A shipowner was about to send to sea an emigrant-ship. He knew that she was old, and not well built at first; that she had seen many seas and climes, and often needed repairs. Doubts had been suggested to him that possibly she was not seaworthy. These doubts preyed upon his mind, and made him unhappy; he thought that perhaps he ought to have her thoroughly overhauled and refitted, even though this should put him at great expense.Before the ship sailed, however, he succeeded in overcoming these melancholy reflections. He said to himself that she had gone safely through so many voyages and weathered so many storms that it was idle to suppose she would not come safely home from this trip also. He would put his trust in Providence, which could hardly fail to protect all these unhappy families that were leaving their fatherland to seek for better times elsewhere. He would dismiss from his mind all ungenerous suspicions about the honesty of builders and contractors.In such ways he acquired a sincere and comfortable conviction that his vessel was thoroughly safe and seaworthy; he watched her departure with a light heart, and benevolent wishes for the success of the exiles in their strange new home that was to be; and he got his insurance money when she went down in mid-ocean and told no tales.This is a parable from an article I recently read.English mathematician and philosopher William Kingdon Clifford rues, “Now what shall we say of the shipowner? Surely this, that he was verily guilty of the death of those men. It is admitted that he did sincerely believe in the soundness of his ship, but the sincerity of his conviction can in no wise help him because he had no right to believe on such evidence as was before him. He had acquired his belief not by honestly earning it in patient investigation, but by stifling his doubts. And although in the end he may have felt so sure about it that he could not think otherwise, yet in as much as he had knowingly and willingly worked himself into that frame of mind, he must be held responsible for it.”“The confidence people have in their beliefs is not a measure of the quality of evidence but of the coherence of the story that the mind has managed to construct,” Nobel-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman observed in summarizing his pioneering behavioral psychology studies of how and why our minds mislead us. Most financial meltdowns in the last decade or so, leading to much human misery have their roots in ethical misdemeanorsWe make promises which we have every intention of breaking and expect the other person not to feel bad about them because it happens, everyone else is doing it.We make our service providers work for umpteen hours, let them wait for months on end, and finally reject their work on our whims and fancies without paying for their efforts.We lie to our investors, abuse our partners and lay off hundreds of people while taking kings’ salaries ourselves.We expect our vendors to give their services gratis because they are not products, after all, they are services, and intellectual services should not have a tab!We plagiarize shamelessly and yet are outraged when another person undercuts our IPR.A recent survey by Ernst and Young provides an insight into the impact of bribery and corruption in India.Some of the specific findings of the survey included;Strain on ethical behavior: Alarmingly, a large number of respondents appeared to be comfortable with (or were aware of) unethical business conduct. These include irregular accounting to hide bribery and corruption, gifts being given to seek favors, etc.Taking the easy way out: More than half of the respondents agreed that it is the lack of will to obtain licenses and approvals the “right way,” which leads to bribery and corruption.Challenging times ahead: Around 83% of the respondents felt that cases of bribery and corruption can negatively impact FDI inflowsNeed for greater enforcement of laws: Around 89% of the respondents felt that there should be greater enforcement of laws to curb the proliferation of bribery and corruption.Be wary when you shake your head in masked admiration while hearing stories of dishonest entrepreneurs who became hugely successful.Be wary when you dismiss favors being asked or given as the cost of doing business or even saving your job,Be wary when you misreport funds and call it creative book cooking,Be wary when you turn a blind eye to the subtle and non-subtle harassment of your female colleagues,Be wary when you let things slide if someone made a mistake because he is ‘one of the boys’,Be wary when you know your actions to be harmful to your customers or environment but profitable to your company,Back home be wary when your kids are watching ‘Dexter’ or ‘Breaking Bad’ or ‘Game of Thrones’ because they are picking up subtle cues that being dishonest, evil and violent is full of humor (albeit dark) and being cool!Be very wary, because you are lowering their and your own barriers to crookedness.‘Just because everyone else is doing it’ becomes a huge enabler for unethical and unprofessional behavior. To quote a 2013 article in ‘Psychology Today’, by a clinical psychiatrist – “Denial is a powerful tool. Just like smokers who have a developed rationality on why it’s okay to keep puffing away, many parents/people will take the same stance on media violence with a plethora of reasons as to why it’s really no big deal. We often continue doing things we know aren’t good for us, because it’s the path of least resistance and heck, everyone else is doing it too, and so how bad can it really be?”It is not the intention of this article to be ‘holier than thou’ or even to give you any answers to any of the above question/s.You will have to find your own truth and shine your own light to navigate this dark, tangled maze.
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