In grad school, I took an ethics course that pitted students against each other in weekly debates about various issues. As the weeks went on, it got harder and harder to announce a winner of these debates. There were so many factors to consider in each issue and it was difficult for everyone to make a decision on what they would do if they were ever in a given position.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about morals: how they affect us and the lengths people are willing to do to defend them. A couple recent situations have sparked these ponderings.
1) Work life – A few weeks ago, one of my—well, everyone’s—favorite co-workers sat down at my desk to chat and I could tell something was bothering her. She is normally one of the funnest people, always trying to make everyone laugh with her silly antics and that day she was visibly upset by something that was going on at work. Though she didn’t get into specifics, she alluded to problems with working for an organization whose upper management did not share the same morals that she does.
Now, it is common belief among the employees at the office that the “higher-ups” are out for themselves and do not have the organization’s best interests at heart. Whether or not that is the case, I will probably never know. However, I have had more than one person confide in me about decisions and actions that I, personally, have been saddened to hear. Regardless, I need this job and don’t see myself leaving any time soon.
Unfortunately, my co-worker did not feel the same way and has left the organization.
I can’t say that I’m surprised—though I hoped and hoped the rumor of her leaving wasn’t true—but I have to admire her for walking away from a position for alleged ethical reasons. It takes a lot of guts to stand up for what you believe in and she is an example of the type of woman I am proud to know.
2) Discovering the TV show Weeds – For weeks, my mother has been pestering me to watch Weeds and I have finally found the time to do so. I’m so glad I have because I love it!
For those who may not know the long-running Showtime drama, it’s about a widow named Nancy with two sons who sells pot to make end’s meat. The show deals (no pun intended) with many other issues including extra-marital affairs, cancer, teenage sexual identity, and racial tension.
Nancy justifies her behavior by telling those around her that she’s doing it for her family. Without her husband, she seems to be falling apart financially as well as emotionally. At least in the first two seasons.
If you haven’t seen it, watch it. It’s a great show and not just because of the theme song. “Little Boxes” has been on repeat in my head for the last few days.
So here I am, with two situations and I wonder what I would do if that were me in these women’s shoes. Would I have the strength to stand up for what I believe in and walk away from an organization that I find to be morally deficient? If I had nowhere else to turn, would I resort to selling illegal drugs to support my family?
The answer to both of those is: probably not.
I am one that does believe that people should treat others as they would themselves, even when it comes to business. I know that people do get ahead by stomping on others to get to the top, but I don’t believe those are the types of leaders that I would want to follow. I can’t respect someone who does that. Sure, there are people who will stop at nothing to get ahead, but I’ve never wanted to be one of those people. I just couldn’t sleep at night if I had known that I achieved something by crushing someone else. Unfortunately, I am not a gambler. I will not risk a full-time, stable job in this economy because I don’t agree with decisions that are made. It makes me sad to realize that a paycheck is more important to me than ethics, but a girl’s gotta eat.
As far as selling drugs, though I realize I can never know what having dependents are until I have a child, I would be too afraid of jail time to come to that. Sure, it makes for great television, but the reality of the drug culture is a lot grittier than a gorgeous house in the suburbs. However, if I had little mouths to feed, I’m sure I would stop at nothing to make sure that they were clothed, fed, and cared for regardless of where that put me.
I guess it all boils down to what a person can and cannot ethically live with.