This essay looks at individual ethics as determined by factors such as race, culture and religion. The last essays dealt with violence, in particular War and its relation to Ethics. A conclusion was simple: Ethics and Morals are totally incompatible with any aspect of War or other forms of violence. War means utter destruction in all possible ways. Another conclusion said that peaceful means of spreading “good” Ethics are not truly effective.

Down to Earth

What about us as individuals? I stated that, generally, our personal Ethics convictions are stronger than those of governments and other institutions who would like to control our thoughts. How come? What is driving this individual strength? Is it stubbornness, inflexibility, Young woman thinking hardignorance, stupidity, fear, bravery, a Higher Power, peer pressure or opportunistic plots?

It may be all of that to some degree. Ethics on a personal level do not exist in isolation from the World around us. But however these Ethics are formed in us, they stay with us while evolving over time. I’ll make a brave effort to classify and discuss some of these individual influences.

Regardless of the strength of our individual Ethical convictions, there are times when other, external factors override them. For instance, soldiers may well be ordered to commit acts that are inconsistent with their personal Ethics. This has led to numerous Court Martials in the current Iraq war. In World War I, some one thousand soldiers were executed for cowardice or desertion – largely because the conflict between personal ethics and the will of superiors became too big. Other examples of curtailed personal ethics include prisoners, POWs, slaves, refugees, hostages and other groups whose civil liberties are curtailed. But the curtailment of Ethical standards does not mean their permanent withering in the individual.

Perhaps a graph of mine (it’s got a Star wars feel, doesn’t it?) will help – hopefully it will not cloud an already difficult subject. The text at the bottom “No Start, No End” indicates that this process is as long as life. The process starts at birth and ceases at death. Some will argue this process started at the dawn of time and will continue as long as there are individuals to carry the torch. Perhaps it is so.

The process flow starts at the left, continues in a clock wise matter to the upper right, lower right and back towards the left.

The process flow starts at the left, continues in a clock wise matter to the upper right, lower right and back towards the left.How ethics interact with reality and moralityHere is the idea: Mother Earth (and the Universe) provides a wealth of information of various kinds – some positive, some negative. The 1a and 1b callouts give some examples of the information our brains receive at an astonishing pace (Arrow marked 2). Our senses together with our brain process this information in real time (Callout 3).

The processing is guided by some very strange rules, only partially understood. It involves using some of the information, discarding some and adding interpretations based on experience and who knows what. The result is an interpretation of the incoming data that is safe for us and possibly utterly distorted and perhaps totally inaccurate – callout 3, again, in the graph.

The interpretation goes on to create selective, practical and actionable information. This information is judged against prior knowledge. The brain reaches a verdict as to the value, relevance and importance of the current information. The verdict, of course, varies. It might lead to an action, it might not. It may provide feedback – or not (Arrow 6). It might become part of our database for future use, or it might not. Perhaps the verdict and its data will be reprocessed. It might simply be ignored and quickly discarded – probably the vast volume of incoming data ends up discarded. Arrow 4 illustrates these phenomena in the graph.

Our judgments and possible actions depend on our three built-in yardsticks: Our interpretation of data (the perceived Reality), our tribunal judgments (the personal Ethics) and our action engine (the derived Morals). That is callout 5 in the graph. Now, the task at hand is to examine what fuel drives the three engines.

What influences do we need to consider? Well, all of them. But let’s be a bit realistic here – we don’t have all day. I’ll group this discussion into four parts: Individual, Crowd, Negative and Irrelevant influences.

The Images

As always, here are a few comments on the images used in this essay. I’ve said before it is not easy to illustrate abstract themes. There are no pictures of Ethics or Morals. Apart from a few diagrams obtained from various places, I’ve chosen to add images of people. After all, this blog is really all about people, images, art and how we all really relate.

The images are all shot by me. There is no relation between the text and the individuals in the images. The individuals shown are just people who happened to pass before my camera. That’s all. No hidden agendas

Diversity in Action

We are all unique individuals. We’re made up of a bunch of atoms and molecules that combine into “us”. “We” have no exactly similar counterpart anywhere, even going back to the beginning of life millions of years ago. For one thing, our DNA uniquely identifies us from the rest of the World.

We do not exist in isolation. We have unique racial, cultural, generational, sexual and national backgrounds. We may be educated, or not. We have parents and relatives who we may or may not know. One or more persons raised us and spent a long time with us. We live in a suburb, a city, a hut or a cave. We live in a democracy or a dictatorship or under some other political system. We may be lucky enough to have supportive people around us, or not. Maybe we are poor, maybe not. Hopefully, we are happy but depressions are common. Circumstances such as where you live may mean you are ahead of the time curve or perhaps way behind. We may be in a relationship, or not. A list like this can go on for a long time. In fact, let’s make it a slightly reorganized and grouped list:

Race and Racism

To North Americans, “race” quickly is translated to the “racism” issues of African Americans. That leads to affirmative action controversies, civil rights and historical or current injustices. Injustices include persistent inequality, exploitation, racial profiling, open or hidden discrimination, youth unemployment, ghettos, gangs, crime, hate groups, lack of respect and self respect, discriminatory pay levels, unfairness of standardized aptitude tests, unequal access to education, inaccessible legal rights, and illegal biases of financial and insurance companies. There are many other issues. Further, many of the same issues apply to Native Americans, Hispanics and Asian individuals, to name a few.

In other words, “race” is usually confused with “racism”. These are two very different concepts.

Racism

I could cite statistical data, research papers and show images and graphs to support all of the racism in the paragraph above. You may want to check out my essay on Gordon Parks for at least some powerful images. However, I won’t dive into details when most of us know quite well the validity of racism issues. It’s impossible to deny the influence of racism in the personal Ethics and Morals of anyone in North America.

What North Americans are less aware of is the prevalence of racism issues in other parts of the World. Most are aware of the Holocaust and its devastating effect on Jews in Western Europe and adjacent areas. Fewer are aware of the thousands of years of violence against and discrimination of Jews in many parts of the World. Pogroms date back almost 2,000 years. They have occurred in Russia, England, Germany (prior to Nazi Germany), Poland, Romania, Libya, Egypt, Argentina, and elsewhere. They have killed thousands and caused massive relocations (ethnic cleansing). Ironically, Russian pogroms partly led to the establishment of Israel. It is also a major cause of the Jewish immigration to the US and the resulting strength of Jewish influence.Lady in conversation

Pogroms and similar racial violence are not limited to Jews. The white American treatment of Native Indians falls in the same category. Gypsies and other European minorities have suffered similar fates. Armenians were exterminated or forced into exile by the Turks in the early 1900s. Kurds, caught between Saddam Hussein and Turks, suffered extreme violence but are still alive.

Then you have Sunnis versus Shi’as. Tutsis versus Hutus. Bosnian Muslims versus Serbian Christians. Mid East immigrant workers in Northern Europe. Mexicans in the US. French African immigrants versus the rest of France. British Arabs blowing up subways filled with mostly non-Arabs. Saudi and some other Arabs attacking up the Trade Towers twice. Algerians blowing up the French and vice versa. Arab insurgents attacking US and British troops. Chetnyans killing Russians and very much vice versa.

Going back in time to biblical times and beyond: you will find Egyptians slaughtering Israelites, Israelites killing Canaanites, Israelites eliminating Amalekites and Assyria and Babylon exterminating various Mid East enemies. Scythians wiped out Cimmerians. Julius Caesar killed most of the Helvetii tribe, Gauls, Vercingetorix and Avaricum. Never heard about these names? There is a very good reason – they ceased to exist.

This is just a small sample of racial genocides, wars, discriminations and terrorism. Racism results in some of the most lethal Ethical issues that have faced the World for thousands of years. These perceptions, distortions and conflicts are thoroughly burnt into our Ethical conscience.

Racial issues are so powerful, influential, politicized, misunderstood, persistent and deadly that you wonder how the World, not to mention individuals, can possibly deal with them. What will it take to reduce or eliminate racism? How many dead will it take? How many more destroyed people? How can deeply rooted prejudiced Ethics be updated? The sad answer is no one knows the solution. As “true” Ethical persons, all we can do is look inside us and practice those Ethics and act as morally as well as we can. The good news is that there are plenty of people doing just that. The bad news – those that don’t are as deadly as always.

That concludes the racism subject.

Race

Many attempted racial solutions are part of the Ivory Tower World. That World deals with riots, terrorism and hate crimes. On an individual basis, race – as opposed to racism – may be a tremendous strength. Race is one of the most basic factors in the makeup of our Ethics and Moral, not to mention our individual view of Reality. Race defines a culture, a common heritage and a form of solidarity. That is good. Racism may spill over into this. That’s bad.

On the balance? Race versus racism? Who wins? I personally, as a Northern European, belong to a race where racial issues are traditionally almost non-existent. I’m very lucky in that respect and I wish all of you had the same fortune. If not, let’s hope some day MLK’s Dream will come true for you

Culture

Culture is many a thing. It might be a culture of bacteria. It might be the culture of Africa. It might be the culture of rap music lovers. Man soncentratingYou name it. It’s a huge subject ands we need to limit ourselves right away. All we care about here is how culture impacts our individual Ethics.

As individuals we usually think of ourselves as belonging to a main culture. We often belong to sub cultures as well. One’s main culture might be “I’m Irish”. A sub culture might be “I live in Boston”. Another might be “I’m a Beethoven lover”. We typically have a good understanding of our cultural makeup.

Any culture defines a set of values, attitudes and behaviors. Muslims pray at certain hours. Jews do not eat pork. Beethoven lovers go to the symphony, usually dressed up. The Amish do not drive cars. Employees adhere to a dress code, whatever it might be. Artists are driven to perform their art. And so on.

Let’s look at a current example of cultural clashes, remembering this is 2006, not 1956.

Many Muslim women wear full or partial veils or head scarves. It is a statement of their culture and religion, a simple matter of their ethical and moral makeup. Quite recently, a Yorkshire, UK, teaching assistant insisted on wearing her full-face veil in the presence of male teachers. She was fired and is taking the matter to court.

A major political fight resulted, going all the way up to Tony Blair. One side sees “visible statements of separation and refusal to integrate into the British society”. The other side sees discrimination and obstruction of human rights. Some proclaim wearing a veil is “impolite” just as is wearing your shoes entering a mosque. The middle ground wonders if perhaps politicians should spend their time on more important subjects.

Those more important matters might include why British Muslims turn to suicide bombings in the middle of London and others are arrested on suspicion of planning to blow up Trans Atlantic airliners. Or it might include the common and deadly riots by immigrant Muslims all over France, involving perceived suppression of cultural Muslim values.

The veil issue simply does not go away. The issue has spread to at least France and Germany, and recently, the US. It is, of course, tempting to extend the argument that “different behavior” should be outlawed. We might require Jews to eat pork at least once a week. How about requiring Quakers to serve as National Guards in Baghdad? Maybe prohibiting Hawaiian shirts? Or force Amish teenagers to take driving lessons?

Most of us would agree there are more important issues to deal with, Ethical or not. The sorry point is that the veil issue prevails. If the matter of clothing can take on these proportions, what about more important cultural differences, such as those involving life and death?

So we are influenced by this mix of cultures, some important to us, some somewhat less relevant and others totally irrelevant. We end up with a mix of values, attitudes and behaviors that we assimilate. As we do, the values become part of our Ethics. Some of these are life long. “I’ll always be Irish”. Others change over time – rap lovers might become Beethoven fans as they age. Moreover, some cultures change over time. The dress code at IBM today is drastically different that in the 1960s. So are the views of divorce or abortion.

Most of us are quite comfortable with our “cultural” Ethics. That’s not surprising since the cultural environment acts as a support group or security blanket as long as we are not torn away from it. There are issues though, such as:

  • Diversity means that a culture may benefit from the contributions of other cultures. This is quite a misunderstood item, often confused with racism, inequality and discrimination. Diversity to me means an open mind to the ideas of other cultures. It is basically a personal Ethical standard, not a legal or rule bound item. That, of course, does not prevent Ivory Tower ideas such as a diverse work place or higher education (meaning quotas) or a diverse school system (meaning busing). The real problem is that many of us like being part of our culture and see no particular reason to mix with others. Some even view diversity as a threat to the purity of one’s own culture. That was the view of the Nazis.
  • Equality means different cultures are viewed and treated as equally valuable. Often this involves gender and racial issues. Different cultures have different attitudes about either of the two issues. Some cultures by tradition do not, even today, view women as equal. Women are stoned to death for infractions to rules created by men. The Western culture did not even begin to consider women as equal until the early 1900s. Up till the sixties, many Westerners strongly felt women should remain at home, raising children and cooking dinners. I dealt with racial issues in the prior section.
  • Protection of minorities means we have a defense mechanism against of a lack of cultural equality. Again, we have the influence of Ivory Towers. Let’s concentrate on the US: banks must be Equal Opportunity Lenders. Employers must be Equal Opportunity Employers. Sexual harassment is outlawed. Governments provide social services. We are all equal in the eyes of the justice system. The justice system defends the right of minorities. Why 90% of inmates are male? Why over 40% are black? How can 50% of all women in the work force experience sexual harassment? So in spite of the lofty laws, we might conclude men are far more criminal than women, blacks are far more criminal than whites. Men find it OK to sexually harass women (and in some famous, recent cases, other men and children). How does that impact our cultural values and the resulting Ethics? Let’s turn some of the statistics above around: 92% of blacks are not under any kind of correctional supervision, nor are 98% of whites. More than 99% of Americans are not in jail. This attitude is more positive when considering personal Ethics, but there are major problem areas as indicated above. Yet, it is hard to claim minorities are well protected by society. It comes down to personal Ethics to consider the rights of minorities.
  • Rights and entitlement deal with issues such as human rights versus unfair demands for handouts. Consider welfare programs such as Social Security. Consider Affirmative action or Positive Discrimination as some call it. In the first case, some percent of recipients are committing fraud. In the second case, for every beneficiary of the rights, there is a loser. Very few oppose human rights but some violate them and other take undue advantage. There is an abundance of data indicating different cultures have vastly different attitudes to these items. How come? Some cultures are so disadvantaged they are forced to over use the “system”, legally or not. Other cultures are so used to excessive handouts that they automatically take advantage to its maximum. Since no nation can keep giving excessive handouts for ever, there will be a clash at some point in time. Many European countries and, famously, the ex Soviet Union fall in this category.

Culture is a complex issue with many implications on our values and Ethics. Culture is largely a positive in providing positive attitudes and values to our Ethics system. Still, there are numerous potential issues. Some were discussed above, such as diversity is viewed with deep suspicion by some. Equality is still lacking in the Ethics of many. Many minorities suffer from injustices. Social assistance programs are violated. While some cultures are more vulnerable to the fallacies of culture, all indications are that the vast majority of us benefits from these influences to become law abiding, socially aware individuals.

Religion

Few would argue religion is not one of the major influences on our individual lives, whether that is as Atheists, Agnostics, Catholics, Lutherans, Mormons, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists or what have you. Many agree religion can be an important ethical yard stick. Still, it is a deadly influence. Look at some examples in history:

  • The Crusades: The Pope sanctioned about nine major and some minor military campaigns against “pagans, heretics and Muslims” in the name of Christianity during the 1000s to 1300s. The Crusades were, in part, an outlet for an intense religious piety which rose up in the late 11th century among the lay public. A crusader would, after pronouncing a solemn vow, receive a cross from the hands of the pope, and was thenceforth considered a “soldier of the Church”. And the crusader was off to a heroic battle. The Islamic World sees it differently.
  • The Reconquista: The Christian Kingdoms of Hispania (today’s Portugal and Spain) defeated and expelled Muslims, ending more than eight centuries of Moorish rule. The Reconquista started in 722, lasting till 1492. It was a process not only of war and conquest, but mainly of “repopulation”. Christian kings took over locations abandoned by the Muslims. This is an early example of “ethnic cleansing” based on religious differences.
  • French wars of religion: This is a series of armed conflicts between Huguenots (Protestants) and Catholics fought for most of the last half of the 1500s. It devastated a generation, but is an example of how the state, society, and religion were all bound up together in people’s minds resulting in a deadly experience. “One faith was essential to society holding together. Without the right faith and God upholding the natural order, disaster was certain.”
  • The Thirty Year War: Fought primarily in Germany from 1618 to 1648 between Protestants and Catholics, this religious war claimed some 20% of the German population due to battles and famines. In the end, Catholic power was diminished, and the Germany was divided into many small factions. It is viewed as leading to German romantic nationalism. This, in turn, eventually led to social nationalism – Nazism.
  • The troubles of Northern Ireland: Well known to most of us, this modern day religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics caused some 1800 civilian and about 1300 combatant deaths. Some 40,000 were injured. This gruesome conflict used massive amounts of torture, civil rights violations and, of course, indiscriminate bombings against civilians.
  • Jihads: Although the term stands for many things, it usually refers to wars of religion. The objectives are: 1) Elimination of persecution [of Muslims], 2) Dominance of Islam, 3) To force the disbelievers to pay Jizya, 4) To help the weak and the oppressed, 5) To seek revenge for the murder of a Muslim, 6) To punish those who violate their oaths, 7) To fight to defend (Muslims or Islam) and finally (8) To recapture the occupied territory. Jihads are highly regulated and subject to clear ethical goals. They have nothing to do with terrorism as believed by many Westerners. Jihads are much more a religious doctrine than actual acts of violence. Of course, militants use this concept to justify terrorist acts.
  • Milhemet Mitzvah: Sometimes viewed as the Jewish version of the jihad, it is “the war that the people of Israel were commanded by God to wage, for example, against the former peoples of the Land of Israel.” Like the jihad, this is more a concept than actual acts of violence in its intent. As with jihads, this concept is used as a false justification by radical factions that do indeed commit violence.

So what does all this tell us? For one thing, millions have died as the result of religiously inspired violence. For another, religious differences as formulated by Jihads and Milhemet Mitzvah do not necessarily mean violence but are part of a greater religious standard or expression. Either way, religion and violence, theoretical or practical, have more in common than most like.

Religion does not stand for violence on most people’s personal level. It stands for faith, goodness, comfort and spirituality. Yet, on that personal level, religion is used by some as an excuse for extremism or radicalism:

  • Politics: American politics are influenced by two main religious factions: the Religious Right and the Jewish community. The Religious Right and the Jewish community both are cultural factions with strong beliefs, built from the grass roots and up. Both represent moral views of its constituents. Then the national interests of the faction rolls back to further radicalize or focus the beliefs of the members. Additionally, we have George W. Bush who believes his acts of state crimes are justified by his recently discovered religious faith.
  • Creation and Evolution: This is a long fought battle between religious diehards and the rest of us. Often absurdly argued and acted on, it nevertheless represents an important aspect of the individual’s belief system, whichever side you are on. In this essay, the focus is not who is right and who is wrong. The point is simple – a great variety of factors play a role in our ethical makeup. Too, often, they lead to undesired effects. Such as, school children are force fed the opinion of others which may well penalize them in their later life.
  • Abortions rights, Animal rights, Religious discrimination, Priesthood sexual abuse, Gay rights, Birth control are all issues with religious overtones. They are quite similar to the two items discussed above in our belief system.

On the one hand, religion is one of the most powerful positive parts in our ethical makeup. On the other hand, there are just so many negative aspects ranging from uncontrolled violence to human rights abuse. These negative factors trace back to individuals who typically believe they are right in their negativism.

Other influences

The influences of race, culture and religion are major influences on us as individuals. Still, it only scratches the surface of what makes up our moral and ethical beings. Here are some other factors, perhaps to be covered in more details in later posts.

  • Age, gender and sex
  • Residence, Location, Nationality
  • Education, Money, Work
  • Family, Supporters versus Crowds
  • Health, Mental, Physical
  • Time warps

Individualistic Diversity

Race, Culture and Religion – speak about complex issues. Morals, Reality and Ethics – more complexity. Paired with my earlier essays, we are looking at some serious stuff. Thousands of authors have covered the same subjects. Some influential and/or credible, some not. I like to keep it simple and basic. What is the point of all of this?

Well, I took it all back to fundamental beliefs on a high level, philosophical level. Then I descended somewhat to a more practical investigation of state/national level ethical issues. Finally, I arrived at the level of individuals and what influences their ethical belief system, covering fundamentals such as race, culture and religion. What have I or we learnt?

Laughing manFrankly, I’m not sure. There are just too many valid but conflicting views. And there are far too many invalid views, as judged at least by me and my standards. It seems we are all benefiting from our highly individual ethics, realities and morals. At the same time, it seems like the equivalence of jail. We are stuck with influences that do not do us – or others – any good. The mix can be deadly.

I see diversity as the major point. Like it or not, no one can sort out a universal truth or divine belief system. No one has the authority to judge personal ethics, ignoring legal aspects that may force authoritarian beliefs on another being. We truly are all different and nothing will change that.

So how do we live with such diversity? One way is simply to deny it and keep fighting the battles – the moronic approach. Or, in spite of the validity of any particular belief system, we try to overcome the differences. Many have suggested the means of that approach, whether affirmative action, education or forced activities such as bussing. I have no particular solutions, except we better work on it or else. Perhaps I can be more specific as we go along. I hope so.

It comes down to individuals making a stand for what they believe in, no matter what. It shows to the rest of us what is possible. Here are some individuals that proves the point made:

Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Betty Friedan, Dalai Lama, David Suzuki, Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyi, Rosa Park, Jane Addams, Ramsey Clark, Susan B. Anthony, Patsy Mink, Martin Luther King, Susan Sontag, Jane Fonda, Jerry Rubin, Samuel Gompers, Emma Goldman, Allen Ginsberg, John Lennon, Harry Wu, Thich Nhat Hanh, Virginia Woolf, Richard Sheppard, Oscar Romero, Mohamed Elmoutaoikil, Heberto Castillo Martínez, Leung Kwok-hung, Olof Palme, Benigno “Ninoy” Simeón Aquino, Jr. and many others.

It is tempting to do a list of the opposite type of people. If you like, simply fill in the names of recent US Presidencies, Cabinets and most of the Congress of the US of A. You may start with the Nixon era. Remember Spiro Agnew, Wilbur Mills, Gary Condit or Bob Livingstone? They’ll qualify just fine for starters. How about Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Marv Albert, Mel Gibson, Michael Jackson or Bill O’Reilly? Then you can continue across the World. Start in the UK with John Profumo, Hugh Grant, David Blunkett or Edwina Currie. Finding ethics challenged people is easy.

You see, it all comes down to who you are and how you grow. It’s that simple. So who are you? Consider this quote from Gandhi:

As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the World – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.

What’s next?

As you may imagine, this has been a long ride, far longer than I imagined in the beginning. To me, the ride was necessary. I’m planning one more installment that deals with all the ethical standards for specific groups of people. That includes individuals from the board of HP to Enron officials to Congressmen to lawyers to doctors to just about anyone participating in real life. There are thousands of “Ethical Standards” developed, published and perhaps occasionally read. It seems no organization of significance can live without defining its own ethical view. Are they of any value?

Then I will, finally, get back to my roots in art and photography. That certainly will include the ethics and morals of various artistic endeavors.

As always, thanks to all of you,

Karl

This fifth issue of my Ethics series continues to deal with institutional “Ivory Towers” and peaceful means to establish global Ethics. We’ll Man with his flutediscuss diverse topics such as the Ten Commandments, The Geneva Conventions, Magna Carta, Foreign Aid, The United Nations and Global Warming, including the Kyoto Protocol. I’ll use these practical examples to make my point: While usually well meaning, these programs rarely have the impact one might hope for, with some few exceptions. Some power center – often the US – stands in their way to protect self interests.

The last essay dealt with violence, in particular War and its relation to Ethics. The conclusion of that essay was simple: Ethics and Morals are totally incompatible with any aspect of War or other forms of violence on a nation to nation level. War means utter destruction in all possible ways. This essay will reach the conclusion that the peaceful means of spreading “good” Ethics are by no means as fatal as War but still not truly effective. We’ll need to look further for success stories.

The Ivory Tower View of Peaceful Means

The World does not totally lack universal Ethical standards. Magna Carta is a legal version of Ethics that is still going strong after some 800 years. The Ten Commandments is another example – even more so as most major religions build on similar, basic Ethical standards. The UN and its agencies is one example. The Geneva Conventions are yet another example, as is the Kyoto Protocol. Let’s take a closer look at some of the Ivory Towers.

The Images

As always, here are a few comments on the images used in this essay. I’ve said before it is not easy to illustrate abstract themes. There are no pictures of Ethics or Morals. Apart from a few diagrams obtained from various places, I’ve chosen to add images of people. After all, this blog is really all about people, images, art and how we all really relate.

The images are all shot by me. There is no relation between the text and the individuals in the images. The individuals shown are just people who happened to pass before my camera. That’s all. No hidden agendas.

The Ten Commandments

Girl looking outReligion is a very powerful influence on Ethical standards, not to mention daily life, throughout most of the World. Many Christians think of religion as a 2,000 year phenomena. It goes much further back. The Ten Commandments go back almost 3,300 years. Some say Christianity goes to the beginning of time although most scientists and logical people do not quite agree.

Religion and Ethics go hand in hand in most people’s mind. It certainly is a thoroughly researched issue. Some of these researches impact the daily life of billions of people. Consider issues such as World hunger, genocide, human abuses, AIDS, marriage and divorce, gay rights, contraception and sexuality, priest abuse, religion and politics (such as collaboration with the Nazis) and abortion. All of these items reflect Ethical religious actions/inactions and/or failures. Not all of us agree with the religious point of view. No one can deny the power of the church.

The Ten Commandments are an admirable set of Ethical rules. They are short, to the point and indisputable to most people. They are interpreted in somewhat different ways by various Christian factions. Muslims reject the Christian version but support a very similar set of their own. Buddhism and Hinduism also support very comparable thoughts. Astonishingly, the atheist Soviet Union had a Moral Code with a somewhat similar content. There is no question that the Ten Commandments and its counterparts are powerful ethical standards with a Worldwide influence.

Here are links to some alternative commandments:

The Geneva Conventions

The four Geneva Conventions protect POWs and restricts certain kinds of warfare. They are some of the most successful international treaties. They clearly define and relate to Ethical standards. They have evolved over time in different versions. The first version was adopted in the 1860s. The last major revision dates to 1949. Signatory nations (about 200) are required to pass national laws making it a crime to violate the Conventions.

In 1997, two protocols to the Geneva Conventions were added. They give protection to guerrillas in civil wars or wars of national liberation. A third protocol was added in 2006.

Article 4 of the current Conventions may be of interest, considering the current debate of denying the rights of the Conventions to certain “terrorists”. Please do judge for your self. Here is a much shortened version:

Article 4

A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Conventions, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:

……..

2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfill the following conditions:

a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
c) That of carrying arms openly;
d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

…………

LoversI’m no lawyer. But it seems to me the above applies to many individuals currently denied the rights of the Geneva Conventions. What are those rights? Here is an excerpt:

Article 13

Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Conventions. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.

Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.

Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.

Article 14

Prisoners of war are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honor. Women shall be treated with all the regard due to their sex and shall in all cases benefit by treatment as favorable as that granted to men. Prisoners of war shall retain the full civil capacity which they enjoyed at the time of their capture. The Detaining Power may not restrict the exercise, either within or without its own territory, of the rights such capacity confers except in so far as the captivity requires.

…………..

Article 17

Every prisoner of war, when questioned on the subject, is bound to give only his surname, first names and rank, date of birth, and army, regimental, personal or serial number, or failing this, equivalent information. If he willfully infringes this rule, he may render himself liable to a restriction of the privileges accorded to his rank or status.

…………..

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

……………

Does this sound like what is known to be going on in prison/POW camps around the World? Do you trust George W. Bush to come up with a better version?

The Geneva Conventions did neither protect POWs in Japanese hands during WWII nor make life easier in Hanoi Hilton. The Conventions did largely protect Western POWs in Nazi hands during WWII. It did not protect Soviet POWs. The Nazis killed some 3 million Soviet POWs, compared to some half a million German POWs killed by the Soviets.

The Western Allies generally treated German POWs well during the War, but there are rumors about some 1 million German POWs killed right after the War by the US. Israel is widely criticized for violating the treaties by using excessive force (such as cluster bombs against civilians) in the recent Mid East flare up.

You want to read the whole thing? Here is a link. Or read on for some recent evolutions, not all part of the conventions but certainly relevant:Girl with drink

1993 saw the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The Tribunal is a part of the UN and was established by the Security Council. It has jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity. It goes on to cover grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and violations of the laws or customs of war. The tribunal deals exclusively with events committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991. The most infamous indicted is Slobodan Milosevic, previous president of Serbia, up till his death in March of 2006. The tribunal indicted 161 persons. About half of these cases are decided. In 43 cases, the tribunal found the defendant guilty.

In 1998, an international conference adopted the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. This treaty created an International Criminal Court. The Court opened for business in 2002. It deals with three current cases – all against African nations – Uganda, Congo and Sudan. The former Liberian President Charles Taylor is held by the Court for trial. The Court received a number of complaints regarding the invasion of Iraq but declined actions for various reasons. The US, along with Israel, China, Iraq and a handful of other nations voted against the original treaty. The US did eventually sign but never ratified the treaty. George W. Bush has effectively killed any US support of the Court. George W. Bush wants assurance no Americans will ever be held responsible for war crimes by the Court.

For all its failures, the Geneva Conventions provide some of the best known and respected non-religious Ethical standards in existence. They are successful in its almost universal national acceptance. They helped innumerable POWs, although by no means all. Almost all people on Earth know about them and approve. Universally, a deviation from the Conventions is a serious crime, both legally and ethically

The Magna Carta Legal and Ethical Code

Justice is a critical component of any Ethical and Moral system. Magna Carta has provided such a system for some 800 years. Originally, it was a political charter aimed at limiting the power of English kings. It contains 6 clauses covering a multitude of issues. Over time, it has been revised and suffered ups and downs in influence. The US Constitution is one major point of influence. It provides a basis for common law in many countries.

The four basic points of Magna Carta, easily traceable to modern law and ethics:

  • Independence of church from state: “In the first place we have granted to God, and by this our present charter confirmed for us and our heirs forever that the English Church shall be free, and shall have her rights entire…..”, “Wherefore we will and firmly order that the English Church be free, and that the men in our kingdom have and hold all the aforesaid liberties, rights, and concessions, well and peaceably, freely and quietly, fully and wholly, for themselves and their heirs, of us and our heirs, in all respects and in all places forever, as is aforesaid.”
  • Freedom from undue taxes: ” Neither we nor our bailiffs will seize any land or rent for any debt, as long as the chattels of the debtor are sufficient to repay the debt; “, “No sheriff or bailiff of ours, or other person, shall take the horses or carts of any freeman for transport duty, against the will of the said freeman”, ” Neither we nor our bailiffs shall take, for our castles or for any other work of ours, wood which is not ours, against the will of the owner of that wood.”
  • Habeas Corpus – no imprisonment without due process of law: “No freemen shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.”, “To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice”.
  • Rights of unencumbered inheritance: “If any ….. Shall have died, and at the time of his death his heir….. Shall have his inheritance by the old relief, to wit, the heir or heirs….”, “A widow, after the death of her husband, shall forthwith and without difficulty have her marriage portion and inheritance….”

Magna Carta did not prevent any number of Wars since the 1100s. It did not prevent the Holocaust. It did nothing to prevent arms races. Nor did it limit the murders conducted by many despots and dictators. But it is a powerful document providing a fascinating window to the ethics of a far past that still is valid. Here is a good link.

Foreign Aid (Solidarity)

Foreign aidDevelopment aid from the rich countries to the Third World is an attempt to practice Ethics on an international basis. Early on, there was a goal to contribute 1% of GDP in aid. This is now generally reduced to .7%. Some view this as a mostly symbolic effort with limited practical results. Some cynics view it as an attempt by the rich to control the poor. Foreign aid by practically all industrial countries is declining. To quote some facts from this source:

  • In 1970, rich countries of the OECD agreed at the United Nations (Resolution 2626) to give 0.7% of their GNP as aid to the developing countries.
  • Over 35 years on, most of the 20 or so rich OECD countries have never reached that figure, or come close.
  • The rich countries have given an enormous $2.2 trillion dollars in aid since 1960
  • Still, the accumulated total shortfall in their aid since 1970 amounts to $2.5 trillion (at 2003 prices).

That’s a $2.5 TRILLION shortfall. Extrapolate the numbers to 2006 to a shortfall of around $3 TRILLION. Is that all you can expect of the ethical credibility of industrial nations? This is a program based on fundamentally Ethical standards. It is supported in theory by a large part of the World. Of course, you’ll notice from the graph which country is dead last in this type of foreign aid.

The United Nations

The United Nations is a dysfunctional, corrupted, bloated, expensive and inefficient organization. Still, it is the only game in town. For all its faults, it is a major platform to resolve international issues, sometimes with Ethical guidance. The UN has accomplished many good things. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights attempts to reconcile global Ethics. The Security Council provides some important checks and balances on World politics. The various agencies produce some successes, although mostly at an enormously bloated cost.

Here are the official UN goals to be reached by 2015 (or as specified):

  1. Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day. Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
  2. Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling
  3. Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015
  4. Reduce by two thirds the mortality rate among children under five
  5. Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio
  6. Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS. Halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases
  7. Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs; reverse loss of environmental resources.
  8. Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.
  9. Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020.
  10. Develop further an open trading and financial system that is rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory, includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction— nationally and internationally
  11. Address the least developed countries’ special needs. This includes tariff- and quota-free access for their exports; enhanced debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries; cancellation of official bilateral debt; and more generous official development assistance for countries committed to poverty reduction
  12. Address the special needs of landlocked and Small Island developing States
  13. Deal comprehensively with developing countries’ debt problems through national and international measures to make debt sustainable in the long term
  14. In cooperation with the developing countries, develop decent and productive work for youth
  15. In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries
  16. In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies— especially information and communications technologies

Do you know any other organization with similar goals? This may be day dreaming but the goals are still backed by the authority of 192 nations. Even a limited success would be good news.

Do you notice something odd? Global warming is not mentioned. Nor is a goal of reducing international tensions or providing better security. The list passes on resolving international conflicts, such as war. Nowhere is reducing or controlling nuclear proliferation mentioned. There’s nothing about sanctions and other measures against rouge nations. Terrorism is not even mentioned. Fiscal goals or becoming more efficient aren’t worth a point. There is little about promoting freedom and democracy.

Global Warming and the Kyoto Protocol

Few scientists claim Global Warming is not a serious threat to mankind. Almost everyday, more alarming evidence is surfacing. A fair part of the World’s politicians agree. So do most sane people. But most of us will be dead before it really becomes a true and practical disaster. So the Ethical goal of saving the World is immediately clouded by various other issues such as the substantial short term cost to reduce the dangers.

There still is resistance to the notion of climate dangers. Check out this link. Or try this one. Ah, the power of Special Interests.

Here is a list of more realistic evidence of global warming from EcoBridge (use this link for details or follow the links below item by item):

  1. Graph of Historical Trend of Warming Temperatures
  2. Carbon Dioxide Increasing in Atmosphere
  3. Methane Also Increasing
  4. More Frequent Extreme Weather
  5. Disappearing Glaciers
  6. Melting Arctic Sea Ice
  7. Melting Antarctic Sea Ice
  8. Greenland’s Ice Sheet Melting
  9. Tropical Diseases Spreading
  10. Oceans Warming With Coral Bleaching & Disintegration

Carbon emissions by countryThe Kyoto Protocol is an agreement based on UN climate control guidelines. It requires signatories to reduce green house gases. About 160 countries have signed the Protocol. The US and Australia signed but did not ratify the protocol, rendering it effectively dead.

In all honesty, it is a strange agreement. It splits the requirement of nations to reduce emissions into several categories somehow related to ability to pay for the necessary work (or negotiating skills). India and China, both full signatories, are not required to reduce gases at all, in spite of being major polluters. North America is the largest emitter of these gases and will do little or nothing. It is followed by China, doing nothing. India’s contribution to emissions is sky-rocketing, doing nothing. Perhaps Australia is counting on its gases disappearing into its ozone hole? How is this for complex Ethics?

The bottom line is that some major polluters are getting away with it – The US and Australia on legality, China and India on, perhaps, superb negotiating skills. The rest of the World is caught in the middle. Many try their best in spite of the controversy and special interests.

Here is a corporate (BP) view on the Kyoto Protocol:

Global warming is real and needs to be addressed now. Rather than bash or mourn the defunct Kyoto Protocol, we should start taking the small steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions today that can make a big difference down the road. The private sector already understands this, and its efforts will be crucial in improving fossil fuel efficiency and developing alternative sources of energy. To harness business potential, however, governments in the developed World must create incentives, improve scientific research, and forge international partnerships.

Lord Browne of Madingley is Group Chief Executive of BP plc.

Apparently the solution is to leave the private sector alone but provide subsidies to ensure leaving it alone. Is this hypocrisy, anyone? Does it suggest arrogance?

Although the means of reducing dangerous gases have little to do with Ethics, the overall goal of saving civilization certainly has everything to do with Ethics and Morals. How about all of you guys with young children? What do you think about the World 50, 60, 70 years down the road?

US Ethics

The truth is that the peaceful efforts to spread universal Ethical standards have never quite succeeded. One or another power source has always stood in the way of these initiatives to protect against perceived disadvantages. The US, as represented by its government, is one such power.

  • Imposing the US views on the rest of the World: Let’s see. Consider Korea, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Grenada, Teheran/Iran, Lebanon, Panama, Nicaragua, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Philippines, Iraq and Liberia. These are just the countries the US has engaged in war or war like actions since WWII. That averages to one war every four year – just like the election cycle. It does not count the nations that the US is applying close to war like pressure on, such as Iran of late and North Korea being the Axis of Evil. Then we have the War on Terrorism. That alone covers much of the rest of the World (George W. Bush: “You are either with us or against us” or “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists”). The World is not impressed, in particular with the frequent “moral” rhetoric of peace, collaboration, friendship, freedom and democracy against the reality of frequent wars and direct support of many dictatorships. The World is also concerned that the US supports or at least accepts the nuclear buildup of India and Pakistan in spite of rhetoric to the opposite.
  • The Geneva Conventions, originally signed by the US in the 1880s: The US has gone through two days of infamy, according to popular opinions: The first was Pearl Harbor. The second was 9/11. I believe the third day of infamy (in reverse) will be when George W. Bush signs away part of the Geneva Conventions. Not only that, he will demolish long standing humanitarian and legal foundations of civilization. That act alone will hasten the steep decline in power, respect and influence triggered by the absurd policies of George W. Bush and friends. For those interested in the Ethics of US recent war conduct – please read some of Ramsey Clark’s writings. Here is a great link.
  • Magna Carta: How is the US Justice System doing as an Ethical outpost? Let’s think. What about fixing Presidential elections? What about the courts allowing gross breaches of civil rights by the President. What about racial profiling? What about the death penalty, rejected long ago by the rest of the civilized World? Does anyone believe we all have access to equal treatment in court? Can a poor person pursue just causes in a system of $300 per hour lawyers?
  • Foreign Aid: 60 years ago, the US implemented the Marshall Plan in an enormously successful rebuild of war torn Europe. Such an effort has never been repeated. Today, with a universal OECD goal of providing .70% of GDP in foreign aid, the US contributes about .14% compared to Norway’s .92%. The US contributions are the lowest (percentage wise) among major countries. As badly perhaps, the US uses various trade policies to protect domestic industries against foreign competition. The World is no longer impressed, especially given the US official, empty words of free trade, generosity and solidarity.
  • The United Nations: The US has long viewed the UN as a thorn in its backside. This is reflected in the $1.5 billion owed to the U.N. by the US and the associated black mail. It is reflected in a long term contemptuous and antagonistic attitude. Just sending a major bully such as John Bolton with “his haircut an offense to the World” is telling the story. Think about the maneuvers of George W. Bush to gain some legality for his Iraq war. Think of the lies supporting those acrobatics that were presented by Foreign Secretary Colin Powell.
  • Global Warming: This is an issue ignored by George W. Bush. He wants to keep cost down for big business and push North Slope oil drilling. Ecology and forward thinking is not his strength. Consider Hurricane Katrina proving even his backward thinking is flawed. On the other hand, Governor Schwarzenegger of California is driving the global warming issue quite hard as a political expedience. Aside from that, there appears to be little hope of any substantial contribution from the US to resolve one of the most obvious threats to mankind. Yet US rhetoric stresses its commitment to environmental safety. Who believes the rhetoric?

Sadly, the US is one of the fiercest opponents to many Ethical international efforts while promoting its own interests to great dismay in the rest of the World. Is the US the Ethical nation it claims to be? Is the US a moral country? If so, how is it moral? Is it worse or better than others? If so why? Does the US stand on Ethical and Moral issues hurt it or not? How does the rest of the World view the US? You judge for yourself. I will expand on my views in a future post.

Where are we?

Ivory Towers, Ivory Towers. “The term Ivory Tower designates a World or atmosphere where intellectuals engage in pursuits that are disconnected from the practical concerns of everyday life” (From Wikipedia). I suppose that is a cynical view of the various programs described above. And it’s perhaps not an entirely accurate metaphor. Much of my discussion is about Government responses to various international attempts to promote Ethical programs. I can’t honestly characterize these Government responses as “intellectual”. I certainly can buy the “disconnect” part of the Wikipedia definition. On the other hand, “the practical concerns” are very real.

Man in deep thoughtHow about my version: “The term Ivory Tower designates a World or atmosphere where governments engage in pursuits that are disconnected from the practical concerns of everyday people.” There, I only changed two words but that’s my story. Really, I only needed to change one word, not two. Which one, do you think? Who inhabits the Ivory Tower?

I have gone from the very high level viewpoint of philosophy down one level to existing, major programs on the international or national level. It is easy to show the limitations of agreements and action on high level Ethical issues. While philosophers provide lots of theory, those Ethical views are sometimes misused. Governments say one thing but often act differently on Ethical and Moral issues. Moreover, different philosophers and Governments have wildly diverse interpretations of Ethical matters.

Because of its role in the World, I’ve paid special attention to the US, both in the prior essays and this one. Does the US live up to its responsibility as a World Leader? No, it does not. And its role as a World Leader is declining rapidly as a result. The rest of the World views the US as a threat, not an asset. Ten, fifteen years ago, the US was at the top of its game. The Cold War was won. Everyone discussed how to use the Peace Dividend. Then the Dynasty of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice brought it all down. That is just too bad.

However, look at many of the global efforts on Ethics. Most programs, commandments, treaties or protocols have a basic element of well meaning Ethics. They quite often, not always, mean to do the right thing. The problem lies in execution, the Moral part. Too often, the political will is lacking for one or another reason. Expedience, polls and election days rule. The conclusion must be that there are serious conflicts and distortions regarding Ethics and Morals in the higher echelons of our societies.

So our quest needs to continue. We’ll jump down one more level and look at the diverse Ethics on the individual level.

Thank you

Karl

This fourth issue of my Ethics series deals with institutional “Ivory Tower” Peaceful argumentviolence and its relation to Ethics. Generally, this means examining War as an Ethical, or not, instrument to spread one’s belief system to others that are not receptive to such intrusion.

I’ll discuss various ideas about War, its true nature and how some justify it. The next issue in this series will, among other topics, examine the Geneva Conventions as the major non-violent way to control at least some aspects of War.

The conclusion of this essay is simple and adds to my prior War essay: Ethics and Morals are totally incompatible with any aspect of War or other forms of violence on a nation to nation level. War means utter destruction in all possible ways.

Please read on.

The Ivory Tower View on Violence

It would be nice if there was a set of rules making up an accepted, standard set of Ethics, practiced throughout the World. There have been many attempts to accomplish this. Sometimes, this is done by imposing one’s own beliefs violently on others without asking permission or agreement. But there are also peaceful attempts to practice Ethics on an international level.

Imposing One’s Ethics on Others

Wars are fought to control others, their thoughts and assets. Terrorists aim at the same thing. Hitler saw a thousand year empire, dominated by the Aryan race, ideals and Ethics. The Catholic Church has used a variety of bloody means to spread their religion and Ethics over parts of 2,000 years. Various dictators enslave their citizens by attempting to control their thoughts. Iraqi insurgents want to impose their will by killing just about anyone at anytime. Israel try to control Palestinians, protecting their self defined right to exist. The US has controlled Native Americans in a similar manner for a couple of hundred years. There are thousands of examples of a similar Thoughful ladynature.

Many think George W. Bush seeks World dominance using the buzz words “Democracy (Bring’m on/Shoot to kill/With me or a Terrorist)”. He attempts famously to stabilize the Mid East, spread democracy and win the mythical, un-winnable and totally illogical “War against Terrorism”. Actually, he is losing his wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and against Terrorism. The price is thousands of lives as well as the catastrophic loss of the US standing in the World. Whatever happened to Compassionate Conservatism? Remember that empty phrase?

Rarely if ever have these violent schemes worked. They probably never will unless the ultimate psychological warfare agent is invented, turning us all into George Orwell type robot citizens. Barring that horrible idea, the simple fact is that most persons’ belief systems are quite resilient to the power of others. Just witness the recent Iraqi poll asking the US to get the hell out of their country. Of course, this opinion is shared by many millions of Americans. This is personal Ethics at work, clashing with lunatic Government morals.

Let’s examine War in more detail from an Ethical point of view. You may want to glance through my earlier essay on this subject (Link: here). That essay views War and its effect on those unlucky enough to get in its way. War has a terrible, inhuman effect on people that most North Americans, except veterans, cannot imagine. It is over 140 years since some limited parts of the domestic US saw the real impact of War. Most of the rest of the World has not been as lucky.

The Images

As always, here are a few comments on the images used in this essay. I’ve said before it is not easy to illustrate abstract themes. There are no pictures of Ethics or Morals. Apart from a few diagrams obtained from various places, I’ve chosen to add images of people. After all, this blog is really all about people, images, art and how we all really relate.

The images are all shot by me. There is no relation between the text and the individuals in the images. The individuals shown are just people who happened to pass before my camera. That’s all. No hidden agendas.

Ethical Justifications of Armed Conflict?

Here is one definition of a justifiable war: “A war is only just if it is fought for a reason that is justified, and that carries sufficient moral weight. The country that wishes to use military force must demonstrate that there is a just cause to do so.” Just causes include:

  • Defend against aggression such as invasion, attacks on a friendly nation and violations of human rights.
  • Defend against attack. Recapturing things taken. Punishing wrong doers.
  • Correct a grave, public evil such as aggression or massive violation of the basic rights of whole populations.
  • Punish a rouge country to the extent justifiable: the whole people, the leaders or specific individuals in the rouge country.
  • Stop, if justifiable, the triumph of evil or to put right actions that “shock the conscience of mankind”.

What a bunch of vague, useless BS. “If I think Billy is nasty, it’s OK to kill him”. That’s what the points above say. Let’s just hope George W. Bush doesn’t read these foolish points. He would like the lack of checks and balances implied above too much. Who determines whether “violations of right” have taken place? Who asserts the ownership of “things”? Who can justly establish that someone is a “wrong doer”? What is a “grave, public evil”? Who defines “massive violation”? Who will decide if a “punishment is justified”? What precisely is the “triumph of evil”? What is considered a “shock to mankind”? Enough said.

History of Ethics and War

Cold room worker
There are three major influences on Ethics in War, two going back a long time. Cicero was active in the centennial proceeding Jesus and St. Augustine lived about 400 years later. Carl von Clausewitz is more recent – active only about 200 years ago. The following are abbreviated quotes from BBC of the UK (Source: here) and other sources:

Cicero (about 75BC):

Cicero argued that there was no acceptable reason for war outside of just vengeance or self defense – in which he included the defense of honor. He also argued that a war could not be just unless it was publicly declared and unless compensation for the enemy’s offence had first been demanded. Cicero based his argument on the assumption that nature and human reason biased a society against war, and that there was a fundamental code of behavior for nations.

St Augustine of Hippo (About 400AD):

St Augustine was a 4th century Christian who lived in Algeria and Italy. He believed that the only just reason to go to war was the desire for peace.

We do not seek peace in order to be at war, but we go to war that we may have peace. Be peaceful, therefore, in warring, so that you may vanquish those whom you war against, and bring them to the prosperity of peace.

A just war is wont to be described as one that avenges wrongs, when a nation or state has to be punished, for refusing to make amends for the wrongs inflicted by its subjects, or to restore what it has seized unjustly.

True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good.

Carl von Clausewitz (About 1800+):

Clausewitz was a Prussian general, theorist and philosopher who principally fought Napoleon. He said “war is the continuation of policy by other means”. His On Kriege treatise details his military theories. They remain influential to this day. Some claim he was influenced by another famous military theorist and philosopher – Sun Tzu who wrote The Art of War around 500BC. Here are some of Clausewitz ideas as seen by commentators:

“Clausewitz was a proponent of total war as used in the Third Reich propaganda in the 1940s. He did not coin the phrase as an ideological ideal. Indeed, Clausewitz does not use the term “total war” at all. Rather, he discussed “absolute war” or “ideal war” as the purely logical result of the forces underlying a “pure,” Platonic “ideal” of war. In what Clausewitz called a “logical fantasy,” war cannot be waged in a limited way: the rules of competition will force participants to use all means at their disposal to achieve victory.”Line of fishmongers

“Some argue that the essentials of Clausewitz’s theoretical approach remain valid, but that our thinking must adjust to changed realities. Knowing that “war is an expression of politics” does us no good unless we have a valid definition of “politics” and an understanding of how it is reflected in a specific situation. The latter may well turn on religious passions, private interests and armies, etc.

While many commentators are quick to dismiss Clausewitz’s political context as obsolete, it seems worthwhile to note that the states of the twentieth century were very different from Clausewitz’s Prussia, and yet the World Wars are generally seen as “Clausewitzian warfare”; similarly, North and South Vietnam, and the United States as well, were quite unlike 18th-century European states, yet it was the war in Indochina that brought the importance of Clausewitzian theory forcefully home to American thinkers.

Clausewitz himself was well aware of the politics that drove the Thirty Years’ War, a conflict that bears a great deal of similarity to the current struggle in Iraq. The idea that states cannot suppress rebellions or terrorism in a nuclear-armed World does not bear up well in the light of experience:

Just as some rebellions and revolutions succeeded and some failed before 1945, some rebellions and revolutions have succeeded and some have failed in the years since. Insurgencies were successfully suppressed in the Philippines, Yemen, and Malaysia–just a few of many examples. Successful revolutions may destroy some states, but the revolutionaries simply establish new and stronger states – e.g., China, Vietnam and Iran – which seem to be quite capable of handling threats of renewed insurgency.”

“One criticism of Clausewitz has been his seeming failure to address the ethical considerations of war. He saw ethics as a political question; not an issue of concern for pure theory.” (Source: here)

This makes a little bit of sense although Cicero and St. Augustine say about the same thing as in the previous section. Clausewitz is more modern and influential while being more pragmatic than Ethical in his thinking. So, how does it really work? Read on about the Unethical War.

The Unethical War

Kid looking guilty
War is often started on unethical grounds as opposed to the vague “moral” justifications above. Here are examples of such unethical justification as told by the BBC of the UK (Source: here):

War is right if it is in the national interest: This doctrine, in the most extreme form, says that if a war is in a country’s national interest then it is morally right for that country to go to war. This looks as if it’s giving permission to powerful nations to invade any country that has resources they need, or that is harboring terrorists that they want to capture. But in fact, considerations of ethics and justice still have a significant effect. If a country is seen to behave unjustly it creates great political problems for itself. Invading another country, even if it has something you want, may well produce more trouble than benefit.

The Right of the Ruler: This says that the decision of the ruler of a state on whether to wage war is final, and there is no moral argument that can be used against it. This tradition is reflected in the phrase ‘the divine right of kings’, meaning that the ruler’s actions carry with them God’s support. While this seems repellent to modern thinking, it was supported by the Christian church during many periods of history, when the monarch was guided by the church in war decisions.

Holy wars: Religious leaders have sometimes declared that there was a religious duty on believers to go to war. This idea appears often in the Bible and has been used to justify suicide bombing in recent times. Centuries ago it was the main justification given for the Crusades.

Much closer to the truth, don’t you think? Perhaps with respect to War, Un-ethics win out. Surprised?

The US Army War College Quarterly:

“There is a popular disposition to regard ethics as absolute and enduring, yet they are neither. That which is considered ethical alters with time and varies between civilizations and even families. At some impalpable level, the impulse to ethics does appear to arise from within and may be a collective survival strategy conditioned by biological and cultural evolution. Yet the specific content of a civilization’s or a society’s ethics is generally determined by accumulative tradition, epochal convenience, and local habit. Theethics of war and conflict are especially fluid.

We live in a stage of Western civilization in which nameless casualties inflicted by bombing campaigns are acceptable, while the thought of summarily shooting a prisoner of war fills us with revulsion, even if the blood of war crimes drips from every finger of that prisoner. We are allowed to impose embargoes that strike the most powerless members of foreign populations, bringing deprivation, malnutrition, and deformity to the voiceless, while merely annoying antagonistic decision makers. Yet we must treat foreign entrepreneurs who torment our poor with narcotics as white-collar criminals entitled to the legal protections of our own Constitution. Where is the absolute ethical quality, or even the logic, of this unexamined behavior? Our military and foreign policy ethics have the nature of a great historical chain letter that warns but does not reward.

Ethics are enablers. Personal, social, or military, they allow us to interact without needless viciousness and without generalized violence to the soul, the body, or society. In the military sphere, ethics in war allow us to disguise psychologically the requirement to butcher other human beings, masking the blunt killing behind concepts such as just war, higher causes, and approved behaviors. Ethics in war on the part of a Western society do not so much protect the objects of our violence as they shield us from the verity of our actions. Military ethics are ceremonial in the religious sense: they rarify and codify the darkness, implying a comforting order in the chaos and void. So long as we believe we have behaved ethically, we can, statistically, bear the knowledge of our deeds.”

Cynical? True? Enabling? Self serving? You be the judge.

Where are we?

War is the principal way of attempting to force one nation’s beliefs and Ethics on others, without their consent, permission Man in yellow jacketor agreement. As it should, War attracts a lot of philosophical and Ethical thinking. I believe the Ivory Tower opinions, views, treaties, theories and statements hide the reality of War as experienced by real people.

War is death, extreme destruction, utterly immoral and unethical. As I write this, a research organization, employing what independent sources say are valid and unbiased methods, claims 650,000 Iraqi have been killed as a consequence of the US invasion. Previous semi-official estimates were in the 30,000-50,000 range. That is what death and extreme destruction means. That’s 650,000 lives. That’s 260 times the death toll of 9/11. How do you justify it takes two hundred and sixty Iraqi lives to revenge one American life? Perhaps George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld or Condoleezza Rice can enlighten me? Beyond simply stating that this Lancelot approved study “is not credible”.

The Ivory Tower people do not mention kids without legs, with horrible burns or permanently destroyed in some other way. Nor are civilian populations starving or freezing to death mentioned. Insanity, shell shock and other psychiatric illnesses are ignored. The transformation of ordinary kids into rapists, torturers and murderers or, for that matter, insurgents, terrorists or suicide bombers is not considered. Decennium old refugee camps with deplorable facilities are unmentioned. War crimes are mostly well hidden. Propaganda is passed off as truth. “Ethics” boil down to a mountain of pious lies.Girls talking

Ethics and War are incompatible concepts, both on a high level and on an individual level. War is utterly destructive in all manners possible. Ethics are destroyed along with everything else into a cold, devastated, dark and lifeless landscape.

What is the good news? Wars do end. At least one lasted a hundred years, another thirty years. The various Indochina/Vietnam wars persisted for perhaps thirty five years. Most last from one to five years. People do recover to the best of their abilities and circumstances. Ethics are gradually restored till the next war. But the wounds never go away totally. Vietnam veterans on all sides still suffer after some thirty odd years. So will the veterans of the Iraqi and Afghan wars. Meanwhile, their leaders retire. Some devote their time to building library monuments to their greatness. Others simply get richer, play golf and eventually die in peace. None visit their victims.

This concludes Part 4 on my Ethics series. The next issue will examine peaceful attempts to spread Ethics on a global level.

Thank you

Karl

Graph of Ethics, Reality and Morals

Your notions of Reality, Ethics and Morals define your personality. Personal Ethics derive from many influences, some good, some bad. The brain provides a biased, personal and easily fooled picture of the surroundings. Combining your Ethics with a distorted view of Reality defines your Morals. These then guide your actions.

Personal Ethics often deviate from higher level “Ivory Tower” Ethics that make up religion, laws, treaties, protocols, government policy and much else. Ivory Towers are sometimes well meaning but fail miserably on Morals. Now we have the clash of giants.

The institutional Ivory Towers mean less to most of us than the personal World directly around us. That World is uniquely “ours”. We own and are owned by our race, our culture and our religion. Those items are far more important than a UN resolution, however ethical, important and moral it may be.

“Ethics is a code of values which guide our choices and actions and determine the purpose and course of our lives.”

Ayn Rand, Russian-American novelist and philosopher (1905-1982)

What Clashes of Giants?

Man looking out a windowThe basic idea of these essays on Ethics is simple enough – examine Right versus Wrong. However, there are thousands of Ethical “standards”, based on many schools of thought. A large number of thinkers provide worthwhile, and some not so valuable, contributions. These jungles of Ethical influences impact our lives in an astonishing number of ways.

Bear in mind four key features that strongly impact our Ethics – Distortions, Individualism, Diversity and Conflicts. Our view of Reality is biased by distortions created by our senses as well as simple, external physics. Our individual Ethics are based on many diverse influences. Combine our views on Reality and Ethics into equally individual and diverse Morals. The Morals determine what we as individuals actually do.

An ideal World of clear and well defined Ethics is a mirage. We do not live in a perfect World. Ethics and Morals are often at odds. Higher level “Ivory Tower” Morals create additional conflicts because of its own conflicting set of distortions and diverse goals

The bad news is that this is not a very encouraging story. The other news is that individual Ethics are far stronger than those of most institutions. This is sometimes good, sometimes bad news.

Distortions and Conflicts

Most of my esteemed and alert readers are North Americans. You are sufficiently wealthy to own (or perhaps borrow) a computer and intelligent enough to find this blog and read it. Here’s Reality as perceived by some:Girl in a crowd

  • Reality as perceived by many North Americans differ from that of most citizens of Baghdad, Beirut, Darfur, Dhaka, Tongsa, Bossangoa and some parts of Cleveland.
  • A homeless person’s perception of Reality differs from that of a Washington lobbyist charging $300 per hour or those of union bosses such as Frank Massey or Jimmy Hoffa Jr.
  • A person suffering from AIDS in Runudu, Namibia or Songkhia Thailand experiences a different Reality than that of most Western Government or Corporate officials.
  • Our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan or Guantanamo live in a different Reality and are forced to different Morals than those of most Americans, including our Government officials such as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice.
  • Reality as seen by criminals of all kinds differ from that of, say, Pope John Paul, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa or Billy Graham – all giants in their time.
  • Neo Nazi members of Aryan Riders, Aryan Nations, National Vanguard, National Alliance, White Revolution, National Socialist Movement and others around the Globe have a view of Reality (as well as Ethics and Morals) shared by almost no one else.

Then we have the diverse individual views of Ethics – our value system or our judgments of the World:Girl looking lost

  • Some people lack Ethics – sociopaths, psychopaths and some “insane” persons, for instance. They cannot distinguish Right from Wrong. To be avoided.
  • The Ethics of terrorists, whether European, Middle Eastern, Japanese, Chetnyan, Afghan, Sri Lankan or other, are dysfunctional, yet intensely personal.
  • FDR’s Ethics allowed interning 120,000 persons of Japanese heritage – mostly US citizens – in WWII, largely to reduce competition for US farmers.
  • The Ethics of Joe McCarthy resulted in an absurd ghost chase of so called Communists. This bears some similarities to recent acts by the late HP board.
  • The Ethics of British Queen Victoria bears little resemblance to those of Anna Nicole Smith, Paris Hilton, John Holmes, Michael Jackson or Courtney Love.
  • The Ethics of the poor versus those of the rich may or may not be different, but they are based on different premises, influences and realities.

Finally, a few conflicting examples of individuals and groups whose perception of Morals – how they act – differs from most of us:

  • The US Government sanctions torture and inhuman, illegal treatment of individuals, disregarding the Geneva Conventions and other laws and treaties.
  • In its mythological terrorist war, The US Government sanctions illegal spying on its citizens and those of other nations.
  • We live with the Religious Right, Ku Klux Klan, Congressmen such as DeLay, Foley and Hastert, priests preying on children and Enron/HP style leaders.
  • Insurgents and suicide bombers in Iraq and elsewhere kill innocents. So do/did dictators ranging from Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and Hussein to Pinochet.
  • People, whose distorted moral convictions force them to kill, maim or endanger individuals engaged in legal abortions or the animal trade and Man looking over his shoulderresearch.
  • Gang leaders recruit children into crime. Drug dealers create addicts. Sex offenders destroy children and others. Con artists impoverish the elderly.
  • CEOs and other corporate officers with lots of personal power, ego and riches may view Morals (and act) differently than the guy or gal in the mail room.
  • North Korea just exploded its nuclear bomb, universally condemned as an irrational, unethical and immoral act. But what is the moral justification of Iran, Israel, Pakistan, India, South Africa, China, Russia, UK, France and the US of A?

The alert reader may detect some patterns here. Some of you can see dotted lines. Almost all of the examples above are negative in nature. Many deal with institutions with a failing grade. Other examples illustrate individuals with twisted Reality, Ethics and Morals traits. Are there distortions or conflicts? Do you see diversity and individualism?

There are relationships between our perceived Reality, our Ethics and our Morals and the Ivory Tower view. What drives our most basic characteristics? How do we separate the good from the bad and act on it? Do Governments and other Ivory Tower institutions conform to Ethical and Moral standards? Do we always agree with those higher level standards?

Let’s face those questions. Read on, please.

Our Ethics and Morals Discussion

I will recap and add to some of the ideas from On Ethics – Part One. In the next two posts, I will discuss the conflicts of the Ivory Towers – why international ethical programs often fail. Then, I’ll examine the influences on our diverse personal Ethics. Later, I’ll talk about how photography plays a unique and quite interesting albeit distorted role in this discussion. This will include some ideas about the Ethics, Morals and conflicts of street photography.

The Images

As always, here are a few comments on the images used in this essay. I’ve said before it is not easy to illustrate abstract themes. There are no pictures of Ethics or Morals. Apart from a few diagrams obtained from various places, I’ve chosen to add images of people. After all, this blog is really all about people, images, art and how we all really relate.

The images are all shot by me. There is no relation between the text and the individuals in the images. The individuals shown are just people who happened to pass before my camera. That’s all. No hidden agendas.

ON ETHICS – PART 1 and 2

In Part 1, the point was that Ethics are powerful influences on society. I discussed a few aspects of that influence – such as the impact of several philosophers (Plato, Kant, Nietzsche and Hegel) on the German Nazis. That is not to say that the philosophers supported the Nazi ideology even if they had been alive. In fact, all indications are that these philosophers would have been devastated to know their thoughts were misused as some sort of security blanket by Nazi criminals.

Part 2 examined the attitude against torture of the people of various nations. A survey of 27,000 individuals around the globe discovered large differences. Many Westerners demonstrated high Ethics, based on their negative attitude towards torture. In less developed countries and those with a totalitarian past, people had a much more expedient attitude and thus rank lower on an Ethical scale. The showing of the US was poor relative to other Western democracies.

More from Philosophers and Thinkers

  • Confucius – his primary thought related Ethics directly to politics, involving morality, social relations, sincerity and justice.
  • Muhammad – no one can deny the power of Islam. Of course, many religious persons, such as Buddha and Jesus, have also yielded enormous power over long periods of time.
  • Cicero provided a doctrine for ethics in warfare. More about that will follow. His philosophy is largely based on politics – in particular the defense of the Roman Empire about 45-75BC.
  • Seneca lived about the same time as Jesus, he was a Stoic focusing on a harmonious life within an uncontrollable universe. His influence lasted a long time – Shakespeare, Racine and Corneille all were quite influenced by his writings – some 1600 years later.
  • St. Augustine, about 400AD created a Christian doctrine for warfare. More will follow below. He was a follower of Cicero for some time.
  • Niccolo Machiavelli provided systematic studies of several perhaps inconsistent writings – he promoted “realistic”, perhaps ruthless politics as well as “idealistic republicanism”.
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau – apart from his devotion to nature, argued in favor of an absolute democracy based on the sovereignty of all people.
  • Man in deep thoughtBaron de Montesquieu advocated the division of government power. The division of power in the US Constitution is partly based on the Baron’s work.
  • Spinoza – individual, rational egotism guided by reason would make government obsolete.
  • Adam Smith – mostly an economist of long standing influence based on his treaties of efficiency based on the self interest of artisans and traders.
  • John Stuart Mills – the utilitarian idea striving to produce the greatest happiness to all people. He also argued for free economic markets.
  • Carl von Clausewitz – the philosopher of War of the early 1800s. His On Kriege is said to have influenced War and Strategies ever since, including nuclear proliferation. There is more to follow.
  • Karl Marx is truly remarkable in his influence on modern life as a philosopher, historian and revolutionary. Much of his thoughts from the mid-1800s were revised to fit the liking of the many “Marxist” governments. “Marxism” certainly has declined rapidly over the last decades. Still, almost half of the World’s population lived in “Marxist” countries only 20 years ago.

Our environment is shaped by many ideas, some which have survived for thousands of years. These ideas are part of our laws, our constitutions, our Ethics and, ultimately, our daily lives. Yet it is clear that different individuals absorb this alphabet soup of influences in drastically different ways. Let’s see how, starting with the fallacies of Ivory Tower Ethics and Morals.

On Torture

The survey quoted in Part 2 examined ethical attitudes of people in various countries. The poor attitudes of the US in the survey did not per se apply to the US Government. However, to expand a bit, consider this:Man looking up

  • The US Government vigorously opposed a UN protocol against torture, claiming it could not accept inspections of US prisons by international organizations, aimed at preventing torture. The US opposition was supported by Cuba, Syria and Libya, no advocates of human rights. The rest of the World overruled the US position.
  • The US Government and Bill Clinton fought hard to introduce a UN initiative that would protect US “peacekeepers” from prosecution by the International Criminal Court of the UN. Based on vague political arguments of, at the time, Bill Clinton, the US wanted special treatment relative to its expectations on other countries. George W. Bush finally killed all US support of the International Criminal Court.
  • President George W. Bush asserted he will ignore the McCain anti torture bill passed by Congress whenever he so wants. The bill and the ensuing policies violate longstanding international laws, protocols and treaties. The World is truly and justly astonished at the callousness of US policy and its acts of torture.
  • Amnesty International condemned US acts of torture, calling such acts “widespread” throughout Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere. They also mentioned acts of torture by various US institutions, such as the police, against US citizens.
  • The United Nations Committee against Torture demanded that the United States close all secret prisons, hold accountable senior military and civilian officials who authorized, acquiesced or consented to acts of torture committed by their subordinates.

The question remains. Is the US an Ethical country? So far, the evidence says no. I’ll get into more details as I go along. Keep reading.

Where are we?

This is the end of Part 3 of the Ethics series. I’ve filled in some blanks to support upcoming essays. The main point from Part 1 stands: Ethics are powerful influences on society. The impact of individual philosophers and thinkers has been and is enormous, for better or worse. I posed a number of statements about practical issues, many of which I will discuss in detail in upcoming posts.

Thank you

Karl

People of different nations view the issue of torturing prisoners differently. A survey by BBC et al measured and compared these views in countries around the globe. The conclusions may surprise you. I believe the results not only reflect the torture issue but are also pretty good indicators of national Ethics standards.

Are countries that accept torture perhaps less ethicalor moral than those that don’t? Some may say that is an unfair assumption. For one thing, people living in a war torn or crime ridden environment may accept torture as a necessary defense more readily than those lucky enough to live in peace. It’s easy for those living in peace to be “pure” when an issue does not immediately threaten them.

There may be perceived justifications for accepting torture, just as there are reasons why others can afford the high road. But so what? A person’s view on torture is still is a fundamental attitude closely related to Ethics and Morals. Justifications don’t count.

The data used here comes from a BBC of England survey, interviewing 27,000 people in various countries. Here is the question about the interviewee’s positions:

Most countries have agreed to rules prohibiting torturing prisoners. Which position is closer to yours?

1 – Terrorists pose such an extreme threat that governments should now be allowed to use some degree of torture if it may gain information that saves innocent lives.

2 – Clear rules against torture should be maintained because any use of torture is immoral and will weaken international human right.

Position 2 reflects an Ethical view – torture is bad no matter what. Position 1 reflects an expedient attitude, perhaps based on fear, but still less Ethical. Here are the results using tables from an article by Bob Harris:

The top table sorts the countries in terms of “Ethical Purity” (Position 2 above). The bottom table sorts them by “Expedience” (Position 1 above). Largely, but not exactly, the bottom table is the inverse of the top table.

Let’s look at the top table first. The most “Ethical” countries are those with typical Western values. The high rank of South Korea might be surprising considering the tension with its Northerly neighbor – I’m sure the survey was done pre-nuclear times.

The countries ranked low clearly have a different attitude than the top ones. The Indian values look like a fluke – Bob Harris suggested perhaps the interviewer stuttered.

The poor Israeli values may reflect their security situation – I’d expect the attitude of Palestinians might be similar or worse.

Russia and China both rank low together with several less developed countries. That may be the price of a totalitarian heritage.

Now let’s view the bottom table, showing “Expedient” countries that rank high on the “Less Pure” scale. Israel and Iraq come out as the most “Expedient”. Many Western countries are far less open to torture as a weapon in their struggles.

Now, let’s look at the US. Here is the sad situation. The US is ranked worse than average in both tables.
It ranks close to the Philippines, Iraq and Ukraine on “Ethical” standards. Its Ethical attitude is far lower than that of Italy. How about that?

In “Expedience”, the US is right there with Russia and China, neither of which are viewed as human rights advocates by World opinion. Should we infer neither is the US?

What is going on here? Remember that this is the view of the PEOPLE, not the governments. If this was the Ethics or Moral standards of the US top government, I’d not be surprised at the poor showing. But it is not. Consider this (Source: here):

Just two months ago we saw minute-long videotape footage of several guards viciously beating two young men in California Youth Authority custody. This followed revelations four years ago that some wards had been handcuffed and slammed into walls, shot at close range by CYA staff with potentially lethal riot guns and forcibly injected with anti-psychotic drugs.

Remember the disturbing 1996 videotape of naked prisoners crawling on their bellies in a Texas jail as they were hit with batons, kicked and in some cases bitten by German-shepherds?

Do you recall Corcoran State Prison, where eight guards were accused in 1997 of staging gladiator-like fights between inmates, then shooting and killing some of them in the name of prison security?

And who can forget Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, raped with a stick in the custody of New York City’s finest that same year?

Has the Ethical attitude of the US always been poor? Is it a result of the Iraq and other wars? Does racial tension explain it? May it be caused by high crime rates? Is it because of being a melting pot of so many diverse cultures? Is it the Government impacting the Ethics of the people or is it the other way around? Are the crimes of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib reflections of the people of the US in general? Did 9/11 result in a shift in US attitudes?

I have no idea about the causes. What I do know is that this dismal showing will be evident in many upcoming posts in this series. The US largely leads the way in resisting worthwhile international programs, fundamentally based on Ethics and Morals. The drastic difference between its rhetoric sermons and its real, often unethical actions has long frustrated the rest of the World. Hate in the US is not an unknown concept, nor is torture.

Let’s finish by quoting Donald Rumsfeld’s rhetorical view on the Abu Ghraib horror (bolding by me):

“The images that we’ve seen that include U.S. forces are deeply disturbing, both because of the fundamental unacceptability of what they depicted and because the actions by U.S. military personnel in those photos do not in any way represent the values of our country or the armed forces. As President Bush has stated, their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people.”

There is a lot of evidence to the contrary. The BBC survey simply confirms those sad facts.

Where are we?

I’ve been off line this blog for about a month. Part of the reason is I needed to do some things besides this blog. I’ve been busy in my day to day business, at the moment working on some fancy Web Designs as well as photography.

But I have also spent considerable time on this Ethics series. Ethics is a complex subject and I needed to spend some time to collect my thoughts. I wanted to walk down the trail a bit. I’m close to done and the result will here soon. That means some four or five massive posts in the next week or so.

As always, thank you

Karl

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