Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday, 26 July 2013

'Talk no more so exceeding proudly...'

(says a text the Archbishop of Canterbury might do well to contemplate)
'...Let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: For the LORD is a God of knowledge, And by him actions are weighed.' (1 Samuel 2.3)
It's tempting to think of Welby's recent embarrassment as a form of divine retribution for his announced venture into the realms of Mammon, albeit one brought about through a less than celestial instrument.

I have to admit, I'm struggling somewhat with the Church's surprisingly flexible attitude to ethical investment:
The Church's Ethical Investment Advisory Group "recommends against investment" in companies which make more than 3% of their income from pornography, 10% from military products and services, or 25% from other industries such as gambling, alcohol and high interest rate lenders.
We're told that supply increases to meet demand, so why should the CofE, with its huge financial clout, be prepared to compromise? And how, I wonder, did they arrive at those particular figures; was there a meeting at which someone said, "OK, chaps, we're looking at investing in porn, gaming and usury. I think the key question here is, what would Jesus do?"

While I am not a religious person, I do have strong personal opinions on gambling which include the National Lottery (this has led to some interesting conversations about what I would do if the Spouse won - fortunately the ethical dilemma has not yet arisen). Following their example, I could buy a ticket once a year and still claim to be firmly opposed to gambling.

Is something you find morally objectionable somehow less so if sufficiently diluted?

And, more to the point, isn't being 97% ethical a bit like being 97% pregnant?

4 comments:

  1. MacHeath writes: "Is something you find morally objectionable somehow less so if sufficiently diluted?"

    In answer to the question, that depends whether you are a 'black and white' person or a 'shades of grey' person.

    Personally, as a 'shades of grey' person, I am substantially sceptical of excuses for being wrong, but I do, IMHO, vastly better than the simplicity of the binary.

    Having been viewing here on Newgate News for approaching a year (it seems longer), I am satisfied that MacHeath is a man of shades, that I find decent and interesting, but with whom I am not fully in agreement. No surprises there, surely for anyone knowing something of us both. Also surely no surprise for anyone who plugs in their own brain from time to time.

    And MacHeath writes: "And, more to the point, isn’t being 97% ethical a bit like being 97% pregnant?"

    Well, even given the dilution of a question mark, that is a try: but - Oh My! - what a mistake.

    Pregnancy is a binary fact. It will lead to birth - at least if one ignores any plan for abortion, upset of miscarriage, etc. And, for the latter, having no certain knowledge of medical conditions that might have adverse effect; even then, there is cause for hope. [Disagreements on the desirability of starting a sentence with 'and' (and but; even however) are welcome. But, on this occasion, they will (probably, though not certainly) fail to elicit a response.]

    Ethics, on the other hand, is a continuum of decisions on a multi-faceted set of multiple issues. Any pair of people are likely to agree on most, but disagree on quite a few (different for each pair).

    By way of example, I am against the death penalty for most things; primarily because we make too many mistakes, and you can wind back a bit on life imprisonment - but not on execution. However, in times of extreme war, execution for treason and espionage is, IMHO, a good deterrent - and a good punishment - and we can tolerate a compromise legal injustice more in time of extreme war, when so many others are dying that are innocent of any crime. Some of you reading here will not have that view: which is my point.

    Many things in modern life, on which we must decide individually or as a body corporate and/or political, are a trade-off between two undesirable extremes. Hence a compromise: that defines either our ethics, or the compromise practice of them.

    That does not stop our latest Archbishop of Canterbury being (IMHO) a fool - and worse, the third in succession, though for at least somewhat different reasons.

    Best regards

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  2. NS, my thanks; I appreciate the time you have taken to construct a thorough and well-reasoned comment - possibly more time than I devoted to the original post.

    I admit I chose to express it in a facetiously glib fashion, but it seems to me that, while you or I, as private citizens, may dabble in shades and compromise, it seems startlingly inappropriate for the CofE to do so.

    It surely brings into question the whole role of the Church in society; if it is prepared to compromise on morality according to a sliding scale in order to make a profit, what value can be placed on its teachings as a whole?

    (As for starting a sentence with 'and', I am firmly of the opinion that, on the right occasion, it is an entirely permissible - or even desirable - literary device.)

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  3. It's tempting to think of Welby's recent embarrassment as a form of divine retribution for his announced venture into the realms of Mammon, albeit one brought about through a less than celestial instrument.

    Straight off the mark - I'll have to learn to stop agreeing so much.

    ReplyDelete