Don't Forget Ethics in the Fundamentals Kit

Back in the mid '50s, an unassuming woman changed history when she decided to stand up and declare she would not sit down at the back of a bus. That woman, of course, was Rosa Parks, who passed away recently. As I read of her death, I couldn't help but think of how times have changed, and not necessarily for the better.

11/01/2005


Back in the mid '50s, an unassuming woman changed history when she decided to stand up and declare she would not sit down at the back of a bus. That woman, of course, was Rosa Parks, who passed away recently. As I read of her death, I couldn't help but think of how times have changed, and not necessarily for the better. I don't mean that people are more oppressed, but I question the state of the country's values. For example, the hot race button of the moment—at least to political pundits like Bill Maher—is not fundamental human rights but whether it's racist for the NBA to require its millionaire employees to dress to a certain standard when not on the court. In the same newspaper section remembering Mrs. Park's singular act, I couldn't help but gravitate toward a full page prominently featuring another set of icons from that tumultuous era: the Rolling Stones. This wasn't a story but a full page ad with the group endorsing Mercedes Benz—and some kind of hybrid minivan/station wagon no less. My, how times—and principle$—have changed.

This particular edition of the newspaper was chock-full of even stranger, but "dichotic," coincidences. In the financial section, another ad harkened back to the '60s, noting that "a generation this unique," should have a retirement plan equally as notable... Other headlines spoke of an embattled president in the White House—not regarding a war or civil rights, but rather indictments of top aides over perjury charges and challenges of cronyism in Supreme Court judicial nominations.

Along with these headlines was news of even more natural disasters and fear of a potentially pandemic strain of avian flu. It's hard to see a lot of bright spots. And of course, I can't, in good faith, look to the "Fourth Estate" as any beacon of virtue in these troublesome times, given media scandals surrounding made-up stories in the New York Times, and questionable, even false sources used by Dan Rather and CBS News during the presidential race to land a story that just wasn't there. This from the man who emerged as a pinnacle of journalism in the midst of the Kennedy assassination. Even here in the business-to-business side of the publishing industry, I see questionable practices emerging. Most notably the publication of faux cover ads that unethically include a magazine's logo. Talk about a Rolling Stones-sized sellout...

Now more than ever, there's a need to re-emphasize ethics. In our last issue, we had letters and stories talking about basic training, even boot camps, for aspiring engineers. I can think of no other fundamental prerequisite to add to that curriculum than ethics. And it's not just young people. I think all of us could use a refresher course.

But back to Rosa. To allude to a song from another musician, Bob Marley, perhaps it's time to "Get Up, Stand Up" and don't forget what's right.





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