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 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

 

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.

 

Rick Lucke’s Guest Column!


Rick Lucke‘s Guest Column!

Fellow Blogger Rick Lucke has written a long comment which I have posted here. He’s got some good thoughts and I want to share them with all my readers.  jp

I’m not sure which part of my comment is unclear. I’ll expand a little on the individual points.

“…we have a system that betrays the concept of democracy, it undermines the concept of one-person-one-vote, and shreds the concept of majority rule.”

The concept of “democracy” is undermined by the fact that the candidate who wins the office does not often win a “majority” of votes, as we’ve seen once again in 2016. As a result, the democratic concept of one-person-one-vote is virtually neutralized by a system that not only nullifies so many votes, but also discourages so many from bothering themselves to vote. This is accomplished through the Electoral College system as well as through approaches like “closed primaries” in which only registered members of “the party” are allowed to vote to nominate a candidate, which reduces the process to a matter of something like “club membership”. The concept of political parties and factions was recognized even by the Founders as a problem and many were opposed to the idea.

Then there is the problem of “big money in politics”. The impact of big money is manifold and undeniable, despite not necessarily guaranteeing election victory.

“… this system that effectively allows the majority to be oppressed by the minority is a complete travesty.”

As we watch Trump make cabinet appointments which are in clear opposition to the majority views of various issues, we see the majority becoming oppressed by the minority. This is in direct opposition to the concept of democracy and to the protections against that oppression that the Founders attempted to provide.

“…the Democratic National Committee’s corrupt nature was exposed …”

The revelations during the Democratic primary campaign of the DNC’s clear bias in favor of one candidate over the other was, in my view, a definite strike against not only the Democrat Party, but also their preordained candidate of choice. Even as Bernie Sanders consistently drew considerably larger crowds at his rallies and was shown in virtually every poll to have a far better likelihood to defeat Trump and Clinton was shown to be more likely to lose than Sanders would be, the DNC continued to undermine Sanders and his supporters, along with the major network media outlets that seemingly did everything they could to ignore Sanders’ campaign successes.

“…neither major party candidate was qualified …”

Trump presented as an ill-informed dolt with no clear plan for governing and who, according to the former communications director of Trump’s now-defunct Super PAC, was never serious about becoming president but was, instead, merely running as a “protest candidate”. Consider the following:
====================
In an open letter to voters supporting Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary, the former communications director of Trump’s now-defunct Super PAC said that the former reality television star not only never expected to be the Republican nominee, much less president, but never even wanted to be.

Writing for the website xojane.com, Stephanie Cegielski said that when she was brought aboard as communications director for the Make America Great Again PAC last summer, the instructions from Trump Tower were to make sure that Trump finished a respectable second in the GOP primary. It was made clear that Trump was running not as a serious contender, but as a “protest” candidate.

“I don’t think even Trump thought he would get this far,” she wrote. “And I don’t even know that he wanted to, which is perhaps the scariest prospect of all.
http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2016/03/28/Ex-Trump-Insider-Donald-Doesn-t-Want-Be-President

The “open letter” she wrote can be found here:
http://www.xojane.com/issues/stephanie-cegielski-donald-trump-campaign-defector
=====================
Hillary Clinton’s record of being on the wrong side of virtually every issue she ever voted on or spoke in support of and then later changing her rhetoric when it suited her or evading some issues altogether prove her to be one of the worst candidates the Democrats have ever nominated. Of course, that statement depends on whether or not a person agrees with the progressive agenda Bernie Sanders presented, which Clinton began referencing after she noticed the success Sanders was having with voters.

That sort of waffling and evasionary tactics do not impart a sense of trust, thus she lost many voters from within and from outside the party. Another aspect related to undermining a sense of trust of the Democratic Primary that discouraged many from supporting Clinton was the pledging of support for Clinton by the party electors before the primary election process had taken effect.

In the end, it seems the only voters who viewed either candidate as worthy of the office were voters who were either religiously faithful to party name, Democrat or Republican, or voters who were too ill-informed to realize the lack of qualifications most of us would expect in a presidential candidate, not to mention the loss of integrity of the entire process. I see this election as a major turning point in American society – what it means for our future is impossible to know at this point.

Dangerous Neoliberalism Edition


Dangerous Neoliberalism Edition

Sometimes you find a paragraph that says what you would like to say brilliantly and this is one of those paragraphs.

Many times I’ve tried to explain the impact of free market fundamentalism, Hayek, Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand, all of whose combined effect might well be summed up by the word, neoliberalism.

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Dangerous Neoliberalism Edition

I strongly agree and endorse the following statement from George Monbiot in his essay from The GuardianNeoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems.

“Perhaps the most dangerous impact of neoliberalism is not the economic crises it has caused, but the political crisis. As the domain of the state is reduced, our ability to change the course of our lives through voting also contracts. Instead, neoliberal theory asserts, people can exercise choice through spending. But some have more to spend than others: in the great consumer or shareholder democracy, votes are not equally distributed. The result is a disempowerment of the poor and middle. As parties of the right and former left adopt similar neoliberal policies, disempowerment turns to disenfranchisement. Large numbers of people have been shed from politics.”

I think Donald Trump is President now due in part to feelings of powerlessness on the part of the middle class due to their loss of economic and political power — and much more due to Hilary Clinton’s embrace of this maniacal philosophy more worthy of a James Bond Villain than someone wanting to be the leader of a free people.

James Pilant