Category Archives: Ethics

Tactical Voting.

Is the parties approach fair to voters?

I’ve noticed that the news media conflate Tactical Voting, with what I will call Tactical Candidature.  So let me begin with my definitions:

Tactical Voting: Is where an elector, a person chooses to cast their vote to someone other than their preferred candidate. The aim being to deny the most likely candidate a win, when the voter’s preferred candidate has little chance.

Tactical Candidature: Is when political parties collude, some parties not putting up candidates in particular constituencies. The aim being to re-direct their electors votes to another particular candidate.

I have no objection to any voter casting their own vote in what they consider to be a tactical manner. It is in fact a duty for each of us to consider how best to use our vote. It is also perfectly reasonable for the campaigning parties to urge us to vote tactically, for another candidate. That does not limit choice.

I am a bit uneasy about what I have called Tactical Candidature. In Tactical Candidature a elector’s ability to vote for their preferred candidate, or to tactically vote for a different candidate, is artificially restricted. The parties have colluded to remove voters choice. Instead of an elector choosing to vote tactically, it is forced upon them. Is this fair to the electorate? Is it properly democratic?

The Final Justice

Here in the UK, everyone accused of of a crime is entitled to a trial by jury. The jury consisting of 12 people. In my limited knowledge of the American system, there are also 12 jurors for criminal trials, but may be less for civil proceedings.

It seems to me that the biggest single difference in our justice systems is that (at the time of writing) 31 states have the death penalty available as a lawful punishment. There is no death penalty in the United Kingdom.

From this BBC news report (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-39535957), I discovered that it is a requirement for executions in America that “the law requires people with no connection to the crime attend each execution.” and that volunteers “are considered public eyewitnesses, and go to executions standing in the place of the general public,”

Sitting on a jury, if eligible, is every citizen’s responsibility in both countries, when required to do so in pursuit of justice in a free and democratic country. So, in countries like USA where the death penalty can be passed on a guilty criminal, why isn’t witnessing the ultimate punishment also a civic duty?

In a country/state where execution is a legal punishment, it seems to me reasonable that anyone who can be called upon for jury service, should also be able to be called to witness punishment where that is the death penalty? Obviously, not someone who was a juror at the trial of someone sentenced to execution.

If anyone who can be selected for jury service is also eligible to be selected to watch taking life by execution, I wonder how it might change public perception of having the death penalty?

When Bigger Is Not Better

Some people were not so poor before things got bigger.

The sums of money given to the poorer and developing nations by the prosperous, advanced western world seems huge to most of us with figures in tens of billions (choose your own currency). It is not so big considered in relation to the interest payments many of these nations make in debt repayment, ten times bigger running into hundreds of billions.

Money is spent on huge projects but who does it really benefit and does it help those who most need help. It is not unusual for our western perception of what constitutes progress and quality of life, to drive some people in developing places, who were living a sustainable life, into poverty.

We ‘civilised’ westerners have become used, even indoctrinated, into the idea that bigger is better. We buy our food in multipacks from multinational companies, that I’m not bothering to try and name because of how tied up they are are with each other. Whatever they might say about their ethics and raison d’etra, their primary purpose is to make a profit for their shareholders.

There are places where people that we advanced westerners think of as poor, by our standards, are not by theirs. They live on and work subsistence farms, that provide sufficient for themselves, their families and their communities. Unlike our consumer oriented society, they did not produce goods beyond what they need nor do they try to. Their farming methods are determined by planting crops that grow naturally well on the type of land they cultivate.

In our society, we would probably plant what we wanted and try to change the land with chemicals and diverting waterways and any of our other ‘advanced’ methods, so we could grow more, not just to feed more people but to make more money.

By introducing western ideas of economics, that it was necessary to create wealth to create a better ‘quality of life’ bearing in mind that “quality” is in any case a subjective term, we have in some areas destroyed a functioning, fed population.

Where small subsistence farms fed the people around them, now huge business farms dominate, employing few people. They take over land and then charge for food that was once grown by its consumers for the price of a few seeds, or free by saving some of last years seed from the crop to re-plant.

This has the effect of driving millions of people who once provided for themselves to the cities, where they can not find jobs and have no money to pay for the food they once grew themselves. Someone makes a profit, but only a relatively few people benefit compared to those who now have trouble sustaining themselves.

We recognize that the majority of people who are food-insecure
or hungry in the world live in rural areas. And most of them are
small holder subsistence farmers. – Ertharin Cousin

Giving

Do you tell others when you give to charity?

Beggars receiving alms at the door of a house, by Rembrandt 1648

Beggars receiving alms at the door of a house, by Rembrandt 1648

In amongst the daily diet of violence, politics, terrorism and all the other stories in the news media, there is the occasional bit of good news. One bit of good news that might appear from time to time is when a rich individual or organisation makes a big donation to a charity, or other good cause.

The giver gains kudos and the charity gets valuable publicity, which in turn can attract additional donations from other sources. Charity begets charity you might say. The publicity generated by the big donation attracts other smaller givers.

Matthew 6:1-4 Says it is not a good idea to self publicise when you give to charity. I don’t think it’s necessary to do it in secret, but perhaps with some discretion. For the majority of us it is probably good advice, but charities rely on publicity as a means of generating income. Publicity for donations given by public figures or companies is part of the lifeblood of the charities’. Even smaller donations seen by friends or families of those with average to low income can highlight a cause amongst peers, and lead to more, albeit smaller, donations.

No one denies that the charities themselves do good work (at least mostly though some are fraudulent or support questionable causes), but how can we square not publicising what we give, which can help charities collect more money for their work, with what The Bible tells us about giving in secret?

I have no answer, I just raise the paradox for consideration.

Forgiveness

Nothing is unforgivable but that does not make it easy to forgive some things. It can be incredibly difficult. Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is yourself.

God forgives everything. He forgives but does not forget, but neither does he hold it against us.

Forgiving someone for what they have done, or you perceive to be undeserved, to you or someone you care about, is easier than forgiving yourself. And, forgiving what is done to you is often easier than forgiving for what is done to someone you care about. It seems to me that it is easier to offer forgiveness than to ask for it, even if you are the guilty party.

The Bible counsels forgiveness in various passages but nowhere does it say we need to forget. The most likely origin of the phrase “forgive and forget” seems to be by Miguel de Cervantes  “Let us forget and forgive injuries.” writing about Don Quixote. Of course forgetting is virtually impossibe.

Things always remain in our minds, especially what we think of as bad or unjust things done to us. They might become harder to recall with time but they never go away. Memory of injustice to us usually seems easier to recall than enjoyable, or neutral memories.

Not forgiving has consequences, and not just for the unforgiven but for the person who refuses to forgive too. It poisons the mind of the person who does not forgive. It prevents them from moving on as much, maybe more than the person who perpetrated the act for which forgiveness needs to be given.

Forgiving doesn’t mean there should not be consequences for a perpetrator. Consequences in law can be community service, a fine or jail. Consequences personally can last longer, and feel worse than any legal consequences to an action.

Ultimately, failure to forgive will often be to a greater detriment to the person who needs to forgive, than for the person who carries out an act for which they are sorry.

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Rich Man Poor Man

“Money is the root of all evil.”

Drawing by an anonymous master on parchment

Drawing by an anonymous master on parchment

Actually no, money is not the root of all evil. Like so many other people frequently do, I misquoted the passage from 1 Timothy 6: 10. What it actually says is “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (UKNIV).

In Luke 16 we are told about a rich man, who is never named, and a beggar called Lazarus. When lazarus died he “was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom” or put another way, he was taken to Heaven. The rich man also died and went to hell, but could see Lazarus in heaven.

The rich man appealed to Abraham to have mercy, and send Lazarus with water. When that failed he appealed again, this time that Lazarus be sent to his brothers, to warn them not to make the same mistakes he does.

There are a couple of interesting points within Luke 16, and I make them here with thanks to Rev. Bev. For her sermon.

Firstly, the rich man in this passage is not dignified by being named. He is referred to only as “a certain rich man” or “the rich man”. The poor man, we know, is called Lazarus.

Lazarus was often at the rich man’s gate. He was starving and would have been happy just to beget the leavings of the rich man’s table. The rich man gave him nothing. It is fair to assume, I think, that the rich man could easily have fed Lazarus and hardly noticed a loss, yet he chose not to do so. It seems he ignored Lazarus.

After their deaths, while the rich man is appealing for help he uses Lazarus’ name to Abraham. By calling the poor man by name, it is clear that the rich man knew Lazarus, knew his situation. He actively chose not to help lazarus, so he could not claim ignorance.

The reason, it seems to me, that the rich man was condemned to hell had nothing to do with the money he had. It had everything to do with how he chose to use his money. Or, in this situation, not use his money. It seemed all he wanted to do was hoard his wealth.

Wealth that is just hoarded, not put to use, is effectively a wasted. In relation to his wealth, it would have cost the rich man a negligible sum to relieve the beggar. Lazarus’, suffering. Jesus isn’t telling us that money is a bad thing, only that what we do or don’t do with it can be bad, if we don’t use it properly

Never Let Me Go

A review of the bestseller book by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Never Let Me Go was first published in 2005 and released as a film in 2010. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize and received many plaudits and outstanding reviews. For once, I feel I can agree with the reviewers assessments. It’s not just a good story, it’s a book that will give you pause for thought.

Three friends, Kathy, Tommy and Ruth grow up and are educated at Hailsham school together, apparently a place for pupils who are special in some way. We never learn the surnames of anyone, pupils and teachers, called guardians, alike are all designated by a single letter after their first name.

It’s true, the pupils are special, though you might get quite a surprise, maybe shock when you realise quite what is meant by “special” at the school.

We follow the three friends, with Kathy telling the story, through their schooldays and out into the world, to make their way as adults. Shortly after leaving Hailsham Kathy loses contact with Ruth and Tommy. They re-enter her life some years later, bringing back old feelings and memories. As Kathy tells us about the herself and her two friends, at the age of 31 and with a big change coming to her own life in a few months time, she starts to try to make some sense of her past life.

Never Let Me Go raises interesting moral and ethical questions about how human beings treat each other. The  questions, which were relevant when the book was written, are becoming ever more pertinent in today’s world, with the scientific advances.

In the novel itself we are never given a date but it seems it could be set in a time about a generation earlier than it’s publication date. Some readers might find aspects a little unsettling. It’s a powerful tale.

I don’t often read a book a second time. This is one that I might.