August 2010 Archives

It's amazing how many people go through life with so little courage. Catching up this week with two friends who had been through A LOT left me shaking my head yet again about the way some people live such petty lives just because they are afraid - of stuff that is really such nothing!

Recently, a gentleman I had known for years died. When his name came up, a friend of mine commented, 

"We were in Manzanar together. I remember being just a little kid and he was always kind to me and looked out for me."

I thoug
First-graders, some of Japanese ancestry, at t...

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ht of the journey my friend had made in life from the Japanese internment camp to now, at nearly age 70, having been an international athlete, had a renowned career, a published author, the father of several adult children. In between those times, he had his wild days. There were a few years when every time I saw him, he was with a new woman. As he put it,

 "I wasn't always a role model."

My second friend took a different path. We both received scholarships to the same university. I graduated. He dropped out the first semester and went back to the barrio. He was arrested twice for murder, which was reduced to manslaughter. Went to prison twice. He was nearly killed in a prison riot, but survived. He also has several adult children now and is retired on disability. He worked at some manual labor jobs for a while but the years of hard living took a toll on his body.

So ... here we all are now, three friends for 40 years, who started out in a very similar spot 40 years ago. None of us came from homes with money and privilege. We all made choices and, for better or for worse, now we live with them.

Speaking about the BP oil spill, comedian Bill Maher when asked how he would answer those people who said if off-shore oil drilling was restricted then they would lose their jobs responded,

"Fuck your job!"

So, other people's jobs may be lost through oil spills, several years from now, you may lose your own job for any reason, the environment may be hurt, thousands of animals will be killed, but all of that is okay because you are afraid to have to look for another job. You might even have to move to another state.

And I think of my friend and his family losing their home, everything they owned and being forced to move several hundred miles from home. 

And I think of my other friend coming out of prison and after decades, turning his life around. As the Grateful Dead said, 

"What a long, strange trip it's been."

When you look at the things my friends have been through, the lives they have led, it's hard to really convince yourself that you cannot speak out against fraud in the work place, provide written testimony to an investigation on sexual harassment or quit a job in an organization that is completely unethical. What is the worst that will happen? I doubt they'll put you in an internment camp or send you to prison.

Have some courage and do the right thing, for God's sake!

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I told my husband that I was really surprised that more people read my blog on statistics than the Spirit Lake blogs. He said,


"I'm not surprised. As soon as you said the word 'ethics', I thought I wouldn't want to read it. Everybody hates those discussions about ethics."


Since YOU are reading it, it's obviously not everybody, but I think he is right in that a whole lot of people hate talking about ethics, even more than who hate statistics. And as someone who was statistics professor for twenty years, I can tell you, that's saying something.


WHY does everybody hate ethics? Partly, the same reason so many people hate math, it was just taught to them poorly. I'll be the first to admit that when we were looking for material for the ethics courses I read a whole lot of books and articles that   - well, let me just say that if it was possible for my brain to crawl out of my head to escape the boredom, you would have heard a big SPLAT from the sound of my grey matter hitting the floor.


Somehow, ethics has been captured by philosophers and business professors who write articles on whether a corporation is a person and the Universalist versus the Cultural Relativist - except they use way more words and make it even more boring than that sounds (hard to believe, I know).


The truth is that ethics is EXTREMELY important to being a good person living a good life in a good society.  You don't need to have long discussions about what is right - Lying on your time card, taking billions in federal bailout money and then paying yourself a $10 million dollar bonus, playing Internet bingo for hours instead of doing your job, hiring someone unqualified because he or she voted with you or slept with you - those things are unethical. I'm surprised I have to explain this to you.


When we are honest about the ethical problems and quit hide behind boring articles with their six-syllable words, then there is an expectation that maybe we should live a certain way.


A priest once gave the best definition I ever heard of ethics from a religious perspective. He said, 


"God's love is a challenge to us."


So, there it is. When we look ethical questions straight in the face in plain language, there is a demand that we DO something. We can't blame our problems on lack of training, a change in policy or procedure. What has to change is our CHARACTER. Our willingness to make the hard choices, do the right thing, even when it is hard, keep our word, even when it is inconvenient. What needs to change to make us better people living a better life in a better society is - us.




No wonder everybody hates ethics.