In a world of bad be­hav­ior, some rules to live by

Northern Berks Patriot Item - - OPINION - John C. Mor­gan Colum­nist John C. Mor­gan teaches ethics at Al­bright Col­lege’s School of Pro­fes­sional Stud­ies, and is the au­thor of eight books. He can be reached at dr­johnc­mor­[email protected]­hoo.com

In a world seem­ingly awash in bad news and be­hav­iors, it is easy to for­get some eth­i­cal high ground re­mains. But it does. If the par­ent of West­ern phi­los­o­phy, Socrates, was right, ethics is es­sen­tially what we be­lieve is the right way to live, and we do know from many times and cul­tures and re­li­gions there are some ba­sic be­liefs. Here are a few: • It is bet­ter to tell the truth than to lie.

• It is bet­ter to treat peo­ple fairly than mis­treat them.

• It is bet­ter to live in peace than war.

• It is bet­ter to do no harm to all liv­ing be­ings than make them suf­fer need­lessly.

• It is bet­ter to treat our planet re­spect­fully than abuse it.

• It is bet­ter to be hum­ble than haughty.

• It is bet­ter to think for your­self than be con­trolled by oth­ers.

• It is bet­ter to live a good life than waste it.

How do I know these things? Most of the world’s ma­jor spir­i­tual tra­di­tions tell me so, but just as im­por­tant I know these be­liefs through my life — not just when I lived them but when I did not.

There is a kind of or­der to life, call it karma, in which good or evil will be re­turned to you.

I also know from my life ex­pe­ri­ences that be­ing able to be clear about what one be­lieves is only half the bat­tle; the real strug­gle is in liv­ing the few ba­sic be­liefs that speak as loudly. How you live is just as im­por­tant, if not more, than what you say you be­lieve.

Cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance. These are two some­what ob­scure words when pieced to­gether say a great deal about what’s wrong with our cul­ture to­day.

The ba­sic mean­ing of these words ex­presses what hap­pens when you feel that what a per­son is say­ing is not what they be­lieve, that they are try­ing to put one over on you.

There’s a more com­mon word for this (B.S.) but there’s a great deal of it go­ing around these days.

It’s fed by po­lit­i­cal lead­ers who seem un­able to tell the truth, me­dia out­lets that only pro­mote one side of any ar­gu­ment, or re­li­gious spokes­peo­ple who say one thing and live just the op­po­site.

In de­clin­ing cul­tures, facts no longer mat­ter, ev­ery­thing is rel­a­tive, the only game in town is win­ning, and peo­ple in power prey upon oth­ers, es­pe­cially the weak and vul­ner­a­ble.

In vi­brant cul­tures, facts mat­ter, truth mat­ters, ev­ery­one win­ning mat­ters, and peo­ple in power serve oth­ers and not lord it over them mat­ters.

It’s easy to be cyn­i­cal, toss up one’s hands and re­treat to some safe cor­ner of your world think­ing you can hide. You can’t. The other great truth of life is that ev­ery­thing is in­ter­con­nected, in­clud­ing your cor­ner of the world to the world com­mu­nity. So, what can you do? First, be clear about where you stand and what you won’t stand for. Sec­ond, speak out, call out those who say one thing and act dif­fer­ently.

It’s not just the squeaky wheel that gets the oil, but any oil at all.

And third, start with your­self; if you can­not be an eth­i­cal per­son, don’t lec­ture oth­ers about their faults. Look at your own first.

Here is one eth­i­cal rule I found in thir­teen dif­fer­ent world spir­i­tual tra­di­tions that if ap­plied could change our cor­ner of the world:

Treat oth­ers as you wish to be treated.

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