More ethics, fracking, Caroline Lucas MP and the EDL…
MrsK: What did you think of [Green MP] Caroline Lucas getting arrested at the Balcombe fracking protest?
Me: Difficult one – while I largely agree with her about fracking, law makers aren’t supposed to be law breakers.
MrsK: Oh, I think it’s great that someone is standing up for what they believe in.
Me: Like the EDL protesting about immigration?
MrsK: Oh, don’t be annoying, you know what I mean.
Apart from showing how annoying I can be on a day to day basis, this illustrates the main problem with talking about being ‘ethical’ – it depends on whose ethics you are talking about. While I’m not a natural placard waver, I, like MrsK, have respect for those who do so in the causes I believe in – pro-environment, anti-discrimination, pro-fairness etc, and disdain for those who take to the streets for issues I don’t agree with like pro-hunting, anti-immigration, anti-same sex marriage etc.
But whose ethics are ethical? My stance on same sex marriage could be regarded as intolerant of those whose religious beliefs conflict with my beliefs. I see it as ethical, they see it as unethical.
This problem extends to ‘ethical business’ – by whose ethics do you adhere? There is a general presumption that this means pro-environment, decent working conditions both in the company and in the supply chain and a strong social purpose. But say a company decides to close its UK factory and open it in Bangladesh where wages are lower. Is that ethical? What the UK loses, Bangladesh gains. So is it ethically neutral? Discuss…
The only way out of such a conundrum is to define what your values are and then stand up for them. I would tend to avoid describing oneself in such dangerously subjective terms as ‘ethical’ in the broad brush way that some do. Let others decide that for you – they will anyway.