Monthly Archives: November 2009

Older Prejudices

Wednesday night I had the opportunity to participate in the race relations project for credit in my business ethics class. After sorting us into racially diverse small groups, the moderators kicked off the talk by asking us whether stereotypes are accurate, racist or helpful.

After sharing personal experiences of racial prejudice and our thoughts on the effectiveness of being politically correct, discussion turned to the generational gap that often discourages the respect of other races. If a senior citizen has racist proclivities but does not regularly encounter members of other races, does society still have a moral duty to enlighten the senior, and further is it still ok for him to continue to hold to his racist prejudices?

The group was pretty split between those who found the senior’s prejudices acceptable and those who did not.

Ethical relativism -the notion we all have our own different but equally valid moral standards, does not exist in real life. Just because bribery is the norm for African governments (our own too) doesn’t make corruption any less wrong.

So how is it ok for seniors to be racist when our generation knows it isn’t proper social conduct? I fully appreciate the duty we have to respect the elderly, but historically it hasn’t been the more consequential problem.

We don’t need to campaign for ethnic tolerance among seniors, but I do think we owe it to society to call older people out when they fall out of line with acceptable behavior. If we don’t, we’re sending a message that “I don’t care about you enough to explain to you why you’re wrong and what the implications of your paradigms are”. After all, is there really such a thing as a happy racist? If someone refuses to forgive, then he is making a choice not to love. If he refuses to love others, then he’s unable to allow platonic love to enter into his live, and as a result he will not be as satisfied as humans were made to be.

The short: if you really do care about a person, then you should be less worried about offending him than you should be about his long term happiness.

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NYC




The trip this past weekend to New York City exposed
me to new perspectives regarding the financial crisis, and spurred me to
examine my own educational and career aspirations, and which aspects of my life
I intend to keep priority over professional goals.

But first I’d like to recall 2 facts from Sunday
that I found particularly interesting: According to the Immigration Museum, 1/3
of the immigrants who came to the United States between 1900 and 1999 returned
at some point to continue their permanent residence in their country of origin.

            Fact
number 2: tens of thousands of bodies lie underneath Washington Square Park as
a result of the Yellow Fever epidemics of the early 1800s.

            But
to me, the most interesting part of the trip was Brian Ross’ talk on Bernie
Madoff. In addition to illustrating and communicating the intricacies of the
scheme, he revealed a new face to a man I had written off as simply corrupt and
greedy: the sociopath.

            I
always thought that criminals at least acknowledged their own corrupt behavior,
event if they don’t actually feel remorse for their actions. I wonder how many
more Americans fit into the same category, and how much does it take to justify
the disregard of civil law and universal morality? I believe in Madoff’s case
it was only a an initial few weeks of guilt before his dishonesty was
overshadowed by his success.

            How
do we prevent this type of deceit in the future? A true sociopath won’t admit
his own guilt (because, by definition he does not acknowledge it even to
himself), so the responsibility is ours as individuals we need to evaluate the
people we are doing business with, and to investigate transactions that appear
off-color (like statements of gains made on the 4th of July).

 

Thank
you to everyone who made this trip possible!



promoting modesty, not luxury

Last night we discussed American culture of consumerism, and efforts made by the government to promote responsible financial practices by individuals.

One of the initiatives mentioned was wealth management (or savings management) education at public schools. This would certainly go a long way, especially if students would be required to attend and participate. I think it was Rachel that proposed that the course be structured as a workshop, rather than drawn out over the course of a semester. This would effectively hold students attention, and give them the opportunity to be exposed to more in-depth applications than they might be able to participate in during a less intensive schedule.

However, in my mind the largest adversary to responsible consumption of income is the glorification of wealth by pop culture. Nowhere else on this planet does mainstream media so aggressively promote luxuries like expensive cars, mansions, jewelry and high fashion as we in America do. Shows like Gossip Girl, the OC and NYC Prep, or artists such as Fergie or Kanye West (not to say that I’m not a fan) knowingly promote shallow ideals for the sake of commercial success through corporate sponsorship.

We need consumer spending to drive our economy. The argument that we should only buy American products is important when considering products like cars that are actually designed and manufactured by stateside companies, but it fails to consider the dependency of major retailers such as Wal Mart or Target on imported goods.

Networks and music labels need to take a stand against promoting expensive living, and instead they need to encourage more modest tastes for their viewers and fans. The ideal of success in the United States has become little more than the car you drive and the square footage of your home. Home sizes have grown arithmetically over the past 40 years when families are not nearly as big as they used to be. Our society has become pressured to overextend its liabilities to fit into our own twisted view of success, and it needs to be reversed.