Is It Relative?

Throughout my teaching life I fought an ongoing battle with ethical relativism. My job was to help young people take possession on their own minds: to help them learn how to think. But everywhere I turned in the ethical domain I ran into the mindless question “Who’s to say?” In ethics, so it is said, it’s all a matter of opinion. You have yours and I have mine — and mine are just as true as yours or even Plato’s. So I heard. It’s difficult to get people to think about things when an easy escape is ready at hand: “that’s just your opinion.”

And yet.

Surely the events of the past few weeks and months — if not the past four years — have taught us something about ethics and the notion that it’s all a “matter of opinion.” We have been witness to a series of events involving the violation of most, if not all, of the basic ethical and religious values that have sustained us as a people for centuries. Lies, violence, bigotry, hatred — the list goes on.

And it is precisely the ethical principles involved here that are at the heart of the matters: principles such as respect for persons and fairness, universal ethical principles that separate us from the other animals who act purely on instinct.

One would think that having endured the travesties of recent months we would have learned that there are things that matter, things that go beyond simply my opinion or yours. We have lived through the reductio ad absurdum of ethical relativism. here are things that matter, things that make us “civilized” and take us out of ourselves and into the lives of others where we find there are things that can be done to make the world a better place — and displace the hatred and fear that have haunted us of late.

Or so one would think.


Good Folks

One of my favorite blogging buddies has a regular feature in her weekly blog. It’s called “Good People Doing Good Things,” and she culls stories about folks around the country and even the world who do good things each day — to remind us all that there are good people out there doing good. We need the reminder and I always enjoy reading about those remarkable.e people.

But one need not venture far to find good folks. Consider the following:

A few months ago a started chemo treatment to deal with a nagging cancer. I live in a small town and word soon got out. And then remarkable things started to happen. We looked out one morning after a snowfall to discover that the driveway had been plowed. I have no idea whatever who did that. But there’s more. A neighbor cut our lawn and shows up after every snowfall to offer to clean up the driveway and the sidewalks. He insists that we call him and he will be there. So far so good.

Another neighbor loaned me a walker to help me with my rehab after I fell twice and couldn’t leave the family room downstairs. She also went to the grocery store twice and brought back groceries since my wife thought it best not to leave me alone ion the basement! She also picked up prescription drugs for me. Twice. Another neighbor spent two hours also shopping for groceries. Several other people have offered to help out any way they can.

All of this is voluntary and simply a sign of good folks doing good things.

We really don’t have to look that far.

Have a great New Year!