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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

"I blog, therefore I am." Anon

Saturday, July 12, 2003

on the morality of modern ethics

One of the buzz words of the contemporary era is ethics. We are bombarded with messages about the importance of medical ethics, of legal ethics, of professional ethics of all kinds. Morality on the other hand is definitely frowned upon, being viewed as synonymous with judgmentalism, narrow-mindedness, intolerance and oppression.

It has become popular to speak about ethics in reference to professional obligations and codes of conduct and to restrict the term morality to personal preferences in private behaviour. I find this distinction to be self-serving, even disingenuous. The idea seems to be that a person's professional ethics can exist in a vacuum apart from his personal morality. This line of reasoning was clearly on display during the Monica Lewinsky affair that embroiled former President Clinton. His defenders often argued that his private sexual predilections and behaviour had no connection (sic) with his ability to lead the most powerful nation on earth. Indeed his display of red-blooded male lust was seen by some as a reassuring thing. I mean just consider the iconic John F. Kennedy and the less than iconic Lyndon Johnson... After all, "powerful" men - kings rulers, presidents, generals, artists, freethinkers and captains of industry - have always had strong libidos, and have freely exercised their "right" to mistresses, concubines and interns as part of their "duty" to flaunt repressive bourgeois sexual morality.

Anyone in the employ of any Government body, and in most private companies, has just about been ethiced to death by now. But we still don't seem to be getting any more decent, moral or ethical in our personal or collective behaviour. I suggest that this is because the notion that's one's personal life and professional conduct can be compartmentalised is a dangerous one. As philosopher Tom Morris points out, it is folly to say "I wear one hat at work and another at home" because in reality you wear those hats on the same head. Indeed I would affirm that the true indicator of a man's character is his personal morality - his integrity, honesty, decency, and self-restraint in the way he conducts himself, and in his dealings with those closest to him.

We reveal our true character in the little things of life and we are at our most honest when no one is watching.

As Peter Drucker notes:
There is only one ethics, one set of morality, one code: That of individual behavior in which the same rules apply to everyone alike.

10:29:00 pm