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Philosophy of Phantasy Phootball

XLIX Ethics

With all this hoopla and outcry over the last few moments of the Superbowl, a casual observer could be led to believe that something (even of moral or ethical import) went seriously wrong.  Talk radio was abuzz assigning blame and finger pointing to the now-infamous “call” ( the Seattle Seahawks’ final offensive play was overanalyzed myriad ways. As a lifelong Hawks fan, it’s easy to look at the wrong end of a 28-24 Superbowl result, and cry “foul.” We wish to blame officials, coaches, coordinators, and/or other players or appeal to the zebra suits or a higher power for assistance in overturning the results. But the decision wasn’t a moral move, and definitely not an ethical one–even though it seems as if something went drastically awry.   The play could be described at best as unwise, and at worst foolish. Even the coaches and players ultimately assumed personal responsibility (see Russell Wilson’s and Kam Chancellor’s response in particular: http://www.fieldgulls.com/…/seahawks-players-react-to-super…

I’m sad (and probably tasted a small portion of what it felt to be a Green Bay Packers devotee a couple weeks ag0 in the NFC Championship; but the Seattle Seahawks will be back in the big game again. Or at least they ought to be . . .  See y’all in San Francisco next year. But when the emotions die down, we will realize that we failed to capitalize on a good play call against a goal line defense (designed to stuff the run (Marshawn), and Malcolm Butler made a mad play (deserving the MVP keys of that truck).  Congratulations to the New England Patriots for winning one of the greatest championships in recent memory. It was a classic battle  truly deserving of the term Super Bowl.

A New Philosophy of Disability

imagesI recently learned that my dear friend and former USC Trojan graduate student colleague Brian Glenney had become a philosopher-tagger As a graffiti artist, he was now altering disability icon signs in Boston. I asked him” why,”? for this vocational transition represented such a radical departure trom his graduate school training nd academic studies focusing on  the philosophy of vision and the eye.

As a former SAT and GRE test prep instructor, I constantly immersed myself and my students in prefixes, roots, and suffixes. For instance, the latin prefix ‘dis’ actually stands for not, not any, or apart.  Thus, to disengage is to break off contact and dismember means to remove the limbs . . . hardly reassuring images . Dis per se as a slang term is to disrespect another. It’s no wonder that disabilities inspire negative connotations as they literally denote not having abilities or at minimum some particular malfunction. I recall handing out bulletins sitting in my wheelchair outside my church last weekend and a parishioner whispering in my ear that he would pray “that I would one day be normal.” There remains a lingering impression that those in wheelchairs are abnormal or somehow not whole. As a reflective philosopher, Brian noticed his own biases/prejudices of  disabled people, and wanted to do something about it.  In his night job, he  wanted to shift the conversation from DISabilities to LIMITLESS CAPABILITIES, from restrictions and what one may not be able to do to endless possibilities.

I share Bran’s long-term vision that our philosophical discipline  can be integrated into all sorts of real-life applications. I have had to be more creative in my own tagging exploits in the Midwest. The sequel to M. Night Shyamylan’s sensual classic, Signs (2002), exemplifies this exploration//fascination.  I have been fortunate to explore what I thought was not possible (with a little assistance). May the conversation and dialogue continue.

N.B. Dr. Albert J. Chan summarized/expanded on this post in a talk to B.R.A.I.N.(Brain Rehabilitation and Injury Network) on Tuesday, September 30 to their weekly rally of over 100 brain injury survivors, their families, friends, caregivers, and therapists.

What Exactly is Business Ethics?

A cashier finds out that I teach business ethics and immediately straightens up out of her slouch and carefully counts out my change. A sales representative discovers I’m a business ethicist and responds, “Oh ___! how am I doing?” Others laugh at the apparent oxymoron of corporate morality.

Is business ethics about etiquette or keeping a strict moral code? As a business ethicist, am I simply a good behavior appraiser? The answer is yes . . . but not just that. While the field of business ethics includes the creation and enforcement of regulations, morality judgments tend to be considered at minimum legal and ethical levels.

The mere identification of immoral behavior is often unproductive and ineffective. A Ph.D. in business ethics is not required to decide that Bernie Madoff’s multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme is wrong. Professional business ethicists are not needed to confirm that the reward from Munich Re, the world’s biggest insurer, of prostitutes to top sales representatives is unethical. What’s interesting and useful is exploring the respective issues affecting companies on a daily basis−such as moral hazard (risking someone else’s property without taking on the associated responsibility) and how incentives affect corporate morale and production−in order to offer concrete reflection and practical solutions.

Our field excels in looking at acceptable business practices and economic systems requiring further analysis, including marketplace dilemmas which don’t have obvious answers. What are the benefits and drawbacks of capitalism and conservationism? Are sweatshop labor and outsourcing obvious evils? Should transcendent principles or “When in Rome . . .” govern international trade?

Many people believe that business ethics is a contradiction in terms at worst and an unenforceable set of real-world rules to live by at best. While improved individual behavior is a worthy goal of business ethics, a broad business ethical vision incorporates critical marketplace reflection at the systemic, corporate, and personal levels with realistic moral and economic change.

The Karate Brand trumps Kung Fu Reality

After seeing The Karate Kid (2010), a martial arts remake of the 1984 original, my daughter asked me why the movie wasn’t called the Kung Fu Kid. She was not alone in her query. The blockbuster is actually entitled The Kung Fu Kid in China, and known as Best Kid in South Korea and Japan.

A mini uproar from minority communities and film source devotees has emerged as allegations of cultural ignorance, potential racism, and deindividuation have resulted from the film keeping its original title. Critics cite this lack of distinction between accurate depictions of Japanese (Karate) and Chinese (Kung Fu) culture as a misrepresentation of truth and reality.

Producer Jerry Weintraub defends retaining the name (see 3:03 in his interview) as a brand issue. To Weintraub’s defense, a good explanation of how the protagonist (Smith) believes his Karate will help him defeat the Chinese bullies would represent a defensible starting point. However, the ‘film devotee rant’ and Weintraub interview explicitly and implicitly declare that movie studios inherently have a right to make money by whatever means necessary.

The marketing industry often walks a thin line between exaggeration and falsehood. Products and services are considered ‘must haves,’ and peripheral desires become necessities for human flourishing. Some defend advertising’s role in promoting economic growth and portray it as a cultural mirror of existing consumer values/visions of the good life. Others see the industry as representative of everything wrong with the free market. The critical question for the brand is when and where to draw the line between full disclosure and a desirable profit share, artistic license, and perpetuating a lingering stereotype.