Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Rules of ethics can be easily compromised

 AhH, ethics in Trinidad and Tobago—some may say that there is none and they may be right. 

We see our leaders in Government and society being caught in situations that are obviously unethical and immoral. These individuals may be a representation of the general public they are a part of. Here, our “humanity” 

always seems to override our “Christianity”. We seem to have adopted the “me” attitude and a selfish “eat-a-food” mentality. 

If you ask Trinbagonians about crime, what they would only be talking about is murder. We do not consider other things as crime because we do it and call it something else. Trinbagonians break laws in Trinidad and Tobago as there is little or no enforcement of them. Some laws, unfortunately, are also broken by some of our law enforcement officials. Apparently, you are only guilty if you get caught. 

Interestingly, ethics is more than just obeying laws. One’s personal values are based on one’s moral, religious, cultural and lifestyle experiences. It is the belief, portrayal and use of these values that is the determination of one’s ethical principals. However, how we act may contradict these personal principles, based on the greater good or loyalty. 

We need to act rationally, with facts and other information at our disposal for consideration. Many times, it is not a choice between two different ideas but a compromise that can be taken to benefit and satisfy all concerned. When values are in conflict, religion seems to be the first thought for many. The Golden Rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (found in most religions, maybe stated differently) seems to be a subconscious thought in people minds. 

No matter how we live our daily lives, we sometimes think of God and religion in times of peril and conflict. We should be praying and asking God for guidance and understanding in making the right decision as a way of satisfying

our soul, and thus our mind. This is about moral values, which produces proper ethical values.

It has been often said that we should “do the right thing”. This has caused most of the dilemmas and conflicts in people’s ethical decisions over the years. In doing the right thing, people may feel that other interests would be severely and adversely affected, and thus the dilemma. Is it a genuine concern for others or fear of repercussion for our actions that sometimes drive us to act? This, in essence, represents the two parts of the same coin. One thing is certain, we eventually make a decision and we convince ourselves that it is the right one, based on duty and obligation or for the greater good. 

In some cases morality may override important ethical principles. This could be classified as virtuous ethics where your beliefs and ideals are overridden for a moral decision. “A virtue ethics perspective requires that you look to the community that will hold you to the highest ethical standard and support your intention to be a virtuous person,” taken from Ethics and the Individual (2010). 

Laws and regulations create a “do no harm” or “for the greater good” ethical direction for practitioners to follow. Duty to society is paramount in the ethical ideals of these laws and regulations, and duty to oneself, colleagues or organisation is less emphasised. There are ramifications, legal and otherwise, if individuals and businesses break these laws and regulations. As I stated earlier, we constantly defy and disobey laws and regulations. We should be living by the rule of not doing anything to affect others severely or adversely. 

The ancient Greeks have come up with cardinal virtues of temperance, justice, courage and wisdom, which were meant to elicit proper values and ethics. The Greek philosopher Plato, back in 300 BC, surmised, “Man in himself is immoral, and he will do anything, if he knew he could get away with it.” 

I have to add, Plato must have met a Trini.

John Gaskin

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