Morals and Responsibility

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    May 01, 2008 3:53 AM GMT
    Salvor Hardin said "Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what's right..."

    Taking it a step further: Would you let your moral conscience or fear/recognition/obeyance of the law prevent you from doing the right thing?

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    May 01, 2008 4:27 AM GMT
    You make a very good point here !!! As Director of a Public Housing and Redevelopment Authority, I worked with the public for many years, and there were so many times that the "SYSTEM" of government regs were set up in a way that punished anyone who tried to help themselves. This is a true story---We had a mentally handicapped lady who worked part time at a resaurant, she received rental subsidy through our Section 8 Housing Assistance program. We started noticing that she had thick bands around her wrists, then we noticed that her arms too, had bands on them. She started wearing clothes that covered these bands, and looking all over like she was having a water retention problem. We asked her about the bands, and if she had been sick several times, but she wouldn't tell us anything. We didn't hear from her for a few days, so called her landlord. When he checked on her she was laying on the floor very very sick. When they took her to the hospital they discovered that she had bound her whole body, and that under the wrappings she had stored her money, when she was totally unwrapped, they counted $5,000+ in bills and coins that had been wrapped and taped between the layers of cloth. (she had done a pretty good job of dressing to conseal what she had been doing to herself for 3 or 4 months) Her skin had deteriorated so badly in places that it was oozing a watery substance. Of all things, the government regs had it that she was only allowed $2,100 on hand or in the bank, and that all over that amount was to be sent to SSI (Supplimental Security Income)a branch of Social Security. Well The Social Directory at the nursing home called me to tell me what was going to happen, I told this worker, that this would be a terrible shame, because this lady had saved up her hard earned money, and had been doing without for years. Her furnishings were in terrible condition, so I suggested we spend the lady's money down to below what SSI would allow. One of my Board members was a Social Worker and she wouldn't budge from the requirement to send some of the lady's money back. I told her that since she hadn't been given a formal report (I didn't tell her the exact amount the lady had, because if I had, there wouldn't have been any recourse) that I'd get back to her. I told the Nursing home Social worker about the conversation with Social Services, then we worked it out that I would spend the lady's money on new furnishings for her apartment, give the Nursing Home all the receipts, then she would "HANDLE IT FROM THERE". I set this lady's apartment up with new things, so she could come home to a new and clean apartment. When she came home, I'll never forget how pleased she was with what her money had bought her. Both the Nursing Home employee and I could have lost our job over this "DOING WHAT'S RIGHT" but I have no regrets for doing it, and we never heard a word more about sending any money back. I told Social Services that the money was under the Government limit, they never asked for details. This was the most fitting example of what your forum was about that I can think of.
  • NickoftheNort...

    Posts: 1416

    May 01, 2008 5:45 AM GMT
    I won't know until I find myself in such a situation.
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    May 01, 2008 5:50 AM GMT
    realifedad, that's a really kind story.
  • HndsmKansan

    Posts: 16311

    May 01, 2008 7:46 AM GMT
    RealifeDad, that goes to show what kind of a really decent and kind guy you really are.... thanks for sharing that kind of story.
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    May 01, 2008 12:27 PM GMT
    Well realifedad. Nice story matey. One has worked in the human services, in many capacity's, over the past 20 years. Youth and child, disability, nursing.

    There have been times. I have put my job on the line, to help another in the way you have. If I worked with you. You would of had my support... But don't tell my boss that, as she thinks I go by the book, and in most things I do.
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    May 01, 2008 1:04 PM GMT
    There are three kinds of good in standard DnD. ;)

    Lawful Good, Neutral Good, and Chaotic Good.

    I'm Chaotic Good. icon_wink.gif
  • NickoftheNort...

    Posts: 1416

    May 01, 2008 1:12 PM GMT
    re: realifedad
    It's sad to hear of such dependency-enforcement and good to hear that you saw and went with an alternate, and much more supportive route for the woman.
    *add a star-shaped sticker*

    re: Sedative
    Neutral Good here; I seek to support the system as long as its purpose is to enable its "clients" and to improve their lives. A human social system that works against us is (IMO) the epitome of stupidity.
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    May 01, 2008 2:28 PM GMT
    Thanks guys !!! I should add that I retired from that job 7 years ago, so there is no way my telling this could come back to bite. (one of you wrote in concern for my wellbeing, over telling something this sensitive, and I appreciated the concern, so thought I should clarify this)
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    May 01, 2008 2:53 PM GMT
    I buy groceries for one lady (my "sister" which is a good joke, cuz she's black) for whom her public assistance isn't enough. Legally, she should have to claim it as income, but then they would just decrease her assistance. We assuage our consciences by pointing out that this way she doesn't have to go for food assistance at a local church and that leaves that food available for someone who does have a "brother" who can help them.

    I also pay for the prescription costs that exceed the public assistance for another person. The pharmacy has my credit card number with instructions to charge any prescription charges to my card.

    My mom has been my role model. She is very generous. She used to send money to an old family friend when she got older and needed the income. But my mom sent the money to people all over the country to be sent to the friend, so the friend couldnt figure out from whom it was coming. We dont know if the friend ever did figure it out. We dont think so.

    My mom received the Human Rights award one year from a neighboring county (the largest and wealthiest county in Virginia) for her work with disabled and disadvantaged people. She not only worked to help people economically. She kept condo units available to rent to disabled and disadvantaged people. When the county had someone to whom no one would rent, they came to my mom knowing that she would rent to them. She remodeled condos over and over to accomodate the particular needs of these tenants.
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    May 01, 2008 3:32 PM GMT
    There has never been a law that created righteousness or goodness. (from a paraphrased version of the Tao Te Ching for emphasis)

    Tao Te Ching 19Get rid of sanctity.
    People will understand the truth
    and be happier.

    Get rid of morality.
    People will respect each other
    and do what's right.

    Get rid of value and profit.
    People will not steal
    if they do not desire.

    If that's not possible, go to Plan B:
    Be simple. Be real.
    Do your work as best you can.
    Don't think about what you get for it.
    Stay focused. Get rid of all your crap.


    Tao Te Ching 18When people lose touch with Tao,
    they start talking about
    "righteousness" and "sanctity."

    When people forget what's true,
    they start talking about
    "self-evident truths."

    When people have no respect
    for one another,
    they start talking about
    "political correctness"
    and "family values."

    When the nation is unstable,
    people start talking about "patriotism."


  • NickoftheNort...

    Posts: 1416

    May 01, 2008 4:12 PM GMT
    ActiveAndFit saidThere has never been a law that created righteousness or goodness.

    Yet there are laws that rectify injustice. Law does or should not intend to "create" righteousness or goodness; rather, it does and should intend to identify and remedy currently existing wrongs.

    While Laozi's prescriptions work as food for thought, their practicality remains unproven. For example, laissez faire works beautifully in the idealized imaginations of classical liberals and contemporary libertarians; when it has guided US political and economic thought, it's been a disaster.

    Law, like any human institution, demands vigilance. It is our tool, engaged by our representatives (or directly by us, in referendum format), and it is (ideally) to serve us.
  • dfrourke

    Posts: 1062

    May 01, 2008 4:26 PM GMT

    It's a great question...history is all too riddled with men and women who stated "I was just following orders"...I would want to believe I am that type of person, but up until now I have mostly been working within a system to do what is right...

    ...I believe if the decision came up against something I was completely passionate...I would...but that has yet to happen...

    - David
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    May 01, 2008 4:34 PM GMT
    This is the kind of question that is nearly impossible to answer. It really depends on the situation. It is considered immoral to engage in cannibalism, but if you were stranded on a mountain with nothing to eat and you were slowly starving to death you would probably make an exception.

    It is considered wrong to kill another person, but I think we can all come up with situations where we would likely break that moral.

    I personally am a very law-abiding person (except I sometimes speed and jaywalk), and I believe I am an ethical person. I don't use the word morality much because that smacks of religious teachings and I am not a religious person.
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    May 01, 2008 7:56 PM GMT
    Caslon saidI buy groceries for one lady (my "sister" which is a good joke, cuz she's black) for whom her public assistance isn't enough. Legally, she should have to claim it as income, but then they would just decrease her assistance. We assuage our consciences by pointing out that this way she doesn't have to go for food assistance at a local church and that leaves that food available for someone who does have a "brother" who can help them.

    I also pay for the prescription costs that exceed the public assistance for another person. The pharmacy has my credit card number with instructions to charge any prescription charges to my card.

    My mom has been my role model. She is very generous. She used to send money to an old family friend when she got older and needed the income. But my mom sent the money to people all over the country to be sent to the friend, so the friend couldnt figure out from whom it was coming. We dont know if the friend ever did figure it out. We dont think so.

    My mom received the Human Rights award one year from a neighboring county (the largest and wealthiest county in Virginia) for her work with disabled and disadvantaged people. She not only worked to help people economically. She kept condo units available to rent to disabled and disadvantaged people. When the county had someone to whom no one would rent, they came to my mom knowing that she would rent to them. She remodeled condos over and over to accomodate the particular needs of these tenants.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------This is cool story of yours !!! I'll bet your "SISTER" would do anything for you too !!! Your mother must have been an exceptional lady !!!
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    May 01, 2008 10:39 PM GMT
    My grandfather was a grocer, and he would feed anyone from the back door of the store if they needed it.

    He forbade my mother from locking her car if she went grocery shopping and then did other errands before returning home. He said that if someone broke in to take the groceries, they needed them more than we did.

    He was an incredibly good man.
  • fitdude62

    Posts: 294

    May 01, 2008 10:58 PM GMT
    The way I see it "morals" is a word that is too often used in the wrong ways. I tend to look more at a persons "character" than their morals.

    Morals are often imposed on us by others where as character comes more from the individual's heart and actions.

    The people that have been mentioned here may have great morals but it's their character that really acted.

    Just a thought,
    David
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    May 01, 2008 11:56 PM GMT
    I suspect that if my moral conscience is functioning then it would not in any way prevent me from doing the right thing, as the right thing (surely my own interpretation of whatever that is) is almost definitely aligned with what I would consider to be moral and conscionable (again, those definitions vary literally person to person in my experience).

    Fear is complicated and powerful, and it has stopped me from doing the right thing when I wanted to do it. That hasn't happened often, but it does happen. Personally, I am afraid of little stuff, the big things don't bother me.

    I don't think I understand what you mean by recognition?

    I do remember reading something about the founder of Peoplesoft (I think that is who it was - anyway some CRM software) who made a donation to a university, and then decided he would never donate again because they spent money to send him some two-bit commemorative plaque.

    That really got my goat, as 99% of people want the plaque; and all the world needs is some holier-than-thou software billionaire putting the chill on smaller donors. I swore I would waste no opportunity to fail to use his software.

    Obedience of the law is complicated too. Some laws are so blatantly unjust that it is civic duty to disobey, especially when those laws interfere with what is right.

    However, to the extent that interpretation of right is a projection of individual moral concepts and constructs while law is a projection of social order and stability much potential conflict lies within that delta.

    A morally functional person might take his idea to mean violating a dumb law to give assistance to a person in need (as in the example of Realifedad). Then you have people (like Tim Mcveigh) whose perceptions of the "greater good" and "what is right" lead to spectacular disruption of social order, violation of the law, and massive death.

    Personally, I wouldn't worry about disobeying the law to help another person. However, I do need to be able to question my own motives for civil disobedience.

    Some people (I think some people we have on this site - actually) seem to lack the mechanisms to question their own motives, and that deficiency has (at least) the potential to lead to big problems.

    But then worrying is what I do best.

    Ciao
    Terry


    ITJock saidSalvor Hardin said "Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what's right..."

    Taking it a step further: Would you let your moral conscience or fear/recognition/obeyance of the law prevent you from doing the right thing?

  • bradsmith

    Posts: 175

    May 02, 2008 1:43 AM GMT
    Does anyone feel that responding to a quote from a fictional (although admirable) character from Issac Asimov's Foundation series is...unusual?

    Not to detract from the great conversation and stories...but the name looked familiar...
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    May 02, 2008 3:01 AM GMT
    NickoftheNorth said
    ActiveAndFit said:There has never been a law that created righteousness or goodness.

    Nick said: [..] Law does or should not intend to "create" righteousness or goodness; [..]
    This is what I said too. But the point is, if you depend on law to figure out what is right .. you will in many cases do wrong. Without an internal sense of right and wrong that comes from compassion and observation of cause and effect you will not be able to make good decisions. Look at any number of laws (laws of segregation and inequality for instance) and you will see that when people knew inside the Law was wrong, and ignored the law to do what was right .. things changed for the better.

    Lao Tzu's prescription for personal responsibility, concern for your fellowman, introspection, and moderation is a good thing.
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    May 02, 2008 3:45 AM GMT
    bradsmith saidDoes anyone feel that responding to a quote from a fictional (although admirable) character from Issac Asimov's Foundation series is...unusual?

    Not to detract from the great conversation and stories...but the name looked familiar...


    Which makes for a better or more interesting discussion, a quotation from a fictional character, or another discussion of what kind of underwear you prefer or what you wear to bed?

    A real life situation just had me remembering the quotation, and pondering the morality and repercussions of situational ethics... as I prepared to break some laws with very seriously major penalties.

    Thought the general discussion of situational ethics would be interesting.
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    May 02, 2008 5:53 AM GMT
    I find the topic immensely worthwhile and don't need my quotes to come from real people. It is just as well to quote Humbert Humbert as Gustave Flaubert.


    edit - I realize that didn't sound right, makes it seem like I think Flaubert wrote Lolita. Just meant to pick a fictional character and an author and those two popped into my head.

    Terry
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    May 02, 2008 10:57 AM GMT
    bradsmith saidDoes anyone feel that responding to a quote from a fictional (although admirable) character from Issac Asimov's Foundation series is...unusual?

    Not to detract from the great conversation and stories...but the name looked familiar...


    Well... to throw another mythical character into the fray, how about Robin Hood? Do you agree with him? icon_wink.gif