Do the Right Thing
For this, my inaugural column, I thought about all the great blessings that come with living and working in North San Diego County. I thought about some wonderful people I have the privilege to know and associate with, who help make this region so special. This is what I would love to write about, and I hope to in a later column, but not now. Instead, it is what makes this place so special that compels me to write on a topic I would rather not write about; however, the role of leadership often requires (or should require) that one be willing to address the proverbial “elephant in the room” toward the end that it will ensure preservation of what is good and lead to restoration of what has been taken.
Now more than five years into what has been called “The Great Recession” or “The Long Recession,” I have heard very little discussion from either business leaders or political leaders that might suggest even the possibility of a correlation between economics and ethics (let alone morality, a word to avoid if at all possible). I would contend, it is certainly not for lack of evidence, which, like the elephant in the room, is difficult to ignore, but is nonetheless. [use the photo at this link if it is not copywrited: http://www.disruptiveleadership.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/elephant-in-the-room.jpg ]
In the past five years, how many times have you heard of an “ethical crisis” threatening our way of life? Can’t recall? How about the “economic crisis?” If you “google” these phrases, as I did recently, you will find nearly 16 million results for the phrase, “economic crisis” and only 37,000 for “ethical crisis.” Would you like to know the number of results for these phrases used together? It is about 12,000, and near the top of the search, amidst some rather obscure links, you will find the following quote from Pope Benedict XVI in 2011: “the economic crisis has ethical roots.” He also said, “Now is the time to see that ethics is not something external, but internal to economic rationality and pragmatism.”
So, which great leaders in commerce and in government are addressing this topic? Thankfully there are a few, but it often comes with a heavy price. It is understandable, therefore, that few are willing and ready to discuss this uncomfortable topic. It is understandable, but not excusable. It is undeniably much easier for us to hope and wait for “someone” to come along and “fix it.” Sadly, that “someone” is usually a politician who somehow manages to convince enough voters that they indeed can “fix it.” It is also sadly easier to point to “those greedy corporations” or “those corrupt politicians” or “that wasteful, bloated government.” It is easier, but it is also getting very old and not “fixing it.”
Brit Hume, moderating for a panel on ethics in 2011, suggested that the financial collapse in 2008 was caused by a widespread lack of, “first, ethical behavior by the government; second, ethical behavior in financial markets; third, ethical behavior by mortgage lending banks; and fourth, ethical behavior on the part of the public.” In other words, no one can escape blame; this is “our” problem, and, therefore we, as a society, need to own it. In the famous words of Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” There will always be plenty of blame to spread around, but in the end, it is our lack of self-government that will pull us down, and conversely, it is our willingness to “do the right thing” that will lift us up.
Perhaps in my next column I will write about some great people and organizations in our community that are working hard to “lift us up.”
Owner, Tory R. Walker Engineering
Chairman of the Board