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Character of a Country

Prior to this post, this site (up until recently) often had politically neutral entries penned by the Monday Morning Business Ethicist [MMBE] regarding moral/ethical challenges in business and society.

However, today’s entry will explore the topic of leadership and character with two proponents instead of only yours truly. While the topic initially appears to be a narrow one specifically addressed to evangelical Christians, I believe the principles can easily broadly be applied to anyone interested in business, corporate ethos, CEO leadership, and/or character at large.

Dr. David Miller [DDM] is a family physician who is also the Idaho director of the American Academy of Medical Ethics. We share a slight conservative bent politically, but he leaned toward the incumbent in the last election while I tilted toward the challenger.

Please follow our conversation and feel free to add your personal feedback [having first perused the comment guidelines above], plus including whether you enjoy our dialectic and would like to see more conversation, not only on business ethics, but covering the burgeoning field of biomedical ethics. Dr. Miller and I both agree it is essential in our society to see examples of healthy disagreement and heavy discourse amid deep respect/admiration among disputants.

I begin the exchange verbatim from our Facebook conversation on a mutual friend’s timeline … starting off with a misunderstanding of “who the actual combatants are in question,” and “a compare/contrast of personal character and individual properties.”

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MMBE: It seems that both sides share the same principle of desiring to glorify God.

However, one side prioritizes Godly character, while the other side prioritizes a Godly platform. We shouldn’t condemn each other for we all are brothers and sisters aiming at the same principle of pleasing the Lord.

DDM: I have to respectfully disagree my friend. To suggest that Joe Biden is more godly than Donald Trump is a stretch. To suggest Kamala Harris is more godly than Mike Pence is an absurdity.

Moreover, as a pro-life physician, I have been grateful that under President Trump I cannot be required to participate in or refer for abortion services. Under Biden/Harris there is a very real possibility that this will change. If Harris replaces Biden (remember Nancy Pelosi admitting she wasn’t referring to Trump when she talked about the 25th Ammendment?) then it’s almost assured.

MMBE: Apologies for my lack of clarity: I believe you and I do actually agree on these pro-life issues, in the character of, [qua] abortion.

The two sides to which I am referring are neither the Democratic and Republican parties nor their respective candidates, BUT the intra-warring factions of conservative Christianity — my directly addressing the discussion between the three persons in the timeline aboveon character.

Plus, even if we were comparing/contrasting godliness between the two candidates, wouldn’t we need to set forth and then prioritize specific criteria?

It would be like asking which candidate is physically healthier.

Would better health be based on a specific combination of factors such as lower blood pressure / lower cholesterol / low resting heartbeat / or higher cardiovascular frequency?

I contend for a more expansive, holistic, pro-life perspective (as argued by Mike Austin, a fellow Biola University Alumnus and current professor at Eastern Kentucky University), but I can understand why, as a family physician surrounded by patients actually going through these particular situations, you would be especially concerned about each candidate’s position regarding abortion services.

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A Speedy Confession

It’s not only business ethics, but a personal matter. I’ve never held such animus against an individual nor a president. If Black Lives Matter, Talibans for hire, Bibles as props, private parts for grabbing, Covid-19 bungling, etc., wasn’t enough, this intermittent stirring of the pot against my people represents the straw that breaks the proverbial back. Sir, You say you care about our great Asian-American citizenry. Well, your actions again prove the veracity of your verbiage. 45 makes me want to say and act in ways I’ve never before. But I hold back my nausea as a man of faith, and a person of principle. I will certainly vote against you come November in order to remove you from office, but as a professional Christian ethicist, I wish I could do more. As a professor, you don’t know how many transgressions you as our “leader” have participated in and led to lure me into becoming such a biased actor against the Republican Party of my youth. Usually, I would opt to take a neutral political stance in my writings and oratory on whomever holds your position; but I find that to do so now is immoral; so I confess I cannot. I will still argue the strongest case from both sides of the aisle, which is philosophical protocol; but to support you, Mr. President, would represent a violation of personal conscience.

I welcome any of my reader’s thoughts and feedback.

No apologies in advance …

The Monday Morning Business Ethicist

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Chain of Command

USS Theodore Roosevelt

Captain Brett Crozier was recently relieved of his naval duties. Why? In military service, the role of the chain of command is analagous to that of law in the relationship between ethics and morality. In the words of a navy commander, the chain of command is …

Ingrained in us from the moment (we) set foot in boot camp … the only proper channel for conducting legitimate operations …

To break the chain of command would require a situation of such gravity and/or breakdown in leadership and communication that it is the only remaining option!

Commander Aaron Carlton
United States Naval Chaplain Corps

Captain Brett Crozier inferred that if he were in actual combat, he would have muddled through the COVID-19 chaos, but since these operations were conducted during peacetime conditions, there was no reason for sailors to perish unnecessarily.

The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief of our armed forces. In the last few months, Donald J. Trump has had the misfortune of being at the crossroads of a worldwide pandemic, the consequent worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression, and massive race riots in response to police brutality in several cities across the country. 45 has not helped himself with his own militant rhetoric, in contrast to the position of Mark Esper, his current Secretary of Defense.

As mentioned before in previous posts of how the CEO sets the corporate ethos of the company, the President analogously has a major influence on the tone and tenor of the country. Like a master chef, the President creates the broth and adds key ingredients for either a healthy or heinous aroma in the kitchen. Each day, American citizens are forced to eat from the United States Cafeteria.

Is our country in a place of such societal gravity that intervention is needed? Previous secretary of Defense James Mattis seems to think so. For so long, he has not wanted to interfere with this current administration, in order to allow them maximum freedom to do their job. But like Captain Brett Crozier, he has finally felt the only option is to speak out against the chain of command / his superior officer, “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not … even pretend to try to unite the American people.”

His parting rejoinder to the master chef’s claim (per FOX News) that he believes he’s (been) treated worse than Abraham Lincoln, who was assassinated.

We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Park. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s “better angels,” and listen to them, as we work to unite.

Only by adoptng a new path–which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals–will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.

Former National Security Advisor James Mattis
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Crazy Rich Stereotypes

Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy (3 Book Series)In early fall 2018, a film based on the New York Times Bestseller, Crazy Rich Asians, will debut with an exclusive all-Asian cast. Similar to responses to the model minority myth, feedback from fellow Asians has varied. A question needing a response is whether ethnic exposure, however stereotypical or blatantly false, is ethical, or pragmatically superior to exhibiting nothing at all.

See the FaceBook conversation over this topic started under the group, “Progressive Asian-American Christians”

Wakanda is no bull$&@/ country

The Black Panther [2018] is Marvel Universe’s latest comic adaptation , and has garnered much public fanfare / revenue along with high acclaim from cinematic pundits . The film tells the tale of the native, fictional country of Wakanda . . . And, like any decent superhero screenplay, a good narrative should include [ORKA] an Origin / Creation Story, an account of the Royal Kingdom / Lineage, and an epic-concluding Armageddon, or the world’s final battle.

Elements of a Good Narrative

O – Origin / Creation Story

RK – Royal Kingdom

A – Armageddon/ Final Battle

There exists disagreement among surveyors of art regarding interpretation: An Intentionalist View of whether art is to be interpreted by the lens of the creator(s) versus a Subjectivist perspective upon whether art lies in the eye of the beholder.  The strengths of the former position lie in the authority of the creator to determine his/her perspective, and the inherent authority of the driving, creative force(s). The inherent motivations behind the latter view rest in the actual evidence of changing interpretations of artwork over time; the corresponding drawback of the intentionalist position involves the consequence that it makes the meaning of a work quite rigid and static.

Ruth Tallman advances a compromise: A view she labels Multiplism, which acknowledges authorial intentions among equal possibilities of other interpretations.

Corporate Ethos from the Top-Down

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick issued an apology and stepped down from his position as Chief Executive Officer after a video surfaced of him getting in an argument with his personal Uber driver and then shortly telling the man that some people don’t like to take individual responsibility.

This incident represented yet another stain on the company in a trail of sexual harrassment, discrimination, and pushing the envelope in legal and ethical boundaries. It also raises the question of how much the individual morality or personal ethics of a leader affects the corporate ethos or environment of the business culture. The ethos, or corporate climate, also winded up having an impact on the entire tech start-up industry itself, as evidenced by the avalanche of sexual harrassment revelations this week. Uber has also been found in violation of intellectual property laws and local/international driving regulations. My college mentor always mentioned that it’s naturally much easier to bring people down (e.g. from a chair) than to hoist them up. So it is with individual morality in an environment of corporate depravity.

 

Morality in the Wild, Wild Westworld

Many people divide morality up into categories of right and wrong. But this simplistic outlook may represent an infantile ethic.

In the HBO original series, “Westworld” (2016), guests in a futuristic theme park are allowed and encouraged to explore a land without ethical boundaries. However, a more mature moral system comprising nuances and qualifiers layered with categories of good, better, and best may be more realistic . . . an objective world devoid of absolutes, consisting of a continuum of ideals. In this moral landscape, we are neither robots nor androids, but human creations creatively endowed with the capability and privileged power of freedom and choice.

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Tesla Corporation deals with first death involving Autopilot system as Ethical distinction comes into play: Prospective Litigation (liability) versus Moral Culpability (murder indictment))

driverless carThe Tesla Corporation had its first death recently, putting a dark blemish on the nascent driverless car technology, and its vision of an accident–free society. It is indeed interesting to note that the issues holding these driverless cars from the market are NOT primarily technological NOR pragmatic–but ethical.  In  other words, if the Tesla automobile is forced to “choose” to hit someone, whom shall it collide with? It is simple to program the Tesla to slam into a tree versus Tammy Tatreau; but what if the “choice” were between an acquaintance and a second cousin named Tammy? Whom shall the Tesla hit? Who ought to live and/or get hurt? Until the automotive engineers and ethicists answer these questions, it may be wise to refrain from purchasing stock in driverless technology.

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Illegal, Immoral, or Inappropriate Questions?

Eli Apple, highly touted Defensive Back of the Ohio State Buckeyes, and top NFL draft prospect was allegedly asked in an interview about his sexual preferences / orientation — a clear legal violation and inappropriate question in the interview hiring process. While both illegal and inappropriate, the question over Apple’s sthexual orientation is not immoral; i.e., it is NOT a query violating moral  conscience nor a matter of ethical debate.  It is important to understand this distinction:  The act is against the law AND a hiring policy violation; but it is not an instance of transgressing a company’s ethical boundaries, despite one’s personal preferences on the matter.

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Groundhog Day


Groundhog Day is a traditional holiday celebrated on February 2, along with a concomitant romantic comedy of the same name groundhogstarring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog rises from his burrow , spring will come early.  If it is sunny, and the groundhog sees its shadow, and retreats back into its burrow, the winter weather will persist for six more weeks.

I absolutely hated this film, its very mention, even years after it came out. I can still hear the annoying radio wake-up call to this day; it even influenced my initial prejudice against viewing the Edge of Tomorrow (which contains parallel repetitive plot lines.

My family friend / hair stylist urged me to give this movie a second chance (as she adored the flick!). Since I frequently write on redemptive themes, I thought a two hour reinvestment was certainly worthy of a final viewing, so to speak. I hesitatingly placed the DVD on the tray,bracing myself for additional moments of visual torture and  punishment.  Surprisingly I found this particular viewing not only bearable but incredibly sweet, and I’m glad I was “forced” to watch Groundhog Day one more time! Bill Murray’s actions seemed to embody Jack Nicholson’s line from his and Helen Hunt’s romantic comedy . . . As Good as it Gets: “You make me want to be a better man.”

Thank you Andrea Ortiz for making me want to be a better writer!

The Monday Morning Business Ethicist

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