How Badly Do You Want an Ethical Society?

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I was reading an article on the Cherokee Nation constitutional convention today. It was part of the very, very, very extensive resources on the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. I have to admit that I had an ulterior motive. As a volunteer, I am the vice-president of the United States Judo Association. There are several judo organizations and in a nutshell I can just say that the larger and more formal they are, the more dysfunctional they are. The official governing body that selects the Olympic team has a board member who has had complaints of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, been charged with carrying a concealed weapon, and this person for years, while all of this was going on, oversaw the ETHICS COMMITTEE! I thought perhaps reading up on political science could provide me suggestions on how to work with these organizations and develop some kind of ethical behavior.

As I read the article by Eric Lemont, Overcoming the Politics of Reform:  The Story of the 1999
Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma Constitutional Convention
, I have to admit that I became progressively more discouraged about my own volunteer organizations. It isn't that Lemont's article was a story of failure. On the contrary, the challenges overcome by the efforts of members of the Cherokee nation were great. Many times, I found myself nodding in recognition of the complete disregard for policies, procedures and any sense of fair play in the tactics that brought about the constitutional crisis. My discouragement came from the realization that this was such hard work and just such a long, time-consuming process.

After reading this article, I read the latest post on Dr. Longie's blog, Dakota Hoksina (and don't make fun of me if I spelled that incorrectly, my grandparents immigrated from islands in the Caribbean, which is about as far from Sioux as you can be without leaving the planet or moving to China).

Anyway ... Erich's point in his blog is it takes effort to be ethical. He made the point explicitly that Lemont made implicitly, that is, it's hard to bring about ethical change. It can make you unpopular. It can require changes in yourself. Ethical change is hard and it's a long process. It is not a matter of simply reading a book on Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

When I faced up to the realization of the effort and commitment change in these volunteer institutions would required, I began to ask myself, "Do I want this change badly enough to devote this time and effort? Would I be better of spending my time on different causes?" For example, there is an organization called Circle of Friends that the students in my graduate course on research and statistics will be evaluating as a community service project. Maybe I should volunteer at my child's school or my church.

Here is the point, the question I asked myself and you need to ask yourself:

"How important is ethical change in this organization or community to me REALLY?"

Do you care enough about a dysfunctional school board to try to change it? If not, what DO you care enough about?

I don't believe there is a single right answer to that last question. The only wrong answer I can think of is, "Nothing." 

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