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MORALLY BANKRUPT, ETHICALLY DUBIOUS

But perfectly polite.  Is etiquette a sociopath?

On one hand you have family, school, community and religion instilling a series and system of values and critical thinking skills to evaluate said values.  Combined with other societal influences – the age old question of Nature vs. Nurture seems to have settled at A Little of Both – this is where you get what we can call, with relative safety, morality.

In the same system, stripped of supernatural ramifications and foregoing legal ones (though certainly counting them among the influences if not the enforcer), you have the underpinnings of why something is correct or proper, or the right thing to do – how to apply morality to your existence.  And not because your mom or God told you.  The idea is that within a system there is a self-referential way to behave, and behaving in that way is the right way to behave – a delightful little bit of circular logic called ethics (though also employed by mom and God as “Because I said so.”)

Now, can you be free from morality – and innocent of ethical conviction – and still be polite?  I would say sometimes you have to be.

Take for example – dishonesty.  If you don’t mean it when you say it, is it always a lie?  Think about all the times you’ve said “Good to see you!” or “I really miss you!” or… whatever it is you say and rationalize that isn’t honest – there was a reason you said it.  And while the end result wasn’t some sort of bleak amoral universe – a product of your violent upbringing and decadent lifestyle like a Czech drug kingpin – you’re still a liar.

And you should be.  Not because lying is good, but because the idea of moral absolutism is laughable.

You can break The Ten Commandments one by one and find a perfectly good reason to do so.  We’ve already dispensed with “Thou Shalt Not Lie,” what about “Thou Shalt Not Steal”?  What if you’re hungry and poor and you steal some food?  What if you intend to repay them, but never manage to do so?  And then “Thou Shalt Not Kill”…what if someone is coming at you with an ax?  Or Axe Body Spray?  And don’t even get me started on “Thou Shalt Not Want”.

These are rather simplistic examples, but they expand geometrically, exponentially, to fill every nook and cranny of our lives.  Imagine a relationship of complete and total honesty.  I don’t have the words for that kind of horror.  And can you fathom that in a work environment?  I didn’t think so.  So merely waking up and chewing through the leather straps to get on with your day, you have to start by being dishonest.  You have to make a decision to lie and carry it through.

And that’s the right thing to do.

 

 

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