Monday, June 18, 2012

Ethical Slopes

Maureen Dowd had an interesting column in the NY Times yesterday. She speculates on the possibility that the Nation’s moral code is slipping down that old slippery slope. Her two main examples are Jerry Sandusky, and the Catholic Church, with its Nazi Pope and pedophile priests. It seems increasingly clear that there are no heroes in either case. People knew what Sandusky was doing, among them that old patron saint Joe Paterno, and they turned a blind eye. In the Catholic Church, the damage was worse, given the fact that higher-up church officials, perhaps up to and including his majesty the pope(s) knew and simply transferred the pedophiles to other unaware parishes. Clearly, the Catholic Church no longer enjoys any moral authority. And now, Penn State has joined the ranks of the “see-no-evil” institutions.

Ms. Dowd’s vision of us slipping into a moral dystopia assumes we weren’t already there. I actually see no slippage. Instead, I see a periodic drawing back of the Oz curtain, to expose the wizard at work. Only in this case, we periodically expose the morally corrupt segments of society. Those segments are always with us. But being Americans, hopeful ever, we wish to be lied to. We actually insist that our corrupt societal segments lie to us. How else to explain the continued existence of the Catholic Church? How else to explain the many Penn Staters rushing to defend the character of Jerry Sandusky and the Penn State officialdom?  Indeed, how else to explain Rupert Murdoch’s Faux News Network, the largest cache of lies ever to masquerade as a news network?
As yet another example, we have Madame Governor Nikki Haley’s legal team that has come up with that neat defense of her apparently unethical behavior—everyone in the South Carolina legislative system practices such unethical behavior, so how can anyone criticize her? Don’t you love it?
So, as we enter the serious stage of our presidential political season, we really need to understand that our officials, be they public or private sector, often will simply do as they wish, without regard to the moral implications of their actions.  Whether their actions including raping innocent children, raping the environment, or stealing from the public, they will not be stopped, until we agree to stop them. So long as we are content to keep the curtain closed, allowing the wizard to practice his tricks, we will all be exposed to potential grievous harm.
Societies will be judged by their treatment of the most vulnerable among us.  We all can act in ways large or small to bring about an ethical society. We need to keep foremost in our minds that not to act in the face of evil is to collaborate with that evil.
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