Friday, March 09, 2007

The New Ethics

It's time for me to present the first post of the new "journal" format. One of the things that I desire to do is write opinions on issues of morality and ethics. I hope that I can keep these things on more of a "macro" level, dealing with concepts that underlie all of the somewhat sensationalized noise that is so prevalent in most of media. I want to deal with the "questions behind the questions."

Mold was what clued me in to the "new ethics." These new principles of morality have been brought to my attention in the past few years, and I knew, somewhere in my heart of hearts, that they were wrong the first time I heard them. How did mold change my views on present-day values? Read on.

The safety committee of my company, of which I was at the time a member, had been called on to discuss mold as a "new" safety concern. The problem that many businesses in the construction and housing industries was that moisture had gotten into the structure--whether new construction or historic building--and mold had grown undetected in the wall cavities for years. People were beginning to get sick because of it and, as a result of this, were suing their landlords and contractors. When the question was asked what the connection was between the mold and the sickness, the answer was only that "no conclusive evidence could be found to support the connection between the mold and the sicknesses."

The next leap of logic is what let me know that this committee meeting was going in a very wrong direction. "We need to make sure our product isn't exposed to excess moisture that would cause mold growth...just to be safe!" Though there is no "conclusive evidence" and even though people have only recently become moldophobic, we need to be safe! Safe from what?

Another unfortunate event happened a few months later that reinforced my previous thoughts (which I will be getting to eventually). I was called to visit the site of a project for which our company had supplied some of the building products. Our product (beams, rafters, etc.) did not fit correctly and the angle of their roof had been thrown off. When the structural engineer inspected the site we discovered our product misinstalled and their building out of square. No wonder their roof was wrong! However, the general contractor was backcharging us more than $10,000 and making noises about a lawsuit.

The eventual result of the whole mess was that our company went to a series of meeting with the contractor and wound up having to pay "only" a few thousand in backcharges . At the same time we avoided a costly court battle. I quietly fumed over this until one co-worker remarked about how "well we had done" by only having to pay them the few thousand. "And, we didn't have to go to court and pay the legal fees!" This was a pivotal conversation for someone that is all to eager to publish his opinions.

In the first situation, what we were trying to be safe from was never the prospect of one of our unfortunate clients coming down with a mold-induced respiratory condition, it was to keep ourselves from getting sued! We were happy that we paid a mere $7K to a dishonest contractor because, when it was all said and done, we didn't have to pay our lawyer to go to court with us! It had nothing to do with our wanting to be honest and forthcoming about a faulty product we had supplied. It didn't have anything to do with wanting to do right by our customer. We weighed our pros and cons and cut our losses. I grudgingly accept this as a sad fact of American business, but please don't come to me with arguments of safety and principled uprightness.

The new ethics have effected our businesses, our neighborhoods, our churches, our non-profit organizations. The ethics talk of great things, but in reality are grounded in fear. The fear is one that keeps us from operating freely, but at the same time fills with fallacies that proclaim it is for the good of our children, our peace of mind, and--we might as well tell the truth about what is implied--our bottom line.

Will we continue to accept these type of arguments as valid? I cannot any longer.

Have you had to deal with this? I'd love to have your comments.

This is just one example of the type of issue that I wish to talk about on DARKSAYINGS. As rant-like as some of my writings sound, please know that I'm just a passionate guy who loves to talk about stuff that really matters. I hope you find it interesting and thought-provoking. Most of all, I hope you enjoy the time you spend here. I know I certainly do.

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