The modern world is not concerned with ethics. More often than not, people’s main aspiration lies in wealth, the appearance of having such or the realities of life without. And yet, for all our advancements and the deepening of our understanding our past and how that may play into our future — human beings are speeding towards a disastrous end to the abundance of the planet Earth. In trying to understand why and asking myself what I can do to be a source of change, I have had to be self-critical and truly step out of myself to listen to and learn from others. It was this continuous practice of challenging and limiting my ego over the years that drove my motivation to be radically honest focus on improving the material conditions of the marginalized I believe that the source of unethical behavior stems from lack of self-reflection and, in connection. lack of reverence for life in all forms. In this essay, I explore in depth how this belief has shaped my moral code, informs my character and principles and guides my present understanding of life and my interpretation of ethical exercises.
My hierarchy of values have developed in relation to my singular, personal aim to be committed to personal, interpersonal and transpersonal welfare. Within that singular goal, the hierarchy contains three categories: values related to character, values related to justice and values related to connection. Within values related to character I value honesty, integrity and empathy. I chose these values because all of them require commitment and are not easy to maintain over the course of one’s life. You can strive to be empathetic, honest and to have integrity and yet you will continually be tested in your relationships, career and ethical journey on how much you‘re willing to stay true to all of these ideals. By picking these values, I maintain a continuous challenge for myself and those who I choose to maintain relationships with because, in practice. everyone is bound to fall short at all of them on multiple occasions.
However, those moments where l or others fail give me space for reflection to evaluate my progress in the two other categories of values. Amongst the values related to justice I chose equity. accessibility and accountability I chose accessibility because it spans so many issues (disability rights, body positivity, women‘s rights, queer rights, anti-racism, etc.) regarding quality of life and access to opportunity. To me, accessibility is not simply a political philosophy but an on-going commitment to listening to those who are marginalized. amplifying their voices and working alongside them to improve their quality of life. I chose equity in that same vein. Equity focuses on adapting resources to be the most helpful to others opposed to equality — opportunities or resources being made available amongst everyone with no regard for individual differences and disparities. Lastly, I chose accountability, easily one of the hardest concepts that I am grappling with. Accountability was particularly challenging to put within my hierarchy because it’s so extensive.
Accountability requires me to think critically about the effects not just of my actions and words but the effects of the absence of both. Failure to use my voice, to choose a position or to take action are also an answer in themselves. Accountability also extends through my politics as well. I am forced to be incredibly intentional. knowledgeable and aware for myself and others in all aspects of my life — an act of radical responsibility. For my third and final category, values related to connection, I chose community, family and knowledge I chose these words notjust because of their being related to interaction with others and people‘s work but because I deeply believe that one‘s life is ultimately defined by the impact you had on others, Community is a clear expression of this value. The relationship one might have with their neighbors and various communities through work, activism and/or participation in clubs and organizations can shape or break communal strength and ties. Another avenue and value for me is family.
The relationship formed between family members. chosen family or lack of family can shape identity and serve as a personal place to unpack and do shadow work. Lastly in this category I put knowledge as a value. For me, knowledge in all of its many forms — experience, education, self-work, etc. — is the breeding ground for critical thought, ego work and where personal, interpersonal and transpersonal labor can be analyzed and refined. Ultimately, I’ve grown and continue to grow the more I search for myself by working with others and by exploring the work of others. I believe wholeheartedly that what makes the modern human experience so much different from previous eras has been the preservation of human thought for the long-tenn (books. films. recordings. oral history, etc.) and continued work to bind us as a global community through emphasizing mutual interests I do not classify my moral character as good or bad because I don’t subscribe to all or nothing ideas around morals and values. I understand and accept that moral character is complex.
With that in mind, I describe my moral character as developing and nuanced. A great example of this is my current pursuit to develop feelings around prison abolition. On the one hand I do value all lives to the extent that no one should be unfairly deprived of life, liberty or opportunity but also understand that people are continuously unfairly imprisoned for the benefit of the police state, to continue to feed the prison industrial complex and as a source of very cheap, if not free, labor. I also believe firmly in rehabilitation as the core goal of imprisonment but also understand that prisons were not created with the intention to ‘fix‘ prisoners, only to separate them from the larger society, I also recognize that ideas around rehabilitation including but not limited to education, socialization and mental help are modern and very young concepts. I do not support prison as a place of continuous harm or intentional repression: however, I also fully support the death penalty in cases of heinous crimes – cases of excessive loss of life or extensive damage to quality of life amongst other violations of social contract.
In finding my place within prison abolition, I accept that l have a variety of conflicting thoughts and repeatedly have to contextualize and examine bias and social conditioning So this is where my values start to come n — in order to deepen and further explore such a complex political position I have had to be radically honest with myself about where my feelings on the subject come from. I‘ve had to explore the ways in which I have and lack empathy for victims, violators and those caught in- between. I’ve had to go back to the community for knowledge — listening to victims and their families, those falsely accused, the incarcerated. those who work within penitentiaries, lawyers, advocates on both sides of the fence and members of the global community who’ve simply shared their thoughts on theirjourney to find their position within. for or against prison abolition. I’ve had to process the ways in which incarceration has impacted my own family, some of whom have gone to jailr For me, this process of near constantly examining and re-examining myself and my politics helps reinforce and reexamine my integrity.
In consistently being willing to look at new evidence, have discussions and admit when my logic or reasoning could stand to change, I keep myself accountable to my peers and continue to limit my ego in an effort to become a more complete person. In limiting my ego, I am able to engage in work that allows me to connect with people spiritually — in ways that transcend the physical body. the limitations of the mind and the span of time. This spiritualism plays heavily into my personal definition of happiness as well. For me, happiness is best defined as living devoid of fear and acquiring complete tranquility. Currently, much of my sense of fear and accompanying anxiety is because of the continued existence of global human and environmental suffering I am led to believe that this widespread suffering is not necessarily lack of spirituality but lack of mindfulness and reverence for life amongst human beings.
The outer chaos reflects our own inner turmoil. I don‘t believe I‘ll ever feel fully fulfilled and therefore happy until I feel assured that this global suffering has been addressed and significantly mitigated during my lifetime and that that work will continue to be done long after I’m gone. A ‘good life’ for me is a life spent rebuilding Earthly paradise and restoring the spiritual balance of this world, starting and ending with myself On that note, I do not believe I could live happily without living ethically. I know much of what we think to be ethical is impossible within the current systemic conditions but I recognize that those systemic conditions can be disassembled and I’ve made it my mission to do so. I believe chaos follows in the wake of the intentionally unethical. As genuinely ethical and equitable opportunities become available within our lives, we will then be judged for whether or not we utilized them.
I also believe constant self-reflection and interrogation will continue to be the most effective way to keep the ego in check on the personal level and allow us the ability to communicate most honestly as well as help build the bridge that will allow human beings to truly know peace on the collective level. I believe that is our current great struggle. Looking at examples within the field of ethics, notably “The Ring ofGyges” and “38 Who Saw Murder”, I think that it rings true that humans as a collective are in a battle against the ego “The Ring ofGyges” is a great example of this. Over the course the story of the herder who comes across a ring with the power to make himself invisible, Glaucon glosses over several very important elements within his example — the ego of the King to allow inequity within his kingdom and the overall conditions in which people were living in Greece to resort to crime to address issues in quality of life, The assumption 1 have taken from Glaucon’s story is that in slaying the King, the shepherd was righting an inequality, although it can also be taken that the shepherd simply replaced the king and moved into a position of wealth.
In either situation, it begs the question — what underlying problems exist that would move the shepherd to commit murder? What was he missing that would drive him to covet the position of the King? Was this a selfish act or an act on the behalf of the community? What precedent was set? In any of these scenarios, we are left with the common denominator of either wealth inequality and either the shepherd or the king’s ego as the lead problem. Both are significant imbalances that could be rectified with reflection and/or improvement of quality of life. And in the case of the state of Greece, again the same two solutions apply, and the same conditions have been confirmed to exist For many in Ancient Greece, inequality loomed. Of-course those who feel that their ability to live comfortably and meaningfully dream of usurping power — they would instantly use the ring to acquire the quality of life they have been denied or take revenge on those who they feel restricted them.
It’s a wonder that the fellow shepherds didn’t all fight the shepherd with the ring [or the ring! And in the case of “38 Who Saw Murder” we see the result of the ego in the very reporting of the event. In reporting on the murder of Kitty Genovese, Martin Gansberg not only lied about the amount of people who failed to take action during the murder but completely took attention away from some of the societal and structural hinderances that resulted in Ms. Genovese’s death. Many of those who were home and could hear Ms. Genovese calling out for help thought they misheard, were afraid or did attempt to call the police 7 many who called the police were not given priority as this was before the implementation of the 911 emergency call system. Many people did call out after Ms. Genovese screamed for help, in fact, people calling out for the attacker, Winston Moseley. to leave her alone actually made him flee for fear of being apprehended or identified He would flee on three separate occasions and, in the absence of police presence. returned each time to carry on the attack.
Ms. Genovese‘s death was the result of failed action on the pan of the police, fear and confusion amongst her neighbors but most importantly the motive of Winston Mosely to kill a woman. In an even bigger show of the impact of ego, many who were aware of Mr. Gansberg‘s story inaccuracies, including a policeman, were afraid to confront the powerful New York Times editor Abe Rosenthal which allowed the myth surrounding Kitty Genovese’s murder to continue being perpetuated. Would accurate reporting of the crime have aided in better solutions to keep the neighborhood in which Ms. Genovese was killed safe? No one knows. But Mr. Gansberg’s reporting certainly did not. Just ten years after Genovese‘s murder, Sandra Zahler was beaten to death in an apartment that shadowed where Kitty Genovese was attacked — again it was reponed that few believed a murder was going on.