Riddles


The more you take away from it, the larger it becomes. What is it?

 

 

 

 
The answer is: A hole.

The more you take, the more you leave behind. What are they?

 

 

 

 
The answer is: Footsteps.

Brainpicking.org. my fav newsletter


This is the Brain Pickings midweek pick-me-up: Every Wednesday, I plunge into my archive and choose something worth resurfacing and resavoring as timeless nourishment for heart, mind, and spirit. (If you don’t yet subscribe to the standard Sunday newsletter of new pieces published each week, you can sign up here – it’s free.) If you missed last week’s archival selection – a case against self-criticism: how our internal critics enslave us and how to break free – you can read it right here. And if you find any value and joy in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – over these twelve years, I have spent tens of thousands of hours and tremendous resources on Brain Pickings, and every little bit of support helps keep it going. If you already donate: THANK YOU.

FROM THE ARCHIVE | Poet and Philosopher David Whyte on Anger, Forgiveness, and What Maturity Really Means

consolations_davidwhyte.jpg?w=680“Our emotional life maps our incompleteness,”philosopher Martha Nussbaum wrote in her luminous letter of advice to the young“A creature without any needs would never have reasons for fear, or grief, or hope, or anger.” Anger, indeed, is one of the emotions we judge most harshly — in others, as well as in ourselves — and yet understanding anger is central to mapping out the landscape of our interior lives. Aristotle, in planting the civilizational seed for practical wisdom, recognized this when he asked not whether anger is “good” or “bad” but how it shall be used: directed at whom, manifested how, for how long and to what end.

This undervalued soul-mapping quality of anger is what English poet and philosopher David Whyte explores in a section of Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words (public library) — the same breathtaking volume “dedicated to words and their beautiful hidden and beckoning uncertainty,” which gave us Whyte on the deeper meanings of friendship, love, and heartbreak.

davidwhyte.jpg?w=680

David Whyte (Nicol Ragland Photography)

Many of Whyte’s meditations invert the common understanding of each word and peel off the superficial to reveal the deeper, often counterintuitive meaning — but nowhere more so than in his essay on anger. Whyte writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngANGER is the deepest form of compassion, for another, for the world, for the self, for a life, for the body, for a family and for all our ideals, all vulnerable and all, possibly about to be hurt. Stripped of physical imprisonment and violent reaction, anger is the purest form of care, the internal living flame of anger always illuminates what we belong to, what we wish to protect and what we are willing to hazard ourselves for. What we usually call anger is only what is left of its essence when we are overwhelmed by its accompanying vulnerability, when it reaches the lost surface of our mind or our body’s incapacity to hold it, or when it touches the limits of our understanding. What we name as anger is actually only the incoherent physical incapacity to sustain this deep form of care in our outer daily life; the unwillingness to be large enough and generous enough to hold what we love helplessly in our bodies or our mind with the clarity and breadth of our whole being.

nutcracker_sendak81.jpg?w=680

Illustration by Maurice Sendak for a special edition of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Nutcracker

Such a reconsideration renders Whyte not an apologist for anger but a peacemaker in our eternal war with its underlying vulnerability, which is essentially an eternal war with ourselves — for at its source lies our tenderest, timidest humanity. In a sentiment that calls to mind Brené Brown’s masterful and culturally necessary manifesto for vulnerability — “Vulnerability,” she wrote, “is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.” — Whyte adds:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngWhat we have named as anger on the surface is the violent outer response to our own inner powerlessness, a powerlessness connected to such a profound sense of rawness and care that it can find no proper outer body or identity or voice, or way of life to hold it. What we call anger is often simply the unwillingness to live the full measure of our fears or of our not knowing, in the face of our love for a wife, in the depth of our caring for a son, in our wanting the best, in the face of simply being alive and loving those with whom we live.

Our anger breaks to the surface most often through our feeling there is something profoundly wrong with this powerlessness and vulnerability… Anger in its pure state is the measure of the way we are implicated in the world and made vulnerable through love in all its specifics.

One need only think of Van Gogh — “I am so angry with myself because I cannot do what I should like to do,” he wrote in a letter as he tussled with mental illness — to appreciate Whyte’s expedition beyond anger’s surface tumults and into its innermost core: profound frustration swelling with a sense of personal failure. (Hannah Arendt captured another facet of this in her brilliant essay on how bureaucracy breeds violence — for what is bureaucracy if not the supreme institutionalization of helplessness?)

With remarkable intellectual elegance and a sensitivity to the full dimension of the human spirit, Whyte illuminates the vitalizing underbelly of anger:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngAnger truly felt at its center is the essential living flame of being fully alive and fully here; it is a quality to be followed to its source, to be prized, to be tended, and an invitation to finding a way to bring that source fully into the world through making the mind clearer and more generous, the heart more compassionate and the body larger and strong enough to hold it. What we call anger on the surface only serves to define its true underlying quality by being a complete but absolute mirror-opposite of its true internal essence.

lionandbird_dubuc17.jpg?w=680

Illustration by Marianne Dubuc from The Lion and the Bird

In a related meditation, Whyte considers the nature of forgiveness:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngFORGIVENESS is a heartache and difficult to achieve because strangely, it not only refuses to eliminate the original wound, but actually draws us closer to its source. To approach forgiveness is to close in on the nature of the hurt itself, the only remedy being, as we approach its raw center, to reimagine our relation to it.

Echoing Margaret Mead and James Baldwin’s historic dialogue on forgiveness, Whyte — who has also asserted that “all friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness” — explores the true source of forgiveness:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngStrangely, forgiveness never arises from the part of us that was actually wounded. The wounded self may be the part of us incapable of forgetting, and perhaps, not actually meant to forget, as if, like the foundational dynamics of the physiological immune system our psychological defenses must remember and organize against any future attacks — after all, the identity of the one who must forgive is actually founded on the very fact of having been wounded.

Stranger still, it is that wounded, branded, un-forgetting part of us that eventually makes forgiveness an act of compassion rather than one of simple forgetting. To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt, to mature and bring to fruition an identity that can put its arm, not only around the afflicted one within but also around the memories seared within us by the original blow and through a kind of psychological virtuosity, extend our understanding to one who first delivered it. Forgiveness is a skill, a way of preserving clarity, sanity and generosity in an individual life, a beautiful way of shaping the mind to a future we want for ourselves; an admittance that if forgiveness comes through understanding, and if understanding is just a matter of time and application then we might as well begin forgiving right at the beginning of any drama rather than put ourselves through the full cycle of festering, incapacitation, reluctant healing and eventual blessing.

To forgive is to put oneself in a larger gravitational field of experience than the one that first seemed to hurt us. We reimagine ourselves in the light of our maturity and we reimagine the past in the light of our new identity, we allow ourselves to be gifted by a story larger than the story that first hurt us and left us bereft.

lionandbird_dubuc2.jpg?w=680

Illustration by Marianne Dubuc from The Lion and the Bird

This question of maturity, so intimately tied to forgiveness, is the subject of another of Whyte’s short essays. Echoing Anaïs Nin’s assertion that maturity is a matter of “unifying” and “integrating,” he writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngMATURITY is the ability to live fully and equally in multiple contexts; most especially, the ability, despite our grief and losses, to courageously inhabit the past the present and the future all at once. The wisdom that comes from maturity is recognized through a disciplined refusal to choose between or isolate three powerful dynamics that form human identity: what has happened, what is happening now and what is about to occur.

Immaturity is shown by making false choices: living only in the past, or only in the present, or only in the future, or even, living only two out of the three.

Maturity is not a static arrived platform, where life is viewed from a calm, untouched oasis of wisdom, but a living elemental frontier between what has happened, what is happening now and the consequences of that past and present; first imagined and then lived into the waiting future.

Maturity calls us to risk ourselves as much as immaturity, but for a bigger picture, a larger horizon; for a powerfully generous outward incarnation of our inward qualities and not for gains that make us smaller, even in the winning.

Maturity, Whyte seems to suggest, becomes a kind of arrival at a sense of enoughness — a willingness to enact what Kurt Vonnegut considered one of the great human virtues: the ability to say, “If this isn’t nice, what is?” Whyte writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngMaturity beckons also, asking us to be larger, more fluid, more elemental, less cornered, less unilateral, a living conversational intuition between the inherited story, the one we are privileged to inhabit and the one, if we are large enough and broad enough, moveable enough and even, here enough, just, astonishingly, about to occur.

Consolations, it bears repeating, is an absolutely magnificent read — the kind that reorients your world and remains a compass for a lifetime. Complement it with Whyte on ending relationships and breaking the tyranny of work-life balance.

Kick a Football Day


Did you know…

… that today is Kick a Football Day? In a 1951 “Peanuts” comic strip, Charlie Brown first attempts to kick a football. The first appearance of the gag is in the strip from November 14, 1951. In that strip Violet, not Lucy, is the one holding the ball and she only pulls it away because she is afraid Charlie Brown will kick her hand. Lucy was first shown playing the prank on Charlie Brown on November 16, 1952. Help him out today by going out and kicking a football! 😉

~~~

Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“Of course motivation is not permanent. But then, neither is bathing; but it is something you should do on a regular basis.”

— Zig ZiglarKi

12 Mindfulness Hacks You Can Use in 24 Hours – The Mission – Medium


via 12 Mindfulness Hacks You Can Use in 24 Hours – The Mission – Medium

12 Mindfulness Hacks You Can Use in 24 Hours

Mindfulness is all the rage these days, and with good reason. Practicing mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. A new study from the University of Oxford even found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is as effective as antidepressants in preventing depression relapses.

What is Mindfulness?

What may at first seem like senseless hippie jargon is actually quite simple — mindfulness teaches an individual to observe his or her own behavior and thought process totally devoid of judgment. Individuals acknowledge their feelings and thoughts, then release them.

Mindfulness teaches individuals to be present in and embrace the moments of life, rather than be suffocated by the constant self-criticism and anxiety that so often plagues our minds.

12 Mindfulness Hacks in 24 Hours

Practicing mindfulness isn’t just for the Zen Buddhists, sitting in lotus flower positions on the tops of snow-capped mountains. In fact, you can practice numerous mindfulness techniques in a single day.

In the Morning

1. Start a Mindful Morning Routine. When waking up in the AM, instead of going about business as usual and thinking ahead about the upcoming meetings, reports, and stresses of the day ahead, give attention to the physical elements of your morning routine. Feel the water on your skin when you shower, smell the shampoo and soap, notice how your brush feels as it smooths your hair, and hear the sound your toothbrush makes rubbing against your teeth.

2. Coffee Concentration. Buddhist monks have a form of meditation involving a tea ceremony, in which monks devote utmost concentration to every aspect of the tea. You can do this with your own morning drink. Listen to the sounds of your coffee maker at it brews your drink and the smell the aroma. Study the color of your coffee, watching how it changes when you add milk or cream. Feel the warmth of the mug in your hands. Then, finally, study the taste in measured sips. Eating and drinking are everyday practices we often take for granted, but they can easily become mindfulness exercises that can be utilized throughout the day.

3. Exercise to Connect With Body. Exercise presents another opportunity for mindfulness, as you focus on your breathing, your form, and your body’s movement. If you’re running, listen to the pounding sound of your feet on the pavement. If you’re lifting weights, feel the cool metal bar in your hands. Don’t let negative thoughts and distractions slip in.

Afternoon Moments of Zen

4. Sketch a Doodle. Grab a notepad and pencil, find a subject, and get sketching. Don’t write this one off believing yourself to have no artistic talent. Anyone (yes, really, truly anyone) can draw. It only takes practice. Choosing a subject is simple — you can even draw the Starbucks cup sitting on your desk.

Begin drawing by choosing a point on your subject to start drawing from. Then, follow the lines of the object with your eyes and pencil. Study the subtle indentations, the gentle curves, and the shadows cast by the cup. Sketching is a great study in mindfulness, requiring concentration and awareness. Plus, your sketch can be as simple or as detailed as you’d like, serving as a great short or long break from constant screen time.

5. Take Time to Stretch. Take a mid-day break from the office and step outside to do some basic stretching. Stretching is good for maintaining a healthy body, and taking the opportunity to study how your muscles move and feel is a great opportunity for mindfulness.

6. A Few Minutes of Deep Breathing. Focused breathing is an often-cited mantra of meditation pros and yogis, and not without reason. We breathe constantly, but are almost always unconscious of its activity. Taking the time to focus on breathing helps individuals find connection with their bodies.

Try this almost laughably simple breathing exercise: Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, breathing in air from your belly rather than your chest. Pause a moment, holding in your breath, before letting the air out slowly through your mouth. It’s that simple, just rinse and repeat!

7. Ongoing Check-Ins. Pause regularly throughout the day and assess the state of your body and mind. How is your posture? Are you clenching your jaw? Are you thirsty? You may be surprised what you learn about yourself through these regular check-ins. Try to practice these mini check-ins every hour or so. Some individuals use periodic vibrating smart watch alarms to serve as quick reminders to collect themselves and refocus.

In The Evening

8. Take Out the Ear Buds. When walking home from work or jumping on a bus, avoid the temptation to put in your ear buds. Instead, focus on what is happening around you. Hear the birds singing, listen to the children playing on the nearby jungle gym, and be fully present.

9. Meditative Mind Dump. Dedicate 10–15 minutes to sitting down with just a pen and a pad of paper. Use this time to write out any and all thoughts that are swirling about in your mind. Not only will writing down your thoughts help clear your mind and relieve built-up stress, but you also may stumble upon some genius ideas that were previously buried.

10. Clear Mind (And Dishes) With Chores. Arriving home to be greeted by mountains of dirty dishes is far from fun. Instead of attacking your dishes, laundry, and garbage duties with dread, turn those burdensome chores into mindfulness exercises. Feel the water on your hands (or gloves) and study the texture of the sponge as you go about cleaning dishes. Take care to concentrate on the shape and weight of the plates, bowls, and utensils as you clean them.

11. Get Lost In The Music. Music can be another handy tool for practicing mindfulness as part of your everyday routine. Ideally, choose a song you’ve never heard before and hit play. Avoid letting your mind drift into thoughts about the song’s genre, artist, and lyrical meaning. Instead, simply listen with attention to the song, following the beats and crescendos while keeping your mind quiet.

12. Try A Guided Meditation. As the mindfulness movement grows in popularity, more apps and resources are becoming available to aid you in your journey. Check out popular apps like Headspace and Calm. You may also try listening one of the many guided meditation videos on YouTube, which are especially calming when you’re getting ready to power down before bed.

What mindfulness tactics do you employ in your average day?

25% of people call this ‘the most annoying’ phrase used in emails | Ladders


Not sure if you saw my last email… ” (25%)
“Per my last email… ” (13%)
“Per our conversation… ” (11%)
“Any updates on this?” (11%)
“Sorry for the double email” (10%)
“Please advise.” (9%)
“As previously stated… ” (9%)
“As discussed… ” (6%)
“Re-attaching for convenience.” (6%)

via 25% of people call this ‘the most annoying’ phrase used in emails | Ladders

Change for Good: Bernard Ross, Omar Mahmoud: 9780692064368: Amazon.com: Books


via Change for Good: Bernard Ross, Omar Mahmoud: 9780692064368: Amazon.com: Books

 

“An outstanding book at the leading edge of a topic of critical relevance for how social purpose organisations can increase their impact.” -Michael Adamson / Chief Executive, British Red Cross This breakthrough book is about how we as human beings make decisions -and how anyone involved in the field of social change can help individuals or groups to make positive choices using decision science. It draws on the latest thinking in behavioural economics, neuroscience and evolutional psychology to provide a powerful practical toolkit for fundraisers, campaigners, advocacy specialists, policy makers, health professionals, educationalists and social activists. Inside is advice on how to raise more funds from supporters, how to help people to improve their diets, how to enable poor people to make good financial choices and more. At the heart of the book are the fascinating and powerful insights that we have gained in the last 10 years about how our brains work when making decisions- often summarised as behavioral economics. It also shows how techniques in common use in commercial settings can be applied to the social sector. “For more than a decade governments and commercial organisations have used behavioural economics to change the way we behave and spend our money. This book puts these powerful tools in the hands of those who can use them for good and not merely for gain.” -Mike Colling / Founder & Chief Executive MC&C: The Growth Agency, UK

Can You Hear Me?: How to Connect with People in a Virtual World: Nick Morgan: 9781633694446: Amazon.com: Books


via Can You Hear Me?: How to Connect with People in a Virtual World: Nick Morgan: 9781633694446: Amazon.com: Books

Hello? Are you there? Can you hear me?

Communicating virtually is cool, useful, and ubiquitous. But whenever there’s a glitch with the technology or a message is unclear, we’re reminded that the quality of human connection we experience in many forms of virtual communication is awful. We’ve all felt disconnected and bored in a video conference, frustrated that we’re not getting through on the phone, or upset when our email is badly misinterpreted. The truth is, virtual communication breeds misunderstanding because it deprives us of the emotional knowledge that helps us understand context.

How can we fix this? In this powerful, practical book, communication expert Nick Morgan outlines five big problems with communication in the virtual world–lack of feedback, lack of empathy, lack of control, lack of emotion, and lack of connection and commitment–sharply highlighting what is lost in our accelerating shift to a more virtual world.

And he provides a clear path forward for helping us connect better with others. Morgan argues that while virtual communication will never be as rich or intuitive as a face-to-face meeting, recent research suggests that what will help–and what we need to learn–is to consciously deliver a whole set of cues, both verbal and nonverbal, that we used to deliver unconsciously in the pre-virtual era. He explains and guides us through this important process, providing rules for virtual feedback, an empathy assessment and virtual temperature check, tips for creating trust in a virtual context, and advice for specific digital channels such as email and text, the conference call, Skype, and more.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an independent professional, or a manager in an organization that has more than one office or customers who aren’t nearby, Can You Hear Me? is your essential communications manual for twenty-first-century work.

Can You Hear Me?: How to Connect with People in a Virtual World: Nick Morgan: 9781633694446: Amazon.com: Books


via Can You Hear Me?: How to Connect with People in a Virtual World: Nick Morgan: 9781633694446: Amazon.com: Books

Hello? Are you there? Can you hear me?

Communicating virtually is cool, useful, and ubiquitous. But whenever there’s a glitch with the technology or a message is unclear, we’re reminded that the quality of human connection we experience in many forms of virtual communication is awful. We’ve all felt disconnected and bored in a video conference, frustrated that we’re not getting through on the phone, or upset when our email is badly misinterpreted. The truth is, virtual communication breeds misunderstanding because it deprives us of the emotional knowledge that helps us understand context.

How can we fix this? In this powerful, practical book, communication expert Nick Morgan outlines five big problems with communication in the virtual world–lack of feedback, lack of empathy, lack of control, lack of emotion, and lack of connection and commitment–sharply highlighting what is lost in our accelerating shift to a more virtual world.

And he provides a clear path forward for helping us connect better with others. Morgan argues that while virtual communication will never be as rich or intuitive as a face-to-face meeting, recent research suggests that what will help–and what we need to learn–is to consciously deliver a whole set of cues, both verbal and nonverbal, that we used to deliver unconsciously in the pre-virtual era. He explains and guides us through this important process, providing rules for virtual feedback, an empathy assessment and virtual temperature check, tips for creating trust in a virtual context, and advice for specific digital channels such as email and text, the conference call, Skype, and more.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an independent professional, or a manager in an organization that has more than one office or customers who aren’t nearby, Can You Hear Me? is your essential communications manual for twenty-first-century work.

Check this out from The Times of India


India is your best destination, PM Modi tells Fintech companies in Singapore

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-is-your-best-destination-pm-tells-fintech-companies-in-singapore/articleshow/66614354.cms?utm_campaign=andapp&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=other

Download the TOI app now:

https://timesofindia.onelink.me/efRt/installtoi

Startpreneurs fav newsletter You story 


Daily Capsule | 14th November

Hello,

Today marks a very sad day for the Indian startup ecosystem. Flipkart Co-founder Binny Bansal resigned from his position as group CEO and made an announcement in an email to all employees. Over the last decade, Binny and Sachin Bansal have served as an inspiration to so many budding entrepreneurs across the country, and perhaps, even abroad. 

This marks the exit of both the founders of the ecommerce giant – two people whose contribution to the Indian startup ecosystem and ecommerce industry is unparalleled and cannot be forgotten. Who would have thought that the two founders would have left the company within months of each other?

While uncertainties are plaguing us all about the future of the company, Walmart, which acquired Flipkart this year, expressed confidence in the leadership structure and says the transition was in the works for some time.

Cheers, 

Team YourStory


Stories you shouldn’t miss

Binny Bansal, Flipkart Co-founder and group CEO, has resigned with immediate effect following allegations of personal misconduct, Walmart said in a statement. The news comes just six months after Walmart acquired a majority stake in the online retailer. Bansal reportedly holds 5-6 percent in the new joint entity and will continue to serve as a board member.

Over 90% of Indian startups fail within 5 years of inception. What mistakes are these startups making? Kunal Shah, talks about the one curse that’s stopping Indian startups from becoming successful, on #BuildingItUp with Bertelsmann.

Binny wrote an email to all Flipkart employees, explaining how “certain personal events” may become a distraction for the company and team. What happens to Flipkart leadership after co-founder Binny Bansal’s abrupt resignation? Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy wrote in an email to Flipkart employees, “I wanted to personally let you know that there will be no changes in our operating processes, or to the mission of the company as a result of this news. I am very confident in the ability of the Flipkart, Myntra and Jabong teams to keep guiding us to greater successes.”

This week, we feature the journey of Anand Deshpande, Founder and Managing Director of Persistent Systems, and chart his 28-year-old path to make the technology services company a $600 million enterprise. Over the last 28 years that his company has been in existence, 56-year-old Anand says his role has constantly evolved, something that has kept him on his toes. And the excitement, he adds, is unparalleled.

Tata Trusts and Social Alpha has launched a fellowship programme, the Social Alpha Entrepreneurs for Impact (E4i) Programme with an aim to bring technology innovators and entrepreneurship oriented individuals onto a common platform to foster startups in the social sector. The E4i programme will be spread over a year to enable an ecosystem, which can bring out innovations in the laboratory into the marketplace.

The man who created the magical world of Marvel Comics – one of the longest-running franchises in books and entertainment – is no more. Stan Lee, also known as the ‘real-life superhero’ was 95, and he breathed his last on Monday. He was the brain behind iconic characters such as Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Deadpool, Thor, Iron Man, Black Panther, Incredible Hulk, etc.

CheckMate, a startup founded by Vishal Agarwal with a presence in the US and a technology team based in India has received Series A funding of $3 million from Tiger Global. This funding marks the return of the investment firm to India as it had seen a slowdown in the recent past. The latest funding is the first time that the two-and-half-year-old startup has raised outside money for its business, according to media reports. 

 

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Legislative Testimony Draft | Institute for Global Ethics


via Legislative Testimony Draft | Institute for Global Ethics

President Gray’s Testimony Before the Wisconsin State Assembly

STATEMENT OF

ANTHONY J. GRAY

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER AND PRESIDENT

INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL ETHICS

BEFORE THE

ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON CONSTITUTION AND ETHICS

WISCONSIN STATE ASSEMBLY

FEBRUARY 27, 2018

PRIVATE PRIVILEGE VS. PUBLIC RIGHT: FRAMING ETHICAL DECISIONS

Thank you for asking me to speak here today, it’s truly an honor. My name is Anthony Gray, and I’m the President and CEO of the Institute for Global Ethics, an ethics thinktank headquartered in Middleton, WI. I’ve run IGE for the past five years, prior to which I served as Global Compliance Officer at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, where my responsibilities included internal investigations, ethics education and training, legal and regulatory compliance, enterprise risk management, as well as serving as chief ethics and compliance officer. Before that I was a member of the energy and finance departments at the law firm of Day Pitney LLP of Hartford, Connecticut, and, while in law school here at UW, served as Judicial Intern for Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

I currently serve on the Wisconsin State Bar Association Board of Governors, am past-President of the Nonresident Lawyers Division of the Wisconsin State Bar, and have previously served on boards of Lawyers for Children America, Community Health Services of Hartford, Hartford Community Loan Fund (CDFI). I was also a Commissioner of the Hartford Economic Development Commission, and am currently a board member at Forward Community Investments in Madison. Along with my J.D., I’ve received an M.A.R. in Ethics from Yale Divinity School and a BGS from the University of Connecticut.

Thank you again for having me.

These are important questions we’re discussing here, and what we’ve heard from Mike, Denis, Rick, and Mark has provided some important, meaningful context from a number of different perspectives. My role here is to discuss a bit about the process. That’s what we do at IGE. Instead of telling people what they should think about an issue, we focus on giving them the tools to reach ethical conclusions on their own. So that’s my goal: to discuss one possible process that could help us all reach an ethical conclusion.

So, to that end, I’m going to talk about a few things. First, I’ll briefly go over what we do at IGE, and how that process might apply here. Second, I’ll review the structure of what we call a dilemma, a particular sort of problem that pits two positive values against each other. Finally, I’ll go through the sides at issue here, and propose some potential structures for their resolution.

Private privilege and public right are both important ethical values, and it’s important to come at the issue from that angle—one doesn’t obviously trump the other, or we wouldn’t be sitting here today. It is a question worth examining because it is difficult. My hope is that whatever the resolution, it will not only be used to resolve the question at hand, but also to inform our own, personal views on disclosure and privacy in other arenas. After all, it’s not an isolated question. It’s constantly relevant on the local and national stages.

While I cannot tell you what to conclude, I can tell you that one way to determine whether a conclusion is ethically consistent is to examine whether it would apply in other, similar situations. If transparency only trumps privacy when the materials will serve your agenda, then you’re not pursuing transparency at all. That’s partisan self-interest. And there’s nothing ethical about that.

With that said, I’d like to talk about my organization a little bit.

The Institute for Global Ethics is the nation’s oldest ethics think tank. We’re an independent, nonsectarian, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose mission is to provide practical tools to build ethical fitness and cultures of integrity at home, at school, in the workplace, and in society. For almost three decades, IGE has been focused on helping people reason through the ethics of daily living. As I said, our goal is not to tell people what to think, but to offer tools and frameworks that help them with how to think through tough ethical issues. In recent years, we’ve expanded our methodology to focus not only on individual attitudes and behaviors, but also human ecocultures, the contexts and cultures that must align and support individual efforts in order for organizations to act ethically.

Our most fundamental principle is what we call Ethical Fitness®, a thought process designed to resolve complex situations like this one. After all, we live in a complicated world, one that requires us to face difficult ethical matters every day, whether at work, at home, or in the news. To complicate matters further, these questions often present dilemmas, situations which—unlike your standard ethical choice, between right and wrong—present you with two or more reasonable, principled alternatives. These “Right vs. Right” situations are challenging, and although we see them every day, we are not innately equipped to solve them, even if we have a keen sense of what’s right.

That’s where our process comes in. Reliable enough that its core principles have survived over twenty-five years but flexible enough to reach diverse audiences, our process is built around group participation, shared ethical values, and the process of breaking down complicated ethical dilemmas into discrete, actionable steps.

As I said, we define a dilemma as a “right vs. right” situation, and although the process is considerably more in-depth, I’m going to walk you through three of the fundamental steps, as applied to the question of private privilege vs. public right. They are 1) values definition, 2) dilemma analysis, and 3) dilemma resolution.

VALUES DEFINITION

The first step, here, is easy: the opposing values in play are 1) the privacy of public employees, versus 2) governmental transparency. While we all might have our own opinions on which should outweigh the other in any given situation, I think we could all agree that, broadly speaking, both privacy and transparency are positive values. They are things we have ourselves cared about in our lives. We can easily understand when others need them. The issue isn’t that one matters more than the other—the issue arises because both matter. It is difficult to find the right answer, that is, because neither is necessarily wrong.

Let’s briefly take a look at each.

Privacy, or private privilege, is absolutely a fundamental good. We all know this. It’s important in our personal lives, but privacy also plays a role in how democracy functions. Anonymity is an important safeguard against voter intimidation, targeted campaigns, and other strong-arm tactics. This is amplified by how the expectation of privacy shapes our personal decisions. But voter information isn’t all that might need to remain private. It’s like they say, nobody wants to see how the sausage gets made. Messy compromises are required for legislation, and internal communications aren’t always made with the care given external releases. The expectation of privacy, that is, leads people to be more casual, more open, and, ultimately, to forge the connections and make the compromises necessary for government to function. Similarly, courts and other institutions often seal files, investigations, or particular pieces of evidence away from the public to protect the individuals involved. The story of government is the story of privacy, carefully modulated. From classified information in e-mails, to Watergate, to Area 51, to the entirety of the modern news cycle, privacy is a foundational value of government and democracy.

But it’s not the only one.

Governmental transparency promotes ethical behavior, supports legitimacy, and educates the public. Although it is arguably not best for the populace to have access to all information, they clearly have a right to a significant amount of the data produced and held by their government. We see this in acts like FOIA, whereby members of the public have a right to request access to various records. There is an undeniable benefit to informing the public. A democracy that operates in secret is arguably not a democracy at all. Similarly, between private parties, it is often best to disclose information. Not always, of course. But generally speaking, a policy of open communication is sound, absent compelling reason to keep some piece of information from the person requesting it. After all, the argument might go, what are you trying to hide?

DILEMMA ANALYSIS

Once we’ve identified the values in play, we look at what IGE calls the four dilemma paradigms. These are common situations into which dilemmas often fit, because they are some of the most persistent, fundamental conflicts that the human condition presents. My guess is that not only will they seem familiar, but also that they’ll remind you of dilemmas you’ve faced in your own lives.

The four categories of dilemmas are 1) Truth vs. Loyalty, 2) Individual vs. Community, 3) Short Term vs. Long Term, and 4) Justice vs. Mercy. Not all of them apply in any given situation, but one or more of them often does—we’ve already heard quite a bit about several, although not in precisely these terms. To me, the clearest paradigms that apply would be individual vs. community and short term vs. long term.

Individual vs. Community issues arise every day, at many different levels. After all, some sacrifice is almost always necessary for broader progress. On the other hand, disregarding the well-being of small groups leads to oppression, inequity, and strife. Because remember, this is not necessarily about one person compared to everyone—it’s about one entity, as opposed to the community at large. In this case, the privacy rights of an individual, or small group of individuals, are clearly being weighed against the benefits to the community of disclosure.

Another potential framework would be Short Term vs. Long Term. This is another classic concept in ethical thought, but also arises in our personal lives. Do we watch another episode of Stranger Things, or do we go to the gym? Do we order the cheeseburger, or the salad? How much do we put into our 401k every month? Almost every choice we make in our own lives requires some degree of balance between short- and long-term interests to be rational. Similarly, the short-term benefits of retaining or releasing the information here must be weighed against the long-term consequences. An ethical principle that applies in this situation, after all, does not only apply in this situation. To take the side of transparency in this case but champion privacy in all others would be hypocrisy. There must be some compelling, nonpartisan argument to explain why, of all the situations that have or might arise, the public only has a right to know in this one.

DILEMMA RESOLUTION

So now that we’ve clearly identified the particular values in play, and the paradigms that best describe their conflict, we need to work our way to a resolution. Our method at IGE draws on some of the most fundamental ideas from classical moral philosophy, but ultimately offers three of what we call Resolution Principles. These will be familiar ideas to most of you, I suspect, but it’s important to remember that no one principle is always correct. If that were the case, we wouldn’t consider all three. Rather, each principle is designed to best apply in particular situations. Which principle you believe best resolves this issue depends less on the principle itself, and more on how you, as the decision-making individual expressing personal agency, view its interaction with the dilemma paradigms. The three resolution principles are: 1) Ends-based, 2) rule-based, and 3) empathy-based.

Ends-based principles are, generally speaking, what you’d think of as utilitarian. They measure the consequences of each choice to determine which is right. The greatest good for the greatest number, that sort of thing. Is it right to steal bread to support your family? An ends-based principle might say yes.

Rule-based principles are not based on the consequences at all, but rather on German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative. In brief, would the world be a better place if everyone made a similar choice when placed in a similar situation? To take our bread example, if everyone who couldn’t afford an item simply decided to steal it, soon there would be none available at all and the seller would be out of business. On the other hand, if it were to be stolen only by people who had literally no other options to feed their family and no possibility of earning sufficient income in time, then the outcome might be different. As you can see, this is complicated. Much depends on how you frame the particular question, and how you limit the particular rule.

Finally, empathy-based principles. Basically, do unto others as you’d have them do unto you, most commonly codified in the Judeo-Christian tradition as the golden rule. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This requires a particular empathy, and can be challenging, but can also be very effective.

I’ve personally found that the most effective, consistent solutions are reached by working through a dilemma in each of these three ways. Sometimes, one result is clearly absurd. Other times, they all come to the same, logically consistent conclusion. But every single time, the process has helped me clarify my personal thinking on the topic. That is to say, it has always provided some degree of guidance, even if only identifying which questions in life are truly dilemmas, and which are manufactured by our own imperfect perception.

Ends-Based Principle

Looking at this dilemma under ends-based principles, it’s clear that the resolution depends on what actions would likely occur once the information was made public. We already know who benefits from continuing privacy: those who desire the information to remain private. That is only one side of the analysis, however. The other speakers here today may help you inform your own, personal conclusion on this question. Under one view, nobody would be harmed at all. Under another, that disclosure could cause substantial, if intangible, harm to a great many people. Some might think the disclosure would, in fact, only benefit democracy, while others firmly believe that it would be used to undermine it.

This is a particular challenge of the ends-based approach: oftentimes, the principles you bring into it will determine the conclusion to which it leads you. My only suggestion would be that, when addressing a question in this manner, you strive for objectivity as much as possible. We are all unavoidably subjective, of course, but ends-based principles require us to subjugate our own beliefs as to what should happen to a rigorous, rational investigation—based on history, facts, and data—into what probably will. To use the ends-based principle in any other way is more than inaccurate. It would be irresponsible.

Rules-Based Principle

Under a rules-based principle, the primary disagreement would be over how to frame the situation. Clearly, no single answer can encompass all disclosures, by all parties, to all who would request them. Not even George Washington would argue that, cherry tree notwithstanding. The precise delineation of private privilege versus public right, in this view, depends on the conditions you place upon it. What is the particular situation? What is the scope of disclosure? What were the expectations of privacy, and would it breach them? What are the motivations of those requesting, and what tangible role would the information play? These are complex questions, and require a similarly objective, similarly rigorous thought process as attempting to predict the likely outcome of each decision.

If a person’s goal is simply to validate their desired outcome, a logical fallacy known as confirmation bias, then none of this is worthwhile. It is a waste of everybody’s time. Principles such as this only become useful once those applying them buy into the idea that the world is better when people make more sound ethical decisions, even if they might not be the ones we want. The process itself, it would seem, presents something of an individual vs. community problem.

Empathy-Based Principle

Finally, applying the empathy-based principle, the answer seems rather clear: if you thought your information would be private, you’d want it to stay private. But on the other hand, if you truly believed that disclosure would benefit everybody, that would be your desired outcome. Here we see how the empathy-based principle can sometimes fail when applied to zero-sum games, because the outcome depends entirely on which party’s perspective you approach it.

Unlike the previous two principles, there is no level of intellectual rigor that can resolve this fact, although an idea from political philosopher John Rawls comes close. His notion of the Veil of Ignorance proposed that ethical thinkers imagine they had not yet been born, then craft a policy that would be fair regardless what segment of society they were eventually born into. In this case, the resulting policy would be a detail-oriented balance of public and private needs, protecting the individuals with a reasonable expectation of privacy while also providing the public with sufficient information.

CONCLUSION

If all that sounds complicated, that’s because it is. Difficult problems do not have simple solutions. The conflict between privacy and transparency is extraordinarily challenging, with the proper resolution often turning on a single, otherwise insignificant detail. Clear answers are often elusive, and often undesirable when found.

The process of democracy requires an obvious, clear answer less than it does an intelligent, informed process.

My hope is that my testimony today will help clarify some of the difficulties inherent to crafting such a process. After all, every important decision comes with its challenges, although the particular challenges may vary with the individual, the values in play, and the situation as a whole. By using our framework to evaluate the question, however, the points of conflict become clearer. Even if it does not lead to an obvious answer, the process almost always leads to a more productive discussion.

On that note, and in conclusion, I would be derelict in my duty as a practicing ethicist if I didn’t highlight how it necessarily requires bipartisan cooperation to resolve ethical issues. One entity cannot force another to be ethical. It must be a collaborative effort. The moment the authority to force that behavior exists, we’re no longer talking about ethics at all. We’re talking about compliance. Somehow politics has become divorced from the art of the possible—the principled, hard-fought compromise—and the notion of compromise reduced to the moral equivalent of capitulation or, worse, complicity. If we want to move forward as a state, and a nation, we need to stop judging ethical issues against a partisan divide, and start working together to find the right answers.

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute our expertise to this hearing, and I look forward to answering any questions you may have.

Legislative Testimony Draft | Institute for Global Ethics


via Legislative Testimony Draft | Institute for Global Ethics

President Gray’s Testimony Before the Wisconsin State Assembly

STATEMENT OF

ANTHONY J. GRAY

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER AND PRESIDENT

INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL ETHICS

BEFORE THE

ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON CONSTITUTION AND ETHICS

WISCONSIN STATE ASSEMBLY

FEBRUARY 27, 2018

PRIVATE PRIVILEGE VS. PUBLIC RIGHT: FRAMING ETHICAL DECISIONS

Thank you for asking me to speak here today, it’s truly an honor. My name is Anthony Gray, and I’m the President and CEO of the Institute for Global Ethics, an ethics thinktank headquartered in Middleton, WI. I’ve run IGE for the past five years, prior to which I served as Global Compliance Officer at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, where my responsibilities included internal investigations, ethics education and training, legal and regulatory compliance, enterprise risk management, as well as serving as chief ethics and compliance officer. Before that I was a member of the energy and finance departments at the law firm of Day Pitney LLP of Hartford, Connecticut, and, while in law school here at UW, served as Judicial Intern for Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

I currently serve on the Wisconsin State Bar Association Board of Governors, am past-President of the Nonresident Lawyers Division of the Wisconsin State Bar, and have previously served on boards of Lawyers for Children America, Community Health Services of Hartford, Hartford Community Loan Fund (CDFI). I was also a Commissioner of the Hartford Economic Development Commission, and am currently a board member at Forward Community Investments in Madison. Along with my J.D., I’ve received an M.A.R. in Ethics from Yale Divinity School and a BGS from the University of Connecticut.

Thank you again for having me.

These are important questions we’re discussing here, and what we’ve heard from Mike, Denis, Rick, and Mark has provided some important, meaningful context from a number of different perspectives. My role here is to discuss a bit about the process. That’s what we do at IGE. Instead of telling people what they should think about an issue, we focus on giving them the tools to reach ethical conclusions on their own. So that’s my goal: to discuss one possible process that could help us all reach an ethical conclusion.

So, to that end, I’m going to talk about a few things. First, I’ll briefly go over what we do at IGE, and how that process might apply here. Second, I’ll review the structure of what we call a dilemma, a particular sort of problem that pits two positive values against each other. Finally, I’ll go through the sides at issue here, and propose some potential structures for their resolution.

Private privilege and public right are both important ethical values, and it’s important to come at the issue from that angle—one doesn’t obviously trump the other, or we wouldn’t be sitting here today. It is a question worth examining because it is difficult. My hope is that whatever the resolution, it will not only be used to resolve the question at hand, but also to inform our own, personal views on disclosure and privacy in other arenas. After all, it’s not an isolated question. It’s constantly relevant on the local and national stages.

While I cannot tell you what to conclude, I can tell you that one way to determine whether a conclusion is ethically consistent is to examine whether it would apply in other, similar situations. If transparency only trumps privacy when the materials will serve your agenda, then you’re not pursuing transparency at all. That’s partisan self-interest. And there’s nothing ethical about that.

With that said, I’d like to talk about my organization a little bit.

The Institute for Global Ethics is the nation’s oldest ethics think tank. We’re an independent, nonsectarian, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose mission is to provide practical tools to build ethical fitness and cultures of integrity at home, at school, in the workplace, and in society. For almost three decades, IGE has been focused on helping people reason through the ethics of daily living. As I said, our goal is not to tell people what to think, but to offer tools and frameworks that help them with how to think through tough ethical issues. In recent years, we’ve expanded our methodology to focus not only on individual attitudes and behaviors, but also human ecocultures, the contexts and cultures that must align and support individual efforts in order for organizations to act ethically.

Our most fundamental principle is what we call Ethical Fitness®, a thought process designed to resolve complex situations like this one. After all, we live in a complicated world, one that requires us to face difficult ethical matters every day, whether at work, at home, or in the news. To complicate matters further, these questions often present dilemmas, situations which—unlike your standard ethical choice, between right and wrong—present you with two or more reasonable, principled alternatives. These “Right vs. Right” situations are challenging, and although we see them every day, we are not innately equipped to solve them, even if we have a keen sense of what’s right.

That’s where our process comes in. Reliable enough that its core principles have survived over twenty-five years but flexible enough to reach diverse audiences, our process is built around group participation, shared ethical values, and the process of breaking down complicated ethical dilemmas into discrete, actionable steps.

As I said, we define a dilemma as a “right vs. right” situation, and although the process is considerably more in-depth, I’m going to walk you through three of the fundamental steps, as applied to the question of private privilege vs. public right. They are 1) values definition, 2) dilemma analysis, and 3) dilemma resolution.

VALUES DEFINITION

The first step, here, is easy: the opposing values in play are 1) the privacy of public employees, versus 2) governmental transparency. While we all might have our own opinions on which should outweigh the other in any given situation, I think we could all agree that, broadly speaking, both privacy and transparency are positive values. They are things we have ourselves cared about in our lives. We can easily understand when others need them. The issue isn’t that one matters more than the other—the issue arises because both matter. It is difficult to find the right answer, that is, because neither is necessarily wrong.

Let’s briefly take a look at each.

Privacy, or private privilege, is absolutely a fundamental good. We all know this. It’s important in our personal lives, but privacy also plays a role in how democracy functions. Anonymity is an important safeguard against voter intimidation, targeted campaigns, and other strong-arm tactics. This is amplified by how the expectation of privacy shapes our personal decisions. But voter information isn’t all that might need to remain private. It’s like they say, nobody wants to see how the sausage gets made. Messy compromises are required for legislation, and internal communications aren’t always made with the care given external releases. The expectation of privacy, that is, leads people to be more casual, more open, and, ultimately, to forge the connections and make the compromises necessary for government to function. Similarly, courts and other institutions often seal files, investigations, or particular pieces of evidence away from the public to protect the individuals involved. The story of government is the story of privacy, carefully modulated. From classified information in e-mails, to Watergate, to Area 51, to the entirety of the modern news cycle, privacy is a foundational value of government and democracy.

But it’s not the only one.

Governmental transparency promotes ethical behavior, supports legitimacy, and educates the public. Although it is arguably not best for the populace to have access to all information, they clearly have a right to a significant amount of the data produced and held by their government. We see this in acts like FOIA, whereby members of the public have a right to request access to various records. There is an undeniable benefit to informing the public. A democracy that operates in secret is arguably not a democracy at all. Similarly, between private parties, it is often best to disclose information. Not always, of course. But generally speaking, a policy of open communication is sound, absent compelling reason to keep some piece of information from the person requesting it. After all, the argument might go, what are you trying to hide?

DILEMMA ANALYSIS

Once we’ve identified the values in play, we look at what IGE calls the four dilemma paradigms. These are common situations into which dilemmas often fit, because they are some of the most persistent, fundamental conflicts that the human condition presents. My guess is that not only will they seem familiar, but also that they’ll remind you of dilemmas you’ve faced in your own lives.

The four categories of dilemmas are 1) Truth vs. Loyalty, 2) Individual vs. Community, 3) Short Term vs. Long Term, and 4) Justice vs. Mercy. Not all of them apply in any given situation, but one or more of them often does—we’ve already heard quite a bit about several, although not in precisely these terms. To me, the clearest paradigms that apply would be individual vs. community and short term vs. long term.

Individual vs. Community issues arise every day, at many different levels. After all, some sacrifice is almost always necessary for broader progress. On the other hand, disregarding the well-being of small groups leads to oppression, inequity, and strife. Because remember, this is not necessarily about one person compared to everyone—it’s about one entity, as opposed to the community at large. In this case, the privacy rights of an individual, or small group of individuals, are clearly being weighed against the benefits to the community of disclosure.

Another potential framework would be Short Term vs. Long Term. This is another classic concept in ethical thought, but also arises in our personal lives. Do we watch another episode of Stranger Things, or do we go to the gym? Do we order the cheeseburger, or the salad? How much do we put into our 401k every month? Almost every choice we make in our own lives requires some degree of balance between short- and long-term interests to be rational. Similarly, the short-term benefits of retaining or releasing the information here must be weighed against the long-term consequences. An ethical principle that applies in this situation, after all, does not only apply in this situation. To take the side of transparency in this case but champion privacy in all others would be hypocrisy. There must be some compelling, nonpartisan argument to explain why, of all the situations that have or might arise, the public only has a right to know in this one.

DILEMMA RESOLUTION

So now that we’ve clearly identified the particular values in play, and the paradigms that best describe their conflict, we need to work our way to a resolution. Our method at IGE draws on some of the most fundamental ideas from classical moral philosophy, but ultimately offers three of what we call Resolution Principles. These will be familiar ideas to most of you, I suspect, but it’s important to remember that no one principle is always correct. If that were the case, we wouldn’t consider all three. Rather, each principle is designed to best apply in particular situations. Which principle you believe best resolves this issue depends less on the principle itself, and more on how you, as the decision-making individual expressing personal agency, view its interaction with the dilemma paradigms. The three resolution principles are: 1) Ends-based, 2) rule-based, and 3) empathy-based.

Ends-based principles are, generally speaking, what you’d think of as utilitarian. They measure the consequences of each choice to determine which is right. The greatest good for the greatest number, that sort of thing. Is it right to steal bread to support your family? An ends-based principle might say yes.

Rule-based principles are not based on the consequences at all, but rather on German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative. In brief, would the world be a better place if everyone made a similar choice when placed in a similar situation? To take our bread example, if everyone who couldn’t afford an item simply decided to steal it, soon there would be none available at all and the seller would be out of business. On the other hand, if it were to be stolen only by people who had literally no other options to feed their family and no possibility of earning sufficient income in time, then the outcome might be different. As you can see, this is complicated. Much depends on how you frame the particular question, and how you limit the particular rule.

Finally, empathy-based principles. Basically, do unto others as you’d have them do unto you, most commonly codified in the Judeo-Christian tradition as the golden rule. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This requires a particular empathy, and can be challenging, but can also be very effective.

I’ve personally found that the most effective, consistent solutions are reached by working through a dilemma in each of these three ways. Sometimes, one result is clearly absurd. Other times, they all come to the same, logically consistent conclusion. But every single time, the process has helped me clarify my personal thinking on the topic. That is to say, it has always provided some degree of guidance, even if only identifying which questions in life are truly dilemmas, and which are manufactured by our own imperfect perception.

Ends-Based Principle

Looking at this dilemma under ends-based principles, it’s clear that the resolution depends on what actions would likely occur once the information was made public. We already know who benefits from continuing privacy: those who desire the information to remain private. That is only one side of the analysis, however. The other speakers here today may help you inform your own, personal conclusion on this question. Under one view, nobody would be harmed at all. Under another, that disclosure could cause substantial, if intangible, harm to a great many people. Some might think the disclosure would, in fact, only benefit democracy, while others firmly believe that it would be used to undermine it.

This is a particular challenge of the ends-based approach: oftentimes, the principles you bring into it will determine the conclusion to which it leads you. My only suggestion would be that, when addressing a question in this manner, you strive for objectivity as much as possible. We are all unavoidably subjective, of course, but ends-based principles require us to subjugate our own beliefs as to what should happen to a rigorous, rational investigation—based on history, facts, and data—into what probably will. To use the ends-based principle in any other way is more than inaccurate. It would be irresponsible.

Rules-Based Principle

Under a rules-based principle, the primary disagreement would be over how to frame the situation. Clearly, no single answer can encompass all disclosures, by all parties, to all who would request them. Not even George Washington would argue that, cherry tree notwithstanding. The precise delineation of private privilege versus public right, in this view, depends on the conditions you place upon it. What is the particular situation? What is the scope of disclosure? What were the expectations of privacy, and would it breach them? What are the motivations of those requesting, and what tangible role would the information play? These are complex questions, and require a similarly objective, similarly rigorous thought process as attempting to predict the likely outcome of each decision.

If a person’s goal is simply to validate their desired outcome, a logical fallacy known as confirmation bias, then none of this is worthwhile. It is a waste of everybody’s time. Principles such as this only become useful once those applying them buy into the idea that the world is better when people make more sound ethical decisions, even if they might not be the ones we want. The process itself, it would seem, presents something of an individual vs. community problem.

Empathy-Based Principle

Finally, applying the empathy-based principle, the answer seems rather clear: if you thought your information would be private, you’d want it to stay private. But on the other hand, if you truly believed that disclosure would benefit everybody, that would be your desired outcome. Here we see how the empathy-based principle can sometimes fail when applied to zero-sum games, because the outcome depends entirely on which party’s perspective you approach it.

Unlike the previous two principles, there is no level of intellectual rigor that can resolve this fact, although an idea from political philosopher John Rawls comes close. His notion of the Veil of Ignorance proposed that ethical thinkers imagine they had not yet been born, then craft a policy that would be fair regardless what segment of society they were eventually born into. In this case, the resulting policy would be a detail-oriented balance of public and private needs, protecting the individuals with a reasonable expectation of privacy while also providing the public with sufficient information.

CONCLUSION

If all that sounds complicated, that’s because it is. Difficult problems do not have simple solutions. The conflict between privacy and transparency is extraordinarily challenging, with the proper resolution often turning on a single, otherwise insignificant detail. Clear answers are often elusive, and often undesirable when found.

The process of democracy requires an obvious, clear answer less than it does an intelligent, informed process.

My hope is that my testimony today will help clarify some of the difficulties inherent to crafting such a process. After all, every important decision comes with its challenges, although the particular challenges may vary with the individual, the values in play, and the situation as a whole. By using our framework to evaluate the question, however, the points of conflict become clearer. Even if it does not lead to an obvious answer, the process almost always leads to a more productive discussion.

On that note, and in conclusion, I would be derelict in my duty as a practicing ethicist if I didn’t highlight how it necessarily requires bipartisan cooperation to resolve ethical issues. One entity cannot force another to be ethical. It must be a collaborative effort. The moment the authority to force that behavior exists, we’re no longer talking about ethics at all. We’re talking about compliance. Somehow politics has become divorced from the art of the possible—the principled, hard-fought compromise—and the notion of compromise reduced to the moral equivalent of capitulation or, worse, complicity. If we want to move forward as a state, and a nation, we need to stop judging ethical issues against a partisan divide, and start working together to find the right answers.

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute our expertise to this hearing, and I look forward to answering any questions you may have.

Mistakes


No one is so bad as not to improve and become good.

Everyone however deprived, can improve and becomes a paragon of virtue.

Accept any of your mistakes and shortcomings and pray Baba to pardon you. Resolve not to repeat such mistakes again.

——-AVATAR MEHER BABA

[From- LESSONS FOR SPIRITUAL ASPIRANTS, Complied by: BIRENDRA KUMAR]
[Copyright © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust Ahmednagar (M.S.) India]