Tag Archives: compassion

Ethics Quiz: Lying To The Dying, Or Trump Derangement Meets “The Magnificent Seven”

In “The Magnificent Seven,” the original classic, not last year’s disappointing re-make, Harry Luck (Brad Dexter) had always been convinced that the real reason the Seven had agreed to help a poor Mexican village fight a predatory bandit band was because the town had a secret treasure to share. (It didn’t.) Harry refuses to join the rest as they make one desperate effort to help the farmers, then at the peak of the gunfire gallops back into the village to join the battle–and is promptly shot. Dying, he begs Chris (Yul Brenner) to confirm his suspicions…

Harry Luck: Chris… I hate to die a sucker. We didn’t come here just to keep an eye on a lot of corn and chili peppers, did we? There was something else all along, wasn’t there?

Chris: Yes, Harry. You had it pegged right all along.

Harry: I knew it. What was it?

Chris: Gold. Sacks of it.

Harry: Sounds… beautiful. How much?

Chris: At least a hundred and fifty.

Harry: My cut would have been what?

Chris: About seventy thousand.

Harry: I’ll be damned. (He dies)

Chris: Maybe you won’t be.

Today’s news has another story involving lying to a dying man, a really stupid story.

Michael Garland Elliott, 75,  died of congestive heart failure in his Oregon home ,surrounded by his caregivers, neighbors and friends.  Right before the end, his ex-wife,spoke with him over the phone from her home in Austin, Texas.

She told him that President Trump had been impeached.   “I knew it was his very, very last moments,” Teresa Elliott told reporters. “I knew that would bring him comfort and it did. He then took his final breath.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Is it ethical to lie to dying friends and loved ones?

Continue reading

31 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners, Family, Government & Politics, Popular Culture, Quizzes

Professor Who Most Needs To Get Over Himself Of The Month

Gilbert Kalonde, a Montana State University assistant professor of technology education, says an employee at the Bozeman, Montana Wal-Mart wrongly listed his occupation on a fishing license as “toilet cleaner” rather than “pompous assistant professor.” This, the toilet cl…er, professor says, constitutes libel, and he is suing for damages because the license has held him up to “hatred, contempt, ridicule.”

Boy, you can say that again. I know I always judge people by what it says on their fishing licenses. Come to think of it, I just judge people harshly if they have a fishing license. Actually, I’m not sure I wouldn’t regard a toilet cleaner as more admirable than a college professor. True, he doesn’t teach at Wellesley….

Why would anyone get upset over something like this? I would be hauling out that license at parties. Yes, that’s not exactly sterling service he got, but it’s Wal-Mart. Besides, based on the law suit, I bet the prof was so insufferable–“See here, my good man, make sure you place the correct occupation on that document, lest my credentials are obscured!”—that the Wal-Mart clerk decided to teach him a lesson in humility. I guess it didn’t work.

The ethical values involved here are proportion, compassion, humility, and kindness, none of which Gilbert Kalonde appears to possess.

At least he has a sense of humor.

______________________

Pointer: Fark

22 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Humor and Satire, Law & Law Enforcement, Workplace

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Eugene M. Lang

A kind, courageous Ethics Hero died last week. To my shame, I had never heard of him. In 1996, President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but that award has been so degraded and politicized that I no longer pay much attention to it. My mistake: in this case, the award was well-earned.

Eugene M. Lang was born poor and became  a successful and wealthy  investor. In 1981, he was invited to deliver a commencement address to 61 New Your City sixth graders at Public School 121, his alma mater.  “I looked out at that audience of almost entirely black and Hispanic students, wondering what to say to them,” he recalled years later. “It dawned on me that the commencement banalities I planned were completely irrelevant…So I began by telling them that one of my most memorable experiences was Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and that everyone should have a dream.”

Then, in a flash of inspiration, he decided on the spot to tell them that he would give a scholarship to every student in the class who was admitted to a four-year college.

That impulsive promise led to his establishment of the I Have a Dream Foundation, with an office in Manhattan. Lang hired a project coordinator and established a year-round program of academic support including mentoring and tutoring as well as sponsored cultural and recreational outings. In the meantime, he virtually adopted that 6th grade class, taking them on trips and restaurants, and personally counseling them through personal travails as well as school problems, often intervening with school officials on their behalf. By the time Eugene Lang died at age 98,  his dedication had changed the lives of more than 16,000 at-risk children nationwide.

Lang said the he knew, when he made his pledge to those 11 and 12-year olds, that giving poor and  troubled children money for an education would not ensure their success. He knew many would succumb to the cycle of poverty,  drugs, jail and irresponsible parenthood.  “When I made the original promise, the principal told me that maybe one or two students would take advantage of my offer,” he told  one interviewer. That’s why he dedicated himself to doing more.

Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Heroes, Leadership, Love, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Race, U.S. Society

Ethics Note To Bill Maher: Be Funny Or Be Accurate, Otherwise You’re Just Being A Divisive Asshole

Stop! Stop! You’re killing me!

I used to watch Bill Maher regularly during his Comedy Central days, before he decided he was such an insightful political pundit that he could afford to eschew comedy and just engage in full-time conservative and Republican smearing. On his HBO show Bill is only useful now to remind us of the ugliest tendencies of the Young Angry Left, as Maher will engage in such “comedy” as calling Sarah Palin a cunt, while his audience of fawning dim bulbs clap and bark like hyper-active seals. All Maher does is try to fan the flames of societal division and hate, and HBO is apparently satisfied with that, since there are enough progressive fans of societal division and hate that being funny isn’t deemed essential.  Maher’s weekly partyist ranting has even spawned imitators on other networks, like Samantha Bee and John Oliver. Both are funnier than Bill.

Still, millions of people see this poison and spread it around the internet, so I guess it’s past time to point out how Maher is either ignorant or determined to spread stupidity via confirmation bias. We can stipulate that he’s no longer funny, and seldom even attempts to be.

At the end of last week the latest episode of “Bill Foams At the Mouth” debuted, with the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch the primary object of Bill’s wrath, I mean “wit.”  He began with his monologue.

If anyone senses a joke, raise your hand.

“I don’t know why you’d be happy today. Today is a day Republicans are happy. They got their two favorite things — a right-wing asshole on the Supreme Court and Trump finally blowing some shit up.”

Please note:

  • Bill assumes that only one side of the political divide watches him. He’s right, but it’s not healthy for the culture, and he’s one of the reasons comedy and the arts now divide rather than unite us.
  • Maher calls a dedicated jurist and legal scholar an “asshole” simply because he’s conservative. This is bigotry. Denigrating, stereotyping and demonizing whole categories of people based on their priority of values is no different ethically from denigrating them based on their religion or ethnicity. It’s unfair, disrespectful, irresponsible and undemocratic.
  • Did you raise your hand? Maher, a professional comedian, gets laughs by using words like shit, asshole, and cunt. There was a guy I knew named Larry who did that quite successfully too.

Of course, we were in the 5th grade…

Then Maher, as usual, moved on to calling Republicans racists.

In 2013, 98 Republicans signed a letter saying bombing Syria in response to a chemical attack was unconstitutional without congressional authorization. But this is different because Obama was President then. That would have involved bombing while black, and you can’t — can’t do that.

In the wake of the embarrassment and the exposure of President Obama by President Trump’s decisive handling of an issue that his predecessor made into a trademark display of his weakness, fecklessness  and dithering, the desperate Obama Fan Club has virtually made Maher’s spin a talking point. Almost all media accounts bolstering their narrative leave out the actual sequence of events, which was… Continue reading

46 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

A New Rationalization For A Slow Sunday: #57A The Utilitarian Cheat, or “If It Saves Just One Life”

On another thread, a reader attacked the Rationalization List <GASP!>,, the beating heart of Ethics Alarms, arguing that many of what are labelled rationalizations are valid justifications and cited as such on this very site. A vile canard! Of course many rationalizations can also be valid arguments for or against conduct. Take #59. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do.” We do the right things because they are right, but we also have calculated why they are right, which means dealing with and rebutting the counter-arguments that might suggest those decisions are not right.  However, #59 addresses the frequent use of the “It’s the right thing to do” as a argument-ender, employing it as evidence when it really has to be a conclusion based on other evidence and analysis.

The latest addition to the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List does not have this problem. It is almost always a cheap rhetorical device, slyly edging what needs to be a clear-eyed, rational analysis of proposed conduct into the confounding realm of emotion. #57 A, The Utilitarian Cheat or “If its saves just one life” is a sub-rationalization under #57, 57. The Universal Trump, or “Think of the children!”  (It could easily be the other way around.)

#57 A. The Utilitarian Cheat or “If it saves just one life”

Invoking Rationalization #57A is as good a test as there is for identifying an untrustworthy demagogue. The claim that something is worth enacting, eliminating, establishing or doing is ethically and morally validates “if it saves juts one life” is aimed directly at the mushy minds of sentimentalists  and the dangerously compassionate. If the argument is made in good faith, the speaker is an incompetent dolt; usually it is the desperate last resort of a someone who has found that their real arguments are inadequate or unpersuasive.

The insidious trick inherent in the device is that we agree that human life is precious, and that we can not and will not place a dollar sign on a human being. The next step, however, in which a single life, or even many, is deemed justification for any expense or other draconian societal trade-offs, is impractical and irrational. It would save many lives if automobiles were built like tanks and could never exceed five miles an hour. Locking up ever angry husband that threatened the life of an estranged spouse with a menacing phone call would save many lives. So would forcing women to carry their babies to term, eliminating the right to have an abortion. Torture used without restrictions probably would save one life or more. Prohibition was sold using #57A.

All of these policy conundrums and many others are too complex by far to use simple-minded absolutism as their ethical guideline, and about 30 seconds of logical clarity will usually make that clear.  Those who employ The Utilitarian Cheat, however, don’t want clarity. It is an appeal to embrace acts that can do wide-ranging harm to society, civilization, human aspirations and liberty, because un-named lives can be saved. Though it is opposite of the exploitation of human life for other goals that Kantian ethics forbids, it is equally invalid.

___________________________

Graphic: gunssavelives.net

11 Comments

Filed under Government & Politics, U.S. Society

A Facebook Case Study In How People Cripple Their Ability, And Ours, To Make Ethical Distinctions

I inadvertently stumbled over a provocative Facebook post by a friend of a friend of a friend. My friend is a principled and intelligent liberal: apparently I stumbled on to a chain where each link was a little more detached from reality and reason.

The stranger’s post involved the story from two weeks ago, in the aftermath of the collapse of a crucial  highway bridge in Atlanta. Investigators found the the collapse was caused by a fire.There were no deaths or injuries caused by the fire and the explosion it sparked , but i  severed the vital roadway that runs north-south through downtown Atlanta and carries 250,000 vehicles daily, City Fire Department investigators arrested three homeless people on suspicion of involvement in the fire. Eventually only one was charged:  Basil Eleby, a homeless man, was arraigned on charges of first-degree arson and criminal damage to property. He had many previous drug and assault arrests, according to Fulton County jail records.

To this my friend’s friend’s friend—his name doesn’t matter—responded,

Three people are now under arrest for the fire that led to the freeway collapse in Atlanta – 3 homeless people. I predicted this. But rather than seek out revenge on these 3 for the tremendous inconvenience they’ve caused, can we take a moment to realize that no person reading this has ever known the reality of sleeping under a bridge. None of us have been compelled to light a fire under that same bridge in order to keep our bodies warm.

And can we please have a conversation about funding mental health for the homeless? And can we please have a conversation, not based in shame, not based in revenge, about getting homeless people off the street?

Yes, these 3 folks have done something that has inconvenienced many people. Lighting that fire is something they have probably done countless times before. Can we take this as an opportunity to deal with the real problem? It gives me no satisfaction that the person charged with the worst of this situation will have his homelessness solved by a jail sentence.

Now, I’m sure this individual is a really kind, compassionate individual. I’m also sure he’s the kind of person who is always saying things like “Why is anyone going hungry in the richest country in the world?” to the vigorous head-nodding of his friends, and his friends’ friends. (I am willing to bet money that he was a passionate Bernie Sanders supporter; probably Occupy Wall Street too.) This kind of statement, however, is policy and ethics static. It literally makes people stupid, and leads them away from useful, objective, dispassionate analysis, not towards it.  It is an irresponsible Facebook post.

Of course, it is also flagrant virtue-signalling and grandstanding. Now everyone knows that this guy is oh so compassionate and such a good Christian, who rejects revenge, and wants us to apply the Golden Rule to the poor and the weak. Applause, please. Yes, you’re a wonderful human being. Unfortunately, thinking like this impedes policy solutions to problems, by simplifying them and dumbing them down into their most emotionally distracting components, while pretending that hard truths don’t exist. Continue reading

40 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Ethics Hero: St. Louis Pitcher Adam Wainwright

nissan

It’s Spring Training for Major League Baseball, and all over Florida and Arizona established millionaire baseball stars are getting in shape, while impoverished minor league veterans are hoping to nab a big league roster slot that will alter their finances, careers and lives. The dirt wages teams pay their minor league players is an ongoing scandal, as life in the minors still consists of bus rides, crummy motels and cheap eats, with no job security, no pensions, and little respect. Most of the latter is reserved for the hot young prospects expected to be stars within a couple of years.

These two worlds of Lexus-driving superstars and subsistence-level grunts merge in March,  as the Cactus League and the Grapefruit League play exhibition games before retirees and out-of-state fans.

Ryan Sherriff, 26, is from that Other World. He is  a non-roster invitee to the St. Louis Cardinals camp, hoping to establish himself on the team’s pitching depth chart for a mid-season call-up when there is an injury or a trade. At his age, time is running out. Ryan  also is at camp on his own dime. Every day, Sherriff  made the 10- to 15-minute walk from his rented condo to the ballpark. He then walked  back after workouts.  When he needed food, he walked 15 minutes in the other direction to get groceries.

On one of those walks last week, Cardinal starting pitcher Adam Wainwright was driving by, noticed Sherriff walking and realized that he had seen him do this several times. Wainwright stopped and inquired, and learned that this was his temporary teammate’s mode of transportation as long as he was in Florida.

A couple days later, a Nissan Altima rental was delivered in Sherriff’s name  at the ballpark, all expenses paid by Wainwright. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Sports, Workplace