P.M.Lawrence, who comments from Australia, often flagging what he views as American biases and misconceptions, jumps ahead in the line of waiting Comments of the Day with this brief note. It raises an issue that I have thought about often in the past, and argued about with friends and others. What is the ethical obligation of Americans to use foreign spellings of proper names when writing about places and things for domestic readers? The particular example at hand was my using “Labor Party” to label the British organization which calls itself “the Labour Party.”
I’ll have a rebuttal after P.M.s Comment on the post, Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2018: A Petition, A Career-Killing Joke, And Priestley’s Play , and am very interested in what others think.
A minor point: the original spelling of proper names should be used out of respect, even if that is different from your own usage of the words involved. Just as it would be wrong to write “National Inquirer”, so also it is wrong to write “Labor” when writing of the (British) “Labour Party” – even though it is right to write “Australian Labor Party”, for the very same reasons. It gets trickier with groups like our Australian DLP (“Democratic Labour Party”) that have chopped and changed over time; I incline towards using whichever spelling was in place at the time of the reference being cited.
This is all part of the Rectification of Names.
Lord Michael Bates, Britain’s international development minister, was set to answer questions before the British House of Lords on yesterday, but arrived to the session a few minutes late for his scheduled Q and A session. When it concluded, Lord Bates rushed up to the lectern, and said,
“It’s been my privilege to answer questions from this despatch box on behalf of the government. I’ve always believed we should rise to the highest possible standards of courtesy and respect in responding on behalf of the government to the legitimate questions of the legislature. I’m thoroughly ashamed of not being in my place and therefore I shall be offering my resignation to the prime minister with immediate effect.”
With that, he walked out of the chamber .
Bravo. Promptness and punctuality demonstrates respect for one’s colleagues and professional duties, and holding oneself to the highest standards of conduct is the epitome of ethical public service.
Afterwards, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said:
“With typical sincerity, Lord Bates today offered to tender his resignation, but his resignation was refused as it was judged this was unnecessary.As a hard-working and diligent minister, it is typical of his approach that he takes his responsibilities to Parliament so seriously. He has received support from across the House and we are pleased he has decided to continue in his important roles at the Department for International Development and HM Treasury.”
Dear Lord Bates: please come to America and run for Congress, They need you. We need you.
Prince Andrew with one of his friend's victims in 2001
The ethics of friendship is complicated.
President Bush claimed to be friends with Vladimir Putin. F.D.R. once said that Josef Stalin was his friend. President Obama was famously friendly with dubious characters like Rev. Wright and William Ayres.
History is full of heroes and near-heroes who had infamous friends, though the extent of the often friendship is difficult to know. Sammy Davis, Jr. and Elvis were supposedly buddies with Richard Nixon. Bill and Hillary Clinton were close friends with Dick Morris. Wyatt Earp was a life-long friend of “Doc” Holliday; Andrew Jackson may have been friends with pirate Jean Lafitte, who helped him win the Battle of New Orleans. We simultaneously celebrate loyal friends, and yet we also judge people by the company they keep. Should we condemn individuals who have friends with serious character flaws or a history of unsavory acts? Or should we admire them for sticking with their friends when everyone else is turning against them? Continue reading