ETHICS ISSUES: THE NEED for ETHICS
Ethics is about what’s right, good and true, and being ethical is all about ‘doing the right thing.’ Sounds simple enough—define ‘right’ properly and you’re well on your way. Well, what is ‘right’? What’s right for some may not be right for others. What’s right in one situation may not be right in another. What’s right at one particular time may not be right at another.
The same goes for good. Being ethical is also about doing good. Well, what is ‘good’? What’s good for one may not be good for another, etcetera, etcetera.
But there’s hope. What’s ethical must perforce be true, and here we have an anchor, for truth is not relative. Truth is an—the—overarching principle, the first of first principles in fact, and as such is inviolate—absolute. Truth can’t even be tied down to a simple definition using words, which must be themselves based in truth. It’s so basic that it must be understood, unfailing no matter the time or place. Something either is true or it is not. Truth compromised is meaningless. This must be implicit and accepted or there is no basis for essentials such as facts, knowledge or understanding, all anchored in truth. We have to start somewhere, and truth is that place, from the beginning, regardless of the time or circumstance.
So how do we know we are ‘doing the right thing’? Well, if we base our decisions in truth and handle them honestly, we are well on our way. Decisions founded in truth (rather than bias or prejudice) will also be right and good in the larger context. Even if not perfect they will be right and good in terms of humanity generally (in other words, moral), and we are beholden first to the humanity to which we all belong.
Doubts? Well, consider the alternative. Base your decision in a lie, and see what happens…
Speaking of which, whom do you trust? Government? Politicians? The media? How about your neighbor, your mechanic, your doctor, your attorney, your hairdresser, yourself? Think about it. And think about lying. Can you trust a government that says one thing and does another (a government that lies)? Or politicians (the entire spectrum) that promise one thing yet do another—in other words, out-and-out lie to you? Or media that slant their message in favor of their agenda, report only one side of the story, ignore important news that ought to be reported, or—yes—outright lie both in print and to your face on television? If you need examples of these (bipartisan) failings, you are seriously out of touch—they happen every day, over and over again, in plain sight, and you know it. It seems almost acceptable, like there’s no end to it, and that it’s getting worse.
Here’s hoping that you trust those with whom you’re in close personal contact. Don’t you do business with people you trust? And if not your friends, who can you trust? Isn’t trust one reason they’re your friends in the first place? And how about yourself? Do you mean what you say? Say what you mean? Can your friends trust you? It’s worth thinking about.
The fact is that we’ve become comfortable with denying the very idea of truth. We studiously avoid the use of the word lie, replacing it with any number of excuses to cover up the general lack of honesty in our society. We embrace political correctness (PC), finding other words to avoid making someone uncomfortable by stating the facts as they are.
Lack of honesty is killing us. Literally. The lie of PC is partly responsible for the deaths of thousands. The 9/11 disaster and others less spectacular were accomplished by those who were suspect for years at many levels, from immigration records to flight training to their own words that, because of PC, went largely unreported as they prepared for their acts of war.
These problems won’t be solved until they are faced squarely, and until anything less than the truth is not tolerated. Lying cannot be tolerated.
The linchpin of ethics is absolute. If something isn’t true, it is false and, needless to say, unethical. The ethical person is nothing if not truthful and trustworthy [both words share their etymology—both imply reliability, fidelity and consistency with fact]. Be ethical.
The first thing to do is to be honest with yourself. It starts on the individual level, and that’s you. Then insist on the truth from others. Don’t settle for less.
Truth, the first of First Principles, is integral to the natural law to which we and all other laws are subject, and the basis of ethics. Truth is square one. Without truth nothing that follows, including our civilization itself, has a sound basis.
The author George Orwell put it this way: “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.” Revolute. It’s the thing to do, and high time to do it.
And when is that? NOW. That’s the only time that matters. THEN was. WHEN is yet to come. There is only NOW. How do you go on an effective diet? How do you stop smoking or drinking? In short, YOU DO IT AND IT’S DONE. Tom Peters (One-Minute Excellence) agrees. You can achieve your goals in a nanosecond. Just DO it. Never look back.
Anything less says that you’re satisfied with the status quo. If you are, stop complaining and live with the lies. If not, DO something about it. You can, and you matter. It’s up to you.
Yes. We really need ethics. Truth is what to do. So do it.