I was thinking about morality and the many shades of it and how it relates to religion. Religious people I know talk about a “still, small voice,” ie god’s voice, telling them what is right. For the non-religious, this is called a *conscience*.
Religious people have satan whom they blame for the wrong they do, and god from whom they can get absolution. Me, I know it’s just me, and I must stew in my own shitty juices for the wrong I do because I caused it. There is no satan. There is only my selfishness and vanity, a slimy twinset, battling it out with my best self. My best self isn’t completely selfless; there’s no need for that. But my best self always knows the right thing to do.
An old acquaintance recently contacted me and suggested we get together. This is someone who, in a certain circle of girlfriends, caused a font of speculation. Her dating choices, clothing, life decisions all came under scrutiny because she wasn’t quite Alicia Silverstone in “Clueless,” so didn’t have that power over people, but she was attractive enough and outlandish enough to inspire envy and desperate derision.
As I asked for time to “check the schedule,” which is the introvert’s way of saying, “I’m not sure I have the energy to do this so I have to invent something that may cause me to cancel at the last minute,” I was conscious of the fact that this would give me a lot of mileage, a lot of cachet. No one else sees her, no one else is maybe getting together with her. I don’t owe her anything– not loyalty, not silence, not a promise of protecting her reputation, nor defense to others.
The right thing, though. Digging me in the solar plexus. It’s saying, “Don’t be an ass.”
She is not part of a collection. She is not an amusing anecdote.
I have been part of a collection, I have been the amusing (or instructive) anecdote (for some reason I keep typing anecdon’t, which sort of works here). I have been aware of being part of a conversation in which the other party was filing me away for other use. It feels like exploitation. I guess it is exploitation, because the exchange between the two parties is neither equal nor are the motives of one fully exposed. For who would openly say, “Can I get you to divulge something so I can use it later (at work, in a sermon, in the next gossip circle)–?
We have become a people who allow people to do the wrong thing– and we forgive too easily. I’m not talking about crime, I’m talking about shit like this, the shades of morality–ETHICS.
I’m talking about paying people properly and as well as you can– Ben & Jerry’s ice cream have a formula for doing this– the company makes money (no need to be selfless), but the janitor makes a living wage. They have a governing principle to address what “doing the right thing” might look like. For far too many companies, paying people means paying as little as the market will bear– and that is just shitty. If the CEO of a company owns multiple homes, there is room in the company to pay people more than minimum wage.
I’m talking about being the company that, when looking at the Affordable Care Act, does not roil up the entire structure to whittle its size to under 50 employees and does not cut employee hours to just under thirty per week to avoid implementing something that very well may work. Be the company that pauses long enough to figure out a way to make it work EVEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO SO. Will competitors laugh at you for being a sucker? Maybe– but sometimes doing the right thing means taking small hits, to ego, to pride, and yes, to the bottom line. Winning doesn’t mean dying with the most money– define what winning means to include giving a shit about people who work for you. Be the bigger person who CAN do that.
I’m talking about Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford. I’ve got no beef with getting laid, gentlemen, but kindly do it within the law and either with the consent of your wife (see Dan Savage’s column “Savage Love” for how to do this) or do the remedial work needed to make her your ex-wife. We are far too hung up on the sex aspect– who cares! And not concerned nearly enough with the lack of judgement each has shown. And in ways big and small we’ve forgiven these guys, way too much, way too soon. Yeah, fuck that.
I’m NOT talking about NJ governor Jim McGreevey, or that evangelist Ted Haggard– seeking gay sex on the side. What they did was wrong– no question. But it wasn’t as sleazy, because each was enmeshed in a culture that would not allow them to be gay– McGreevey maybe could’ve should’ve come out, but I understand why he felt he couldn’t. Haggard– that dude was screwed. He fell into the wrong pool, and unfortunately swims in it still. I wish them both peace, and boyfriends.
I’m talking about taking the blame instead of making excuses, not tailgating elderly drivers, tipping waitstaff more than sufficiently. I’m talking about stepping up, owning up, realizing that putting big boy/big girl pants on means acting like a parent or caretaker to anyone who is under or weaker or less powerful than you. This means children, sure, but it also means your staff, your spouse at a vulnerable time, people who render any service (the checkout clerk) or need a service from you (a client or customer). You must do the right thing by and for these people. Let’s make it biblical: ‘…Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ That’s coming from Jesus, people! Would you cheat on Jesus? Would you pay him $7.25 an hour if you could afford more? Would you hide assets from him, or yell at him over the phone because the cable guy was an hour late?
You know what to do… Just do it.