I once heard someone say that President Obama is the most principled person that she knows, and I was confused. In looking at the things he’s done, and the choices he’s made, I don’t see a coherent set of principles at all. I see situational ethics in action.
Situational ethics is what happens when everything is relative. Used to be, people derived their moral code from their religion. Then God was dead, and humanity became the standard. But whose humanity? Whose culture would prevail, and who got to decide whose ideas were worth upholding?
Diversity, tolerance, these are buzzwords for “I don’t know who has the better ideas. I’d better take one from column A, and two from column B, mix them up at little, and see where we’re at.” (Not good grammar, but I’m trying to make a point here).
And I can understand the backlash against a religion that frowns on people having control over their own bodies. Except that what has happened is that government has become the new religion, and people can’t wait to toss control to local, state, or federal representatives.
Abortion? Yes, get out of my bedroom!
Sugar? No! Bad! Regulate it!
Insurance? Yes! Make me buy it!
The Ten Commandments have been replaced by the 100,000 regulations, and still people clamor for more. What does all this have to do with principles and situational ethics?
Used to be, everything was pretty much well black and white. (And I’m not talking race here, just stark reality). Some people had it pretty good, and some people got screwed. Many religious people did what they could to alleviate suffering, and wrote off the rest.
“Better luck in the next life.”
But some of the people who were getting screwed said, “Hey, this isn’t fair!” And some of the people who had it pretty good said, “Hey, that isn’t fair! Let’s do something about it.”
And principles were thrown out the window and situational ethics was born. It is situational ethics that enables us to have thousands and thousands of pages of laws and regulations. The principled people needed only 10 standards to cover every situation in the book. Ten standards doesn’t allow you to lay comparative blame, though. Ten standards wakes up, sure of its facts and where it wants to go, and the straightest path to get there.
Situational ethics has a more meandering path to follow. A widow can’t afford to educate her son. Education is good, it benefits society, so we’ll make other people pick up the tab for the son’s education. But the son beat up another kid in class. He should be punished. But the son has been distraught because his father was killed by the other kid’s father, who was driving drunk. So maybe he needs counseling. But the kid who was beat up didn’t have anything to do with his father’s actions, and now the kid is scared to return to school. He was captain of the football team, and they will lose the championship if he doesn’t play. That will mean lots of angry parents, who are now calling for the son to be expelled from school, and sent to jail. But this is the first time the son has been out of line. Up to this point, he’s been a decent student, who had gotten a part-time job to help his mother out with the bills. If he is expelled from school, he’ll lose his job and his mother will lose her house.
The situational ethicist must ponder all of the fine points of this scenario, and weigh each competing claim against the other before making a determination. Who wins, and who loses, and how deserving is each party of its fate, are questions that must be decided before any life-altering action can be taken. That is why outcomes are so different in individual cases: the best situation for the most number of people must be considered.
The 10 commandment guy? He has charged the kid with battery, and moved on. He dealt with the core of the case, and let all other considerations fall where they may.
And so we arrive at Benghazi.
First: The Ambassador to Egypt wants more security. But it may take a lot of security to make him safe, and we don’t want to project that image in that country. We want things to settle down, people to think that the U.S. is reconsidering its hardline stance, the U.S. is ready to treat other nations as equals in the bargaining process. Result: reduction in security.
Next: It’s better for the morale of the U.S. people if they believe that they are safe from al Qaeda. It’s in the best interest of 320 million people to blame a protest in Cairo on a lone movie maker, instead of people who are unhappy with U.S. occupation of countries in the Mideast, even if it isn’t true, and the 1st Amendment gets thrown out the window to boot. Result: blame movie producer for unrest, and Mitt Romney for calling the Obama administration to task in front of the rest of the world.
Then: An embassy outpost in Benghazi is attacked. Lack of a clear goal makes decision-making difficult. An unmanned drone is dispatched to keep an eye on things, as they spin out of control. Invasion of Egypt in order to protect the Ambassador sends the wrong message to other countries, and the wrong message to U.S. citizens. Result: 4 dead, and the attack is spun as another protest against the movie that escalated.
Now: More people are concerned about the lack of response to the attack, and the deaths of 4 Americans, one of whom was the representative of the U.S. government. Emails and cables showing that the administration knew of the attack, and the reasons for the attack, in real time, are surfacing. The election is nearing, and it is better for the American people if they are represented by a President who believes that cooperation with the rest of the world is more important than cowboy values. Result: Try to maintain a lid on situation until after the election. Throw everyone necessary under the bus to protect the candidate with vision. We’ll all be better off eventually.
If you find yourself in need of a writer for one job, or many, I’m available. From
resumes to proofreading articles, to blog postings, I will provide content
that meets your needs, written in the voice you desire,
with the quality you deserve.
Email your proposals to tredalong@hotmailcom.