Thursday, May 29, 2008

The book of ethics

"The back cover on Henry the VIII is bent, see?" I tell the dude behind the counter at Borders. "It was the only copy left on the shelf. Anything you can do?"

He starts clicking keys, entering some mystical discount code into the computer and asks "Ten percent?"


Back in the car, I tell Nelson.

"You needed that discount because the back cover affected the words in the book?" he asks cynically.

"No, because I didn't want to pay full price for something that was damaged."

He's right though.

The book was fine. And I probably wouldn't have asked except a) I'm unemployed and b) I have no business buying books with a shelf full of unread stories at home.

Then - because I've had ethics on my mind lately - it occurred to me that someone might damage a book on purpose in order to pay less for it.

This bugged me. Not enough to storm back to Border's and demand to pay full price for Henry, but certainly enough that I will never ask for a damage discount on a book again.

When was the last time you found yourself in a situation involving ethics? And what did you do? Be honest. It always makes everything more interesting.
The following is borrowed from that flaky, nearly all-knowing God of the Internet, Wikipedia:

Socrates posited that people will naturally do what is good, if they know what is right. Evil or bad actions, are the result of ignorance. If a criminal were truly aware of the mental and spiritual consequences of his actions, he would neither commit nor even consider committing them. Any person who knows what is truly right will automatically do it, according to Socrates. While he equated knowledge with virtue, he similarly equated virtue with happiness. The truly wise man will know what is right, do what is good and therefore be happy.
First of all, thanks to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, I will always pronounce Socrates phonetically.

So, So-Crates believed that self-awareness is the key to living an ethical (and therefore happy) life.

Example: I didn't lie about that second can of Pringles in Vegas because I'm evil or because I couldn't afford them, but because I was ashamed of having eaten so much and highly sensitive about my weight. Add a little self-awareness to that scenario and I would've proudly proclaimed my gluttony to the hotel receptionist and the entire lobby for that matter.
Quick: Name an ethical organization. Corporate or otherwise.

For me, it's Ben & Jerry's.

Hedy, Hedy, Hedy. Ice cream?

Well, yes. And not because I'm a huge fan of Ben & Jerry's. The last time I purchased a pint was for a friend who was recovering from surgery. Before that, at least five years.

I don't know why I don't buy it, I just don't. But my impression of the company - from coverage in the media - is that they appear to be a rather ethical organization.

Of course we can't believe everything on TV, but again, the impression of ethics is there.

On the other hand, there's the whole "if you have to say you're a lady, you ain't" thing and I'm always wary of anyone who wears their good deed do-age like a badge of honor.


Ethics matters. Or matter. I'm too lazy to look it up.

Isn't it ironic, though, that the organizations you'd think would be most concerned with doing the right thing - like the Catholic Church or Washington lawmakers - are the last groups you think of when it comes to ethics?
I am listening to: I'm Yours - Jason Mraz
I am reading: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
And I am: Pretty good


the dilf said...

I quit the catholic church. I just can't be involved with a group, that hid s*xual predators and passed them around like candy. Freakin Repulsive.
And everytime I went to church...seemed like all they talked about was money..MONEY, MONEY, MONEY...GIMME,GIMME, GIMME. The final straw was, someone called me from the church asking me "Mr. Dilf, how much will you be donating to our church over the next 3 yrs?"
my response..."You people repulse me!...Bunch of money mongering scum. I'll give what I can! Is that fkn good enough?...Actually, I'm out...Lose my number!"

I've never been back.
Sorry Dad...Their ethics, or lack there of, just don't jibe with me.

Little Bald Bastard said...

I worked in a chain bookstore for 5 1/2 years. In my experience, there isn't a lot of overlap between the "would damage a book on purpose and try to scam a discount" and "buying Henry VIII for personal reading" crowds. Also, the fact that (based on your self-reporting) you were fairly pleasant about it was probably a factor. Complainants who are trying to pull a fast one tend to get belligerent pretty quickly.

Man, I DO NOT miss retail, even a little.

Posolxstvo said...

Odd. Ethics and integrity and moral behavior has been much on my mind of late. Seems that everywhere I turn, I hear or see another person doing something lacking integrity in the interest of looking out for number one. And our capitalist system rewards that.

Case in point - driving with my boss today, he got a call from a relative who was in a state of panic because she had applied for a job at a coffee shop, and she got the job because she said that she was very experienced at making Espresso based drinks.

She was lying.

He promised to help bail her out by teaching her how to make lattes and americanos and such. At no time was there any consequence of her having lied. Because lying to gain an advantage is simply siezing an opportunity in the culture we live in. Taking a negative and turning it into a positive. Faking it till you make it.

This is a pretty innocuous example, but it would seem to me that a "You know, this is why you should always be honest" was in order from him, but never came.

Anonymous said...

Ethics are those pesky feelings that kick in when you think someone is watching. For instance, do I NOT snatch a bone from the table because it is wrong?
Why then do I not snatch the bone?
Why? Well… because Jim is watching.
If Jim is NOT watching what do I do?
Well, if I assume that I’m innocent till proven guilty AND I know that I’m not the prime cut suspect -- I snatch the bone!
Now notice… nothing has changed with respect to me and the bone but in each case my actions are completely different.
Because Jim is watching.
So, you see that the existence of my ‘ethics’ is solely based on whether or not Jim is watching.
As you may have deduced by now I have no time for Plato and his virtue-based eudaemonistic ethics.
Tomorrow we discuss – History, there is no future in it!


miss kitty said...

I am going to run for political office and some of my platforms will be that I am clean and honest; I guarantee three square (or round) meals a day; a clean litterbox in every household; and all the catnip you need to keep that kitty smile on your face.