Another Monty Python Cultural Ethics Check: Is This Satire Now Offensive?

I almost added the above scene from the Monty Python troupe’s masterpiece “The Life of Brian” to the previous post.  Has sensitivity to the demands and travails of the LGBT community rendered this satire offensive? Should it be considered offensive? If satire targeting people who demand that they have a right to do the impossible is offensive, is satire doomed in a woke world?

Following in the tradition of this recent post, with the intent of clarifying the political correctness rules so I know what I am defying, Ethics Alarms presents the following poll based on the video clip above:

 

Satchel Paige Would Approve: From The Ethics Alarms Slippery Slope Files

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” said Leroy “Satchel” Paige, the greatest Negro Leagues pitcher of them all, and —who knows?—maybe the  greatest pitcher of all time, in any league. Imagine: Paige wasn’t allowed to play against white players in the Major Leagues until 1948 when he was over 40, and he still was hard to hit. Satch is a great symbol for the ageless and those of us in denial: he pitched in his last Major League game in his 60’s, throwing three scoreless innings against the Boston Red Sox. Paige’s whimsical  idea that age is just a state of mind has now been carried to its illogical conclusion by Dutch citizen Emile Ratelband, a “positivity trainer” who  calls himself a “young god,” and who has asked a local court to legally change his birthday from March 11, 1949 to March 11,1969, the BBC reports.

Heck, why not? If someone with a Y chromosome and all of their original external organs can say they “identify” as a female and use the ladies room, join the Girl Scouts, and have the protection and support of the law and the woke, why not declare age simply a matter of attitude and mind over matter? It’s just the next frontier in the politically correct realm of reality denial, and I would say, and I know Satchel Paige would say, if  how someone feels is sufficient to legitimize that defiance of concrete reality, treating age as similarly flexible is more than reasonable. Just a stroke of a pen by a judge, and poof! You’re as young as you feel. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day I: “The “Transitioning” Female Wrestler: A Failure Of Ethics And Common Sense”

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Jeff H, along with Tim LeVier and Glenn Logan, represents the longest commenting ethics observers on this site, their participation going back to the old Ethics Scoreboard. It is always a special pleasure to welcome one of them to a Comment of the Day honor, for, like all who venture into the comment wars, they have done a great deal to provide lively, perceptive and useful content here, and I am more grateful than I can express. (Jeff, a cartoonist, also contributed the drawing of Muhammad as cute Teddy Bear you will periodically see in the side header.

Here is Jeff H’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The “Transitioning” Female Wrestler: A Failure Of Ethics And Common Sense”:

OK. Here’s what I think:

I am the sort of person who thinks a person is whatever they feel they are inside. People like to talk about, ‘well, a transperson will never really be a woman” or whatever. I’ve not got much time for that. I ain’t got it in me to judge people for something like that. As I said to someone who was talking about the ‘perverts’ who dress like women, “Far as I care, I ain’t going to say you’re wrong. You are whatever you say you are. You say you’re a toaster, I’ll give you two pieces of bread.”

That also means that I think that a transperson should use the bathrooms they’re comfortable with. The notion that there are creeps purposely crossdressing to get into the ladies’ room seems basically fictitious. Even if it was true, unless it was to a gigantic density, I don’t see that as a legitimate reason to force them to use a bathroom they’re not comfortable with.

(It’s been going around, but there have been three Republican congressmen arrested for inappropriate conduct in men’s rooms, and they say no transpeople have been arrested for the same. I hope it doesn’t turn out that is HAS happened, but if it had… I think someone would have brought it up by now.)

So this is where I stand on the issue of the transgendered. I try to be as permissive and accepting as possible without being dismissively so. I’m not likely to budge on this, since most of the arguments against it seem similar to the anti-homosexual arguments most of us reject on sight.

Having said this… if Mack is really, in his heart of hearts, a male… then I don’t understand what possible pride he can take beating a bunch of girls at a sport when he’s ALSO taking performance-enhancing drugs. (Aside from everything else, I don’t really care if you have a legitimate reason to take steroids; I think you shouldn’t play competitive sports if you have to take them because they self-evidently give an unfair advantage.) Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “More Interview Ethics: Janet Mock Ambushes Piers Morgan”

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Ethics Alarms encourages long form comments, especially when they are as carefully reasoned, authoritative and well-written as the one presented here, by zoebrain, the Ethics Alarms expert on all things trans, gendered, re-gendered and more.

The new, complex and divisive ethical issues arising from gender matters have appeared here with increasing frequency, most recently in the post that inspired this comment—actually two comments—that attempts to enlighten the cyssies among us. I think it is required reading for anyone who wants to understand this complex subject, which is certain to generate more ethics dilemmas and controversies. I am grateful for all comments, but I want to send special thanks to the author, who obviously spent a lot of time and thought on what follows.

Here is zoebrain’s Comment of the Day on the post, “More Interview Ethics: Janet Mock Ambushes Piers Morgan”...

First, I better say why this is important, why the distinction between “used to be a boy” and “used to look like a boy” isn’t just some sterile, trivial and pedantic squabble. Continue reading

More Interview Ethics: Janet Mock Ambushes Piers Morgan

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Piers Morgan, CNN’s imported British tabloid reporter turned Larry King replacement, invited trans author and activist Janet Mock on his show to promote her new memoir, “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More.” As I watched the interview (because of Mock and not Morgan, who makes my skin crawl), I was struck by how far such interviews have come since David Susskind would invite transgendered individuals on his PBS show—this was classy, remember—and essentially hold them out as freaks. Morgan was respectful and supportive, though the sensationalist aspect was still there but muted: the text under Mock during her interview read “BORN A BOY,” and “was a boy until age 18,” which are, though accurately describing how most CNN viewers would understand Mock’s journey, over-simplified and counter to how Mock describes herself.

Mock seemed happy, Morgan seemed gracious. Then Mock went on Twitter and Buzzfeed to pronounce Morgan a clueless, ignorant, biased jerk.  He was, shockingly, “trying to do infotainment” Mock said. Morgan’s show is the epitome of infotainment, and everybody knows it. She criticized him for “sensationalizing” transgender people while neglecting a substantive discussion about her book. The sales of Mock’s memoir depend on its sensational aspects, again, as she and her publisher well know. Mock accused Morgan of asking the same kinds of embarrassing questions about body parts and boy friends that non-trans people are inevitably curious about. Well, of course he did…because that’s what his audience is curious about.

None of this was communicated to Morgan either before, during, or after the interview. Morgan, who is no Sam Rubin, was incensed, and struck back via Twitter, since that is the forum where Mock chose to publicly attack him. In various tweets and exchanges he called Mock cowardly, “churlish,” and shameful, and criticized her allies as well, as she successfully brought down the progressive hoards on Morgan’s head. The same week, he invited her back to on the show along with a panel so he could defend himself while assailing her conduct. You can read the transcript of that show here.

What’s going on here? Continue reading

The Bank of America Teller and the Thumbless Customer

You may have heard the story: a branch of the Bank of America in Tampa refused to cash a check for Hillsborough County public works employee Steve Valdez, because the bank required a thumbprint from non-account holders, and Valdez has no arms. No arms, no hands; no hands, no thumbs; no thumbs, no prints; no prints, no cash.

“Sorry sir; it’s bank policy!”

The various news accounts of this classic tale of bureaucratic idiocy concentrated on the fact that the bank was violating the American with Disabilities Act. Voila! This is how law obscures ethics. Would the bank’s actions have been any more reasonable, fair, caring, kind and responsible if there was no law? Why should anyone with a brain, a heart and a sense of humanity require a law to look at a man with no arms and decide, “Gee, I guess the thumbprint requirement doesn’t apply in this case.”  This isn’t a legal matter. It’s an ethics question, and a really easy one, because the Golden Rule was invented for situations like this. If you were in the place of the thumbless man, Mr. Teller, what would you want someone in your position to do?This isn’t a legal matter. It’s an ethics question, and a really easy one, because the Golden Rule was invented for situations like this. If you were in the place of the thumbless man, Mr. Teller, what would you want someone in your position to do?

Nobody’s suggesting that the Bank of America should have suspended its policy out of pity or sympathy. This isn’t a bleeding heart argument: “Oh, the poor guy: he can’t hitch-hike or signal to a gladiator that he wants him to kill his opponent. I’ll cash his check to be a nice guy.” It has nothing to do with being nice. It has to do with recognizing when a policy is absurd in application, unjustly causing inconvenience and humiliation to another human being. Consider these dilemmas:

  • An attendant at a movie theater allows a patron to leave briefly to deal with an emergency. He returns to get back into the movie theater and join his family, but has somehow misplaced his ticket.  Should the attendant, who recognizes him, refuse to let him enter?
  • A driver enters a parking garage, then has to leave a few seconds later because of a medical problem. Should the parking attendant insist that he still pay the full-day minimum fee? (This one got an attendant shot by Steve Buscemi in “Fargo,” you’ll recall.)
  • A woman, obviously ill, staggers into a restaurant and begs to use the rest room. The establishment has a “patrons only” policy for its use. Should it refuse her?A student finds a knife in the hallway of a school, and immediately hands it over to the teacher. The school has a strict “no tolerance” policy on weapons, and the student is technically in possession of the knife: policy dictated that he not touch it, but alert an administrator. The teacher is certain that the student did not own the knife. Should the student be punished?
  • An adult dwarf on the Olympic riding team wants to buy a ticket on the carnival horse back ride to be with his child, but he doesn’t come up to the height mark on the sign designed to screen out young children. Should the operator tell him he can’t ride?

Answers to the above: “No way,” “Certainly not,” “Never”, “No,” and “Don’t be silly!”

Policies can’t be perfect. Human beings have an ethical obligation not to stick to them when they result in outrageous consequences to others, and there is no counterbalancing benefit to be gained by doing so, other than not varying from the policy.The teller should have asked for sufficient identification to satisfy himself that Valdez has a valid check. Valdez had it: he had his driver’s license with an address matching his wife’s on the check. That’s what the would have wanted, reasonably, if he was the one with no arms. And there was absolutely no reason not to bend the rules. The ADA wasn’t necessary to solve this. People need to know when to consider the impact of their conduct on others when there are no laws involved.

Any individual, and any bank, that needs a law to remind them not to insist on a thumbprint from a man with no thumbs is ethically impaired, and has no common sense. And having no common sense is a much greater handicap than having no thumbs.