Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Your money or your ethics!"

Everything lately is about money. Have you noticed that? Economy, bailouts, Wall Street, not enough tax breaks, too many tax breaks... It all boils down to money. Money is the root of all evil. And so what I end up hearing, over and over again from every quarter is, "Your money or your ethics!" Stick 'em up, people, because you can't seem to have both. If you're ethical, you will be run over and drummed into the ground by The Rest Of Them, and if you aren't ethical, God save you. Or at least that is what seems to be occurring all around us.

What does it all mean? Why should we have to give up our ethics and morals in order to make a buck? I think part of the problem is that too much of our society has been trained (largely in public school, but that's another debate entirely) that having money means you're a blood sucking organism bent on making "the little people" suffer. The problem with this scenario is that it doesn't take into account the many thousands of people who are just working really hard and have succeeded. Believe it or not, that does happen.

There's this tendancy for Americans to assume that someone with money is therefore in a different class than we are. There's a complete lack of understanding that money is not the freedom from the rat race. If you have a lot of money, then it's probably true that you also have a lot of debt (how many millionaires do you know that live in modest homes in the cheap-ass part of town?). You also have to consider the taxes you have to pay, the people who seem to float around wanting a few bucks, and a zillion other things.

My family isn't rich. We actually are quite poor, when you factor in past debt (from when we were REALLY poor), car payments, house payments, and the cost of the education we're providing for our children. We live hand to mouth. Yet someone out there seems to think we have a lot of free cash. It's because Gray has the ability to pull in large figure salaries, you see.

Now, on top  of the people who assume that pulling in $100,000.00 a year means you should pay for their health care and education,  there are those who also think that it's Bad to make money. So you're hated for having money, and you're hated for having the ability to make money. After all, if you're making money, it's a fluke and has nothing to do with hard work, education, or level of intelligence. It's just a crap shoot and anyone can do it.

Um... yeah, not.

There's a whole other journal entry about how our schools (and in many cases, sadly, our parents) have encouraged us to believe that "everyone wins" so much that it's become true in all things. It's gone from being a slogan for helping out others, and for the idea that we can learn as much from losing as we can from winning (frequently more!), to being a mantra for why our children have tantrums if they lose at anything. It bothers me that schools and children's programs no longer ask children to excel. When a child does excel, they're buried in a classroom with other kids, left to molder while the teacher caters to the kids who are having problems.

Yeah. Not going there.

Those of us who feel the need to excel, to push ourselves beyond what we perceive as our limits, are punished for doing so. We're called brown-noser, or teacher's pet, or worse yet, cheater or thief. The premise seems to be that if you're getting ahead of others, you must be doing something bad, because only bad people excel.

Um... what?

So the question I have is, what are we supposed to do when we're put in a situation where the only way to come out equitably is to be unethical? Unfortunately, my current situation is set up that way. If I'm moral and stick to my ethics, it's likely I'm going to lose, and in a rather spectacular way. I'll be bereft of everything BUT my morals. On the other hand, if I lie, cheat, steal, or otherwise manipulate things, I could easily (and I mean VERY easily) come out on top, smelling like roses. But my morals will be in tatters.

Do you know how much comfort there is in keeping to your morals when you aren't sure you'll have a roof over your head in a month? Yeah... not much.

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