When I was teaching business communications at Webster University in Geneva, I did one lecture on ethics to about 20 students from many different countries.
"You'll never succeed if you are ethical," a Russian girl said. Her Russian friend agreed with me.
The ensuing discussion was far more interesting than my prepared lecture. Most of my students felt the world would be better if everyone was ethical, but that was impossible.
It left me with a terrible feeling of sadness. That was in the late 1990s.
I was raised by a strict New England Yankee grandmother and an almost as strict mother on right and wrong. You tell the truth (that was learned after I lied about putting the kitten in the refrigerator. They had found and other than be chilly for a short time, she went on to a long life).
- You pay full price at the movie even if you look like you're under 12.
- You don't cheat on tests.
- You put yourself in other's shoes.
- In golf, you play the ball where it lies.
- You don't pick on someone weaker than yourself
- And thousands of more do-what's-right
That not everyone followed these rules I learned at 16 when I was cub reporter for the Lawrence Eagle Tribune covering town politics. And when I met my first Palestinian after the 1967 war, I heard a hidden side of life.
My mother was in charge of rental events for the Meadowbrook Golf Club where we were members. Caterers, florists, bands for the weddings she had booked in all offered her kick backs. She refused them all.
The more I read, the more I discovered much of what I was taught was either a lie or only a small part of the story. I learned symbols were more important than reality because the reality was hidden.
of me wants the world to be good and beautiful: flowered gardens, happy
families, police who do not shoot people in the back, people who do not
shoot police, wars that are only to protect the U.S. not to feed the
arms manufacturers, people who earn enough to have those flowered
gardens, politeness, builders who follow safety laws, politicians who
vote for the people not their corporate sponsors, etc.
I am not naive enough to expect that. I fear my students were right.