The Ethics of Kindness – ‘Pay it Forward’


Today we have a guest post by my colleague, Steven Mintz, the Ethics Sage. Read and enjoy-

And as always, favorite, like,

The Ethics Sage

re-post, and visit my friend’s home web site.

The Ethics of Kindness – ‘Pay it Forward’

Not everyone associates ethics with kindness. We think of it as part of good manners or civility. Yet, treating others with kindness evokes The Golden Rule – to treat others the way you want to be treated. One example of how we can take tangible actions to treat others with kindness is to “Pay it Forward.”

April 28 is ‘Pay it Forward’ Day. Pay it Forward is a global initiative that exists to make a difference by creating a string of kind actions felt across the world. The idea is even small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can literally change the world for the better. The goal of the day is to encourage us to embrace the power of giving; show each other that we care; make a difference in someone’s life; and encourage others to do the same.

Paying it forward is often linked to performing ‘random acts of kindness.’ The philosophy of random acts of kindness is altruism, a selfless concern for others. It is to urge people to be kind to each other, especially those they don’t know, without any specific reason. The purpose is to get others to return the kindness to start a chain reaction of good deeds.

The concept of doing a kind act for another person has always been on our ethics radar but really took flight after the movie, “Pay it Forward,” was released. The movie tells the story of Trevor McKinney, a 12-year old student, who is given a class assignment to devise and put into action a plan that will change the world forever. It has to be a major favor that the recipient cannot complete themselves. Trevor does a favor for three people, asking each of them to pay it forward by doing favors for three people, and so on, along a branching tree of good deeds.

When was the last time you thought of paying for the food of the customer behind you in line at a window check out, even those you don’t know? Back in August 2014, a customer at a drive-through at a Starbucks in St. Petersburg, Florida, paid for her own iced coffee at 7 am, and also asked to pay for a caramel macchiato for the driver behind her, who then did the same for the next customer. People ordered a drink at the speaker. When they pulled through to the next window, the barista, Vu Nguyen, 29, leaned through and said with a smile that their drinks had already been paid for by the person in front of them. Would they like to return the favor? By closing at 10 pm, 378 people kept the chain going.

Kindness is an essential part of being a good person – an ethical person – because it is a selfless act and one done to better the lives of others. Kindness drives compassionate people and defines who they are. Kind people care about others – their feelings and well-being. It is the essence of treating others the way we want to treated — The Golden Rule of Ethics.

So, what can you do to practice random acts of kindness?

  • Feed a neighbor’s dogs while they are out of town so the dogs do not have to go to a kennel.
  • Offer to cover the shift of a co-worker who has a family event to attend.
  • Volunteer at a food bank or a religious institution.
  • Organize a charitable event in your community.
  • Write a thank you note (don’t send an email) to someone who did something kind for you.

In this age of radical political and religious ideologies, corporate swindling, and the harsh realities of social media, where we live our lives so publicly, people are desperate for moral direction. By practicing random acts of kindness, we send the message that we have a responsibility to enhance the well-being of others and contribute to the betterment of our communities and society.

Blog by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage. Visit Steve’s website at: stevenmintzethics.com.

The American Airlines Culture Failure


The American Airlines Culture Failure

Just a few days after we saw United Airlines drag a passenger off a flight, another airline, in this case American Airlines, generated social media controversy, and this is notable for several reasons. Apparently, there was a dispute over a stroller and a mother of two got hit perhaps with the stroller by an “American Airlines Staff Member.” And in this case, a passenger intervened and offered violence to the offender. I’m very proud that he did. It might be more economically efficient to allow airline employees to humiliate and injure passengers at will but I am still a man and an American and I don’t like being pushed around and I don’t like seeing other people pushed around. You can see the video by clicking on the link below.

http://www.cnn.com/videos/travel/2017/04/22/american-airlines-video-incident-raw.cnn

The American Airlines Culture Failure

There is something wrong with the ethics culture at these two airlines, but probably all the airlines in this nation have a problem.

I was doing a little background research and came up with an article from 1999 called – Airline industry still behaves like oligarchy, despite deregulation from the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Here’s a relevant quote from the article:

A case in point is the issue of who is to blame for the increased delays in air travel. The airlines blame the FAA and the weather. The FAA in turn blames the airlines for impractical scheduling. The real problem is that most of the airlines are not customer focused. They focus on operational efficiency and treat most of us as human freight. In fact, they keep raising the price for us as human freight because we are a lot more inconvenient than the freight they carry in the belly of the plane.

How hard is it to solve this on-time issue with a true “customer focus?” It seems to me there’s a very straightforward solution to this problem. It does, of course, require a focus on the customer–something sorely lacking in the airline industry.

Notwithstanding United Airlines’ ads to the contrary, I can find no evidence of a change in how they, or any other airline, appear to view customers. Passengers just seem to be an impediment to on-time travel.

This little piece of the an article written by Michael Gooz almost a decade ago is still dead on in explaining what the problem is.

And the problem is simple – for the airlines people don’t matter. There are too few airlines so even if you don’t like one if you want to get somewhere you’re going to have to use it and in that market, you can treat people anyway you want. You can overbook, you can throw paying passengers off the plane and if a little violence is necessary to keep the passenger in line, we’re going to have a little violence.

There is a solution. You may not have any leverage with the airline but it is a federally regulated industry and they have to answer to the government. Your one voice may have no effect on the industry but the federal government can outlaw overbooking, regulate when you can be deplaned (or re-accomodated), and they can penalize the airlines with millions in fines for delays and injured passengers.

When corporations get too big for humans to affect individually, the only response that remains is joint action.

James Pilant

The Ethics Sage and United’s Ethical Blunder


The Ethics Sage and United’s Ethical Blunder

It gives me great pleasure to report that the Ethics Sage has written about the United Airlines Incident. Here’s an excerpt:

The first reaction of United CEO, Oscar Munoz, was to apologize “for having to re-accommodate the customers,” but not for the overbooking that prompted the whole mess.  Apologizing for having to “re-accommodate” passengers is like apologizing for re-positioning someone’s nose after a barroom fight.

There is no doubt that under its rules, and that of other airlines, United had a right to replace passengers on a plane when overbooking occurs, which is common to offset the perceived likelihood of no-shows. Federal rules dictate a carrier must first check whether anyone is willing to voluntarily give up their seat before then bumping flyers involuntarily if nobody comes forward. Passengers agree to this policy when they book a flight, but it is questionable whether the airlines fully disclose this information in an easy-to-understand manner.

The ethical lesson to be learned from the United fiasco is a company might have a right to do something – legally – but that does not mean it is the right thing to do. Ethics is all about how we treat others. Dr. Dao was treated in a despicable manner.

What could United have done differently? It should have continued to raise the payment for the fourth passenger to voluntarily deboard. So, what if it cost $2,000. That is a lot better than facing a multi-million-dollar lawsuit.

The Ethics Sage

One of the things that I found a concern was one paper’s reporting that the man removed from the flight had a felony. That story was just developing when I wrote my comment some days ago. Steven Mintz discusses this aspect of the case quite intelligently and I refer you to the larger post.

I think the victim here is in a sense all of us, because we are all potential victims for this kind of giant corporate squeeze and we are all the continual victims as standards of service and human decency disappear from the American landscape. While amenities for the wealthy are substantially increased, the rest of us are increasingly squeezed for the last dregs of profit.

This is not good business ethics. The divine human spark dwells in all of us not just the rich and the influential.

James Pilant

The United Airlines Edition


The United Airlines Edition

United Airlines has acted outside the norms of business ethics. They have done so in a manner the requires the guilty be punished.

Let me list some links so you can get a grasp of the actions of what calls itself an airline:

United Airlines passenger forcibly removed from overbooked flight

Passenger dragged off overbooked United flight

Man Violently Dragged Off Plane After United Airlines Overbooks Flight

Or my favorite –

Video shows man forcibly removed from United flight from Chicago to Louisville

I’ve thought about this since I first saw the headlines and I gone from rage to lamenting the sorry spectacle of human stupidity.

The Fire Everyone Edition

Here we have what purports to be a business overbooking flights and using the way the contract is worded to get rid of the unwanted passengers. You notice I don’t call them customers. It’s obvious that the “airline” doesn’t consider them to be that big a deal. Maybe the words, victims, suppliants or some other word the implies a human being considered as nothing more than temporary way to turn some coin might be found to fit.

I suppose the company might have been within its contractual rights to drag everyone off the plane using whatever force it considered reasonable. Maybe the passengers are lucky that didn’t occur to the leadership at United. It’s possible the the company would have considered the unhappy publicity a small price to pay for compliant and obedient passengers in the future. I don’t know.

What I do know is this – somebody has to be fired. In fact, a lot of people need to be fired. This sorry spectacle shows what happens to people when corporations can use the law to enforce their whims. The company took a simple civil dispute and converted into a tragedy. It appears they dragged a doctor off a plane and injured him for not giving up his seat and attempting to assert his rights under the law of this nation.

What we see here is raw power on display.

Did they intend to explain to us who really matters and who doesn’t? It doesn’t matter. The lesson is clear. If you fly United, be obedient and servile or they can drag you from your seat and throw you off the plane like garbage.

Fire everyone. That’s one it is going to take for the lesson to take hold. And what lesson it that, you might ask.

We’re Americans, a proud people and we don’t have to obedient to any company’s whims, and they shouldn’t be able to harm us for standing up for our rights.

I think that’s important. Don’t you?

James Pilant

The Sugar Industry Follies


The Sugar Industry Follies

I was reading an article from the web site, The Week, entitled: How sugar became Public Enemy No. 1.

The Sugar Industry Follies

The article tells a story of an industry that shapes our diets with its products and its advertising. A couple of decades ago this industry had a factual problem, that is, sugar makes you fat and you should probably avoid it in almost all eating. According the staff at The Week, the sugar industry decided to create research indicating that fat was the real culprit and then induced the federal government to get on the scent like a bewildered blood hound chasing the wrong villain and launch a nation wide campaign against fat that had no discernable affect on Americans’ weight.

Here’s an excerpt:

The industry launched an aggressive advertising campaign in the 1970s to convince Americans that sugar actually helps you lose weight by suppressing the appetite. “Sugar can be the willpower you need to undereat,” one ad asserted; another recommended eating a cookie before lunch each day. That campaign, combined with work by the Harvard researchers, helped muddy the scientific waters enough to keep dietary sugar guidelines vague. The American Heart Association approved of added sugar as part of a healthy diet, and millions of Americans embraced low-fat, high-sugar diets. Consumption of added sugars soared 30 percent between 1977 and 2010. It’s no coincidence, many nutritionists say, that obesity rates more than doubled over that same period.

If the article is true and I believe it to be, then the industry and the federal campaign it inspired resulted in Americans gaining weight.

This is what I call “negative business ethics.” You do the wrong thing with planning, skill and certainty in execution and you make bundles of money. It’s the kind of immoral lesson conveyed almost incessantly in the business press and much of the media. Yes, the industry did a bad thing but its leadership got multi-million dollar retirements and get to choose among multiple homes how to spend their lives. Their influence in government is immense and people flock to work for them.

Yes, they behaved badly and their actions diminished the lives of millions of Americans and almost certainly led to many deaths but what’s a few Americans compared to the wonders of the free market in action? After all, there is no apparent illegality in misleading the government as to the cause of obesity and, of course, you can always pretend like global warming deniers that the science is still up in the air.

Where is justice in this case? There is none. And businessmen and business schools will absorb the lesson of this. And the lesson is that if you make a product that should or is regulated, you can finance some studies, contribute to some politicians and maybe even get the government to act on your behalf and not only can you evade regulation – you can increase your market share.

James Pilant

 

The Importance of Character


The Importance of Character

Today, I want to talk about my friend, Steven Mintz and his recent post, Character and Free Speech Go Hand in Hand. Steven has rightly pointed out that character is a critical value and below is a little segment from his essay (which of course in no way does it justice).

The Josephson Institute identifies Six Pillars of Character. They include: trustworthiness; respect; responsibility; fairness; caring; and citizenship. I define them a bit differently and place them in six categories I call “The Magnificent Seven Core Ethical Values.”

Truthfulness: Be honest and non-deceptive: don’t hide important facts from others.

Trustworthiness: Keep promises, be reliable, treat others faithfully.

Responsibility: Be accountable for your actions; learn from your mistakes.

Fair-mindedness: Treat others equally, impartially, and objectively.

Respect: The Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Caring: Be kind to others; be sensitive to their needs; show empathy for others.

Civility: Listen to others attentively; don’t be rude or disrespectful.

All of Steven’s writing is constructed in carefully organized format and reading these little pieces does not give you the full flavor of his writing so please journey to his web site and read them all in full.

I think that character is often manifested in civic virtue and patriotism. One of things that pains me about modern society is the willingness of many businesses to casually discard American workers and Americans interests such as patents and trade secrets as long as the money is good enough. This kind of thinking is the opposite of character and is evidence of narcissism and greed.

It seems to me that we should actively seek to build character by rewards. Shouldn’t it be possible in our policies of taxation, in our rules admitting people to attend training or schooling that we could introduce the concept of rewarding virtue, not just good grades but good actions and living with others in mind?

If we want to have a society where we want the rules to be followed, shouldn’t we reward those that follow the rules? And rewards do not have to be money. It can be honor. Napoleon once wrote that a man wouldn’t give you his life for any sum of money but would gladly yield it up for a piece of metal on a ribbon but isn’t his little story more an example of how we wish to be thought of, and the sacrifices we are willing to make to others to appreciate and value our contributions?

Can we do something along those lines at this time in this society?

James Pilant

 

The Possum Magic Edition


The Possum Magic Edition

Possum Magic is picture book for children written by Australian author, Mem Fox. As a business ethics writer, you might think I was about to take up the topic of her book, its sales, and whether or not it is a good read.

i_00i_243_tnBut no, it’s because of this – (from the Guardian)

The Australian children’s book author Mem Fox has suggested she might never return to the US after she was detained and insulted by border control agents at Los Angeles airport.

Fox, who is famous worldwide for her best-selling books including Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes and Possum Magic, was en route to a conference in Milwaukee earlier this month when she was stopped.

She told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation she was questioned by border agents for two hours in front of a room full of people – an experience that left her feeling like she had been physically assaulted.

“I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain, with so many insults and with so much gratuitous impoliteness,” Fox said.

“I felt like I had been physically assaulted which is why, when I got to my hotel room, I completely collapsed and sobbed like a baby, and I’m 70 years old.”

The author attributed the aggressive questioning to border police who had been “turbocharged” by Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban.

Fox said she was questioned over her visa, despite having travelled to America 116 times before without incident. She was eventually granted access to the country.

 

It appears that the ongoing militarization of American policing is proceeding with great speed. Do you really need me to explain that getting tough with a white haired seventy year old children’s book author is bad and incompetent policing? Do I need to say that the two hours spent grilling this elderly woman might have been better spent on an actual criminal justice matter?

Empowered to Act Foolish?

I have read elsewhere that some law enforcement feel empowered by the election of Donald Trump and indeed, they have been doing some interesting things lately. Let’s make a little list:

Let’s begin with the son of Muhammad Ali.

On 7 February, border agents at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood international airport held the son of boxing legend Muhammad Ali for two hours. According to his lawyer, they repeatedly asked him about his religion.

Just last June, the world mourned the passing of his father, perhaps the most famous Muslim on the planet, as an American hero. Eight months and a presidential election later, Muslim Americans, including those with notable fathers, can’t even return to their own country without problems.

But, they keep telling us, it’s not a Muslim ban.

Then there is the case of Henry Rousso who was almost deported in spite of the pesky little fact that he was here legally.

A French historian on his way to a conference in Texas was detained for 10 hours by US border officials and threatened with deportation.

Officials at Texas A&M University said Henry Rousso was going to be returned to Paris as an illegal alien “due to a visa misunderstanding”.

The university stopped the deportation with help from a law professor, local news website The Eagle reported.

President Donald Trump has pledged to tighten US border controls.

“I have been detained 10 hours at Houston International Airport about to be deported,” Mr Rousso, 62, confirmed in a tweet on Saturday.

A British teacher who appears to have been blocked for the “crime” of being Muslim.

British Muslim teacher Juhel Miah was on a school field trip when he was escorted off an Icelandair flight to New York and told he was denied entry into the U.S.

And here’s the case of cinematographer Khaled Khateeb

The Department of Homeland Security has blocked a 21-year-old Syrian cinematographer who worked on an Oscar-nominated documentary about the country’s civil war, The White Helmets, from entering the country. The Associated Press saw some “internal Trump administration correspondence” in which officials decided to block Khaled Khateeb’s entry into the United States. Khateeb was scheduled to arrive Saturday in Los Angeles via Istanbul, but U.S. official reportedly found “derogatory information” on Khateeb. “Derogatory information is a broad category that can include anything from terror connections to passport irregularities,” reports the AP.

Dare to be stupid!

I remember a lovely title that just as soon as I heard it I wished I’d thought of it. It was “Dare to be stupid.” What’s our law enforcement doing? And should we even be using that phrase “our” in front of them? Once they just start doing their own thing, they are not really our law enforcement.

What are these guys doing? Have they seen too many episodes of 24? Is there an idea that if we are rude and mean enough to professionals from allied nations and on occasion, the child of an American icon, terrorists will get scared? Because I think this nonsense is just foolish. It’s unprofessional, anti-law enforcement and petty.

It is strange to think that the United States should welcome friends and allies? What do we stand for here? Because petty harassment, anti Muslim sentiment and simple nastiness to foreign visitors are not American values.

James Alan Pilant

For Want of a Shoe!


For want of a shoe.

i_00i_115_tnThere is an old children’s story about a lost horse shoe causing a kingdom to fall. It says that the loss of the shoe meant the horse couldn’t fight, so the mounted soldier couldn’t fight and his company lost without his presence up the chain until the kingdom is destroyed with the originating cause being a defective horseshoe nail.

I haven’t written in quite some time. I am similar to the aforementioned kingdom in that it is simple matter to describe the problem and in terms of weight it is very small indeed.

I have a shattered right lower molar and it is causing swelling across my face and some stomach distress. My ears, sinus cavities and the glands in my neck are all causing me pain in the wake of this tooth problem.

I am scheduled tomorrow to have this tooth out and some reconstructive work done. Kind thoughts are appreciated.

If all goes well, I will be writing again very soon.

Thanks!!

James Pilant

The Ethics Sage Addresses Unintended Consequences


The Ethics Sage Addresses Unintended Consequences

In an article entitled, Unintended Consequences of the H1-B Visa Program and sub-titled: Are American Workers Adequately Trained to Fill High Tech Jobs?, Steven Mintz, better known as the Ethics Sage, discusses the likely impact of a coming Trump executive order.

Here is (what I think is) the most critical paragraph –

Trump is taking a short-term view of a long-term problem, which is our colleges and universities are not training an adequate number of American students to fill jobs in technology and the sciences to meet the growing needs of American companies. However, no one is addressing the real problem which is American colleges and universities give preference to foreign students, especially public institutions. The reason is they pay about four times the tuition of residents of a state. Given the magnitude of state budget cuts for public colleges and universities in the aftermath of the financial recession, foreign students are highly sought out for their financial wherewithal thereby crowding out American students.

The Ethics Sage
The Ethics Sage

As always, when I give you a brief selection from Steven’s work, you should take the opportunity to go to his site and read the whole thing. I am confident my quick summaries of his work and choice of selections never do full justice to the quality of his efforts.

I have not decided quite how to deal with the new administration and I’ll probably wait to see the executive order itself since I’m trained as an attorney, I firmly believe the devil is in the details. So, it could be just as Steven says, worse or (most likely) a whole lot worse. The drafting of these executive orders has not been impressive. In fact, there is a theory running about that they are Leninist political maneuvers designed to divert attention from the real issues while damaging and dividing enemies of the new administration. I don’t know, myself, whether this is true but I will be watching to see if a pattern forms.

Please LIKE, Favorite and re-blog if you like.

I enjoy the attention and any allies I can find who believe in business ethics are very welcome to join the struggle.

James Pilant

The Single Star Edition


The Single Star Edition

IMD will shut down discussion boards in two weeks. It appears that the site was the target of negative reaction to minority films. Below is the trailer for the documentary, I Am Not Your Negro.

I Am Not Your Negro Official Trailer 1 (2016) – James Baldwin Documentary – YouTube

Here is a review from You Tube in which the film is described as extraordinary –

I Am Not Your Negro – Official Documentary Review – YouTube

Now let me quote The Hollywood Reporter:

The decision to shut down the discussion boards comes at a time when IMDb’s user-driven feature is coming under fire.

The viability of IMDb’s user voting system has been called into question, as the ratings of movies by minority filmmakers receive a disproportionate amount of negative ratings, which are measured by stars on a scale from one to 10. Today, some Twitter users have singled out Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, as a recent example of this issue.

The doc hit theaters today and already has received 409 one-star votes from users, compared to 318 10-star votes, with a nominal number of in-between votes.

Based on the information provided do you think that the film deserved 409 one star ratings as opposed to 318 ten star. I don’t either. It appears that the message boards are now vehicles for a new and sinister force online. The boards are now an opportunity for white supremacists and others of that ilk to damage the careers and films of minorities. The choice of giving a single star for a very bad film is now used as a weapon against very good films. The quality is not the issue. The maker is.

This is the right decision on the part of IMD. In the wake of Gamergate and other actions, it appears that the online landscape is increasingly subject to abuse. It is better to stop the boards now before the online trolling becomes more serious ultimately culminating in death threats and other abuse. Business ethics demands that this kind of trolling be stopped.

So far, my small web presence has gone unnoticed but I am a fervent believer in the equality of all human beings. And there will come a time when humanity will either become one race or diverge through technology into a variety of hybrid human species. It will be interesting to see this take place although I have little expectation of surviving to witness any great part of it.

So, it may be that someday I too will get to shut down commentary and retreat behind the heaviest online defenses I can find or like many others give up blogging altogether. But little has happened yet along those lines.