Imagine people taking ethics seriously
“Atticus, he was really nice.”
“Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”
Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird.
Travelling from and to my clients is time-consuming. Last Monday I had a training in Amsterdam. I was going to train judges in moral judgement. As it takes me 4 hours to get to Amsterdam, I left home Sunday evening.
I don’t mind the long journey. I travel by train. That gives me plenty of time to read. This time I read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. “You, of all people, you should read this book!” my daughter told me. “Especially if you are going to train judges.”
The day before a training I normally go to bed early. I need to be fresh and sharp the next day. But this Sunday night I couldn’t put the book away. My last conscious thought was that tomorrow I would just read the book to the judges. That would do the job just fine.
On Monday, the training itself went well. I couldn’t help thinking that Atticus and Judge Taylor were there with me. Approving our efforts to decide what is the right thing to do.
When I travelled home on Monday evening I finished the book. Still sitting in the train, in the company of my unknown fellow travellers I wrote the following text. Full of pathos – hopefully not too pathetic. Those who have read the book will hopefully recognise the voice of Harper Lee.
“Imagine people seeing the humanity in the accidental passer-by or fellow traveler as naturally as they accept the humanity in themselves.
Imagine people seeing the customer, employee, stranger or refugee as an individual with his own rights, interests, desires and wishes.
Imagine people looking in the mirror and seeing mankind in the depths of their own eyes. Imagine people experiencing harming the other as harming themselves and helping the other as helping themselves.
Imagine people seeing their personal lives and the history of humankind as one gigantic connected quest towards a more and more humane and just world.
Imagine people framing this connection and this resemblance as a wake-up call to solidarity and care. Imagine people upholding a strict moral code for themselves and a compassionate and empathic attitude towards one another.
Imagine people having the mental flexibility and moral imagination to empathize and think from the standpoint of the other. Imagine people nurturing their sensitivity to the plight of the other.
Imagine people having moral awareness and sensitivity to see the ethical issues in everyday life and overcome moral blindness.
Imagine people seeing all this as real and realistic possibilities, and not as irrelevant daydreams.
Imagine people having the intelligence and love to ask questions such as: ‘Who is part of my moral universe? To whom am I responsible? How can I define my personal responsibility?’
Imaging people having sufficient self-worth to see these moral questions as important questions, as questions that matter.
Imagine people defining these moral questions as essential to what it means to be a human being.
Imagine people experiencing themselves as active moral agents capable of making autonomous and independent choices.
Imagine people accepting and even embracing this moral challenge as a personal challenge.
Imagine people avoiding black and white thinking. Imagine people having enough patience to live with these questions and don’t run into fast answers.
Imagine people having the endurance to overcome initial and fundamental differences of opinion.
Imagine people not only fighting and debating over moral issues, but finding the inner peace and balance to probe into ethical questions in a dialogue among peers.
Imagine people forming groups and communities of ethical inquiry. And in doing so, developing their moral compass and finding their moral high ground.
Imagine people having the honesty and humility to admit when another point of view is more valid and more relevant than their own.
Imagine people having enough willpower to find means to overcome moral muteness. Imagine people living their lives wide-awake, freeing themselves from conventional scripts, inherited or imposed. Imagine people finding courage to live by their own moral beliefs.
Imagine our CEO’s and managers having enough imagination to build their organizations driven by this moral awareness. Imagine how they would not instrumentalize ethics in a convuslive and transparent attempt to polish their image, but take the ethical question all the way into the DNA of their company.
Imagine that our politicians would do the same. How they would govern in the service of the public interest.
Imagine our teachers not telling our children what to think but teaching them how to think. Imagine how they would nurture the moral and spiritual capital of present and future generations.
Imagine our bankers banking with integrity.
Imagine how they would all create organizations of integrity. And how these would be the breeding ground for passion and creativity, meaningfulness and purpose.
Imagine your colleagues, your leaders, your board, your community, your region, your country taking up this challenge.
Imagine the world we would live in.
Imagine, just imagine