Sometimes, as we go about our daily lives trying to look after our families, the grander ideas are not thought about. Every now and then a conflict will arise between our ethics and our desires. This is when ethics may become expendable.
The strong forces that drive us – love, sex, money and power – tempt us to compromise or even do a complete U-turn. Personal relationships and careers are put on the line. Truth is a hard currency to deal in when there is a conflict of interest.
There’s three minutes to go and your team needs a winning goal. Do you take a dive to get a penalty kick? Will the glory be tainted by guilt? Sport is a minefield of ethical conundrums. For me, it’s still the beautiful game but marred by cheating and dissent. Children’s football matches echo what’s happening on Match of the Day. Role models are few and far between and it’s bad boy behaviour that gets the media attention.
Some would say that one’s loyalty should be to your teammates and the fans and this consideration is of a higher order, placing it in front of any other moral code. Well, isn’t that convenient. Thinking like that will bring selfish rewards, all dressed up in some warped rationale.
Bobby Moore led England to victory and was a national hero, not just because of the trophy but how he conducted himself. He won and lost with equal grace. In contrast I heard Roy Keane on TV the other day giving his insight as a pundit. Talking about a player on the losing side missing the chance to stop his opponent from scoring, he said, “he should have fouled him, he should have taken the yellow card”. The presenter, Adrian Chiles, did not pick him up on it.
Performance enhancing drugs seem to be endemic. How many of us sigh with cynicism when the latest track or swim or cycling record is broken. If I were holding my gold medal (it ain’t going to happen), I’d be thinking about the 10 year old kid in the stands who pasted my picture on his bedroom wall. Throwing matches and shaving points leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. Greed sometimes makes us cross lines we never imagined we’d cross.
You know the words – “what did you do today to make yourself proud?” Most of us shift the goalposts to varying degrees. Have you ever taken the credit for a colleague’s idea to get promotion? Do you hand it back when the shop assistant gives you too much change? Do you pilfer (notice how pilfer sounds less serious than steal) stationery or fiddle your expenses? Are you economical with the truth on your tax return?
But surely our leaders can give us inspiration? Yeah, right. We all know what’s been going on lately. We all know who could successfully hide behind a spiral staircase. It’s not just greasy pole climbing politicians that lie for a living. Some public relations and advertising people wear deceit as a second skin. They try to bamboozle us with unsubstantiated facts, half-truths and distorted visions of reality, all to sell a dream and false hope. We work all week and we’re rewarded with bread and circuses. Don’t draw back the curtain; the wizard isn’t there.
How ethical am I? Well, that would be telling! Is the erosion of ethics getting worse? I think it’s too complex for a yes or no answer and there was never any golden age of innocence. Rather, lots of wrongdoing is covert now. Being the baddie has become more sophisticated. We know “the cost of everything and the value of nothing”. We win at any cost and we try to have it all at any cost. Does the human race have a collective portrait of a decaying Dorian Gray? If so, heaven help us because we all know what happened to him.