, our teams, various players, baseball ethics (steroids and cheating), and life. He was such a friendly, smart and funny guy; I loved talking with him. Then he gave me a fist bump, and we parted. I never even got his name.

There was nothing in our interaction that day that involved race or anything else contentious. We were just two human beings and citizens of the United States who have a lot more in common and a lot more to talk about together than group identities and conflict. The encounter reminded me that the bonds that unite us as a nation are still stronger and more resilient than the enemies of democracy think they are.

And as I got back into my car, the most famous quote from Anne Frank’s diary suddenly popped into my head: “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Not all people, certainly, but just maybe enough of them.

There is hope.