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My last post — not my last post
If you’ve been following this blog, please accept my warm appreciation for allowing me to share my thoughts and insights.
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New look, same articles, videos, and posts grappling with the challenges of calibrating our moral compass and seeking clarity and courage in the battle against ego and the evils of self-deception.
I hope to see you there. Thanks again.
Fighting the next civil war
It happened when John F. Kennedy appeared at his presidential inauguration without a hat. One instant of astonishment, followed by men’s hats instantaneously dropping out of style.
It happened when Michelle Obama began appearing sleeveless as First Lady. A few days of disdain and mockery from the right, after which virtually every female commentator on Fox News had shed her sleeves.
And currently, it has happened with Donald Trump’s unfiltered attacks on anyone who dares to question or oppose him. After excoriating the president for his vitriol and divisiveness, his detractors on the left have used the exact same tactics in their campaign against him.
This has nothing to do with taking sides.
If I forget thee
The UN vote is about more than Jerusalem and about more than an embassy
It’s depressing to have to state the obvious. But it’s too maddening to remain silent. So please forgive me if I revisit what many have said but few have heard.
Last week’s United Nations vote – which censured the United States for planning to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem – is a pitch-perfect example of human society’s collective descent into tribalism. And the heart of the matter has nothing to do with Jerusalem, the Mideast, or American foreign policy.
One could reasonably make the case that moving the embassy is ill-advised. I have had my own doubts whether or not the benefits of the largely symbolic gesture outweigh the potential for violent Palestinian reaction.
But that was not the stated reason behind the U.N. resolution.
Instead, leaders and pundits the world around claimed that the move will derail the peace process. And to that, the logical retort is: what peace process?
In the 53 years since the establishment of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (which preceded the Six Day War and Israel’s so-called “occupation” of the West Bank), the only concession offered up by the Palestinian Authority has been to remove from its charter the call for Israel’s destruction.
The concession to stop publicly advocating the extermination of 6 million Israeli Jews was a good first step, not a final offer. Negotiation requires compromise, as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak demonstrated back in 2000 when he offered to return 94% of the West Bank – an offer the P.A. refused. Since then, the only progress has been Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, to which the P.A. responded by launching missiles against Israeli civilians.
So exactly what “process” does the international community think has been derailed?
PSYCHOLOGY AND PATHOLOGY
Even more absurd is denouncing the U.S. embassy move as “illegal.” The whole world has recognized Israel’s ownership of West Jerusalem since 1947. So why should any country not be allowed to name its own capital in its own land? And why should any other country be censured for establishing its embassy in a legal foreign capital? Finally, why should longtime allies join the chorus of condemnation with absolutely no legal or moral justification?
The first two questions are merely rhetorical. It is the third question that really needs answering. Are you listening, Europe and Canada?
There are two explanations. First is the irrational Utopianism that characterizes much of the political left. Like the delusional naturalists who believe that grizzly bears and mountain lions are really peaceful creatures who will respond to human gestures of affection in kind, radical progressives fantasize that terrorists and the sponsors of terror will eagerly embrace peace once the rest of us confess our sins and beg for absolution.
It hasn’t worked yet. But the Utopians have faith, even as they remain blind and deaf to the irrefutable evidence that they themselves have become the enablers of terrorism. For all their good intentions, they have prolonged suffering on all sides by allowing corrupt Palestinian leaders to squander hundreds of millions in international aid on terror tunnels rather than easing the plight of their own people.
The second reason is that western governments are terrified that any sign of support for Israel will spark violent uprisings among their restless Arab minorities. It’s a disappointing fact of life that the politics of cowardice almost always trump commitment to justice.
THE HEART OF THE MATTER
The more fundamental problem, however, is the unapologetic disregard for truth.
Think whatever you want and believe whatever you want – but defend your positions with facts and logic, not disinformation and distortion. Once reasoned debate and civil discourse become impossible – whether because of ideology or fear – civilization is sure to crumble beneath our feet.
Truth be told, it’s possible that by showing the Palestinian Authority that intransigence will no longer serve their interests, the U.S. has actually moved the peace process a step forward. If other countries begin to follow America’s example, the PA will be left scrambling to make a deal before they have no more chips left to bargain.
King Solomon says, One who trusts his own heart is a fool, but one who walks in wisdom shall be kept safe.
If we truly hope to bring about peace, we have cast off our rose-colored glasses and confront our fear. Only then might we achieve the intellectual and moral integrity that will allow us to follow in the ways of wise counsel.
Leadership Lessons from the Friendly Skies
Fashions change, and so do standards. John F. Kennedy attended his presidential inauguration without a hat, and instantly hats fell out of style. Female attire that’s perfectly acceptable today would have landed a woman in jail a century ago.
But there’s a difference between styles and standards. A relaxed dress code may work in the offices of Facebook and Google, but conventional businesses find that productivity drops off when executives drop their office shirts, skirts, and slacks.
So if United airlines wants to hold its employees to a more formal standard of attire when they’re flying as a corporate perk, perhaps the company should have been applauded for its professionalism.
And if that requires family members who fly on non-revenue tickets to spruce up a bit, is that such a high price to pay?
Well, you’d certainly think so after the twitterstorm that engulfed the carrier earlier this year. And since it’s the season for New Year’s resolutions, let’s think back to last March, when an uninformed bystander jumped to conclusions and — rather than investigating to get her facts straight — tried and convicted United in the court of public opinion.
Why Ethics Matter, Part 6: Change Reality by Accepting Reality
What are Ethics? 2 minute video
How many times have you heard that — or said it yourself — when it clearly wasn’t true? When we don’t want to face reality, to accept responsibility, or to face accountability, we assert that reality must be what we want it to be and can’t be anything else.
If we aren’t prepared to face reality, we can’t be ethical, and we certainly can’t solve our problems or anyone else’s. So what do we do about it? The answer is here:
Why Ethics Matter, Part 5: The Paradox of Average Beauty
According to psychology, beauty is something very different from what we think it is. Similarly, the excitement we associate with the exotic and unusual is more in our minds than in reality.
If we don’t recognize the subconscious forces at play upon us, we can slip into unethical behavior without even realizing it. How do we acquire the mindset for successful coping?
Watch this 2-minute video to find the answers.
Ten tips for a safer, healthier workplace
Here we are again, shaking our collective heads the latest harassment headlines. How did this happen? How did we get here? How long are these stories going to continue to surface?
But the question we should be asking is: what can we do about it? Here are a few common sense curatives for the pandemic of predators in the workplace.
Don’t go it alone. Vice President Mike Pence was widely mocked and ridiculed after disclosing that he doesn’t dine alone with other women. But there is safety in numbers, and the mere presence of others reminds us to behave better. Keep private interactions semi-public, and you’re far less likely to end up in compromising positions.
No flirting. Sure, it’s fun. Like a little kid whisking his finger through a flame, we love to skirt the edges of propriety with winks, raised eyebrows and ambiguously provocative remarks. But it’s a short step onto a very slippery slope, and a little sensual sparring can quickly spiral from cute and clever to distasteful and dangerous.
Watch your tongue. HBO and Showtime have made the worst kind of language positively pedestrian. But there used to be seven words you couldn’t hear on television for good reason. Refinement of language reinforces refined behavior, and the more acceptable foul vocabulary becomes, the more likely we are to cross the boundaries of suggestive, harassing and bullying speech as well.
Look professional. The way we dress sends a signal about how we expect to be treated. The more casual the attire, the looser the standards. This applies to both productivity and personal interaction. A professional-looking workplace promotes professional behavior in every area.
Keep your hands to yourself. Aside from a formal handshake, touching has little place in any professional setting. Some people don’t like being touched but are reluctant to say so. And unwanted or inappropriate contact is just another way of violating boundaries. Do you want people to think of you as “creepy”? Did you just find yourself thinking about Joe Biden?
Don’t turn a blind eye. It’s easy to convince ourselves that a remark or action really meant nothing. We don’t want to look petty, and we don’t want to make something big out of something small. But if a colleague acts in a way that offends you, take that person to one side and politely say you didn’t appreciate it and please not to act that way again.
Have each other’s backs. It’s no different when we witness or learn of misbehavior toward others. It’s hard to stand up for ourselves, especially when we aren’t sure if we can count on those around us to come to our defense. Letting others know that you’re there for them when they need you empowers everyone and creates a bulwark against predatory behavior.
Document. You can let a single, minor incident roll off your shoulders. But if it’s egregious, or if a pattern of behavior begins to emerge, make sure to keep a detailed record in real time, in the form of personal emails, a personal diary and, if necessary, complaints to superiors.
Don’t over-react. As diligent as we have to be, we also have to be careful not to go overboard. In our politically correct society, too many people are eager to find misconduct everywhere, whether it’s racial, sexual, or ideological. Occasionally, we all have poor judgment, and putting an offender on alert quietly and privately is probably enough for most first-offenses. Hitting the nuclear button at the slightest whiff of innuendo may end up being more harmful then helpful to a collaborative culture. If we’re all walking on eggshells, none of us is going to get very far.
Don’t believe it can’t happen to you. The headlines and history are littered with stories of people who never thought they could become victims or never imagined they would become oppressors – not to mention never believing they could be called out or brought down. When we think it can’t happen to us, the chances rocket upward that it will happen to us.
King Solomon teaches that wisdom walks in the ways of integrity and follows the paths of justice. We can save ourselves from much folly by acknowledging the pitfalls that lie before us and disciplining ourselves to avoid them.
The first step is to recognize that all of us are capable of committing acts of gross impropriety, and that any of us can be tripped by the temptations of ego and opportunism if we let down our guard. Only when we hold ourselves to the highest standards of ethical conduct do we have the right to expect as much from others.
He Gave Peace a Chance
After a 34-year run, Gerry Adams is stepping down as leader of the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein. In a world ablaze with seemingly intractable political conflagrations, his story offers a whisper of hope that even the fiercest fires of discord can eventually be subdued by the waters of peace.
I witnessed a small part of the Irish conflict myself when I visited the emerald island in the summer of 1984. It was the midst of “the Troubles,” and central Belfast exuded all the charm of a city under martial law. Policemen on patrol wore flak jackets. An armored personnel carrier idled at a major intersection waiting for the signal to change. Blown out shells of buildings sprouted weeds, and street signs shouted, DO NOT LEAVE CAR UNATTENDED.
“Which are the bad parts of town, the ones I should avoid?” I asked the owner of the bed-and-breakfast where I passed my first night in the capital city.
She dutifully pointed out the Shankill neighborhood on my map and cautioned me to steer clear of it. I thanked her and, with sophomoric self-confidence, proceeded there directly. As I worked my way into the district, I discovered disturbing signs of contention: school yards surrounded by 20-foot fences topped by razor-wire, churches pocked with scars from automatic-rifle fire, and the uneasy quiet of a battlefield waiting for the next barrage.
From what I learned about the conflict, it seemed that each side had sufficient justification to ensure that the violence would continue on and on without end.
900 YEARS OF DARKNESS
As early as 1171, English barons began seizing Irish lands for themselves. In 1541, Henry VIII of England declared himself King of Ireland, adding a poisonous strain of religious acrimony between Irish Catholics and British Anglicans.
By 1703, 90% of Irish land was owned by English lords, who enriched themselves while Irish peasants endured bitter poverty and, during the potato famine of 1845, starvation. Only in 1948, after generations of unrest, did the birth of the Irish Republic restore most of Ireland to the Irish.
However, the six northernmost counties voted to remain part of Great Britain. The majority of residents were the descendants of English lords, but they saw no reason to be stripped of their national identity because of the sins of their fathers. Meanwhile, the long-suffering Catholic minority seethed at having been denied the liberation of their countrymen to the south.
In 1968, a series of protest marches led to riots and the first use of guerrilla tactics by the Irish Republican Army. If they could not win freedom for Ireland through elections and negotiation, they would win it through terror.
Over the next three decades, 3,600 people lost their lives in violent clashes and bloody attacks, many of them orchestrated by Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA. And from 1983 forward, the face of Sinn Fein was Gerry Adams.
A TIME TO HEAL
Reviled by British leaders as either a terrorist front man or enabler, Mr. Adams struggled to navigate the treacherous straits between hardliners and advocates of negotiation. Some accused him of collaboration in murder, others of selling out his own people.
Whatever his faults or crimes, in 1998 Gerry Adams helped push through the Good Friday agreement, brokering the compromise that ended centuries of strife.
The greatest impediment to peace is often the will to make peace. Like it or not, we have to share our world with others who see the world differently, who have their own desires and dreams, who believe themselves justified in demands that contradict that strike us as anathema. As mutual hostility escalates, resolution seems increasingly impossible.
King Solomon warns: Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me and return upon others according to their own actions.”
When we demand what we believe we deserve, the frequent outcome is that we secure none of our demands. By giving up more than we want, we may end up with more than we ever believed we could get.
Once we recognize the advantage of peace over personal agenda, then the impossible becomes possible, and the ideal of peace has a chance to become reality.
What are Ethics? Part 9: When the means sacrifice the ends
Dr. John Bates made headlines early this year when he accused his former boss, Thomas Karl of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, of knowingly misrepresenting data to influence government policy on global warming.
Predictably, climate change skeptics railed against the corruption of the scientific community while climate change advocates charged Dr. Bates with exaggerating his claims.
Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the charges are true. If so, it’s likely that Dr. Karl was motivated by the purest intentions, that he wanted to spur action to prevent the devastating effects of global warming, and that he believed that the data represented an anomaly rather than a larger global trend.
If all of that were actually true, would he have then been correct to doctor the facts for the greater good?