Last time, I suggested that America had experienced some “slippage” in its behavior around our ethical standards. From people that I have spoken with on this topic, many agree. However, as I stated last time, our awareness of this is an important first step in our taking corrective action. I know that we can make the shift back towards being the country that we all know we can be — one that is an example to the world of what is possible in our treatment of our fellow human beings.
In making that change, there are 2 things we must consider — what are the ethical standards to which we should be living by and how can we all collective move towards them in our thoughts and actions?
Ethics is a philosophical topic of which much has been written. Those interested can research it and find much thinking on the subject. Applied ethics is the branch of the subject that deals with real life situations and how we might best respond. Within most specific areas of our life, you can find thinking on how to apply ethics in that realm. Here are links to just a few for you to consider:
- Medical Ethics: AMA as example
- Business Ethics: JP Morgan Chase as example
- Educational Ethics: NEA as example
- US Government Ethics
SIDE NOTE: I included Chase’s code of ethics as an example of a business model as the financial industry in particular was pointed out as some of the most egregious ethical violators of the corporations discussed by Matt Taibbi in his the book The Divide (mentioned in our last article). Chase’s stated code of conduct is quite good overall on paper. I especially like the decision tree on page 4 designed to help employees to determine how to act in certain situations which includes the following question: “Am I sure that I would not feel uncomfortable or embarrassed if I read about it on the front page of the newspaper?” If all the individuals throughout the financial sector who are now seen as having acted illegally or unethically had truly followed such an ethical decision tree, then we would probably not have had such a financial crisis.
As you can tell from these documents, there has been a lot of good applied thinking in these (and other) fields. There is good guidance for us if we choose to know about it and heed it. But beyond these specific ethical standards, I think we can move to some simpler ethical standards we can all wrap our minds around and by which it will be easier for us all to operate.
First, there is the “golden rule” — do onto others as you would have them do onto you.
Think about it.
If the leaders of the financial corporations who contributed to our financial meltdown had been living by this rule, then would they have placed their financial gains above the needs of so many others? Would they have knowingly packaged toxic loans into financial instruments that they sold to entities such as pension funds and cities and everyday people as some highly rated money making opportunity and causing them to lose money? Would they have taken millions in bail out moneys from the government (which is all of us) and then paid themselves a high “bonus”? Would they want this done to themselves?
Would those policeman who abused their roles in knowingly arresting innocent people under “stop and frisk” want to be treated the same way?
Would those politicians who demand that we tighten our immigration efforts and round up and deport people in a system that costs these poor much in pain, sorrow and loss of money want to be treated that way?
Would those leaders of our intelligence community who decided to gather all of our personal data to be analyzed want to have their privacy invaded as they have done to others?
The Golden Rule is a basic touchstone by which we can simply our decisions around our actions so as to be moving back to the moral high ground.
Recently I published a book entitled Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities in which I offered another way of looking at this. In that book, I suggested that by the very nature that we are born as these spiritual beings here on Earth having this human experience, that we were all endowed with both a certain set of rights and a couple of responsibilities. If this topic of shifting our consciousness so that we treat each other more kindly resonates with you, I invite you to check out the book.
Here is a brief summary of those rights and responsibilities on which the book goes into more detail:
First, here are the rights I believe we all have:
• The right to express love and receive love fully.
• The right to express our unique human gifts and talents fully.
• The right to fully experience freely all aspects of what it is like to be human.
• The right to fully believe whatever one wishes to believe about life and its meaning.
• The right to fully communicate with others what one believes about life.
These rights come with these responsibilities:
• The responsibility to ensure that every other human being may freely express their rights.
• The responsibility to ensure that in the expression of one’s rights that one do no harm, directly or indirectly, to any other human being.
Hopefully you can see how these are basically an expansion of our applying the Golden Rule. Ultimately, the highest vision for our ethical standards is to seek to treat others as we wish to be treated. If we had veered from that path, whether intentionally or unintentionally, it is time to get back to basics.
So how do we move us back to where everyone treats everyone else with dignity and respect? Here are several suggestions:
Make Ethics a Priority in Our Sphere of Influence
We all have some area where we control things even if it’s just our own behavior. We can make a commitment to ourselves to treat others as we wish to be treated in all our dealings. Where we serve in some group capacity with others, we can use our influence to see that that group holds to the highest ethical standards. We can let our leaders – whether it’s in business or in government – know how important this issue is to us. Everything begins with an intention – you and I must set the intention that we are going to be the change we want to see in the world that we are going to treat others as we wish to be treated.
Hold Those Who Failed to Act Ethical Accountable
Our cultural norms are set by our observing what is acceptable and allowed by the group – and what is not. Our failure to hold those who commit ethical violations accountable for their actions has the unintended consequence of teaching us all that such behavior is now acceptable. When that happens, the boundaries of ethical behavior begin to move.
Create Open and Compassionate Dialogue with Others around Ethics
If we truly believe in the importance of opening our hearts and treating others as we wish to be treated, then it’s important that we raise this issue in the consciousness of others. Rather than keep our personal decision to place a priority on ethical behavior a secret, we should instead bring up the topic with others when appropriate. In our personal interactions with others and in our personal commentary on worldly events, we are going to observe behavior that seems to have caused harm. When we notice these situations, I would call us all to compassionately point out that such behavior seems to have missed the mark. The more we do this, the more others will begin thinking on the importance of our supporting one another in lifting our country up to that shining example for the world that we know it can be.
These are just a few suggestions to move us towards where I know we would all prefer to be. What do you think? Do you have other suggestions as to what our moral high ground would look like and how we can reclaim it? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests (and are described above in this article) are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out! Only $2.99 for Kindle.