Men Need to Reclaim the Moral

Something I noticed when I taught Business Ethics, primarily to male students, is that men seem to think ethics is ‘a girl thing’. What? What?! (My god, that can explain everything!)

Men routinely insult other men who express concern about doing the right thing—“What are you, a fucking boy scout?” Note that boy scouts are children.

Worse, men who raise ethical questions are accused of going soft, being weak, being a bleeding heart. Note that these qualities are associated with being female. It’s thus emasculating to be concerned about right and wrong. What?!

Apparently, Mom is assigned the role of teaching the kids right from wrong. And, of course, anything Mom does is held in contempt as soon as a boy hits twelve, so this may partly explain why men eschew ethics.

Right and wrong is also the arena of priests and we all know priests aren’t real men. They’re celibate for god’s sake.

Ethics presumes caring, and real men don’t care. (They especially don’t cry, tears being evidence of caring about something.) They may protest that they can’t ‘afford’ to care; they have to make real decisions about profit and war, and feelings just get in the way. As if ethics is all, only, about feelings. (Where did they get their education? Oh, they didn’t. We don’t actually teach ethics. Except in a few university courses.)

The problem is men run the world. And it’s not going well.

Isn’t it about time men reclaim the moral? If rising above the gendered worldview is too much, then just redefine your terms a bit—and for gawdsake Man up! Consider (and then do) the right thing!

No Advertising in Public Space

I once read a sci fi novel in which holographic ads suddenly appeared in front of you, ‘blocking’ your way, almost continuously, as you made your way down a city street. It made me imagine people paid by perfume companies wandering through the streets assailing me with sample sprays…

I am a strong advocate of prohibiting all advertising in public spaces. There is no justification for the desires of one person, let alone the desire of one person for money, to be imposed on everyone. Furthermore, there are enough alternative venues for advertising (radio, tv, newspapers, magazines, websites, malls), all of which, unlike, often, public space, can be used or not (especially as long as there are advertising-free radio, tv, magazine, and website options), making the use of public space is simply unnecessary.

We should be able to go about our lives without the constant assault on the senses, on the mind, that is advertising. Of course this is an argument made by someone who notices ads, who pays attention to her environment, who thinks about what she sees. For most people, ads are not such an assault, because they’re unconsciously perceived. But then they’re even more coercive, subliminally manipulative, and even more indefensible in public space.

Advertising is not only cognitively coercive, but physically dangerous when it appears on roadsides, especially in animated form, which shameless tries to take drivers’ attention off the road. Would we allow drivers to watch tv, similarly visual content with moving images, while they drive?

An additional argument applies to natural environment public space (forest, field, lake, ocean) which is, to my mind, beautiful (or at least more beautiful than city). In this case, there is the added transgression of the destruction of beauty. It was a sad, sad day when advertising was allowed along the perimeter of the rink and even on the ice during figure skating performances. Years to achieve the perfect lines, sullied by persisting, in-your-face, BUY-MY-SHIT signs we can’t help but see while we try to focus on the beauty. (And it’s not like the sign enhances the beauty. It’s not like the sign itself is remotely beautiful.)

Would those of us who can hear allow a deaf person to make a clamour with cymbals all day long? Then why do we allow aesthetically-challenged CEOs to do the same? Why do we allow our natural beauty to be degraded, destroyed, piece by piece, by those who are, obviously, blind to its beauty? Is it because we don’t recognize the beauty or because we don’t value it (or, at least, don’t value it over the individual pursuit of money). (Seriously? Do we really believe that an individual’s desire for money trumps so much?) (Well, no, the people with the power to make regulations believe that. And they are as aesthetically-challenged. And often CEOs.)


Cellphone Syndrome

Originally written when cellphones first appeared.  Don’t think I’d change a thing.

Has there been a more transparent advertisement of insecurity?

Look at me, I’m so popular!  Everyone’s calling me!  I have so many friends!  Answer that thing one more time when I’m with you, you’ll have one less.

Look at me, I’m so busy!  I have so many calls to make, so many calls to take!  What you have is a total inability to actually enjoy life.

Look at me, I’m so important!  Excuse me, I have to take this call!  No.  You don’t.  You are not a doctor on call.  You are not a top-level executive.  Neither your presence nor your opinion is urgently required.  Anywhere.  By anyone.

Frankly, it’s frightening.  Suddenly all these men are making calls on their cellphones while they’re driving.  Just yesterday they couldn’t even dial a phone while sitting at a desk, they had to get their secretaries to do it for them.

And of course it’s annoying as hell.  Just what makes people think the rest of the world wants to listen to every word of their unbearably inane conversations?  “Hey, Jen.  We’re at the Van Houtte on St. Laurent.  Yeah.  Just ordered.  No.  Not yet.  We’re waiting.  Coffee.”

Of course people have been having conversations in cafes and stores, and on sidewalks and buses, for quite some time.  It’s not an invasion of public space.  Unless the person TALKS LOUDLY ENOUGH EVERYONE CAN’T HELP BUT HEAR.  Then it’s an advertisement of the immaturity of overriding self-importance.

But that doesn’t explain why a person talking loudly on a cellphone in public is even more annoying than two people having a loud conversation in public.  Why is that?  I think it’s because in the case of the cellphone conversation, we hear only half of the conversation.  However annoying the whole conversation would be, half of it is even worse.  It’s like hearing only every second work in a sentence.  (Speaking of which, remember the early “ – ar ph – s”?)  This occurred to me when I heard someone speaking on a cellphone in a language I didn’t understand.  It wasn’t quite as bad.  I wasn’t engaged against my will in a frustrating half-comprehensible experience.

But what’s most worrisome about the widespread use of cellphones is that it indicates not progress, but regress.  We are, in fact, devolving.  Imagine, for a moment, what it would’ve been like to have been the first one in your cave to discover thought, the first one to hear words, inside your head.  It’s a neat and handy trick – not having to say out loud everything that occurs to you.  And one of the more valuable side-effects of being able to think is being able to evaluate – to deliberate, to compare, to measure.  (And to realize that not everything that occurs to you is worth saying out loud.)  But we’ve gone backwards – from “I think, therefore I am” to “I talk, therefore I am.”  (I wonder if cellphone users can read without moving their lips.)

Given the recent increase in attention deficit (what we used to call ‘a short attention span’) (usually in reference to children and other less advanced creatures), the cellphone phenomenon is not surprising: it takes a certain amount of attention or concentration to think – to focus on and follow that little voice inside your head.  It used to be that doing two things at once meant your ability to concentrate was so good, you could divide your attention.  Now it means that your ability to concentrate is so bad, you can’t pay attention to any one thing for more than ten seconds.

(Either that or you don’t care enough to pay attention to anything or anyone for more than ten seconds.)

And maybe cellphones wouldn’t have become the annoyance they are if everyone hadn’t ditched their landline phones.  Because now the ONLY place you can have a phone conversation is OUTSIDE.  Wherever the signal is good.  Whether that happens to be outside someone’s bedroom window or one foot away from a stranger waiting for a bus, well, no matter.  Your conversation takes priority.  To everything and everyone.  Apparently.

The Provocation Defence – Condoning Testosterone Tantrums (and other masculinities)

According to the Canadian Criminal Code (and probably a lot of other criminal codes), murder can be reduced to manslaughter if the person was provoked.  Provocation is defined as “a wrongful act or an insult that is of such a nature as to be sufficient to deprive an ordinary person of the power of self-control is provocation for the purposes of this section if the accused acted on it on the sudden and before there was time for his passion to cool” (CCC 232.(2)).

It is unfortunate that “an ordinary person” is used as the standard for judgment rather than “a reasonable person”.  The ordinary person, in my experience, is not particularly reasonable.  The ordinary person is a walking mess of unacknowledged emotions and unexamined opinions, most of which are decidedly unreasonable.

Furthermore, Read the rest of this entry »

The Right to Life – a given?

What if the right to life was a natural, inalienable human right to age 18, but after that it was an acquired, alienable right?  So you had to deserve it somehow, you had to deserve to be alive.  And you could lose it, by doing any of a number of things…

Needs and Wants

I don’t like living in a global community.  When everything is so interconnected, everything I do (or don’t do) is bound to be at someone else’s expense.  Mere self-interest seems impossible; selfishness is inevitable.

For example, Read the rest of this entry »

Making Certain Words Illegal

Hate speech.  Libel.  Slander.  Threat.  Intimidation.  Blasphemy.

‘Making words illegal violates our freedom of speech!’  Of course it does.  But that freedom, like many others, isn’t absolute.  Our freedoms are limited freedoms.  They are limited by several things (Joel Feinberg identifies six liberty-limiting principles), one of which is the harm principle.  That is, when our action harms another person or society in general, it is limited.  It is illegal.

‘But speech isn’t an action.  I didn’t do anything.  I just said – ’  Saying is doing.  Words are speech acts.  They are acts of speech.  And anyway, if the result is the same, does the method really matter?

‘Yeah but the result isn’t the same.  Words can’t hurt you.’  Well, not physically, no.  But they can cause psychological injury.[1]  And there’s the heart of the matter: should we make causing psychological injury illegal?

Actually, that’s not the heart of the matter.  Yes, we should, and we do.  The crime of torture includes acts which inflict severe mental pain or suffering (CCC 269.1[1]).

The heart of the matter is Read the rest of this entry »

Canada Day – Are you sure you want to celebrate?

Before you get all patriotic and fly your little Canadian flags in celebration of Canada Day and, presumably, of being Canadian, think about it. Are you really proud to be: Read the rest of this entry »

Air Bands and Power Point

I still remember the feeling I had when I saw my first air band performance. It was a sick kind of feeling.

I hadn’t known what an air band was. The announcement came over the p.a. at my school-for-the-day, and I dutifully shepherded the class to the gym. Then I watched, incredulous, as group after group of high school students came on stage and pretended to play their favourite songs. I mumbled a query to the teacher standing next to me. Apparently this air band stuff was quite big. Students spent weeks practising. They really wanted to get it right. ‘It’ being the appearance, the pretence. Read the rest of this entry »

The Futility of Teaching Business Ethics or Why Our World Will End

There are four reasons why teaching ethics to business students is an exercise in futility.

1. The profit motive trumps everything. As long as this is the case, there’s no point in teaching students the intricacies of determining right and wrong. Whether something is morally acceptable or not is simply irrelevant to them. It might come into play when two options yield the same profit, but how often does that happen? And even so, other concerns are likely to be tie-breakers. Read the rest of this entry »