This is a subject that has held my attention for the last half-century. I graduated in 1970 from Penn State, with a degree in the philosophy of ethics, as a result of needing to know how a code of ethics can be a life-long guide as we make decisions that affect not only ourselves, but our loved ones and all those people we interact with as we make our way along the path of life. If we become a member of a wide variety of professions, our ethics will also play a pivotal role in determining how we treat people and how we are regarded by others.
Take, for example, a person setting out to practice law. There will be daily situations that arise and are asking us to make a decision based not merely on the letter of the law, but on what we 'know' to be right and wrong. This is true for any medical practioner as well. In fact, when you get right down to it, almost every occupational path I can think of has moments when a person is split between doing the right thing, and choosing to do something that smacks of being unethical.
|And.....Say, are his pants on backwards?|
Here's an imaginary example of a conflict that demands the practioner make a difficult decision: you are an oncologist. You come across a mammogram that somehow dropped through the cracks of the information flow in your practice. There it is, glaring back at you as you realize that this is a major problem....for the patient as well as for you. The results clearly indicate that the patient has virulent breast cancer and that it needs attention as soon as possible. But, you realize that somebody...not clear who...has dropped the ball. If you now contact the patient and explain to her that this was a terrible mistake and that you need to see her right now and plan a course of treatment....it will, almost certainly, come back to bite you in the ass. A mistake was made and somebody needs to be held accountable. Malpractice insurance rates...already sky-high....will shoot up. But, more than any of these consequences....it could mean this woman will lose her battle with the disease.
The clear temptation is to bury the mammogram and pretend nothing happened. Done in a sneaky and clever way it could get you off the hook. In this case, as is so often true, doing the 'right thing' means putting yourself in jeopardy, on multiple levels. It could be a disaster. But, putting the patient first and accepting the risks that come out of it, is clearly what needs to happen. So, you bite the bullet and do everything in your power to see that this woman gets the treatment she needs and hope that the delay is not a disaster for her.
Okay, this is a rather dramatic example, but, opportunities of this kind arise all the time as we go through our lives. It can be a daunting challenge to accept that doing the right thing is going to have painful consequences. But, consider the cost of doing what you know is the 'wrong' thing. Unless you are one of those poor souls....like so many in politics these days....who has managed to thoroughly subdue their conscience, you are going to do the right thing, suffer the penalties, and avoid spending the rest of your life regretting that you did not.
The most obvious ethical arena in our lives is one in which decisions are being made daily that shape how we live, work, manage (or not) to have the necessities, i.e. medical care, food, shelter and all that life demands of us as we live each day. If you haven't guessed already, it is government. And, we send people to Washington, or to our state capitals, hopeful that they will do 'the right thing'. Their responsibility is to the people, not to corporations, the uber-rich or to some political philosophy that has plans to take over and run everything according to self-serving principles that always serve GREED in one form or another. They are not there to line their own pockets, or to build a dynasty and be there long after they should have gone home. They are there to make life in America more livable, not to make it a more difficult struggle, especially for the impoverished and the less advantaged.
But, yes, it's pie-in-the-sky idealism to suppose that most congressional representatives are there for the right reasons. The very nature of our political system pushes a person to make bad choices. In order to survive and even thrive, a politician needs MONEY....lots of it. Pols need to raise millions upon millions in order to stay competitive in elections. So, they need to pander to the lobbyists and the special interests and beg for large donations for their political 'war chest'. In return, as human nature seems to dictate, the lobbyists and other donors expect the politician to do their bidding when bills come up for a vote. And, with only a few exceptions, THEY DO. And, despite the fact that we complain bitterly that this system is broken, and even crooked...nothing happens that has the power to really bring about changes.
Big money calls the shots. And, it has been that way for a very long time. This might not be such a problem if big money, i.e. corporate America, had an active conscience. But, in most cases, they dismiss any such suggestions as 'unproductive' and remind us that their first...and apparently ONLY....obligation is to make money for their shareholders. They remind us that they have a mandate to do so and nothing should get in the way of that. For their part, investors seem to agree with this mindless and unconscionable position.
So, in a world where most people do still recognize right from wrong....we are facing a time of transition. We will either learn how to prioritize doing what is 'right', or we will continue on down the road that the Idiot has so clearly laid out: doing what serves our own needs and to hell with everybody else. He models this approach amazingly well. His sychophantic followers do not mind at all...apparently.....that he lies--almost every time he opens his piggish little yap--that he is sadistic, utterly without shame and willing to violate all the norms of society in order to get what he wants, i.e. more POWER, and to have it for the foreseeable future. He is a beast, utterly without redeeming human features...and, that's all just fine for those who have elevated him to Fuhrer status.