WOW Word-Of-the-Week #382: Moral

December 1, 2011 by  

Moral – conforming to standards of what is right or just in behavior and personal character.

Do you make decisions based on what is morally and ethically right? Do you think our society is experiencing moral decay? Have you been shocked by the headlines over the past month?

I have been haunted by the events that occurred at Penn State and shocked by the pepper spraying of shoppers on Black Friday. My first thought is, “What are these people thinking?”

David Brooks article in the New York Times titled, “WHAT IF YOU HAD BEEN IN PATERNO’S SHOES?” states, “First came the atrocity, then came the vanity. The atrocity is what Jerry Sandusky has been accused of doing at Penn State. The vanity is the outraged reaction of a zillion commentators who say they would behaved better. They would have taken action and stopped any sexual assaults.”

“Unfortunately, none of us can safely make that assumption. Over the course of history – during the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide or the street beatings that happen in American neighborhoods – the same pattern has emerged. Many people do not intervene. Very often they see but they don’t see. So many people do nothing while witnessing ongoing crimes, psychologists have a name for it: The Bystander Effect. The more people are around to witness the crime, the less likely that are to intervene.”

“People are really good at self-deception. We attend to the facts we like and suppress the ones we don’t. We inflate our own virtues and predict we will behave more nobly than we actually do. Instead of asking, ‘How could they have let this happen?’ The proper question is: How can we ourselves overcome our natural tendency to evade and self-deceive? That was the proper question after Abu Ghraib, Bernie Madoff, the Wall Street follies and a thousand other scandals. But it’s a question this society has a hard time asking because the most seductive evasion is the one that leads us to deny the underside of our own nature.”

This week let’s focus on what is morally right. If human nature is to not intervene then we need to make a conscious decision to do just the opposite. Do you believe that by being aware of our natural tendency to evade and self-deceive, we can change that behavior?

Reader Responses

“Right on, Susan! You really hit the nail on the head. Thank you for speaking up.” – Margie

“The Penn State situation is shocking because none of us who follow sports ever believed that such a thing could happen under the nose of Coach Joe Paterno, who has basically been a paragon of virtue during the 61 years he has worked at Penn State. It was just hard for people to believe that “ordinary” Joe would allow this to go on. What happens in these situations with big schools or companies is that the damage control instituted is designed not to excise the cancer but to protect the bigger company. The individuals who were abused, many of them came from broken homes, none of which could have added to the endowment of the university. So, because they are voiceless, cloutless and from broken homes, they don’t matter. What is lost is that they are human beings. THESE ARE LIVES. These young people have feelings and emotions and futures, that have been compromised badly. How will they go on? The mindset of “protecting the brand” and settling cases is what started the Catholic Church down the road to ruin. What a shame! When it was Joe Paterno, the reaction was, “Whom do I believe and/or look up to anymore?” If you can’t trust JoePa, whom do you trust? It seems that Syracuse University has taken the same tack in the Bernie Fine situation. The university fired the longtime assistant coach, while retaining the basketball coach Jim Boeheim. And what did he know about his assistant and when did he know it? Fine has been beside Boeheim’s side for 36 years. But the university head decided to keep the coach. We will see how long he keeps his job. What I told a friend, who is a big Penn State fan, is that these men, who we put on a pedestal, are HUMAN BEINGS. They are prone to moral lapses, just like the rest of us. So, if we are not careful, we are prone to be disappointed by human beings. It happens. All we can hope for is that they – and WE – do the right thing. We can’t turn our heads just because it does not directly involve us. Too many lives could be ruined. Life is too short. Thanks, Susan. Hopefully we will get through this, but it is a stain on too many. May God bless the ones who have been hurt. Thanks, Susan. Take care.” – “Warrior” Joe


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