The ethics quiz based on a reader’s off-site query regarding the ethics of giving to panhandlers when they are unlikely to use the gift wisely prompted a rich and thought-provoking thread. There were many “Comment of the Day” worthy responses, but I chose this one to represent them, in part because it is the most altruistic in spirit.
Here is my old friend Mark’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: From The Ethics Alarms Mailbag…
Back in the days when street folks still asked for a quarter, I used to pass the same guy every day and always gave him $.50 ($2.50 a week). A co-worker seeing me give money to the guy mentioned that the same street person usually arrived to his “office” in a cab. I thought about it for a second and decided that my $2.50 a week – constantly available to me and replenished on a bi-weekly basis – was not enough to challenge what he did with it after it left my hands.
I am also one who will invite someone into McDonald’s with me and have them order what they like. I keep a few dollars in the car for the men and women who haunt the very large intersection near my house. My end-of-the-year charity dollars go to the local food banks.
I am no paragon (I will, however, agree to “exceptionally soft touch” or “sap”). It is simply my own personal practice to help when I can with a fair certainty that I will not – God willing – in this lifetime lack for a dollar (or someone to help me). Perhaps it’s just so much new age crapola, but I believe we get back what we put out. For this sap, it’s just that simple. I have enough trouble sussing out my own motives without trying to figure out strangers with a hard-luck story.
My $2.50 🙂
Reader and sometime commenter Elizabeth 2 e-mails…
Here’s a question for which I’d appreciate some input.
I am generally a sucker for street people who ask for money. I frequent the 7-11 for quick trips for needed household items, and over the past couple of months I’ve often seen a young woman outside, just sitting there. She once asked me if I had any spare change: I gave her $10. A couple of weeks later, same question, same response.
Then a month or so after I had last given her money, I was in the same 7-11 and saw her buying lottery tickets.
Last week she saw me as I entered the 7-11, recognized me, and asked me again for “spare change.” I said “I don’t have any cash at all. Sorry!” I was not of a mind to help this young woman use my charity for the biggest scam of all time: the Virginia Lottery.
My question is this: if I am willing to part with money for a person who seems to need it, and to do so without the vetting that a charity usually gets from me, am I in any position at all to care or change my behavior because of the way the money is spent? Admittedly I have no ability to realistically judge the true need of anyone who asks me for money, but if I have some evidence that makes me wary, should I act on it?
Or, since charity (monetary or otherwise) is an important pillar of character for me, should I simply give what I can when I can and make no judgement whatsoever? After all, these people don’t have Form 990s for me to examine.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:
Is it ethical to withhold charity from a needy individual because you regard her likely use of your gift as irresponsible?
A 30-second promotional clip for today’s episode of “Dr. Phil” is disturbing, beyond question. It shows Shelley Duvall, from “The Shining,” “Popeye,” “Nashville” and other well-known films talking to the fake doctor about her mental illness.The syndicated advice show’s promo shows Duvall, almost unrecognizable, talking about how her “Popeye” co-star, the late Robin Williams, is alive and “shape-shifting.” She says she is being threatened by Robin Hood’s Sheriff of Nottingham, and that a “whirring disc” is inside her.
The ad ends with Duvall, 67, telling Phil McGraw, “I’m very sick. I need help.”
She certainly sounded like it, and looked like it too.
Now Dr. Phil is being criticized for exploiting a vulnerable mentally ill woman for her audience drawing powers. The daughter of Stanley Kubrick, who directed Duvall in her most famous role as Jack Nicholson’s terrorized wife in “The Shining,” is leading the charge. Vivian Kubrick called for a boycott of the popular daytime program, tweeting, “You are putting Shelley Duvall ‘on show’ while she is suffering from a pitiable state of ill health. Unquestionably, this is purely a form of lurid and exploitative entertainment — it’s appallingly cruel.”
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:
Is it unethical for “Dr. Phil” to feature Shelley Duvall this way?
Higher education progressives, students, professors and administrators alike, are seriously confused about ethics, and some basic principles like fairness, respect, equity, and competence, not to mention common sense. How did they come to such a state?
For various reasons, none of them reasonable, Michigan State University had maintained that gender segregation was appropriate in the student Union, and a study lounge there was designated for women only. Perhaps we can forgive the school’s initial judgment in this case, since the Union’s Women’s Lounge, located on the main floor of the MSU Union, debuted in 1925, just five years after women gained the right to vote.Men vastly outnumbered women then, and were looked upon as oddities, or perhaps temptation.
It is 2016, however, and women are demanding equality where it may already exist, and declaring gender discrimination where it may not, so the continued existence of the male excluding lounge was more than a bit anachronistic. After all, Harvard College just declared war on any male student who dared to belong to off-campus all-male clubs, since even freedom of association away from school is deeply offensive to the progressive values of Ivy League educators.
Then a University of Michigan-Flint professor named Mark Perry, filed a complaint to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights towards MSU alleging that the lounge violated federal anti-discrimination law, which it obviously does. Continue reading
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:
I was thinking about re-posting an essay here from 2012, when Humble Talent, one of Ethics Alarms’ most prolific and thoughtful participants, filed this comment on today’s observations about the post-Orlando shooting. Not to be a spoiler, but this quote at the end is simply a fact:
“What I’ve settled on, and this might be defeatist, but what I’ve settled on is that this is the price we pay for freedom. 3000 gun deaths a year In a population of 350,000,000 is the cost of freedom, and objectively, it’s probably even a good trade, even if subjectively it tastes like ash.”
In 2012, I reached the same conclusion:
“The right to be free creates the opportunity to be irresponsible, and ethics is the collective cultural effort to teach ourselves, our children and our neighbors not to be irresponsible without having to be forced to be responsible at gunpoint, with the government holding the gun. I know it seems harsh and callous to say so, but I am not willing to give up on ethics—the belief that enough of us can do the right things even when we have the freedom to do the wrong things—to prevent the occasional school massacre or murder-suicide.”
We’re both right. The right to arm ourselves is at the beating heart of American democracy, and those who would eliminate it understand neither the right, nor the United States.
Here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Can Anyone Analyze The Orlando Mass Shooting Objectively?”
I’m so… tired. I called it… I called it all: Terrorist attack on American soil, big, guns, Trump’s gamble paid, Islam, ISIS, Allahu Akbar, gay people targeted for being gay. I’ve never been so depressed at being so right. Continue reading
The guy on the right feels happy and safe with everyone knowing he’s gay, so the guy on the left is a fool for being angry at a sleazy website for telling the world that HE’S gay. Wait..WHAT?
Every now and then, the Washington Post publishes an opinion piece from a guest commentator that crosses the line distinguishing eccentric from irresponsible. Today’s essay by David Lat, the founder and CEO of the legal industry gossip site Above the Law, is an example of this bad habit. How wrong do one’s logic, values and message have to be before the Post deems them unworthy of promotion and wide consumption? Apparently, there is no limit.
Lat’s essay flagged its obtuseness immediately in its title: “Being Gay Isn’t Shameful, Do Why Does Outing Matter?” (The online version is “Peter Thiel had no reason to be angry at Gawker for writing that he’s gay.“)
The impetus for the article—it is so ethically deranged that I almost think it has to be a joke: who thinks like this?—is the news this week that wrestler Hulk Hogan’s devastating and perhaps fatal lawsuit against Gawker Media was bankrolled by Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal and an early Facebook investor. Gawker outed him in a 2007 story, and Theil is using Hogan’ suit over Gawker revealing a sex tape to try to put the ethics-free celebrity-abusing site out of business. Thiel is just being petty and unreasonable, says Lat. Lat is gay and proud of it, so Thiel should be too!
Writes Lat—whose own gossip site is not above revealing embarrassing facts about well-known figures for its readers’ titillation: Continue reading
Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Rights, The Internet, U.S. Society, Workplace