A Public Service Message trom the American Income Life Insurance Co.Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Chairman of the Board and Chief executive OffiCer Ethics and Morality BY BERNARD RAPOPORT All of a sudden, it is as if a new discovery was coming into being. Yes, “ethics and morality” have now become a dominant subject. Finally, we have decided they are deserving of our attention. It brings to mind that perhaps we were not aware of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s sagacious advice, “Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.” An impartial observer might doubt that the world today is blessed with “great men”! This accounts as to why materialistic forces are so dominant today. It is axiomatic that the larger the stake, the greater the temptation. It has always been true and while perhaps nothing is forever, I suspect this is as close to forever as anything ever has been. What is the problem? A contributing factor: one of America’s supposedly most successful men made a speech at the University of California and advised the graduates, “Greed is good.” It could be he is now recanting that bad advice since he sits in a federal penitentiary. Immanuel Kant, the great German philosopher, projected the concept of the “Categorical Imperative” which, reduced to simplistics, conveys the thought, “Before any of us take any single action, we should perceive what kind of world we would have if every inhabitant of the world would perform the same act.” That, perhaps is a cardinal precept in approaching the concept of ethics. Political morality and ethics to me is not when someone votes “right.” It comes about when one rises to an action that is above what one has the right to expect of someone in his particular place. I remember many years ago when Senator Wayne Morris of Oregon and Senator Gruening of Alaska were the only two who voted against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in the Senate. It was that particular action of the Senate that gave impetus to the war in Vietnam. Both of these particular individuals were defeated in their bid for reelection. They gave up a position which they coveted for what they perceived to be the best interest of this nation. It is not the purpose of this particular article to discuss the wisdom of their action, but simply to categorize it in its proper relationship to ethics and morality. The public has a right to demand and expect that every business will be operated in an honest way. There should be appropriate regulation to insure this. I almost hesitate to use that terminology because the word “regulation” is so misunderstood and I shall devote my next column to the subject. In other words, for me ethics and morality is what produces the wonderment relative to man. The words “ethics” and “morality” are very special terms. It is when a human being rises above what each of us have a right to expect of one another and reaches to perform ah act that really contributes to making this world a better place in which to live. When we say we don’t see much ethics and morality in politics, just remember, it is a reflection of the kind of world that you and I demand. We can have this kind of world or we can have a better one, but if it is going to be better, you and I are going to have to be more moral and ethical as I have defined these terms that is, we are going to have to be more giving and more sharing individually and collectively. Let me pose an example. Take someone who earns $100,000 a year, and the percentage of people who do is infinitely small, but since we have over 250 million in our nation, even the smallest percentage can be a large number. Consider a family with this large income, one that is totally “moral” in that its members don’t lie, steal or cheat. Maybe they don’t even smoke or drink. With today’s perception, it would be called a very moral family. Yet, they don’t give to charity, they don’t give of themsleves to any outside activity whether it be church, synagogue, to United Way, to helping the poor, etc. They are, however, what we perceive to be good solid citizens. They are for lower taxes, they want government off their backs, they don’t want to give and they don’t want government to give. Yet, generally these are often the groups that act as if they are the panjandrums of our society ferretting out what goes on in some bedroom or quickly bringing out their microscopes and training in on the lives of unsuspecting individuals. Most of them wouldn’t even know an “ethic” if it hit them squarely on their forehead. Ethics and morality? Anatole France said it best, “Men are not sufficiently perfect to exercise justice in the name of virtue: the rule of life should be indulgence and kindness of heart.” MIL\( American Income Life Insurance Company EXECUTIVE OFFICES: P.O. BOX 208, WACO, TEXAS 78703, 817-772.3080 BERNARD RAPOPORT Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21
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