Name: Kim
Age: 21
School: UCI
Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence --- whether much that is glorious- whether all that is profound --- does not spring from disease of thought --- from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect. -- edgar allan poe

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July 20, 2005

Ethical Standards: Part One

The hipocrisy of parents:
"Do as I say, not as I do -- unless it benefits me."

Society tells us that good parents will teach their kids to be honest and good people. So, that's what parents teach to their kids -- at least when it benefits them. For example, a kid who steals from the proverbial cookie jar will get punished for stealing, and even more if he lies about it.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Ethical, idealistic, and promising.

How come then, is it the parent that is teaching the same child to lie, steal, and cheat?

Alright, I shouldn't generalize... But honestly, who here has never lied, cheated or stolen anything in their life? I'm willing to bet among those that arent lying that most that read this can think of one instance where they've done one of these things.

I know I have.

Now, I know there are other factors that teach people to do these unethical things -- such as, say, the media, or your peers. However, in my case, the people from whom I learned to actually justify such actions were definitely my parents.

Afterall, my parents aren't thieves, they weren't bad people (and neither am I, I don't think)... But even they are human. As a child I caught them in white lies, I saw them grab grapes and candies in the grocery store and munch on them when no one was looking.

It made me think, hey, why can't I do that? And so I did. And I do. Even though I know it's wrong, in my mind it's justified because I saw my parents doing it as a child.

As I grew up, I saw more. I caught more mistakes, lapses in judgement. My parents, my teachers, people who were supposed to be my role models, the things I thought were wrong, I understood them more. And though I thought they were wrong, I began to justify them more.

When my parents got divorced and my mom began to drink heavily...

I thought... My mom, she drinks because my dad is bad, and he cheated on her. It's okay, because drinking eases her pain. Even if she drinks the entire bottle of cognac a day.

So when I began college, and symptoms of bi-polar disorder started in me..

I thought... There is so much pain... It's not that bad to drown it and suppress it with alcohol and drugs. That's what one is supposed to do.

And so I did. Even though the logical part of me knew it was wrong, I was still able to justify it without feeling much guilt because I had seen my mom doing it. Even though, if my mom ever knew, I knew she would kill me for doing such 'bad' things.

But what would she be able to say, really, if I replied "I do this because I learned it from you" ?

I guess the cliche moral of the story is that actions do speak louder than words, and that kids are a lot more observant and susceptable to learning your weaknesses than you think.

But... The real message I want to get out, the real question I want to ask is this:

Who taught you the rules of ethics?... and who taught you to break them?

Posted by Kim at July 20, 2005 10:51 AM


Beyond personal lessons learned from your parents, the idea of ethics -- as an "societal contract" that you pass onto others, purely for benefitting yourself, is not a new one. The conflict in its simplest form, is really a chicken and the egg type of answerless argument, much like any good philosophical point. To simplify, so that I don't come off as some pseudo-intellectual jackass, I think its fairly pointless to determine the source of your ethical standards, be it upbringing, internal instinctive behavior, or just all of society's generic impact. Why do I think it's pointless?

Because it's impossible to argue! Hell, I can argue all 3 until I'm blue in the face, and no one would be able to convince me that any of the positions I took was wrong. I personally happen to think people generally put too much emphasis on justifications, especially on matters where it's hard to discern truth from untruth because of the ambiguity and the impossibility to prove anything. It makes it easier to just point to "X," and call it the reason and/or cause of "Y," because such high complexity and ambiguity surrounding the issue makes an answer virtually non-existent (if not non-existent).

To put it bluntly, I think the question you ended up with, versus the more focused anecdotal evidence you provided (you following your mom's example) isn't quite as worthwhile. There is a point in self analysis if you're trying to improve something about yourself (or your family). There's also a point (I suppose) if you're instinctively curious and need to satiate your curiosity (In which case, I suppose I ought to take back my point about this not being worthwhile, since I'd be contradicting myself. Having haphazardly stumbled on your website, I'd hardly claim to be an expert of any sort on you as an individual.)

But if the point is to present a circular argument to your fanbase (or in this case, a passerby who got curious), then I'd have to say that isn't a very strong point at all. I don't mean to be confrontational, though that's what the link said to do, and that's probably how this response comes across. I just think there was potential for some sort of self-discovery, or revelation that, unfortunately, kind of died out.

By the way, I like your website's layout. It fits your description of "mad pimp."

Posted by: John at July 20, 2005 06:37 PM

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