Category Archives: Daily Life

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Observations On The Florida Teens And The Drowning Man”

My old friend Mark drops in to comment just a few times a year, but always delivers his trademark optimism, fairness, and perception. When he talks, I learned early on in our relationship, attention should be paid.. His was one of several excellent comments on the horrific episode in Cocoa Beach, where five teens stood by watching a handicapped man drown, and seemed to enjoy the sight mightily as they recorded his death on their cell phones. In response to another commenter’s query, “Are “kids” that are so disconnected that they’d do something of that magnitude rehabilitatable?”, Mark leaped k took the discussion to a related topic that I had found myself thinking about a lot while I was trapped in a lobby and two airports yesterday with nothing to do but wait and silently curse. What are electronic devices and social media obsession doing to our social skills and ability to relate to the world? At what point to we start sounding the ethics alarms…or the societal survival alarms? [ I’m going to include the last part of Mark’s earlier comment on the story, because it is a helpful introduction to the rest.]

Here is Mark’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Observations On The Florida Teens And The Drowning Man:

…The natural human reaction to observe has been enhanced by our ability to record, and it now seems to be the first response in almost every situation – the more harrowing the better. I’m sure there is some personal thrill involved in being able to post the result, garnering comments and ego-gratifying oohs and aahs.

The situation in Florida is only the most horrible of them, right up there with the guy who posted pictures of himself with the corpse of his step-father, whom he had just murdered. Like everything else, this is a tiny part of a much bigger picture of who we are becoming as a culture. The 21st century ability to remain safely behind a screen while still feeling a full participant in life (Internet commenting a prime example) frees us of the necessary empathy (or simply humanity) to come from behind that screen to behave in ways that might be heroic or even civil. I have little difficulty seeing that behavior manifesting in children raised viewing life through a cell phone.

The much larger question – at least for me – remains “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It’s a nagging question, versions of which swirl in and around almost all the major political issues of our day and, now, into our personal dealings with one another. It is always there, but we come up with more and novel ways to avoid actually answering or acting on it. Clearly, it never occurred to these boys. Cain didn’t want to answer the question. And, I suspect, neither do we.

***

 I carry two cell phones, absolute wonders of technology, which remain in my briefcase most of the time although I’ll take one of them with me to a picture-taking occasion. My friends grit their teeth at receiving responses to texts that are weeks old. My relationship with my cellphone(s) was cemented when I had the opportunity to whale watch off of Maui. I realized that I was so concerned about my precious iThing getting wet or falling into the water that I wasn’t watching the whales. I put the phone away and decided that watching the real world with both eyes was more interesting and that’s what I try to do. I hope sincerely that that attitude would ensure that I offer whatever aid I can in a dire situation rather than wondering what it will look like on Facebook later on. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Facebook, Science & Technology, Social Media, The Internet

Comment Of The Day:”Comment Of The Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘From The Law vs. Ethics File: The Discriminatory Charlotte Pride Parade’”’

This Comment of the Day is atypical, but I want to highlight it.

It’s doesn’t really matter what the original exchange was that prompted it, or who the other commenter was. What matters to me is that a respected, smart, articulate member of the colloquy here felt denigrated and mistreated, and that her experience as a commenter was diminished as a result. There may even have been a misunderstanding  involved; right now that is not my concern either.

I allow the discourse to get very intense here at times, and I will continue to. Lines are crossed—civility, insults, epithets, outbursts, personal attacks, mockery, blatant contempt–I cross them myself on occasion. Those who thrive here are remarkable, I have found, in taking rhetorical punches to the jaw and the gut and bouncing back without rancor or reduction in passion.

Nonetheless, the Golden Rule should never be too far out of mind on an ethics site. We can all make our points without being gratuitously nasty and mean. Stinging slapdowns can be fun–I enjoy them, though I save my worst for especially annoying visitors who I don’t care to have return—but they need to be kept to a minimum. Sincere, thoughtful, honest and perceptive commenters like Mrs. Q should never feel the way this post indicates that an exchange made her feel. Ethics Alarms is designed to be challenging and contentious, but not hostile. She hasn’t commented since this was filed; I hope that she has just been busy, because Mrs. Q  has been a unique and wonderful asset since she first dropped in a few months ago.

Let’s do better.

Here is Mrs. Q’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Comment Of The Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘From The Law vs. Ethics File: The Discriminatory Charlotte Pride Parade’”

The level of disrespect you have shown me, with the snark & unwillingness to do the research yourself, tells anyone reading that there is something inside you that is either terribly unhappy or unhealthy. I cannot in good conscience continue to deal with someone who is so vengeful. You’ve proven you’re incapable of responding in a civil manner towards me when I have not insulted you in any similar way. It’s been a pattern & if you & I were in person I’d simply walk away & pray for you.

My disability makes my time precious & my family comes before internet commenting. That you would make fun of my need to prioritize my family over responding online says so much more about you than me.

I was planning on answering your questions but your last little dig is my last straw. I’m sure you’ll say I’m weak or not answering you b/c I’m scared or stupid or a TERF or whatever disparaging term you can think of & that’s fine. I won’t be goaded into your games. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners

Ethics Quiz: Let The Seller Beware?

My son, an auto mechanic and an BMW enthusiast. just purchased a used BMW for 300 dollars from a customer who was frustrated with the car and not willing to pay any more to repair it. He regarded the purchase as great deal, but it was even a better deal than he thought. While he was checking out the car last night, be discovered that a spark plug had been misinstalled by the owner. When it was replaced, the engine sang like Beverley Sills.

My son said that he had suggested to the owner that he change the spark plugs, but had been told that this had recently been done. “He was nasty about it, too,” he said. “Would he have sold you the car for such a low price if the car was running the way it is now?” I asked.

“Never,” my son replied.

Your Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is there an ethical duty to offer the car back to the original owner when it is discovered after the purchase that the vehicle was better and more valuable than the owner thought?

Secondary question: My son says that he might feel badly about the deal if the owner hadn’t been such a jackass throughout the transaction, and not only rejected his advice that would have revealed the car’s problem, but did so abusively.

Is that a valid and relevant ethical consideration?

 

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Daily Life, Workplace

Ethics Quiz: The Neglectful Mom

An upstate New York mother allowed her 10-year-old child to shop alone at the LEGO store as she shopped at a different store in the same mall. It appears that the LEGO store’s personnel called the mall’s security, and the child’s mother was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a child. The store does have a sign that states that children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Arresting the mother is obviously absurd over-kill. Obviously also, the LEGO store has a right to have whatever policy it chooses regarding unaccompanied children. However the question remains, and is the Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day

Is it irresponsible for a mother to allow her 10-year-old to shop alone if the mother is shopping in the same mall?

Related questions as you ponder: Continue reading

55 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Daily Life, Family, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes, Rights, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “The Tangled Ethics Of Men, Women, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Discrimination, Romance, Common Sense, And ‘“Vive La différence!”’

[I’m especially very grateful to have an inventory of strong Comments of the Day—two more to post after this!–since I woke up today with painful stiff neck that makes everything from walking to chewing painful, and looking down at a keyboard ridiculously difficult.]

In response to fair, reasonable, liberal commenter and mother who had just written that when it came to looking out for her daughters, extreme caution was the rule, meaning that heterosexual men were regarded as inherent potential threats if the were strangers…even the fathers of  her daughter’s friends (maybe even—this is my thought, not hers–a Vice President!).reader Chris Bentley raised several interesting points. As with many Comments of the Day, this one was not strictly on topic; workplace sexual harassment and discrimination was the subject of the post, except on the broad issue of the different genetic wiring of man and women,

Here is CB’s Comment of the Day on “The Tangled Ethics Of Men, Women, Sexual Harassment,Sexual Discrimination, Romance, Common Sense, And “Vive La différence!”:

Having said that, why is it OK  to profile, stereotype, to pass judgement on someone, solely because of their gender, and the statistical likelihood that someone, due to their gender, would cause harm to your daughters, if that specific person has given you no reason to see them a a threat?

Everyone stereotypes, especially when A) the stakes are too high to be wrong; and B) it’s unlikely the “recipient” of our stereotyping will ever know what we’re thinking..and if they do, refer back to A. But we all still do it.

I get that the percentage of people who are pedophiles is disproportionately in favor of men, and any good parent isn’t going to play fast and loose with the safety of their kids, just to appear to be “fair” to a stranger. And it’s okay for women to take precautions when out jogging alone, and they come across a man who, regardless of what they’re doing, make them feel uncomfortable, because, again, disproportionate percentages. In these situations, how you feel when safety is involved legitimately trumps any other possible facts in the situation, of the feelings of the other people involved, because the stakes are too high to be wrong. Continue reading

25 Comments

Filed under Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Family, Gender and Sex

A Life Ethics Lesson: The Washington Nationals And The Duty To Improve

Tex Ritter’s much-covered recording about the soldier whose deck of cards reminded him of the Bible has a parallel for me in the relationship of baseball to ethics. Like cards, baseball is a pastime, a game, but if you pay attention, there are profound lessons in ethics to be gleaned from the history, characters, and events of the game. In my official bio that I use for speaking engagements, I suggest that intensely following the travails of the Boston Red Sox since I was 12 was a major factor in sparking my lifelong interest and fascination with ethics. And it is true.

I live in the Washington, D.C. area now (unfortunately), and the local team is the Montreal Expos in exile, the Washington Nationals. The Nats’ mission is to bring Washington its first MLB World Championship since Walter Johnson was pitching and Coolidge was President. So far this goal has been elusive. That 1924 World Series-winning team, with the best names any team has had ever (Muddy Ruel, Ossie Bluege, Goose Goslin, Joe Judge, Nemo Liebold, Firpo Marberry, Mule Shirley, Pinky Hargrave, Curly Ogden, and more) has faded into forgetfulness while two Washington Senators franchises fled (to become the Minnesota Twins and the Texas Rangers, respectively) after decades of failure. The Washington Nationals, not nick-named Senators on the theory that the name was cursed, have proven cursed themselves. Despite having won more games over the last five seasons than any National League team, and having won the National League Eastern Division three times, the team has never sniffed the World Series, having lost repeatedly in the first round of the play-offs.

This season the Nats were loaded from the start, and even after terrible injuries to two of their best players, they have the best offense in the league, the best hitter (Bryce Harper) and arguably the best starting pitcher (Max Scherzer).  They are also in a lousy division where they don’t need to be great to win it without breaking a sweat.

But like the gorgeous woman with a wart on her nose, there is an obvious imperfection. The Nationals have no closer, that pitching specialist whose job is to get the last three outs (and sometimes more) to lock down victory in a close game.  This is not a new development, by any means. After the team decided to let last season’s (excellent) closer to leave via free agency, fans and sportswriters wondered how and when the team would replace him. One by one all of the established closers available by trade and free agency were snapped up, and it became clear that the Nationals ownership’s position was, “Never mind. The team is good enough. Maybe we’ll get lucky and some pitcher will surprse us, but even if we don’t, this team is good enough to win anyway. And we can save ourselves a bunch of money.Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Daily Life, Ethics Dunces

Over At “The Ethicist,” An Off-The-Wall Ethics Question Gets An Even More Off-The-Wall Answer

I don’t have many opportunities to take issue with the current writer of The New York Times Magazine’s “The Ethicist” column, because he, unlike his predecessors, really is one, and doesn’t come up with whoppers like they used. Professor Appiah had some “Bonus Advice” this week, however, from a Judge John Hodgman. The judge reminded me of those halcyon days when “The Ethicist” was good for a couple of Ethics Alarms attacks a month. Good times!

First, the question:

My roommate takes long, casual phone calls while on the toilet. I have tried explaining why this behavior is creepy and rude to the person he is talking to, as they do not know they are talking to someone who is going to the bathroom. He thinks it’s actually rude when people don’t answer phone calls simply because they’re in the bathroom.

Wait…what? WHAT?

It is impossible to be secretly rude. It has no effect on the person on the other end of the line if you are naked, making faces, or writing “I hate this idiot!” in the mirror in blood. Nor is it “creepy” to have a phone conversation on the toilet. I’m typing this while I’m on the toilet and wearing a duck on my head, and it’s nobody’s business but mine.

Nor is it rude to refuse to answer phone calls when one is in the bathroom. In fact, it is almost never rude to decline a phone call.  That bell is an  invitation to have a conversation, not a command. I don’t answer calls when I’m taking a nap, a shower, having a live, face-to-face conversation, writing an Ethics Alarms post, cooking, eating a meal, enjoying an orgy, or chopping up my victim after a murder. It’s my option, my time, and my schedule.

These two roommates are made for each other.

Now the judge’s response:

“Your roommate is quite wrong: What’s actually rude is people making phone calls in the first place. We have so many better ways to communicate now that do not involve repeating yourself constantly, saying the wrong thing under the gun and then realizing you’ve been talking for five minutes to a dropped call. Even the ringing of a good old landline is the intrusive announcement that either a) someone thinks you don’t deserve to choose how to spend your time, or b) someone you know has been killed or injured. If only to protect the meditative solitude of the bathroom act, your roommate should stop this habit, never mind the fact that it is just plain gross.”

Think about it: someone with this level of judgment is a judge.

1. We have better ways of communicating than talking to each other?

2. If someone doesn’t want to talk on the phone, they can turn the phone off.  They can have an unlisted number, or a cell phone number they only share with people they won’t think are rude when they call.  They can not have a phone at all. If you make it possible for people to call you when you don’t have to do so, people reasonably assume that you don’t mind being called. Calling too late or too early is inconsiderate, unless there is an emergency.  Robocalls and solicitor calls are intrusions. But a friend or relative “reaching out to touch someone” as the old Bell  long-distance ad sang? That’s rude? What’s the matter with this guy?

3. Let me rephrase that: What the HELL is the matter with this guy? We have to obey his rules for what we do in the bathroom? I read my baseball books in the bathroom…is that a violation of “meditative solitude’? How about having long discussions with my wife through the bathroom door—not sufficiently meditative? What’s happening on the toilet isn’t gross, but talking to someone who has no idea where you are and what you are doing is gross? I can be as gross as we want when the only witness is me, and there is absolutely nothing rude, inappropriate or unethical about it.

As long as I clean up afterward.

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Filed under Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Professions