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BS: Ethics of Opportunism

Janie 13 Jul 10 - 02:04 AM
GUEST,stringsinger 11 Jul 10 - 11:43 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 11 Jul 10 - 03:28 AM
Janie 10 Jul 10 - 09:47 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 10 Jul 10 - 03:17 AM
Janie 10 Jul 10 - 12:39 AM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Jul 10 - 05:25 PM
Donuel 09 Jul 10 - 01:23 PM
Janie 08 Jul 10 - 11:03 PM
McGrath of Harlow 08 Jul 10 - 07:45 PM
Janie 07 Jul 10 - 10:10 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 07 Jul 10 - 09:02 PM
Janie 07 Jul 10 - 07:59 PM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Jul 10 - 07:03 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 07 Jul 10 - 04:15 AM
Amos 06 Jul 10 - 10:31 PM
Janie 06 Jul 10 - 09:23 PM
Bill D 06 Jul 10 - 08:02 PM
GUEST,bardan 06 Jul 10 - 07:37 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 06 Jul 10 - 04:46 PM
Bonzo3legs 06 Jul 10 - 04:43 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 06 Jul 10 - 03:16 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 06 Jul 10 - 02:51 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 06 Jul 10 - 02:33 AM
Janie 05 Jul 10 - 08:22 PM
Janie 05 Jul 10 - 07:57 PM
Deda 05 Jul 10 - 07:01 PM
mousethief 05 Jul 10 - 06:22 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 05 Jul 10 - 03:25 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 05 Jul 10 - 03:18 AM
Greg F. 04 Jul 10 - 11:33 PM
mousethief 04 Jul 10 - 10:05 PM
Janie 04 Jul 10 - 09:52 PM
Bill D 04 Jul 10 - 08:32 PM
Stringsinger 04 Jul 10 - 08:25 PM
McGrath of Harlow 04 Jul 10 - 08:09 PM
Greg F. 04 Jul 10 - 07:32 PM
mousethief 04 Jul 10 - 07:30 PM
Amos 04 Jul 10 - 06:15 PM
Paul Burke 04 Jul 10 - 05:58 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 04 Jul 10 - 05:16 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 04 Jul 10 - 05:07 PM
Ed T 04 Jul 10 - 04:59 PM
Janie 04 Jul 10 - 03:50 PM
Amos 04 Jul 10 - 03:45 PM
Paul Burke 04 Jul 10 - 03:15 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 04 Jul 10 - 03:01 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 04 Jul 10 - 02:43 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 04 Jul 10 - 02:35 PM
Bill D 04 Jul 10 - 02:26 PM

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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Janie
Date: 13 Jul 10 - 02:04 AM

Aye, that is possibly quite a tangent to the topic.

I not only appreciate your perspective on the short view, Crow Sister (and Frank,) to a certain extent I share it. However, I think there is also value in understanding the "long view," for those who can be bothered. I happen to think that if more people thought about the "long view" then efforts toward social justice in the short run would be more effective.

So no, I do not think it is quite a tangent to the topic.

The internet - however much one might imagine it to represent real life, isn't real life. I think people usually behave differently face to face.

That may be, Crow Sister. Other than occasionally checking in on Facebook, Mudcat is my first and only experience with on-line social networking. I've been around here 9 or so years, have had the opportunity to meet many Mudcatters from across the USA, as well as several from Canada and the UK. 90% of them are pretty much the same people in 3-D they are on Mudcat - and I think most of them would say the same of me. (you can shudder now:>)


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: GUEST,stringsinger
Date: 11 Jul 10 - 11:43 AM

Laws and trumped-up morality are devices to control people for those who benefit from that control such as big corporations, some Supreme Court Justices, wealthy bankers, Wall Street shills in government and those at the top end of the pay scale including rich Republicans who care little for the suffering of those at the lower economic end of society.

Opportunism arises when it is condoned or defended as "the way things are and you can't do anything about it".

It's time for folkies to remember the original intend of "sing out", not the cop-out fanzine on today's market.

Remember that opportunism always comes from the top down. Activism on the bottom up is what's required.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 11 Jul 10 - 03:28 AM

"know enough to understand that during their expansionist period in the early part of the christian era they had a very unbalancing effect (at the time) on the peoples and cultures of the British Isles, France, and Germany."

Yes, the prevailing cultural ethic at that time was much more aggressive than in the modern era.

But while it might be interesting to look at vast sweeps of history when debating theory, I don't know how useful that is when discussing contemporary prevailing cultural attitudes about wealth and poverty, and indeed people salvaging from other's waste.

That picture is too big for me I'm afraid. So I'll stick to smaller and more immediate stuff :)

You maintain that conflict is inevitable and that we can only "seesaw back and forth". Yes, conflict is inevitable. However, how we cope with that conflict and how severely we swing between the poles, is an indication of how well we can balance and has much to do with how we've developed strategies for adaptation in order to maintain that balance.

I gave the example of a modern Western society which has developed a very strong and consistent cultural ethic of social support, and has been this way for many decades - so I'll stay with them. Of course Sweden - like the rest of Europe - has suffered economically in very recent years (so there's your conflict). They are changing in response (adaptation). And are now one of the only economies in Europe to be successfully dragging themselves out of the economic depression (restabalising again).

However their prevailing cultural ethic (originating as far back as the mid 1800's), remains one of supporting each other. As said they are adapting, and changes are being made. But consistent with the prevailing cultural ethic, the new government didn't get in by braying about slashing taxes (as they might here in the UK, and especially in the US) but by promising better welfare systems.

"My point, however, is not so much about that as it is about the the ineffectiveness and often (though not always) destructive results of dichotomous expression."

Aye, that is possibly quite a tangent to the topic.. The internet - however much one might imagine it to represent real life, isn't real life. I think people usually behave differently face to face.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Janie
Date: 10 Jul 10 - 09:47 PM

That may be the case in Denmark now and for the past 50 to 75 years, Crow Sister. I don't know anything about modern Denmark. I also don't know much about their more ancient history, but know enough to understand that during their expansionist period in the early part of the christian era they had a very unbalancing effect (at the time) on the peoples and cultures of the British Isles, France, and Germany. (The Roman Empire had the same effect a few hundred years before that.)

It is certainly true that many Americans have irrational and ignorant responses to the idea of "socialism." One of my favorite examples is a sign seen at a "town meeting" regarding health care reform, held by an individual opposed to health care reform on the grounds it is socialist, "Government, Leave My Medicare Alone." Medicare IS socialized insurance, entirely funded by payroll taxes and mandatory premiums deducted from monthly social security checks, also funded by payroll taxes.

My point, however, is not so much about that as it is about the the ineffectiveness and often (though not always) destructive results of dichotomous expression.   Social systems are very dynamic. Systems theory posits that systems are always seeking stasis, but all systems of life and creation are dynamic systems, not static systems. Order is necessary and so is chaos. They are the two ends of a continuum. Too much order, too static a system, and it dies via atrophy. To much chaos, and the system dies via violent destruction. (Maybe implosion vs explosion is a good analogy. The end result is the same.)

The quest for balance includes conflict. That is inevitable. The Buddha posited that suffering is part of life, and that resistance, (i.e., lack of acceptance of that reality) to pain increases suffering.

Huh? How did the Buddha get in this conversation? It is just that the observations and teachings of the Buddha are very consistent with systems theory, which includes, imo, conflict theory.

Conflict does not have to be destructive. It can be creative and adaptive. In fact, it is an essential ingredient of adaptation. Adaptation is necessary to survival and creation. I do not get irritated at differences of opinion. I do get irritated at the judgementalness and ready invalidation people whose views tend toward opposite ends of the spectrum impose on each other. I think that kind of emotional and irrational response to differences - the invalidation of that which is functional in the opposite pov, is a force of destruction and dampens -and often seriously impedes--the adaptive and creative aspects of conflict.

This forum is a microcosm of western culture and the ways that society thinks and interacts. Because we are somewhat small and somewhat intimate, we are a community in the real sense of the word. We have the opportunity here to learn to differ effectively, and to actually listen to one another and engage in real dialogue.    Sometimes that happens. Too often it does not. That is not surprising, but is still disappointing. There are many reasons why this is so, many of them having to do more with the modus operandi of people than with position or philosophy.

I think what I often have to say gets interpreted as milquetoast because I tend to focus more on process than on content.   Imho, however, dichotomous thinkers would do well to attend to process if they are more interested in being effective and influential than in being "right."

Or maybe I'm just "weird" and going off on a tangent that seems germaine to me but not to anyone else.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 10 Jul 10 - 03:17 AM

"The best we can hope for is to constantly seesaw back and forth, approaching, though rarely, if ever, finding the point of balance. And if found, the fulcrum shifts again in the blink of an eye."

I'm not so certain that must be the case. Scandinavian countries are famous for their high quality of living and their serious dedication to social welfare. Sweden in particular has seriously tackled homelessness for many decades. Of course they are also famous for being willing to reach into their pockets too.. Where by comparison both SOCIALISM and TAX are four letter words in the US. And the UK, athough still streets ahead of the US, also has a wink and a handshake deal, that's been going on for years between the government and the super wealthy.

I believe the major issue isn't that it's impossible to maintain a reasonably stable balance, but that if a society is to achieve that, then the culture as a whole must have developed a more humanitarian and less selfish ethic. Did you know for example, that you can legally camp in other people's gardens in Sweden? There is no law of trespass to protect property rights. This is an indication of the psychology of a culture which supports those in need unquestioningly, and consistently.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Janie
Date: 10 Jul 10 - 12:39 AM

Donuel, there are always rather horrible people, but I believe doing something like intentionally ruining food in dumpsters to prevent scavengers, or pouring kerosene on it is pretty rare (and pouring kerosene or putting other hazardous waste in a dumpster to go into the general mess at the landfill is illegal, and probably also in violation of fire codes.) I get that you are presenting a pretty balance point of view.   Kevin, I think you also get that, and so I wonder why you would respond as you did?

There are some businesses in my area that do keep their dumpsters behind locked fences, depending on where they are located. This is because in my rural area a good part of the county does not have trash pick up available, nor a nearby transfer station to which they can haul trash and recyclables. Businesses pay a pretty hefty fee to rent their dumpsters and have them dumped. When they are located out in the county, they become the de-facto transfer station, when the bins are full, people just drop their refuse beside the dumpsters, and the business gets stuck with the mess and the bill.

I think the biggest concern about dumpster diving is liability. We are a litigious society here in the States. Dumpster companies and businesses can and have been successfully sued for dumping a dumpster, unaware there was some one in it, or because some one got injured inside the dumpster, on the grounds the dumpster was accessible.

The grocery stores in my area are all generous with donations to local food banks and pantries, donate supplies and food for our local ecumenical program, "Food for All" where we distribute evening meals prepared in the kitchens of local churches from the backs of our station wagons at 2 sites in town, 5 days a week.

Lowe's Foods, a North Carolina grocery chain, keeps tables laden with grocery bags filled with canned goods, mac & cheese, etc. near the check out lines with big signs. To each bag is attached a ticket listing what is inside and a price tag, $5 to $15.00. Shoppers can pick up one of the bags, pay for it with their groceries, then Lowe's sets it aside to be picked up by the local food bank. Where I live many, many businesses are good community members because it is good business, but also because the owners, managers and employees live and work here and care about their community.

I dunno, maybe it is different in big urban areas or in places where there is no real sense of community. These people and businesses often do their fair share. They provide the economic engines that make it possible for people to live and work here. In the event of a disaster, many of them will be on the front lines to offer help and assistance. If their properties and places of business are completely destroyed by looters or panic, or if the laws and mores of the community do not offer some protection of their property, they are gone, and so is the community.

I often find myself really irritated by dichotomous and over-simplified expressed opinions, or responses on these threads.   (And I am certain many of you get irritated with my plodding and long-winded posts.)

In the real world, a realistic and dynamic balance translates into sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you. That occasion when neither the bear or you gets got and both go away happy and fed (or mad and starving) is a rare, and usually mythical nanosecond in time. The best we can hope for is to constantly seesaw back and forth, approaching, though rarely, if ever, finding the point of balance. And if found, the fulcrum shifts again in the blink of an eye. All creation is a dynamic search for balance between chaos and order. The tension between the two is essential, and means balance can at best be approximated or deemed a near miss.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Jul 10 - 05:25 PM

Good grief. I get the impression that property rights are seen as close to sacred in the USA, in a way that just isn't so in other places, at least I hope not. Even by some priests it appears.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Donuel
Date: 09 Jul 10 - 01:23 PM

There is more property law than there is law dealing with human needs. I assume this is so since property owners have more clout to create law for their own pruposes than poor people do.

Some grocery chains were incensed that poor people were raiding the dumpsters so they sprayed the food in the dumptwers with kerosene.
Most of those practices have ended with the need of food banks in the area.

Perhaps it would be illuminating to learn what laws govern the practice of dumpster diving.



When a church burned down that had hundreds of stained glass windows I asked the priest if I could have a piece of glass. He declined my request. Understandably just because something is in ruins it does not mean that the artifacts and remains are free to the public. Tomb raiders are criminals whether the grave is thousands of years old or freshly buried. Archeologists here would certainly agree that there are ways of doing these things the right way.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Janie
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 11:03 PM

I agree, Kevin. If I understand you correctly, however, your assumption is that when law enforcement acts in such situations to restrain or constrain the behaviors of those doing the grabbing, their primary intent is to protect property rights. I would suggest that protection of property rights is, in some measure, the legal grounds on which they may take action to attempt to maintain some measure of order and safety to those doing the grabbing.

I do not mean grabbing here as a value laden term, but simply as a descriptive term for what desperate people may do when suddenly presented with the basic resources they need, especially when those essential resources are insufficient to meet the needs of all present.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 07:45 PM

It's difficult to understand why people can't be allowed to take food from a flooded supermarket, in a situation such as New Orleans after Katrina, but if you allow that, others will feel justified in loading up on Plasma TVs and furniture, and scream victimisation if only they are prosecuted.

Not "difficult" - impossible. The important thing in a situation like that is to maximise the chances of people getting the food etc they need.   If a side effect is that other stuff gets taken as well, stuff which would likely have been destroyed by the flood anyway, that is hardly a matter of any consequence whatever.

And the idea that police should be expected to divert attention from their duty to do everything they could do to help and protect citizens in danger of their lives, in order to "protect" the property rights of supermarkets isn't just absurd, it's repulsive.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Janie
Date: 07 Jul 10 - 10:10 PM

There is some flexibility in the judicial system, here in the USA, and I expect in most places.

1. Law Enforcement officers can weigh the situation and decide to turn a blind eye. When there is a significant potential for break down in social order, though, I imagine judgement tends toward maintaining or attempting to re-establish order, and in terms of the over-all common good in a situation involving lots of people, order probably trumps everything else. A crowd turns into a mob very quickly. (Desperateness aside, remember the Walmart incident when a person was trampled to death when the doors opened for a Christmas sale?)

In individual situations, it is obvious that good judgement varies. The recent case in Tennessee where the policeman exhibited very poor judgement regarding the man speeding his wife to the ER is a good example of very poor judgement, at least based on what I have read. Those instances draw a lot of press, and I think it erroneous to assume that poor judgement is the rule.

2. Prosecutors can also decide to not pursue a case or to recommend minimal consequences, depending on the circumstances. Judges can dismiss cases, or impose minimal consequences.

Basically, talking about the concept of legal "mercy." That same flexibility that can allow for extraordinary circumstances also allows for corrupt influence, (sometimes legal and sometimes not.) All kinds of factors, some subtle and some not, some related to power or lack thereof, some related to ethnic prejudices, etc., come into play when "judgement calls" are made.

Regardless of one's position on these matters, it simply is not a perfect world and there are simply no perfect people roaming around it.

Being poor or in need, whether the condition is extreme or not, is a condition or circumstance, not a virtue or a vice. Get a crowd of people together for any reason and there will be a range of personalities, attributes, values, or lack thereof.

Social chaos is probably more dangerous to more people in the middle of the chaos than is not getting immediate basic needs met. By the same token, fear of not getting basic needs met, in a crowd, often results in chaos.

One of those dilemmas, eh? Some one is likely to get hurt or to endure increased suffering no matter whether the law is strictly enforced or ignored in recognition of the needs. (ever watched a news cast or video of distribution of food and supplies when a significant number of people are "on the ropes?"


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 07 Jul 10 - 09:02 PM

Remember Burke and Hare!

They started out acquiring cadavers for dissection by anatomists.

Initially the bodies were donated legally, being mostly paupers with no family to pay for a funeral.

As the demand grew, they first started digging up the newly dead, and then graduated to murdering people.

That, or similar, is the likely consequence of turning a blind eye to breaches of the law regarding salvage, looting, or theft.

Sad but true, some people if given an inch will walk off with the whole enchilada, and come back for more.

It's difficult to understand why people can't be allowed to take food from a flooded supermarket, in a situation such as New Orleans after Katrina, but if you allow that, others will feel justified in loading up on Plasma TVs and furniture, and scream victimisation if only they are prosecuted.

Law enforcement personnel are not in a position to allow these things to happen. The individual cop might get away with turning a blind eye to the young mum with a couple of cans of baby food, but he's risking career and pension by so doing.

It's not fair to expect him to take that risk, so do your looting, salvaging, stealing, or whatever euphemism stills your conscience, when he is not around.

If caught, I'm afraid you will just have to accept the court's interpretation, and punishment.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Janie
Date: 07 Jul 10 - 07:59 PM

Weber was a brilliant scholar and thinker. Most of his work was published posthumously, and much of it very germaine to this discussion.

I don't know which you looked at, the Wiki article on the essay, or the Wiki article about Max Weber. The Max Weber article catalogues his published works. I've read most of them, and considered it time very well spent.

The Wiki article on Max Weber gives a fairly cogent synopsis of his qualitative research.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 07 Jul 10 - 07:03 PM

It's interesting to note that here in Italy, if you steal medicine or food etc that you need and couldn't pay for, it doesn't legally count as theft.

Reflecting the fact that "the Protestant Ethic" never made too much headway in Italy...


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 07 Jul 10 - 04:15 AM

"Max Weber's "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" lines it out pretty well,"

Thanks for that Janie, most interesting. I just picked up the gist from Wiki. An illuminating quote (discussed by Weber) from Benjamin Franklin made me interested in the cult of money which seems to have flourished particularly well in the States, which is also far more overtly Christian than the UK today (albeit not really the kind of Christianity I recognise):


"Weber showed that certain types of Protestantism – notably Calvinism – favored rational pursuit of economic gain and worldly activities which had been given positive spiritual and moral meaning.[31] [...]
To illustrate and provide an example, Weber quoted the ethical writings of Benjamin Franklin:

    Remember, that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labor, and goes abroad, or sits idle, one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expense; he has really spent, or rather thrown away, five shillings besides. ... Remember, that money is the prolific, generating nature. Money can beget money, and its offspring can beget more, and so on. Five shillings turned is six, turned again is seven and threepence, and so on, till it becomes a hundred pounds. The more there is of it, the more it produces every turning, so that the profits rise quicker and quicker. He that kills a breeding sow, destroys all her offspring to the thousandth generation. He that murders a crown, destroys all that it might have produced, even scores of pounds.(Italics in the original)"


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Amos
Date: 06 Jul 10 - 10:31 PM

We're drifting into a bit of semantic cloudiness here, but it is inherent in the language. Some people use the term "moral" to mean inherently right-acting, synonymous with a sense of "ethics" in the sense of the individual's judgement of right action.

Bot "moral" also implies agreement to a code of guidelines or strictures and is a function of group agreement in that sense. So if you have subscribed to a certain orthodoxy (such as fasting for Lent) the NOT doing so would be a violation of that moral code--but there maybe nothing inherently unethical about the peanutbutter sandwich you ate other than that it broke an agreement you had made.

Violating a code of agreements with your group is a different thing than violating your own sense of truth and right action. I suppose they could both be interpreted as "sins" or transgressions, but I think the scars from violating your own sense of ethics run deeper than the scars from breaking an agreement to behave a certain way.

Agreeing to live under the law (subscribing to that group code) makes sense, but it an overlapping set of propositions with the set of personal choices for ethical; reasons, not an identical set.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Janie
Date: 06 Jul 10 - 09:23 PM

Max Weber's "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" lines it out pretty well, Crow Sister. Can't remember off the top of my head if Marx also wrote about it, but some one here will know.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Bill D
Date: 06 Jul 10 - 08:02 PM

"Laws, by their very nature, are immoral. "

I suspect you mean 'amoral'.. It would not be IMmoral to try to fashion rules to promote a decent, fair society.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: GUEST,bardan
Date: 06 Jul 10 - 07:37 PM

It's interesting to note that here in Italy, if you steal medecine or food etc that you need and couldn't pay for, it doesn't legally count as theft. (It would be nicer if the government arranged things so that everyone could avoid starvation and be healthy but I'm not holding my breath.)
I think it's already been at least alluded to, but the problem with laws is that they can't be totally in line with morality. Laws place blanket condemnation or acceptance on particular acts. They are a generalised way of looking at millions of individual choices made by millions of individuals in millions of different circumstances. In other words they treat everyone unfairly in order to have a fairer and safer society. It seems paradoxical but that's how it works. Laws, by their very nature, are immoral. (They're a 'best fit' solution and we're a lot better off with them than without, but no-one should assume they have real moral value.)


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 06 Jul 10 - 04:46 PM

"What do you want - a medal??"

Ooh yes please! But only if it's made from recycled materials of course and no slave children were used in it's production. Only enslaved polo players..


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 06 Jul 10 - 04:43 PM

What do you want - a medal??


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 06 Jul 10 - 03:16 AM

Heh-he - I even sing tatty old second-hand songs... :)


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 06 Jul 10 - 02:51 AM

I'll post this separately in case it gets missed:

I wonder if the philosophers / psychologists among us might have thoughts on "Wealth as a Virtue" in Western society?
I know historically "the poor" were often looked upon as though their material conditions were a direct reflection of some kind of moral or spiritual degeneracy or "vice", 'indolence' in particular.
Dickens does a good job of displaying such ignorant prejudice against those in poverty and associated inflated feelings of Godliness or moral and spiritual superiority over them.

As said, it's certainly something I witness around me.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 06 Jul 10 - 02:33 AM

"I also note that you haven't sold your computer to give to proceeds to the poor any more than I have."

My posts weren't about my pious acts of charity to address the worlds vast imbalances, but Western excess. There's not a lot I can do about the prevailing ethic of consumerism in the West "buy more, be better!", but I do live according to my own general anti-consumerist principles.

I live in an affluent area where I see wealth constantly displayed as some kind of "virtue" all around me in big houses and cars. As I've got older I've increasingly adopted a 'Fifties' code about money and material stuff, such as when my grandparents might have when they were were younger: "make do and mend", never borrowing for things you don't need and so-on.

I wear second hand clothes, buy second hand furniture, read second hand or borrowed books. I use them till they fall apart. We run one small second hand car. We camp in the UK, or backpack. If I pass a skip with usable stuff in it, I will take from it. I don't get sneered at by the Tennis Mums as though I'm some kind of 'degenerate' round here, without trying ;-)

I don't only own a computer, but in fact I own *two* expensive items: a computer and a camera. I plan for 'large' items I require for practical projects, save for the best quality item I can reasonably afford, buy them, and use them a lot. There's nothing in that which contradicts anything I believe in.

As an aside, I wonder if the philosophers / psychologists among us might have thoughts on "Wealth as a Virtue" in Western society? I know historically "the poor" were often looked upon as though their material conditions were a direct reflection of some kind of moral or spiritual degeneracy or "vice", 'indolence' in particular. Dickens does a good job of displaying such ignorant prejudice against those in poverty and associated inflated feelings of Godliness or moral and spiritual superiority over them. As said, it's certainly something I witness around me.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Janie
Date: 05 Jul 10 - 08:22 PM

Sorry Crow Sister. I think somehow your posts and those of Paul Burke's ran together in my head.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Janie
Date: 05 Jul 10 - 07:57 PM

Well said, Deda!


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Deda
Date: 05 Jul 10 - 07:01 PM

Maslow's hierarchy of needs comes into play here. If your essential, basic needs (food, water, shelter) are not met, then you aren't going to spend time thinking much about ethics, laws, morals, or your own philosophy. If you are putting a lot of thought into finer ethical points of behavior, your own or others', then you most likely have a roof over your head and enough to eat, and enough security to turn your attention to abstract ideas. This isn't a matter of being hypocritical.

Deda


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: mousethief
Date: 05 Jul 10 - 06:22 PM

In the main, our society is bloated, fat, smug and complacent and in no position to judge others in poverty who might need to scavenge to live.

True. I also note that you haven't sold your computer to give to proceeds to the poor any more than I have. Unless you're posting from the library in which case I apologize.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 05 Jul 10 - 03:25 AM

EDIT:
"As for McGrath"
should be:
"as for Mousethief"


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 05 Jul 10 - 03:18 AM

"I am aware of several Mudcatters"

Janie that's fine, but I didn't say "no-one" "in in our affluent (Western) society" has ever genuinely known poverty. I said "most of us" "in our affluent society". Maybe you need to take your argument up with someone who disagrees with you ;-)

My point about 'complacency', was that terms such as 'need' and 'poverty' become extremely watered down in the West by the use of a vast percentage of the population who are ignorant of what these terms truly mean. I think there are a few older people here in the UK (my Nan was one) who would remember families in real poverty. She said to me once she knew children in her street that never had shoes because they were too poor. But she was lucky, because her father never got sick. I found that comment so telling.

As for the US, I do believe there is probably far more of an underbelly than in the UK, mainly because of so many decades of paranoia about socialism. The fact that you don't even have a national health care service kinda gives it away. And the failure to effectively deal with an ongoing national humanitarian crisis like Katrina likewise. But that's an aside.

As for McGrath, no I don't think a bit of cheese in the back of the fridge is as extreme as the amount of waste produced commercially. But it is true to say that we are extremely wasteful on a mass scale in the West. We don't just want a bathroom, we want another one in five years time. We have a culture of consumerism. don't just want a car, we want three. We don't just want a holiday, we want a month long cruise in paradise. Want want want. Get get get.

In the main, our society is bloated, fat, smug and complacent and in no position to judge others in poverty who might need to scavenge to live. But yet it is that very wealth, comfort and ignorance which results in self-satisfied moral superiority and judgmental attitudes about those who might make use of that which the rest of us waste.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Greg F.
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 11:33 PM

Circumstances always vary, Bill. But they're not necessarily a justification.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: mousethief
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 10:05 PM

Opportunism is a cultural construct native to capitalism.

I'm sure opportunism long predates capitalism. Don't you think there were opportunists in feudal medieval England, for example? M-W defines it as "the art, policy, or practice of taking advantage of opportunities or circumstances often with little regard for principles or consequences." That doesn't require capitalism as a backdrop.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Janie
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 09:52 PM

Thanks for clarifying, Crow Sister. However, I am aware of several Mudcatters who have indeed known extreme poverty in their lives, including homelessness and hunger. It is not my place to name them. In addition, there are several Mudcatters here who have worked most of their lives as social workers, serving indigent people. I am among them.   I have not experienced extreme poverty, but I have, and continue, to bear witness.

There are places in the world where extreme poverty is more the norm than not. I have often born witness to poverty, and sometimes to extreme and abject poverty, but understand that the majority of people in the western world who live in poverty do not suffer the extremes that are close to the norm in some societies and countries. I can't say that I know this, but my impression is that those societies where the rule of law has nearly or completely broken down experience a much higher rate of abject and extreme poverty than in countries where institutions exist that support the rule of law.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 08:32 PM

"Righto! So ya find something someone lost & you've no obligation to return it to the rightful owner!"

Tsk...that's not what I said. YOU made the jump. If there is any possible way to identify and/or find an owner, you SHOULD make the attempt. It is different from, say, finding a bank note blowing down the street...or perhaps, as I did once, a pair of glasses in a case..on a curb... with no ID label.

My ONLY point was that circumstances vary.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Stringsinger
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 08:25 PM

Law and ethics are not the same. Some laws are unethical. (Remember slavery, the lack of child labor laws and the struggles of woman suffrage?)

In the US, money wins cases most of the time. Good lawyers cost money. And if you are a corporation you can "bribe" a judge especially if they own stock in that corporation.

Opportunism is a cultural construct native to capitalism. Capitalism can be unethical.
For that matter, any system of government can be but some may be more ethical then others. At this point, a little socialism wouldn't hurt in our government. (Social security, post office, good roads and even maybe a revival of the CCC).

The reason that the U.S. congress and senate is not behaving in an ethical way passing
bad bills such as denying unemployment insurance, refraining from punishing BP, diluting meaningful consumer legislation by canceling Glass-Steagal and funding meaningless wars is greed, pure and simple, greed. These congressmen and senators are heavily invested in corporations that pay their re-election bills and fatten their pocketbooks.
That goes for their sucking up to the MIC also.

We have to "blow the whistle" on them, America.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 08:09 PM

Clearly salvaging something that would otherwise be wasted is not stealing in any morally intelligible sense. However it would be reasonable for there to be a restriction on people doing it in a way that was highly dangerous, as was the case in the tragedy that underlies this thread.

Apart from the exception of public safety, then where there are laws which treat salvage of stuff that would otherwise go to waste as stealing, they are bad laws, which have no ethical status. There is a right, and indeed a duty, to resist such laws.

This sort of absurdity came up in the case of Katrina, where people engaged in salvaging foodstuffs were described as "looters".


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Greg F.
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 07:32 PM

'Lost' stuff differs from stolen stuff.

Righto! So ya find something someone lost & you've no obligation to return it to the rightful owner! Good deal!

I'll try to remember thatif found in possesion of someone else's property, but I don't think that excuse will cut much ice with a magistrate.

I'll let you know how it works....


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: mousethief
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 07:30 PM

The problem here is "I take it, it's mine" is true whether or not there is great need. Blanket justifications for theft go way beyond the abject poor attending to their needs. If I came and nabbed your car, would you be satisfied to give it up to me on the principle of "I took it, so it's mine"? Or would you use the legal system to try to get it back? Or would you wait until night and steal it back? How much anarchy and lawlessness are you prepared to embrace?

I don't see how dumpster diving is theft. Trying to portray it as such, or trying to make it illegal (or succeeding therein), are wrong.

I agree that the rich using their riches wastefully, while others go hungry and unsheltered, is a horrible wrong. But how far does that apply? If I let some leftovers go bad in the back of the fridge and throw them out, am I being as evil as a billionaire who lets living space go unused to drive up rents?


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Amos
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 06:15 PM

Well, I think you might have deserved a bit of a retort, Paul, for taking liberties. If not, of course I apologize. I am sure you know best.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Paul Burke
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 05:58 PM

Just keep on with the smug, Amos mate. It suits you.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 05:16 PM

PS Janie, I realise my postings on this thread have been a bit uncoordinated, I hope that clarifies my meaning.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 05:07 PM

"I haven't read anything here that suggests any of the posters fail to understand that some people live in such conditions. Nor do I think anyone has posted a condemnation of people for doing so."

I didn't say 'fail to understand' I said 'ignorant of'. By which I meant an absence of real personal or experiental knowledge of as opposed to intellectual or abstract "knowledge" of.

My comment on societal condemnation, was in reference to my prior posting about the Mayfair squatter (and many like her) receiving condemnatory comments from people following her story.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Ed T
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 04:59 PM

Coveting consumer goods in a "society of plenty" is very different than living in real need and poverty (a long term lack of proper housing, food, medical treatment and the basics of life) in many world societies.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Janie
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 03:50 PM

One more time, the terms ethical and legal are not synonyms.

If I had to steal to feed my kid I would do so and I would be very clear in my own mind that the need warranted the action. The ethics of not allowing my child to starve trump the ethics that I ought not take what does not belong to me. So, what happens is ethical values have to be prioritized. This means that sometimes I will violate one ethic in order to meet the requirements of an ethic I consider to be of higher value or priority.

Ethical dilemmas happen all the time.

Actually, Crow Sister, I haven't read anything here that suggests any of the posters fail to understand that some people live in such conditions. Nor do I think anyone has posted a condemnation of people for doing so.

Your remark about "stealing a loaf of bread" is a good illustration of what Amos was talking about in an earlier post. Times changed, attitudes changed, conditions changed. It took a good bit longer for the law to change.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Amos
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 03:45 PM

Oh, well, then, I feel much better, Paul. Thanks for tapping into your Cosmic Database and setting my head straight, then.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Paul Burke
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 03:15 PM

Amos, you have NOT been in poverty. Just a bit broke. Centuries of "wrassling" won't get the poor out of where they are. Mostly because of greedy sods in the west.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 03:01 PM

It just struck me, I wonder how many of you folks in the US are the descendants of children transported from the UK, for the 'crime' of stealing a loaf of bread?


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 02:43 PM

PS I think that's the 'complacency' that Paul was describing. We live in such an affluent society that most of us are completely ignorant of the degree of poverty that might inspire people to scavenge from other's waste.

Now the squatter I was describing doesn't 'need' to scavenge, but the point I was making was that the moral crime, if any, is the gross excesses of a society that is so fat and morally self-satisfied, that it not only wastes vast resources, but then collectively condemns others who might make use of that waste.


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 02:35 PM

"I might... but I think I would use several alternatives first."

No doubt. But then I think in our affluent society words like "need" are interpreted in a much milder fashion than they might be in Africa say. I need air to survive, it's an imperative. Anything I need to survive describes an equivalent imperative. It's not like needing change for one's bus fare. People will do (and do do) almost anything when confronted with such actual needs. Including eating other people..


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Subject: RE: BS: Ethics of Opportunism
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 02:26 PM

"... you would steal to survive."

I might... but I think I would use several alternatives first...You'd have to describe some very specific circumstances where there was almost NO alternative.


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