Fairness, integrity, honesty, human dignity, service, quality, reaping and sowing, the Golden Rule, potential, growth, patience, nurturance, encouragement – these are principles that permeate our American culture, legal system, government, and even approach to a free market system, on paper at least. Principles are indelible, like a North Star they lead us to the best individual life and society. Why are we fighting against them with such vigor today? They can be bent, skirted, and even mocked, but never fully escaped. Built into each principle are consequences that we do not get to chose.
Twenty years ago, in one of the most concise treatise on principles, Stephen Covey wrote: “Principles are guidelines for human conduct that are proven to have enduring, permanent value.” Throughout his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he succinctly shows how principles are not esoteric, religious ideas, but natural laws found in every single enduring religion, social philosophy, and ethical system. Principles are not practices or values, which can be applied on a situational basis. “When we value correct principles, we have truth – a knowledge of things as they are,” Covey said.
Something akin to a virus has run rampant in our culture, causing many to invert and manipulate principles. The result is hordes of people speaking with authority, yet possessing little knowledge of things as they really are.
Fairness: free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice.
From a very young age, we come to understand fairness. It’s not fair if a teacher announces a test to only half the class, but grades all the same. It’s not fair if everyone is not at least given the chance to play the game at school. It’s not fair if Johnny steals Sally’s milk money and goes unpunished.
Unfairness is understood to mean a falsifying of the playing field, giving one an “unfair” advantage over another based on arbitrary criteria. Fairness is violated when something rightfully mine is taken – I rightfully earned it or was born with it. Today, many things have come to loudly be claimed as fair, yet fail to meet the most basic definition of fairness. For example, the practice of distributive taxation or spreading the wealth is not fair. The government takes what you earn and gives it to others based on a criteria determined by the bureaucracy.
Gay marriage advocates claim it’s unfair that lesbians, homosexuals, and transgender lovers can’t get legally married in most states. The fact that marriage was first described as a union between one man and one woman by scribes over 3000 years ago in the Old Testament (both the Christian Bible and Jewish Talmud), is glazed over. They claim it unfair to not have something they never qualified for in the first place.
Quality: a degree of excellence, superiority in kind.
Quality workmanship is lasting; it stands out above the rest. At one point, Americans held the principle of quality in high esteem, and it led to leadership in almost every industry known to man: cars, furniture, health care, textiles, etc. In order to have more for less, we have been convinced to trade quality for quantity.
As a case in point, there are hundreds of U.S. companies that ship container loads of various parts used either in assembly or stand alone from China. Often up to half of the contents are so low in quality, they are thrown away. Yet, it is still cheaper to make it in China and sell it in America, even when half is put in the landfill. The reason is cheap labor. The costs of employing an assembly line worker in America are upwards of $20.00 an hour, including payroll loading. The costs in China are still often less than $5.00 an hour.
This leads to another principle held near and dear to Americans: human dignity. As defined on Wikipedia, “Dignity is a term used in moral, ethical, and political discussions to signify that a being has an innate right to respect and ethical treatment.”
Perhaps we have traded our belief in human dignity for desires - the desire for cheaper goods; the desire to do as we please, in spite of consequences; the desire to create the façade of a perfect, utopian world that never has nor ever will exist among mortal men? We have no qualms with the Chinaman whose labor is extracted at an embarrassing rate, because he lives under Communism. We are bringing five known radical Islamist terrorists to New York City for a “fair” civilian trial. In part, prompted by outrage over the lack of dignity shown them through interrogations following their crimes.
Recently, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) stood on the House floor and said, “To say this is a wolf in sheep’s clothing is the understatement of a lifetime.” She referred to the Stupack-Pitts Amendment added to the House version of “Healthcare Reform” legislation, which would have placed explicit language in the bill to ensure federal dollars would not fund abortion. Ms. DeGette gave an impassioned speech citing potential harm to reproductive freedom, because the amendment could be interpreted to mean that women who choose the public option, but pay premiums with private dollars could be prevented from having an abortion. In a press release, DeGette said, “The Stupak-Pitts restrictions on a woman’s right to choose are dangerous and unprecedented.” During a campaign stop in Pennsylvania, Barack Obama spoke of raising his two daughters to make good choices but “if one of them makes a mistake, I don’t want them to be punished with a baby.”
If you really think about these arguments – confessed terrorist given a civilian trial under full rights of the U.S. Constitution, and babies as punishment for unprotected sex – side-by-side it creates cognitive dissonance. Principles are indelible, like the North Star they lead us to the best individual life and society. Why are fighting against them with such vigor today?
Technical and creative writer, Carla G. Harper follows current events with one eye on history and one eye on the future. Her goal is to encourage people to think critically about what’s going on around them and what they are doing with their lives. Follow Carla at Twitter: CarlaGHarper
Photo from Kelsey e’s on Flicker Commons
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