Have you noticed the way the weather is being reported lately?

Have you noticed the way the weather is being reported lately?  Climate change, specifically global warming, as evidenced by the dramatic increase in severe storms and the decrease in polar ice…they’re making it entertaining.  Entertaining, for gawdsake.

Commentators refer to “extreme storms” — making them sound all exciting and daring, like “extreme sports”.

Another opens with “this week’s wildest weather” as if we’re on a fun safari.

And there’s a video called “Force of Nature – Uncut”.  Again, exciting entertainment.

“Will any records be broken?” the commentator asks, the phrasing suggesting that, like athletic competitions, breaking a record will be a good thing. Read the rest of this entry »

Canada Day – Are you sure you want to celebrate?

Before you get all patriotic and fly your little Canadian flags in celebration of Canada Day and, presumably, of being Canadian, think about it. Are you really proud to be: Read the rest of this entry »

Air Bands and Power Point

I still remember the feeling I had when I saw my first air band performance. It was a sick kind of feeling.

I hadn’t known what an air band was. The announcement came over the p.a. at my school-for-the-day, and I dutifully shepherded the class to the gym. Then I watched, incredulous, as group after group of high school students came on stage and pretended to play their favourite songs. I mumbled a query to the teacher standing next to me. Apparently this air band stuff was quite big. Students spent weeks practising. They really wanted to get it right. ‘It’ being the appearance, the pretence. Read the rest of this entry »

The Futility of Teaching Business Ethics or Why Our World Will End

There are four reasons why teaching ethics to business students is an exercise in futility.

1. The profit motive trumps everything. As long as this is the case, there’s no point in teaching students the intricacies of determining right and wrong. Whether something is morally acceptable or not is simply irrelevant to them. It might come into play when two options yield the same profit, but how often does that happen? And even so, other concerns are likely to be tie-breakers. Read the rest of this entry »

Ethics without Philosophers

Could someone without a business degree become a marketing consultant?  Then how is it that people without philosophy degrees are becoming ethics consultants? [1]  Is it that people don’t know that Ethics is a branch of Philosophy just as Marketing is a branch of Business?  Doubtful.  Is it just the typical male overstatement of one’s expertise? [2]  Perhaps.  Is it that people think they already know right from wrong, they learned it as children, there’s really no need for any formal training in ethics?  Possible.  I have certainly met that attitude in business ethics classes and ethics committees. [3]  Or is it that ethics consultants (advisors, officers, practitioners, and so on) don’t really act as consultants about ethics?  They act as consultants about managing ethical behavior.  No, not even that.  Ethical consultants, practitioners, officers, focus on how to increase the likelihood that employees will follow some specific professional code of ethics or, more likely, the ethical rules the company’s elite want them to follow. [4] [5]

As far as I can see, business ethics taught by business faculty, ethics programs run by managers, and so on    any applied ethics taught by non-philosophers    is superficial at best.  [6] First, following a code if just an appeal to custom, an appeal to tradition, which philosophers consider a weak basis, even an actual error in reasoning: just because it’s common to do it that way, doesn’t mean it’s right; just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean it’s right. 

Second, legal moralism is prevalent: if it’s legal, it’s right, and if it’s not illegal, it’s not wrong.  Few philosophers (and I daresay few intelligent people) accept this equivalence of moral rightness and legality.  After all, slavery was once legal, and even at that time many considered it wrong and had excellent arguments to support their position (which is, to some extent, why the law changed    ethics should determine law, not the other way around).

Third, the so-called ‘media test’ and ‘gut test’ are essentially nothing but appeals to intuition, which is nothing more than childhood conditioning that makes us say X ‘feels’ wrong.  I think it far better to approach ethical issues with thought, to consider the many rational approaches to making decisions about right and wrong, such as an appraisal of values, principles, consequences, and so on. Read the rest of this entry »

People Skills

I’ve always been rather proud of not having any ‘people skills’.  Of not being able to ‘talk to people’, smooth things over, talk them out of their way of seeing things, talk them over to my way, persuade, influence, manipulate, control.  No wonder supervisors, salespeople, and customer relations people need good people skills.  And no wonder I resent them: I’ve always been the subordinate, the consumer, the customer – I’m the one the people skills are used on.

Of course, subordinates are expected to have good people skills too, but what’s meant then is the ability to get along, follow, fold, obey.  And, well, as I said, I’m not very good at that.

But no, no, I’m told, you’ve got it all wrong. Read the rest of this entry »

Food Fight Breaks Out in the House of Commons

Have you watched the House of Commons proceedings lately? It’s unbelievable. I haven’t seen such petty bickering, name-calling, and tongue-sticking-outting since Dicky called Peter a wuss at recess back in grade two. Then Johnny, who was on Dicky’s side, started throwing clumps of dirt at Dougie, who was on Peter’s side, and a bunch of other boys started yelling and kicking and when the teacher came out, they all accused each other, pointing fingers, ‘He started it!’ ‘No I didn’t, he did!’ ‘Oh yeah?’ ‘Yeah!’ and it started all over again.

But they weren’t grown ups, wearing suits-and-ties and saying “Mr. Speaker, I humbly submit…” And they weren’t being paid to run the fucking country.

It’s hard to believe they can be so immature. So instead I believe it’s all a charade. To further convince us that there’s simply no point in voting, let alone calling our MP or lobbying for this or that, no hope in hell of any participation in the process making any difference at all. That way the corporate agenda can proceed, with nothing whatsoever in its way.

A Gold Watch. Seriously.

At one of my previous workplaces, we had a little ceremony each year honouring employees who had worked there for five, ten, or fifteen years.  I used to go.  (There was free pizza.)  But then I stopped.  (After three years, I could afford my own pizza.)

It’s a curious thing, this esteem we have for longevity.  Why is an anniversary cause for celebration?  I can see it in some Purple Heart sense – congratulations for surviving – but that doesn’t seem to be the spirit in which such celebrations are intended.  (Then again…)

So what’s the big deal about being married to the same person, or working for the same company, for so many years?  Is it supposed to be some expression of loyalty, which is then rewarded?  What’s loyalty?  And why is it good?  Is it trust?  In a person, or company, no matter what they do?  Excuse me, but the day my partner or my employer starts making weapons or selling unsafe products, I’m outta there.

Let’s admit it, ‘seniority’ rewards quantity rather than quality.  I mean, what if it were a shitty marriage?  Why applaud someone for staying in it?  (Do you want fries with that?)

And what if the person’s a mediocre employee?  We give them a raise every year just because they’ve been there one more year.  But we don’t give a raise to the guy who’s doing a good job.  Is it any wonder then that so many employees develop a clock-punching mentality, that they figure just being there, just putting in time, is enough?  Because apparently, it is.  If they put in enough time, they get a wage increase, extra holidays, protection from lay-off, and eventually, so very appropriately, a gold watch.

Granted, sometimes there’s a connection between quantity and quality: the longer you work at it, the better you get, the more you know.  Sometimes.  (So why not just reward that increase in quality  –  directly.)   But unless you get moved to a different position, the level of mastery is often achieved before five years, certainly usually before ten or fifteen years.  So seniority means stagnation, complacency.  It could also mean cowardice, fear of trying something new.  (Or simply the lack of other opportunities.)  And of course, if one hangs on because of the rewards, it means self-interestedness.

My guess is that after a certain point, performance declines, rather than inclines, with seniority.  You know you can’t be easily fired, you feel secure, you feel comfortable.  So you don’t try as hard, you get a little lazy.  And you get a little bored, you get a little dull.

So seniority should not be rewarded.  And rather than penalizing the person who’s changed jobs every few years, we should be recruiting them.

To Wail like a Brat – and Advertise

On what basis do you claim the right to publicize your desire for money – at my expense?  You use forests full of trees for unsolicited mailouts, you produce and then dump tons of nonbiodegradable plastic for oversized packaging aka advertising, you destroy beautiful landscapes with your ubiquitous signs, you stuff my emailbox with your shouting forcing me to expend time and effort to shut you up, you intrude on my consciousness with your insistent voice – all because you want me to buy your product or service so you can make some (more) money.

Listings in directories – by category of product, service, and so on – should be free of charge; when we want to purchase something, we’ll find you in the directory.  Any other advertising should be illegal.  Frivolous depletion and destruction of the planet’s resources is irresponsible.  Shouting “I want I want I want” in someone’s face is invasive and assaultive.  In short, advertising is immature.

Crossing the Line

I crossed a picket line once.  The Ontario Federation of Secondary School Teachers (OSSTF) in the Toronto area was on strike in 1983, and one of their demands was that union members be hired to fill night school and summer school teaching positions.  They were concerned about quality of education: they didn’t want these courses to become second-class courses as a result of being taught by second-class teachers who were unqualified and inexperienced.

Well.  I was qualified.  More qualified than many of the older OSSTF members who got their teaching jobs when you didn’t even need a B.A., let alone a B.Ed.  And I was experienced.  In addition to about ten years of private music and dance teaching experience, I’d had a half-time regular day school position for one year and had taught a few night school courses the following year.

But more than that, Read the rest of this entry »