2012-01-10

An Excellent Read from Allisstatus This Morning

Keith Hudson over at Allistatus has written an article that reflects two of my own strongly held beliefs. Typically, he blogs about current political events, but this morning he delves into more ethical territory, which is, of course, my bread and butter.

Writing about the arrest of a celebrity chef for petty larceny, Hudson writes:
Apart from “not knowing what came over me” and various other attempts at plausible explanations — that he may be suffering from early onset of Alzheimer’s, for example! — why didn’t he just say: “Sorry Guv, I was naughty and you found me out”? We’d all understand.
 My own previous bout of criminality convinced me that personal guilt is not about any internal sense of morality but of fear of being found out.

Left to their own devices, people will do pretty much anything as long as they can get away with it. I would further add that this is the most important justification for wearing one's ethics on one's sleeve. People have a tendency to "play dumb" and hope to get away with behaviors they very well know to be unethical. They only seem to cool it when you call them out.

So when you see someone being unethical, even in simple circumstances, I think it's important to tell them to cool it. Look them in the eye and tell them that you know what they're doing and you do not appreciate it.

You don't have to be confrontational and mean, of course. Often times a polite smile and a simple acknowledgement of their actions suffices to help them think twice about such things.

To that end, Hudson points out:
However, if there is any morality at all, it is the practicality that honesty pays — most of the time, and in most of our dealings. Without this strategy, usually acquired fairly early in childhood — and spontaneously from our peers quite as much as from fear of parental punishment — then society wouldn’t possibly be able to work for more than a day or two. In almost every transaction we carry out, even in business as well as socially, there are moments of time where we trust someone else’s word and they trust us before anything can be written down. Even in many billion dollar deals between rival businessmen (particularly Asian) there are still moments during a verbal understanding when one can renege on the other at profit. This seldom happens. If deception or exploitation is involved it’s usually over matters which don’t happen to be discussed (kept quiet by one of the parties!) and reveal themselves later.
Naturally, I wholeheartedly agree.