Monday, 9 May 2016


I’ve been thinking about ethics which is rather like saying “I’ve been thinking about algebra” - because “ethics” sounds so dry and academic. It’s what the ancient Greeks spent their Sunday afternoons talking about. Here’s what got me thinking: old Aristotle supping, as it were over his pint, and muttering:
We do not act rightly because we have virtue and excellence but rather we have those because we acted rightly.

Attitude doesn’t determine our behaviour…it’s our instinctive behaviour that shapes our attitudes.

So how are we doing?

Not very well - be depressed if you look at the past weeks where events have been created from pragmatism, cynicism and a mix of lawyers saying “don’t say that” , PR people adopting the well-worn approach “we need a new strategy - we’ll have to lie” and strategists saying “we must win…regardless”.
In politics the same unpredictable/inevitable occurs. Trump wins in Indiana and all-but the Republican nomination. This reminds me of the Democrat Donald Tuck who allegedly once said “the people have spoken …the bastards.

Behaviour is uniformly devoid of ethics and disregards consequences….Zac Goldsmith’s abortive campaign in the London Mayorial contest was designed only to win at any cost. Trump says whatever gets a headline. Meanwhile some of the comments made on both sides in the current wretched EU Referendum Campaign remind me of Shakespeare’s Henry VI and the War of the Roses and are shamelessly bellicose.

Now, York, or never steel thy fearful thoughts
And change misdoubt to resolution

The Hollow Crown, on BBC 2, is brilliant study of amorality apart from the appearance of well- known faces in new parts. Downton Abbey meets Lark Rise meets Last Tango in Halifax meets Mr Selfridge.
And with those familiar faces comes an expectation of how they’ll behave…Richard of York is Adrian Dunbar the actor most recently seen as Superintendent Ted Hastings head of police crime investigation unit C12 in Line of Duty.

There he’s a paragon of ethics. And now transformed to an iambically pentameter wielding politician.
The expression “all’s fair in love and war” finds its earliest manifestation in Shelton’s translation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote in 1620:

love and war are all one…it is lawful to use sleights and stratagems to attain the wished end

Only it isn’t. It just isn’t - as Aleppo shows us to our collective shame. It isn’t - as Hillsborough showed us. It isn’t - as Sebb Blatter and his crew have discovered.

A good friend of mine - a very senior Civil Servant - is aghast by the continuing evidence of the institution he’s been brought up to trust, the Police. There’s little sign over time of their “acting rightly”.

The good news is an emerging younger generation of ethical minds.

Q. Isn’t Suarez a great striker?
A (from 7 year old Grandson): No. He’s terrible. He bites.

We do not act rightly because we have virtue and excellence but rather we have those because we acted rightly.

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