18 June 2008

What's Ethical? & What's good?



My mother continues to tell me, "Follow ethics in your life & be good to everyone!" Since my childhood days, these "two words": ethic & good, have always puzzled me. Though, I think, I know the meaning of these words. But its my observations, which have made me confused. My wordweb dictionary defines "ethic" as "the principles of right and wrong that are accepted by an individual or a social group"; and "good" as "that which is pleasing or valuable or useful". But, the difficult part for me has been "the acceptable principles of right and wrong" which rely upon the norms of a society; and the fact that society's set norms & beliefs changes. Likewise, the "perspective" of looking into a matter defines "pleasing or valuable or useful".

I recall a nice little story: A man was walking down the street with his son. He found a wallet full of money. He looked up for the identification, called the person, and mailed the wallet back. He didn't take anything from it. He told his son "It's not yours". Besides, he always used to exhibit good behavior for his son whenever he could. Next time, he was "alone" crossing a street and again happened to find a wallet. Inside the wallet, he saw large sum of money but no identification of it's owner. In addition to that, he discovered that no one was looking. For sometime, he thought of delivering the wallet to a police station, but eventually gave up the idea. He was amazed with thought of the comfort that the money possibly could bring into his life. The feeling that "no one might ever look or know" guided him to act in a way contrary to the previous case.

I sit on a chair and try to analyze my own habits in a bid to resolve that if they are ethical. My morning normally starts with a cup of tea & a clutter of news/noise on TV. I see the pitiful faces of hunger caused by the cyclone/earthquake/civil war in Myanmar, China and Ethiopia; and I recall the distressing fate of the street kids back in Nepal. They all are in need of affection, monetary help and counseling. But to me, these are just news items...I don't mind throwing my whole dish into trash cans if I am not happy with the taste of that dish...I prefer a dessert after my every meal. Isn't it an act of sheer arrogance?

My parents are living back home "alone". Sometimes, they badly need us...they sacrificed many things in life for us (kids)...now, it's our turn to acknowledge & payback some of their sacrifices (there can't be a payback, though)...But, I think how can I get a job abroad even after completing my studies and thus settle outside for a "comfortable life". In addition to an emotional responsibility towards my family, shouldn't I be concerned about my country and try to contribute "something" for a better future? Isn't it an act of utmost ignorance?

I try to argue myself that if I happen to "settle" outside and earn dollars or pound or Yen, I can remit it to my relatives and make their lives "comfortable" and also support my country's economy...but who can quantify & compare these aspects and come up with a conclusion(?): a possible "happy" life of my parents with my "presence", compared to a possible "comfortable" life owing to a "better financial position"...a possible little "share" to the growth of country's economy with my remitted foreign money, compared to my active "small contribution" towards the betterment of my beloved country. I repeatedly ask myself: am I ethical?

I recall a typical scenario at an office. The "boss" is "in-charge" of "everything". Professions always seems to be attentive towards protecting the "status-quo". Employees attempting to question the competence of "seniors" appear to be considered as a part of the problem, not as a possible component of the solution. So, being "ethical" may not prove to be "good" if you possess your own different idea and even if sure of its "better" outcome. The society and it's norms define the "ethics" and they continue to "redefine" it.

Last week, I came across an interesting write-up. In the morning, a husband woke up with a hangover caused by excessive drinking of last night. He was finding it difficult to even open his eyes. After he got up, watched the room, where things were in a perfect order, with a pleasant surprise. He saw his dress in front, clean and pressed! Everything in the room looked beautifully arranged, spotless & clean. He discovered something written on the notepad: "Honey, breakfast is on the stove, I left early to go shopping. Love You!" It was from his wife, understandingly.

He was stunned; as he was finding it difficult to believe everything. The breakfast table was waiting for him with the "delicious brekkie" and a newspaper. He saw his son already taking his breakfast there. Amazed by the scene, he asked "Son, what happened last night?" His son replied, "Well, you came home around 3 AM, drunk and delirious. Broke some furniture, puked in the hallway, and gave yourself a black eye when you stumbled into the door". Confused, the man asked, "So, why is everything in-order and so clean, and breakfast is on the table waiting for me? I should expect a big quarrel with her!" His son responded, "Oh, that! Mom dragged you to the bedroom, and when she tried to take your clothes & shoes off, you said, "Lady, leave me alone! I'm married!"

In the above narration, something about "ethics" is mentioned. The husband, despite of being drunk, was aware of his "commitment" towards his wife. So, is "ethics" we say, is doing something "moral" even in subconscious mind(?) such as "no one might ever look or know" should not redefine our attitude. Is the "ethics" always associated to "truth"? and Is being "ethical" always "good"?

I must apologize for not being able to "conclude" this topic. I appreciate your patience for coming all the way towards "end" of this write-up and trying to digest this "heavy dose" post. Whether or not you are very "sure" of the terms "ethics" & "good", please drop a line or two here as comment...


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14 Comments:

Lukmanul on June 19, 2008 at 10:39 AM said...

Hmm... it's a kind of difficult paragraph for me to catch. LOL. Despite for being an "unfinished paragraph", sure, it strucks me on my head. Since, the so-called "ethics" and "good" relies upon social norms where they belong, people's perception varies. Though I believe, the so-called "universal definition" of ethics and good exist.
Cheers, mate!

Basanta Gautam on June 19, 2008 at 11:29 AM said...

Nice posting Deependrajee. It is difficult to talk about or discuss about ethics.

That story at the last was quite good. So a true ethics is that which shows up not only consciousness but also in unconsciousness.

Just a thought though!

Sujan said...

Deependra dai
Hats off to u for this nice writes-up even though inconclusive. I believe that these two words " ethics" and "good" can't be interprated in one way direction. Ya there is some social ethics like respectin the elders....which is synonymous to being good. Other than that, i think the meaning depends on people's perception and the norms set by them rather than by the society. So, something ethical/good to a person or a group need not necessarily be ethical/good to others.

It's always nice and refreshing to read ure blog. I hope for more..........Gambatte kudasai

Anonymous said...

Well! Well!
No one can bit in this topic. But you did it. What I understand is an ethical or not is "self-realizationism". When a person acts in accordance with his character and realizes his full potential, he will do good and be content. And this is his ethics. Every act a person does is to be happy or get away from unhappy and frustration. Unhappiness and frustration are caused by the unrealized potential of a person, leading to failed goals and a poor life. Aristotle said, " Character does nothing in vain." Therefore, it is crucial for persons to act in accordance with their character and develop their latent talents, in order to be content and complete. Friendship, family, relatives, money, job and so on all are to be happy and content. Those who steal, cheat, do illegal all have their own way of viewing life ethic and evaluating it good or bad. A thief is good in his own way and he justify it ethically. So there is not thing good and bad until your character decide it is bad or good or ethical or not. And a person’s ethic can be seen in his character. A person’s life ethic differs from one another. That is what I understand.
your friend

budhathoki.np on June 20, 2008 at 7:14 PM said...

deependra sir,

your topic is good, but we can not only conclude ethics and good these two words good or bad only these two examples. i think and u also agreed that it depends upon the situation and practical environment.

write more for this topic please.

bye

Manish Chandra Jha on June 23, 2008 at 3:36 PM said...

Hello Bhaiyaa..

I read ur article and found it very interesting.

The only thing that I can tell you, what comes through my mind is... There is no such thing called GOOD or BAD. This is just one's perception that makes him distinguish between the above two.

There might be somthing that you think that its GOOD but it could be BAD for someone else.

So being Ethical is somthing that you say its GOOD but in life you cant go for it all the time. Because there are other things attached to it which diverts your way of taking decission.

....And this is all LIFE is all about.

I hope you have understood what I was trying to say.

Manish

Hasitha said...

Interesting topic. I think most of the questions you raise are due to the ambiguity of the definition of the term ethics, more precisely what "some cultures" perceive as ethical. The way I see it, doing the right/logical/rational thing is what really matters (and what everyone should be concerned about).
:-)

DEEPENDRA on June 24, 2008 at 8:13 AM said...

Dear Lokman,
Thanks for your time and interest in this blog. The fact that the post was difficult for you to "catch" is, perhaps, due to my "poor writing skill".

Basant ji,
Its always good to have your comments. Probably, you are right in saying "It is difficult to talk about or discuss about ethics".

Sujan ji,
Thanks for the compliment. I value your "perception" over the issues: ethics & good.

Dear "anonymous" friend,
Thank you very much for your "comprehensive" comment. May I request you to visit this blog in future as well and provide with your thoughtful insights?

Budhathoki ji,
Thanks for your comments. I will try to write "more" on this topic someday.

Manish babu,
Accept my appreciation for your blog entry "There are things that money can't buy", which encouraged me in writing this article. & welcome to this blog! Its good to read the "practical" aspect of ethics and good.

Dear Hasitha,
Thanks for your comments. It is interesting to note the "ambiguity" in the definition of the terms "ethics" & "good". I am glad that you found this topic "interesting".

Anonymous said...

Dependra Jee
The point you mention " ethic and good" is really impressing. I guess everybody who are aboard to earn some money , to get higher education, or by some other perpose might have this confusion once in their life. But some decide to follow their ethic and some to good but most are confuse and still sepnd their life aimlessly. But the problem is again same the ethic or the good???
Deepa

Rajani on June 26, 2008 at 1:54 PM said...

Dai,

Its really nice topic with nice description about the words ethics and good albeit no conclusion. Both are equally important in human life. But I think so the word/meaning ethics fluctuates according to the situation in the life of people but the word "good" is evergreen and is stable forever. If there is good things then automatically ethics will set up. At this moment, the word good is quite important to set up the ethics for peace in our country.

I really appreciate to chose these words which are quite important.


Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Rajani
How the word "good" is evergreen and is stable forever? I think it depend upon person to person and time to time
your friend

DEEPENDRA on June 27, 2008 at 9:39 AM said...

Rajani ji, Deepa bhauju and my "Anonymous" friend,
Thanks for your comments and discussion on the issues raised in the post.
I look forward to your invaluable presence to this blog, in future too...

Anonymous said...

Good topic.

And Hi to Rajani Budhathoki, from Sagar

DEEPENDRA on August 27, 2008 at 4:40 PM said...

Sagarji,
welcome to this blog! hope to see you again.

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