This article was written when George Bush was president. It certainly applies to what's going on now as well!
Recently the news has been full of breaches of ethics in religion, business, and other areas where we have depended on authority figures to protect us, grow our investments, and uphold our trust
Our President commented that we need to develop a new code of ethics, and I was somewhat taken aback. As I looked up ethics in Webster’s College Dictionary, it stated that in addition to ethics being “a system or set of moral principles governing human action, ethics is the branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of action and the goodness and badness of motives and ends.”
In my mind, this states clearly that we already have clear guidelines to ethics, and rather than creating new ethics, we need to return to the ones we’ve had all along.
Somewhere in the rush to succeed and achieve, a group of people have determined that the highest authority they have to account to is their own agenda. They have forgotten that they belong to a larger body, and have responsibility to society as a whole.
I have observed through the years how the concept of ethical behavior has been altered to fit whatever the person not behaving ethically wants it to be. We experienced this mincing of technicalities with our last president, and the door was opened long before his indiscretions by people in positions of power behaving unethically.
In the 1980s there was an excellent series on PBS called Ethics in America. It looked at some of the hard questions facing different sectors in our country and how ethics were often bent to justify desired goals by companies, military, politicians, and other groups.
The problem with bending ethics is that somebody always gets hurt in order to satisfy someone else’s desire. When we choose not to abide by a moral code of ethics, we jeopardize our reputation and we put our populace and economy at risk. Once trust is betrayed, it is difficult to regain.
As I look out at the ethical failings in the larger world around me, I also have to look within and ask where my own ethics need strengthening. Where do I bend moral concepts to justify my own actions? If I long for an ethical world, I must help build it. As an individual, I can uphold values that affirm the Golden Rule of treating others as I would have them treat me. And as a citizen, I can hold those in positions of authority accountable for their actions. Our individual voices become a collective power to be reckoned with. And if each of us will not accept injustice and unethical behavior within or without, changes will take place.
We don’t have to create new ethics; we just need to live by the ones we already have.