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My Own Personal Ethics

Well Chef Fan’s we have talked before about my service learning class and the ethics part of the class and what fallows is my final paper that I was asked to compose for class. The assignment was to talk about what groups or individuals that have influenced our view of ethics. So please enjoy!

“As men even if we know the adventure will be full of sorrow and pain we still choose to go on it. Real adventures are not like the ones depicted in games or comic books. They’re neither easy nor quick and they can break a man’s heart. Real adventures can torment people. They can make you regret even going on them, but still that’s the true meaning of adventure. Why do we as men still chooses to go on adventure? Because we want to be real men! Real men don’t give up, even in front of pain or sorrow or regret. Rather they want to live a full life that’s what real men are!”

I really do love this quote because first off I read it in a comic book, and secondly because before I came to NECI this was a perfect quote for me coming to NECI. NECI was my next adventure; I have had a lot of adventures in my life growing up and becoming who I am right now. My parents and family had a lot to do with this as do everyone’s parents and family. Growing up I had a good life, yes, my parents got divorced when I was 6 years old. My mom was a mostly single mother, but she had a college degree and has always been working on one thing or the next. She is also smart with her money; most of the time anyways. There was the motorcycle phase, but I point this out because while she may have been working she always came home and we talked and had generally a very good home life.  My dad at the time of their divorce had just started up his own architecture firm and I didn’t get to see him very much, but this also was because of the custody given out by the court.  This didn’t mean he wasn’t in my life, because he was. I remember the times we would sit around the table and build model airplanes together. My dad remarried and for a little bit I fought with my step mom but I was a 9 or 10-year-old kid when this happened, what did you expect to happen? I love her now and she is just as much a mom to me as my real mom is. I also know she could not only whoop my ass but also chase me down to do just that, I’m not joking she just took 46th out of 700+ people in her FIRST 100 mile marathon, 4th women and first in her age “class”.  What do all three of my parents have in common? Well, first of all they all taught me to do what I love. They also taught me that if you want something, it is not going to be given to you, you have to work to get it, and it is going to be hard work. I learned that you are going to have to do things you don’t want to do, but you still have to do it. The last thing I learned from my mom and dad was something that I don’t even think they meant to teach me. That is the importance of respect, and I say that because even though they got divorced they tried very hard to still be polite and respectful of each other at least around me and my sister. I honestly could not tell you how they feel about each other than or now, but they respect each other and can have a conversation, which is a lot more than I can say other divorced families that I know. The fact that they tried to get along with one another really helped me growing up. The down side was that they also helped each other when I had been bad. Do you have any idea what it’s like knowing that if you get caught doing something bad, you were going to get punished twice, or “talked” to twice, and because this was before cell phones, sometimes a few days apart ? Well it makes you both a good person and also really good at not getting caught.

While we are still talking about family I want to point out that above anyone else my maternal grandma taught me laugh. Along with my grandpa, the artistic dentist who was always telling jokes, they both taught me how to live and love life. Then we come to my sister and brother, and we have two completely different relationships. I’ll tell my brothers first because it is easier, I’m his big bro. That is all that I need to say. We are 9 years apart and by this point I was spending one week with living with my mom and the next with my dad, so we got to spend a lot of time together. He looked up to me and wanted to do the same things I was doing. For him I tried to set a good example, but my sister was another story all together. My sister and I are 18 months apart and we didn’t get along at all. We get along pretty good now, but back then let’s just say we were less than friends.

I am an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America; I am also a 5th generation Eagle Scout in my family. I started cub scouts when I was also 6 years old, and I have always been a competitive person and this was no different, because I had to be like my father and grandfather, I wanted to be a great boy scout. With this mentality I took the Boy Scout Law to heart and it really has helped shape me all of my life, because above all else “A Scout is:

TRUSTWORTHY

A Scout tells the truth. He keeps his promises. Honesty is part of his code of conduct. People can depend on him.

LOYAL

A Scout is true to his family, Scout leaders, friends, school, and nation.

HELPFUL

A Scout is concerned about other people. He does things willingly for others without pay or reward.

FRIENDLY

A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He seeks to understand others. He respects those with ideas and customs other than his own.

COURTEOUS

A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows good manners make it easier for people to get along together.

KIND

A Scout understands there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. He does not hurt or kill harmless things without reason.

OBEDIENT

A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobey them.

CHEERFUL

A Scout looks for the bright side of things. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy.

THRIFTY

A Scout works to pay his way and to help others. He saves for unforeseen needs. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property.

BRAVE

A Scout can face danger even if he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at or threaten him.

CLEAN

A Scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean. He goes around with those who believe in living by these same ideals. He helps keep his home and community clean.

REVERENT

A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.

 

These Laws were a part of my life all throughout school, up until I entered high school, and I really tried very hard to live those values and laws. It didn’t always work and there are a few gray areas when it comes to Obedient and Reverent. I remember a number of times when I would get in trouble at home and my dad would bark off the Boy Scout Law and make me repeat it. So obedient may not be a strong point but who really does everything they are told or obeys every law, especially when it comes to traffic laws and speed limits? Reverent is a story of a different tune. I am not religious or at least not what people would define as religious. I am not a Christen nor do I believe in any of the God’s that are currently worshiped. It has nothing to do with not wanting to believe and everything to do with the fact there are too many contradictions and coincidences for there to be the level of hatred and war that the religions of the world have all caused. If you study religion even the smallest amount you can see that everyone is worshiping the same god or gods and just calling them different things. I would love it nothing more than for everyone over in the Middle East to realize this, for god’s sake they are the same religion, and they are just fighting and killing each other over which one of them worships the same god the best! So myself and Reverent have never really seen eye to eye, but I define reverent in this way.

REVERENT

A Scout uses his own knowledge to come to his own conclusions about beliefs. He respects the beliefs of others, as he wishes his own beliefs be respected

 

These laws and values that I held most of my early life were tested every day in high school. High school is a hard time for a lot of people but I was still competitive and wanted to do my best. I may not have been the best but at everything I tried I put my all into it. This is where I started taking debate and fencing. Debate gave me the mental skills and taught me to talk and argue but also to look at a topic from every angle because for a debate round I never knew what side of the conversation I would be. Debate also required that I talk about and research a lot of different world and political topics. Anything from medical records and privacy laws, to demilitarization and weapons of mass destruction; all topics that I would have to argue both for and against, you get really good at not only listening but also thinking on the fly while in a conversation like this. I would do a lot of reading in Debate but Fencing is where I learned about sportsmanship and honor. Honor has always been a very big part of my life because my word has always been my bond. (Another thing my dad taught me) Honor is the reason I took up the study of the sword. This led to my infatuation with the samurai and my second set of principles that I guide my life by. I stumbled across a book by Nitobe Inazo, who interprets the samurai code of behavior called Bushido or how chivalrous men should act in their personal and professional lives. There are 7 or 8 principals in bushido depending on who you are talking to about them and they are:

I. Rectitude or Justice

Bushido refers not only to martial rectitude, but to personal rectitude: Rectitude or Justice, is the strongest virtue of Bushido. A well-known samurai defines it this way: ‘Rectitude is one’s power to decide upon a course of conduct in accordance with reason, without wavering; to die when to die is right, to strike when to strike is right.’ Another speaks of it in the following terms: ‘Rectitude is the bone that gives firmness and stature. Without bones the head cannot rest on top of the spine, nor hands move nor feet stand. So without Rectitude neither talent nor learning can make the human frame into a samurai.’

II. Courage

Bushido distinguishes between bravery and courage: Courage is worthy of being counted among virtues only if it’s exercised in the cause of Righteousness and Rectitude. In his Analects, Confucius says: ‘Perceiving what is right and doing it not reveals a lack of Courage.’ In short, ‘Courage is doing what is right.’

III. Benevolence or Mercy

A man invested with the power to command and the power to kill was expected to demonstrate equally extraordinary powers of benevolence and mercy: Love, magnanimity, affection for others, sympathy and pity, are traits of Benevolence, the highest attribute of the human soul. Both Confucius and Mencius often said the highest requirement of a ruler of men is Benevolence.

IV. Politeness

Discerning the difference between obsequiousness and politeness can be difficult for casual visitors to Japan, but for a true man, courtesy is rooted in benevolence: Courtesy and good manners have been noticed by every foreign tourist as distinctive Japanese traits. But Politeness should be the expression of a benevolent regard for the feelings of others; it’s a poor virtue if it’s motivated only by a fear of offending good taste. In its highest form Politeness approaches love.

V. Honesty and Sincerity

True samurai, according to author Nitobe, disdained money, believing that “men must grudge money, for riches hinder wisdom.” Thus children of high-ranking samurai were raised to believe that talking about money showed poor taste, and that ignorance of the value of different coins showed good breeding: Bushido encouraged thrift, not for economic reasons so much as for the exercise of abstinence. Luxury was thought the greatest menace to manhood, and severe simplicity was required of the warrior class … the counting machine and abacus were abhorred.

VI. Honor

Though Bushido deals with the profession of soldiering, it is equally concerned with non-martial behavior: The sense of Honor, a vivid consciousness of personal dignity and worth, characterized the samurai. He was born and bred to value the duties and privileges of his profession. Fear of disgrace hung like a sword over the head of every samurai … To take offense at slight provocation was ridiculed as ‘short-tempered.’ As the popular adage put it: ‘True patience means bearing the unbearable.’

VII. Loyalty

Economic reality has dealt a blow to organizational loyalty around the world. Nonetheless, true men remain loyal to those to whom they are indebted: Loyalty to a superior was the most distinctive virtue of the feudal era. Personal fidelity exists among all sorts of men: a gang of pickpockets swears allegiance to its leader. But only in the code of chivalrous Honor does Loyalty assume paramount importance.

VIII. Character and Self-Control

Bushido teaches that men should behave according to an absolute moral standard, one that transcends logic. What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. The difference between good and bad and between right and wrong are givens, not arguments subject to discussion or justification, and a man should know the difference. Finally, it is a man’s obligation to teach his children moral standards through the model of his own behavior: The first objective of samurai education was to build up Character. The subtler faculties of prudence, intelligence, and dialectics were less important. Intellectual superiority was esteemed, but a samurai was essentially a man of action. No historian would argue that Hideyoshi personified the Eight Virtues of Bushido throughout his life. Like many great men, deep faults paralleled his towering gifts. Yet by choosing compassion over confrontation, and benevolence over belligerence, he demonstrated ageless qualities of manliness. Today his lessons could not be more timely.

Bushido is a philosophy that ties into one of the tattoos that I have. On the back of my neck in Japanese I have “The Strength of Inner Peace” and for me this means a lot of different things. I reminds me that to be strong is to be at peace with myself. To be at peace is to accept everything about myself and be strong from it. You can think of this as my own mantra if you will. I have my own set of problems but I deal with them myself and try to be at peace with what the problems are. I have faced a lot of different types of conflict and I have always tried to remain calm and at peace. This isn’t to say that I don’t get mad or angry because I do, just as everyone does, but at the same time I don’t rage or lash out because that would not be peaceful and it goes against one of my core ideas and personal beliefs. Since we are on the topic of tattoo’s I think that now is a great time to talk about one of my other core values. This I also have tattooed on me, and it is from the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”. In the book the guide has the words Don’t Panic in calm and friendly print on its cover and is the source of all the knowledge in the Universe composed and written by hitchhikers. Think Wiki and you got it. It may only be two simple words but, don’t panic has been good advice for me many different times in my life. This outlook has also led to me getting to know and talking to a lot of different people.

When you really boil it down ethics is two things. First, ethics refers to well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues. Ethics, for example, refers to those standards that impose the reasonable obligations to refrain from rape, stealing, murder, assault, etc. Ethical standards also include those that enjoin virtues of honesty, compassion, and loyalty. And, ethical standards include standards relating to rights, such as the right to life, the right to freedom from injury, and the right to privacy. Secondly, ethics refers to the study and development of one’s own personal ethical standards. As mentioned above, feelings, laws, and social norms can deviate from what is ethical. So it is necessary to constantly examine one’s standards to ensure that they are reasonable and well-founded. Ethics also means, then, the continuous effort of studying our own moral beliefs and our moral conduct, and striving to ensure that we, and the institutions we help to shape, live up to standards that are reasonable and solidly based. So for me ethics is all about being able to listen. I don’t know the number of time that something I have said has been taken the wrong way by not only the people close to me but also by complete strangers. I would be shocked if there was a person out in this world who hasn’t had this happen to them. I know that ethics is more of our own beliefs but I am a firm believer that if we can listen to what people are actually saying instead of listing so much to the words they say that we would all be a little bit better off. I know that listening isn’t going to fix things like sexism or racism but listing to the problems faced on both sides could be a start. Anyone can talk about a problem or a situation that is going on but if there is no one to listen then nothing is going to get done. However you want to look at it ethics is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. It doesn’t matter how many languages it has because every single person talks about what is right and wrong with their own voice. One of the best things about a philosophy is that it is any idea. Remember I was in debate so I can look at both sides of the coin; but look at Hitler almost everyone would say that what he did was wrong, but at the time it was really happening the people of Germany who followed and agreed with him thought what he was doing was ethically the right thing to do. Yes, today we think of it as a monstrous act and a crime against humanity, but that is only because he lost the war. What we think of as right or wrong, good or bad, is just that- what we think.

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