Ethical Guidebook

A discussion of the difference between our personal values and our public ethics, how mature citizens can support both, and why our love for public ethics must trump our love for personal and group values when they conflict in the public space. Ethics offers a guidebook for evaluating public issues and finding multilateral solutions to endless cycles of values centric conflicts and unilateral violence.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

An Occasional Bug Is Ok

Another Earth Day has passed and another Endangered Species Day went largely unnoticed because we think they are about nature 'somewhere else'. In the meantime we continue to wreak destruction on the earth at home and on our fellow humans if we don't like their tribe. There is a connection. To bring home the ethics of the environment, nothing could be more profound to say than these simple words: "An Occasional Bug is Ok".

We now teach our children from their earliest years by action and by attitude that if they see a bug it should be killed because it might do something bad, or even if it just makes us or those we love uncomfortable. How can the real world environment and all it's complex interrelated creatures hope to survive such an onslaught of thoughtless, destructive, fear based behavior?

These same children grow to become decision making adults who feel that it is somehow justified to preemptively kill those humans who are not like us, or willingly accept the daily carnage of 'collateral damage' of innocent lives lost, because we think some of those strangers might do something bad to us or those we love. How can real world politics and international coexistence survive such an abysmally self-centered attitude?

It's time to teach our children a new song, both for the earth and for our ethics, and it starts with the words, "An Occasional Bug is Ok".

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

End of Falwell Era a Dawn of Ethics?

Jerry Falwell popularized the phrase 'moral majority'. A more direct appeal to the primacy of personal and group values would be hard to come by. Unfortunately it also conflicted with just about every tenant of public ethics - fair play, unbiased arbitration of differences, upholding the rights of minorities - those pesky ethical considerations so necessary to uphold a civil society without becoming a theocracy.

After all, a democracy based soley on the values of the majority, with no overriding ethical principles and processes, is nothing more than clubhouse democracy - great for those on the inside and a tyranny for those who fail to see eye to eye with the majority.

Here's to a bright and shining future that revisits the ethics of the enlightenment, not just the values of our various born or chosen groups, nations, and religions.

And here's to journalists, politicians, and citizens who begin again to recognize that it is important for a free and fair democracy to consider, uphold and support public ethics when we evaluate issues and when we vote, as well as the various personal and group values we each hold

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The stream of disagreements about the current IRAQ conflict flow around a large rock called 'supporting the troops'. The implication is that our soldier warriors are assumed to be doing a great job and that autmatically somehow means the job is worth doing, independent of why they were sent, what effect it is actually having, whether they apply ethics beyond saving their buddy, and in the end, what ethical framework defines and constrains their role.

So while I support and empathize fully with the difficult value decisions that face individuals thrust into combat situations, I find ethics is actually getting pretty short shrift. We're seeing way too much in the way of values based decisions and judge-jury-executioner action, and way too little ethics based due process that says soldiers cannot just shoot into a crowd after they are fired upon, and cannot kill just to protect their buddy from a 'possible' attack.

For unbiased, ethical use of force, we look to police and to coalition managed soldiers (eg UN hosted actions) because they are much better at setting an ethical framework and constraints that give what many folks call 'moral' foundation to a war (what they really mean is ethical due process beyond pure self-interest of the parties). This is necessary to give soldiers a framework for war beyond kill or be killed. For example, the same soldier participating in a UN-coordinated police action is a lot different ethically, than a soldier in a unilateral war based on promoting the self-interested values of the participant soldiers, for that reason. Interesting thought, no?