One of the most boring classes I ever took was philosophy. I needed an elective and this was the only one that worked in my schedule. Biggest mistake I made in school; I couldn’t figure out a thing the professor was saying. So while the title of this post may allude to some pondering of the “id”, I will not be waxing philosophical.
However, a little while ago in another post, I had alluded to the issue of societal accountability: this notion that as a society, we have a moral responsibility to look out for one another. So I wanted to share some moral dilemmas I’ve experienced in the past that still weigh on my conscience today.
The first may seem a little silly to some, but to animal lovers, I might be responsible for involuntary perpetuation of pain. I was driving to an appointment and I spotted something on the road from a distance. It appeared to be moving, and at first, I thought it was a squirrel crossing the road. But it was not making much progress and as I slowly approached it, I realized it was a cat who was evidently injured and unable to walk. I was running late for my appointment. Selfishly, I made the split-decision to drive away, all the while peering into my rearview mirror hoping another car would drive by and stop to help. None did. I couldn’t get the image of the cat out of my head the entire day and wondered if I should have stopped. Even if I had, I wouldn’t have known what to do. But is that a reason to not stop?
For a short time, I reported to a gentleman who was known as tough, temperamental and impersonal. I was lucky to have never crossed him so he was always fair with me. However, a co-worker of mine did not fare so well. She never did anything “to” him, but there was clearly a clash of personality and working style. In department meetings, he would constantly berate and yell at her in front of the team. It was awkward and embarrassing. One time, I almost stood up and walked out on the meeting because I found his outburst so demeaning and unprofessional. But I did not. Not much later, she was fired. I don’t know what might have happened had I taken the “high” road instead of sitting with the lemmings. Perhaps I could have been fired for insubordination, or perhaps it might have inspired the other managers to do the same thing and led to an investigation into this gentleman’s management style. I’ll never know.
Another gentleman I used to work for often used inappropriate sexual humour in group meetings. It was clear that the women around the table were uncomfortable, but the men were guffawing it up, presumably because that’s the socially accepted thing to do. There were very definitive grounds for accusing him of sexual harrassment. But nobody did. He was a high level executive in the organization and nobody dared to challenge authority at that level.
When we stand back and choose to passively play observer, does it mean our moral compass is not as strong? I hope in my own case that it doesn’t make me a less moral person. Does the fact that I still think about these situations mean I am not? Or am I just trying to forgive myself? It’s interesting that the spectrum runs from “Mind your own business and the rest will take care of itself” to “Help anyone and everyone in need”. I guess the beauty of human beings is that we’re all unique and will fall somewhere different along that spectrum.