Officially Kicking Off The Holidays: The Complete “It’s A Wonderful Life” Ethics Guide, Updated And With A New Introduction For 2019

 

The Ethics Alarms Ethics Guide to Frank Capra’s 1946 masterpiece It’s A Wonderful Life,” perhaps the greatest ethics movies of all time, has become this blog’s official welcome to the holiday season.  Once again, I have reviewed the post after another viewing of the film. It is a mark of the movie’s vitality that I always find something else of interest from an ethics perspective.

The movie is an important shared cultural touch-point,and exemplifies the reasons why I harp on cultural literacy  as so vital to maintaining our nation’s connective tissue. The film teaches about values, family, sacrifice and human failings unlike any other. I hope its power and uniqueness disproves the assertion, made in one online debate here this year, that new cultural creations inevitably and effectively supersede older ones, which, like copies of copies, eventually the cultural values conveyed get fainter and less influential.

Last year I wrote with confidence, “No, they really don’t,” but now I am not so sure. In , I learned that my druggist, about 35, married and with children, had never seen the movie. I gave him a DVD over the summer, and suggested that he watch it with his whole family, which he said he would: he moved on to another CVS branch, so I have no idea if he did or will. I used to be  amazed at how many people haven’t seen the movie; now I am not. Last year I wrote that my son’s girlfriend admitted that she hadn’t; this year he has a new girlfriend,  and she hasn’t either.

The movie is in black and white, and many Gen Xers and Millennials disdain uncolored films the way I once avoided silent movies.  Will anyone be watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” 20 years from now? I wonder. The movie begins in heaven, and has a strong religious undercurrent. Religion is increasingly mocked and marginalized today, and  I see no signs that the trend is reversing. Aside from the nauseating Hallmark Christmas movies, most of this century’s holiday fair is openly cynical about Christmas and everything connected to it.

Here’s an example of how rapidly  cultural touchpoints vanish: I’m going to poll how many readers remember this:

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an’ Kalamazoo!
Nora’s freezin’ on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don’t we know archaic barrel
Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don’t love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker ‘n’ too-da-loo!
Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloupe, ‘lope with you!

Hunky Dory’s pop is lolly,
Gaggin’ on the wagon, Willy, folly go through!
Chollie’s collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarm bung-a-loo!

Dunk us all in bowls of barley,
Hinky dinky dink an’ polly voo!
Chilly Filly’s name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly’s jolly chilly view halloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, woof, woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, goof, goof!

Now just answer the poll, don’t go giving away the answer. Nobody knows all the lyrics that I just posted, nobody but the author ever did. The first verse, however, was once familiar.

Maybe there is hope: it was recently announced that a new musical adaptation of  the movie may be coming to Broadway as early as next year. The songs will be written by Sir Paul McCartney, and interest in The Beatles is surging.

“It’s A Wonderful Life” would be an excellent basis for a middle school ethics course. I haven’t seen a better, richer film for that purpose come along since, and I’ve been looking. Despite the many ethics complexities and nuances that the film glosses over or distorts, its basic, core message is crucial to all human beings, and needs to be hammered into our skulls at regular intervals, far more often than once a year.

What is this message?  In an earlier posting of The Guide I described it like this:

Everyone’s life does touch many others, and everyone has played a part in the chaotic ordering of random occurrences for good. Think about the children who have been born because you somehow were involved in the chain of events that linked their parents. And if you can’t think of something in your life that has a positive impact on someone–although there has to have been one, and probably many—then do something now. It doesn’t take much; sometimes a smile and a kind word is enough. Remembering the lessons of “It’s a Wonderful Life” really can make life more wonderful, and not just for you

Finally, I hope you all have a terrific Thanksgiving, and that the holiday season is joyous for all.

And now, heeeeeere’s GEORGE BAILEY!
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Comment Of The Day: “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/2019…” Item #2, Dan Hudson’s Paternity Leave

“Wait, What??? YOU’RE SKIPPING THE GAME THAT WILL DECIDE THE PENNANT???”

In a post sparked by the the current National League Championship Series (boy, I hope I don’t have to add that the sport is baseball) I had written in part,

“The ethical thing would have been [for Washington Nationals relief pitcher Daniel Hudson, the team’s closer] to pass on the opportunity to take the game off. The Nationals major weakness is a terrible bullpen, and Hudson is one of the few reliable  relief pitchers on the team. As it happened, the Nats won a close game, but that’s just moral luck. They might have lost because of his absence. That loss might have cost the team its chance to go to the World Series. Millions of dollars would be lost to the franchise that pays Hudson seven figures to improve its fortunes. The careers, lives and family fortunes of his team mates would be affected; the jobs and income of hundreds of merchants and others who rely on the success or failure of the team would have been put at risk. How could anyone argue that the emotional support Hudson would lend his wife during childbirth outweighs all of that, or constitutes a superior ethical obligation?”

Who? Why reader Tim Hayes, that’s who, who not only argued thusly, but did so at a Comment of the Day level, and then responded to my subsequent challenges with equally excellent responses. This gave him the Ethics Alarms equivalent of a three home-run game, and I’m going honor him with the whole sequence.

Here is Ethics Alarms slugger Tim Hayes‘s three-dinger Comment of the Day, on Item #2 in “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/2019…” :

Counter-argument on the Hudson situation – For the Nationals to have placed themselves in a position where a single player taking advantage of a promised benefit at his job (the paternity leave) created a realistic chance of them losing the game (due to their lack of hiring sufficient healthy talent into their bullpen) is inherently unethical as an organization, because it creates a situation where all the groups you mentioned can be placed in dire straits by what happens to a single performer. Attaching the consequences for the team’s unethical staffing decision to Hudson’s personal behavior is unfair; The team did not choose to get him to negotiate away the benefit he invoked (which, for the appropriate compensation, they presumably could have), and was therefore at least aware of the possibility that something outside their control could sideline Hudson. That it was his wife giving birth, and not Hudson being hit by a self-driving car, which resulted in their not having access to him, was merely a result of luck (pregnancy and births being both notoriously difficult to plan, and the Nationals presence in the playoffs being, from the admittedly little I understand of baseball, something which was unexpected to say the least). Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/2019: “If An Ethics Blog Expounds And Nobody Reads It…”

 

Like that proverbial tree falling alone in the forest...

Epic lack of interest in Ethics Alarms today…

Oh, well…

1 . Today’s “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!” note for the day. Here’s that objective, professional, fair CNN reporter Jim Acosta (I’m fooling: he’s really a toxic, partisan, grandstanding hack) tweeting about the Presidents rally in Minneapolis:

How can anyone who tweets such offal continue to be employed as a White House correspondent? How can a news network that employs such a biased, dishonest jerkbe taken seriously?

The Q sign reference is especially egregious. “QAnon” is a weird conspiracy theory-driven sect, and the fact that some attendees at a Trump rally seem to support the nonsense—which is not worth explicating—proves nothing at all. But the rest of Acosta’s tweet is embarrassing too: the Trump campaigns have never bashed immigrants, just illegal immigrants, who ought to be bashed; hated of the press is stoked by the conduct of unethical journalists like Jim Acosta, and disruptive protesters are properly ejected from the political rallies of candidates from both parties. Continue reading

Thank God It’s The Friday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/23/ 2019

(Dreary, gloomy day outside; working on having a brilliant day inside.)

1. Feeling guilty about the Red Sox. I haven’t watched or listened to a game in over two weeks. The reason is that it’s just not fun, it’s too stressful, and I am already stressed to the max with non-baseball matters. I’m fairly sure this is the longest voluntary sabbatical I have ever taken from my team, and it is my team, throughout 80% of my life, a constant presence, inspiration and source of enlightenment. I have never relied on the team winning to justify my interest and loyalty. I just love the game, the suspense, the players and the endless supply of unpredictable stories and surprises.

BUT…this season has been uniquely frustrating. The Red Sox won 108 games last season on the way to the World Championship, and it was, especially by historical Red Sox standards, an insanely enjoyable ride. Virtually everything went perfectly, over the season, in the play-offs, in individual games.Whatever was needed to win, somebody always came through: it was like a movie. Baseball isn’t usually like that (well, except for the Yankees for about 50 years). I even said at the time, as my wife reminds me, “The Sox are going to pay big time for this one.”

Boston was confident coming into 2019 with virtually the exact same sqaud that had been unbeatable in 2018. Regression to the mean, however, is a force of nature, and especially with this team, for some reason. Since 1918, every single time the Sox have won the American League pennant, the next season was a bust, and often a horrible bust. Devastating injuries, unexpected bad years, clubhouse dissension, astoundingly bad luck: I’ve seen it all, and before, I’ve endured it all as a fair price to pay for the joys of the past and to come. This season, for some reason, I can’t take it, and I feel like an ungrateful wretch.

2. Got it: slavery is the cause of everything bad in the United States, and all whites want black people to get sick and die. Does anyone who can think clearly think this latest bit of dishonest guilt-tripping propaganda is going to help Democrats prevail, rather than  just harden racial and partisan divisions? Continue reading

“Thank God It’s Friday” Ethics Warm-Up, 8/2/2019: Non-Reciprocal Loyalty, Woke Virtue-Signaling, Reasonable Vigilantes, And Pseudo-Plagiarism

And I don’t even like Friday, since small businesses like mine acknowledge no weekends, and ethics never sleeps…

1. Loyalty Ethics. Joe Biden got knocked around in the debate this week for supporting Barack Obama’s policies. Joe remained steadfast, saying, “I was a little surprised at how much incoming there was about Barack, about the President. I’m proud of having served him. I’m proud of the job he did. I don’t think there’s anything he has to apologize for. He changed the dialogue, he changed the whole question, he changed what was going on. And the idea that somehow it’s comparable to what [ President Trump] is doing is absolutely bizarre.”

Obama, however, has been silent. Now talk-show host Jesse Kelly, among others, is questioning Obama’s loyalty, tweeting, “The silence from Barack Obama as his Vice President of eight years gets torn limb from limb on his behalf is fascinating. Not even a polite word of support. Either those two are really on the outs or Obama truly is a political machine with no sense of loyalty.”

Fair? I don’t think so. It is not appropriate for Obama to start playing favorites as this stage pf the nomination process. He may realize that being seen as having to come to Joe rescue might hurt more than help: can Biden stand up for himself, or can’t he? That doesn’t mean that Obama is not a political machine with no sense of loyalty; I suspect that he is, as most of our Presidents have been. I also suspect that Obama thought Biden was a dolt, which, as we know, he is.

2.  NBA sexual exploitation/ virtue-signaling ethics. I don’t know what to make of this story. Maybe you can explain it. The Milwaukee Bucks are eliminating their traditional, all-female T&A sideline “dance team” and replacing them with a gender-inclusive dance team named the 414 Crew. (Wait: my Facebook friends are arguing that an all-female editorial board is still diverse! Why was this necessary?) From the Bucks brass: “We’re kind of constantly looking to evolve and broaden our reach and be as inclusive as we possibly can.” Oh. That’s funny, I assumed that scantily clad women moving provocatively was a crude way to please the NBA’s and NFL ‘s overwhelmingly male market. If teams finally recognize that these acts were demeaning to women, why not just eliminate them? Why does a pro-basketball team need “dancing, tumbling, break-dancing, tricking and other unique talents” on display during the game? Why not magic acts? Fire-eating?  Continue reading

I KNEW He Could Do It! As Impeachment Plans A-Q Look Like Losers, Rep. Adam Schiff Invents Plan R!

It should be obvious what the Democratic Party’s game plan is now, especially since Robert Mueller’s testimony yesterday dashed hopes that he would blow wind into the limp sails of the SS Overthrow The Republican. Instead, the ostensible Special Prosecutor  made the case for “high crimes and misdemeanors” look weaker and more contrived than before. One by one, the weak, weaker and weakest “resistance” plans to remove President Trump have fallen into various states of hopelessness and ruin, and the bitter-enders are now resorting to denial or impeachment rationalizations unmoored to anything at all, like this guy, who says that “history demands” an impeachment. [Pointer: Zoltar]

The Democrats will just keep the impeachment fires burning until the election, hoping that 1) one of the horrible candidates Democrats get to choose from will defeat Trump, which looks like a Hail Mary at this point (but who knows what the President will tweet next) or 2) the Democrats will take control of the Senate, and 3) the public will tolerate them spending another 4 years trying to overthrow an elected President without getting disgusted and turning the House back over to the GOP.  Does this sound rational and responsible to you? I wonder why it sounds reasonable to Democrats.

Meanwhile, I was beginning to think the Ethics Alarms list of coup theories had maxxed out at Q, plan #17. [ The most recent  updated list is here] But somehow I knew, deep in my heart, that Rep. Adam Schiff, who has lied, puffed, exaggerated and grandstanded all manner of impeachment justifications that didn’t exist in fact or law, but somehow isn’t walking around Washington D.C. with his head in a bag, would be equal to the daunting task of coming up with a new plan. And so he has.

Perhaps anticipating the  Mueller Meltdown,  Schiff unveiled Plan R in his opening statement as Chair of the House Intelligence Committee.  His theory? President Trump was “disloyal”:

“Disloyalty to country. Those are strong words. But how else are we to describe a presidential campaign which did not inform the authorities of a foreign offer of dirt on their opponent, which did not publicly shun it, or turn it away, but which instead invited it, encouraged it, and made full use of it? That disloyalty may not have been criminal. But disloyalty to country violates the very obligation of citizenship, our devotion to a core principle on which our nation was founded, that we, the people, not some foreign power that wishes us ill, we decide, who shall govern, us.”

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Lunch Time Ethics Appetizer, 7/16/2019: Funny But Wrong, Important But Incompetent, Too Hungry But Still Employed, And Right But Irrelevant

Yum!

It’s ethical dilemma time for a Red Sox fan. I have an opportunity to get two excellent seats for Sunday’s game in Baltimore. It will be about 99 degrees, and the seats are without any protection from old Sol. Loyalty and dedication demand that I go and support the Sox, whom I have not watched in person for two years. Survival and common sense—non-ethical considerations—argue that this would be nuts.

As Jack Benny said when a robber stuck a gun in his ribs and said, “Your money or your life!,” 

1. Funny! Revealing! But still wrong. Campus Reform utilizes a James O’Keefe- inspired wag named  Cabot Phillips whose signature stunt is to get college students to reveal their ignorance and unthinking social justice warrior ways. He typically does this by lying to them, as when he gives them quotes from Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton and tells them that the speaker was Donald Trump. Outrage and hilarity ensues.

This time, he traveled to the University of Miami and presented students with a fake petition demanding that the college remove its famed mascot and team name, “Hurricanes,” because the name might be  offensive and hurtful to students who’ve been “negatively impacted by hurricanes throughout their lives.” Sure enough, many of the students he spoke with agreed withe the premise. Phillips then posted the video of the students making fools of themselves.

Human beings are wired to trust other human beings, and these stunts take advantage of that. Trust is essential to a healthy and cohesive society, and any exploitation of trust, be it for political purposes, financial gain or amusement, damages society.

It’s not worth it. In this case, the same point could be made by asking, “Would you a support an effort to ban the “Hurricanes” nickname as being potentially hurtful to the victims of tropical storms?”

2. “Spinquark” A helpful reader sent me a link to this website, which purports to expose “big tech companies that don’t respect your privacy..that aren’t transparent and consistent in their algorithms and policies or who use their platforms as a type of privatized online government, a government without recourse or representation.” Continue reading