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The aim of this blog is to fit into the blogosphere like the bracingly tart taste of yogurt fits between the boringly bland and the unspeakably vile.

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Would you trust this candidate 
with your checkbook?

Today let’s look at the ethics that constrain persuasion. We'd like to think we've evolved beyond the ethics of the Middle Ages, where knights headed east to kill those who disagreed with them about religion, and the warriors from the Middle East headed west to do likewise. Both sides killed people, burned crops, destroyed villages – all because their targets held differing beliefs. Surely we have better ethics, at least in Costa Mesa, now, right?

No more burning villages

After all, through sports, ethical training, business experience and non-profit or church work we've learned to live with those who disagree with us. Perhaps a first grader, who was miffed at not being chosen queen, would refuse to attend the chosen queen’s birthday party. She'll learn to make better ethical decisions when her lessons from kindergarten are fully absorbed, especially if she has good parental guidance.

Just as young people should learn to be very careful of their tweets and texts, they should learn that trying to destroy or damage their organization when they disagree with it can have long term effects. On them. The effects on the club or the business they attack are usually transitory.

Adults face disappointments

As an adult who wants her non-profit to expand its scope, but it doesn't,  or a manager who would rather the company invests instead of putting its money in savings, she will have to cope with disappointment. That’s something she learns how to do en route to adulthood.

There will be a few of her peers who believe that the end justifies the means. They'll set the warehouse on fire or damage the cash register if they don’t get what they want from the company. Some of them learned their ethics in illegal drug businesses, and others just found that folks would pay attention if they made a fuss.

Adults(?) in Costa Mesa

Groups that burn cosmetic warehouses come to mind, of course, but so do some behaviors closer to Costa Mesa. Remember the demonstrations around Monahan’s restaurant, trying to drive customers away because he supported enforcing immigration laws as a Council Member? Perhaps some of the demonstrators flunked kindergarten, maybe others just wanted attention.

Demonstrating opposition to something with signs and gatherings is a citizen’s right, and perhaps it’s sometimes an obligation. Trying to damage a man’s business, or to get him fired, because you oppose his views when he's acting in a civic role, is dishonest – unethical. 

We don't burn the villages of those who disagree, anymore.

The desired endpoint rarely justifies perfidy

Distributing propaganda to Costa Mesa citizens is a normal part of campaigning. Ethically the propagandist is like the demonstrator – trying to broadcast a strongly-felt message. Propaganda is a means to an end.

But sometimes an opponent chooses a “means to the end” that is petty and sneaky, unlike open propaganda. And sometimes the act they choose will do little more than annoy their opponents, and brand themselves as traitors.

For example, what would you say about telling the bank that your company is in financial trouble because you don't like the boss or his jokes?

Treachery or disloyalty or lacking integrity or . . .

Or, more to the point for this election, what do you think about the integrity and maturity of candidate Genis? Acting on her petty peeves, she testified to the Huntington Beach City Council to try to keep them from partnering with Costa Mesa to save both cities money. (There’s a more complete discussion in the 18 Oct Blog.) The link to the video of her testimony is here:

There will always be room for disagreement, but anyone who has successfully navigated kindergarten should know better than to undermine her own city out of peevishness. Peevishness, as a disgruntled citizen who seeks to damage her home City, deserves contempt. Trying to hurt Costa Mesa because she was peeved is indefensible.

Disloyalty could cost Costa Mesa lots

If she enjoyed the aura of respectability accorded a Council Member, her peevishness would warrant stark fear. What if the majority of the Council Members vote against her proposal? Her peeved testimony in Huntington Beach, as a Costa Mesa Council Member, would carry a lot more weight – and Costa Mesa could lose a lot.

A more honorable way to burn villages

A teacher once told me, “…if you belong to a group, argue about its policies, but support the group. If you cannot support the group, get out of it and attack it from outside if you want (to), but don't try to destroy it from within.” He was warning against treachery as a tactic.

Perhaps Ms. Genis would be happier if she followed his advice and moved to another city. She could testify against Costa Mesa all she wants – from somewhere else. She could launch her “burn the village” attacks from there.


And Costa Mesa would be safer.

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