November 2007 Archive
November 5, 2007
Illegal immigration is a major problem in the U.S. We presently have at least 7 million un-documbented individuals in this country, according to the INS. The figure could be as high as 20 million.
Illegal immigrants, by their labor, perform a useful role in our economy. They are consumers as well and more than 75% of them pay taxes and generate more than $6 billion in Social Security tax revenue each year.
Should they be allowed to obtain a driver's license?
The issue is very controversial.
New York Governor Eliot Sptizer just proposed a new law that would grant them a "special" license that could not be used for air travel thus reducing the fear that terrorists might board an airplane with a regular license
The State Assembly in California passed the Illegal Immigrant Driver's License bill in 2005. Only 6 states have such laws.
What are the principal moral values involved? I believe they are justice and compassion, a right versus right situation.
It is true that illegal immigrants have broken the law and according to justice, should be prosecuted, jailed and or deported. Consequently they should not be given the privilege of obtaining a driver's license.
However, many are paid less than the minimum wage and have difficult jobs that many American citizens do not want to do, such as heavy manual labor, harvesting, industrial, office and home cleaning. They are entitled to food and shelter like each one of us.
The Children of Israel while they were slaves in Egypt were forced to make bricks. Pharaoh decided at one point to increase the burden of their labor when he told the taskmasters "You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves." Yet he would not reduce the number of bricks each one had to produce per day.
By denying illegal immigrants the possibility to drive to work, I believe we are adding a burden to their hard jobs from which we all directly or indirectly benefit.
As the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said: Compassion is the basis of all morality.
November 12, 2007
He had been a close friend of Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York and leading Republican candidate to the US. Presidency. The Mayor had been his mentor during most of Kerik's career promoting him from detective-chauffeur and bodyguard to high positions such as Commissioner of NYC Department of Correction and Police Commissioner. He also recommended him to become Secretary of Homeland Security.
Giuliani's judgment is now questioned. He admits he made a mistake by not "vetting him more closely" before nominating him for the Homeland Security's job.
Friends play a very an important role in our lives. It would be sad to imagine a life without friends.
What should we do if we discover that a friend is or has been involved in activities that we totally disapprove of and that are contrary to our core values? Should we just terminate the friendship?
I think not.
We should first be sure that we have all the correct information about our friend's behavior and circumstances. It is dangerous in ethics, to take action before we are confident that we have all the information we need before making any decision.
Should the information confirm the wrongdoing of our friend, we should then try to use the influence we have to persuade him or her to change behavior and make amends if at all possible. We should try patiently as much as we can and not give up too quickly.
If, however, we do not succeed and our friend will not listen and is persistent in his or her ways, it would then be wise to distance ourselves.
We are accountable to ourselves first and should not allow our generosity to compromise our own integrity.
As William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet:
"To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."
November 19, 2007
Gossip is not new; the Oxford English Dictionary traces the word back to 1014. The etymology of the word comes from god-sip, a godparent of one child referring to a close friendship. Gossip then means things one would only say among close friends.
Gossip is very much part of our culture and seems to be a national pastime. The gossip "industry" is booming. We are exposed to gossip whether we turn to "Page 6" listen to talk the radio, watch TV (E! Entertainment) or go to the Internet.
Gossip has a negative connotation. Judaism considers any words spoken without a constructive purpose as a sin. It considers the speaking negatively about people demeans both the speaker and the subject of the gossip. Christianity also condemns "backbiters."
With the advent of Web 2.O and the new tools of communication the issue of gossip has become critical. Word of mouth marketing is a billion dollar industry and is expected to grow to $3.7 billion in 2011, according to The Word of Mouth Marketing Association. The WMMA has more than 250 corporate members and is keenly aware of the ethical dimensions of this new type of marketing. It has developed an ethics code whose summary is called Honesty ROI:
- Honesty of Relationship: You say who your represent
- Honesty of Opinion: You say what you believe
- Honesty of Identity: You never obscure your identity.
Some corporations have a very strict policy against gossip at the workplace. Empower Public Relations, a Chicago firm has a very strict rule about gossiping. It won't tolerate it. Anyone found gossiping about a colleague at the firm is fired.
How can we avoid gossip?
First we should be sure that we are reasonable sure that the information we communicate is true.
Second, we should consider if what we say, even if true, could cause harm. Making that determination is not that hard. We should to think of how we would feel said the same thing about us.
Third we should ask ourselves if we would be ready to repeat what we said about someone to his or her face.
Finally we should think of how comfortable we would be to see our comments published in the local paper with attribution.
The American poet Josiah Gilbert Holland once said:
Gossip is always a personal confession either of malice or imbecility.
November 26, 2007
Many psychologists believe that we are all in denial to some degree because we subconsciously do not want to face adversity and more importantly some of their consequences. It is a protective defense mechanism against what we perceive as threats to our ego, body or even livelihood.
However, denial can lead to catastrophic results not only for ourselves but for others as well.
For the chemical dependent denial can mean death. The Community Alcohol Information Program (CAIP) a private, non-profit agency founded in 1977 to provide alcohol education lists 8 different types of denial:
3. INTELLECTUALIZING or GENERALIZING
Denial could have played a major role, in the recent corporate scandals. The CEOs of Enron, WordCom, Tyco naming just a few, took enormous risks, which leads me to believe that they must have refused to see the danger and the possible consequences of their actions. Furthermore they all proclaimed their innocence.
Denial also excludes the possibility of forgiveness to others and also to ourselves.
If we do not recognize our errors and wrongdoings how can be forgiven or even forgive ourselves?
Self-deception is the worst of deception because it is very hard to identify and correct.
How do we know then if we are in denial?
I suggest we look at the words we use. The vocabulary we choose is sometimes an indication of denial. Euphemism is often used not to offend someone or to alleviate the harshness of a word and its meaning. We say of someone, "he passed away" instead simply saying "he died," or we may say of a friend, "he drinks too much" as opposed to "he is an alcoholic."
Euphemism can however also mask a dangerous situation that we may ignore by not recognizing it seriousness. In his book Euphemism, Spin, and the Crisis in Organizational Life, Howard Stein believes that euphemism in organizational communication is a flight from reality that can have very damaging consequences. He calls for an "ethical awakening" from our self-deceptions and for "direct, honest language that expresses our feelings and intentions."
The quote from Tolstoy's War and Peace is very appropriate:
At the approach of danger there are always two voices that speak with equal force in the heart of man:
One very reasonably tells the man to consider the nature of the danger and the means of avoiding it;
The other even more reasonable says that it is too painful and harassing to think of the danger, since it is not a man's power to provide for everything and escape from the general march of events; and that it is therefore better to turn aside from the painful subject till it has come, and to think of what is pleasant.
In solitude a man generally yields to the first voice; in society to the second.