By Susan C. Price
What is ethics? Naturally, I begin with my ideas, ’cus they’re obviously s-o-o wonderful, as I was asked to write this column...Oh, the dog was too busy? Now I understand....
Ethics is doing the right thing.
To me there are two basic types of “right thing.” One, not doing bad. And two, actively doing good.
Not doing bad is “Don’t do unto others that which you do not wish done unto you.” A very hands-off, just-stay-within-your-own-yard variation. Keep on your side of the fence, and clean up your dog’s poop if it’s on your neighbor’s lawn (or if there is so much of it in your yard, that the stench carries beyond your yard). Bad seems pretty clear to me and easy to find and point fingers at. “Hey, keep your nose outta my face!”
The trickier type, actively doing the right thing, is the classic Golden Rule version, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” To me, this means not seeking to get more than your fair share, and not penalizing others or stealing from them. A learned friend confirms that the Golden Rule, and its cousins, have been around since at least pagan times. There must be some reason this concept (empathy? teamwork? not pissing off your neighbor all the time) worked to keep more people, and therefore the human genome, alive. And yet, many find ways to behave unethically—oh, Lance...really?
Examples of not actively doing right:
- This is what I see when politicians, investment bankers, pastors, bookkeepers, city managers (just mentally reviewing the last six months of the Los Angelese Times) do something to get more than their fair share or act in a way that penalizes (steals from) others.
- Or when our two middle-aged, fully employed long-time neighbors suddenly got the city to create them a designated “disabled” parking space in the limited curbside space in front of our building. None of the neighbors can figure out what disability these two could have developed suddenly, so that neither of them can manage to walk a block (or less) now and then to find parking. The neighbors I have talked to (you knew there was gossip, right?) see this as both a more-than-your-fair-share and an in-my-face ethics violation.
So, ethics seems simple...but rarely is.
Well, that ought to be enough to get all you readers going. Before you start, I am willing to admit that I might be wrong about what’s up with my noisy, hoarder, always-writing-silly-“keep this gate locked”-note neighbors...but the city managers and others who stole the City of Bell blind...nah...they are unethical.
Copyright © 2013 by Susan C. Price
Editor's note: Really, Susan feels that her words should tell you all you need to know about her. Further, she says she has no idea what possessed us to ask her to write an ethics column. She says she is just someone. She has worked in "welfare," state administrative positions, non-profit management, and non-profit bookkeeping. If she helps people, it's because she is nosy as hell. And listens, she says, sometimes.