Ethics: Responsibility, Culpability, Portent


If you see something, say something.

Women are stepping up and speaking out; men are beginning to hear with enlightenment, anxiously examining their own actions or re-examining situations wherein they have been witness to transgressive acts without actually seeing what has been taking place, often right before their eyes. Bystanders are beginning to appreciate the complicity inherent in having remained silent and without action in the face of impropriety, aggression or assault.

These are tough and difficult lessons as people’s perceptions of how the world has been operating around them turn out to be very different from what had been assumed was the reality…or what so many may have obliquely chosen to assume by not seeing beneath a very thin surface.

Social lubricant can be a dangerous, myopia-perpetuating thing.

From what I am reading, this Moment may be or may be becoming a watershed of personal consciousness and responsibility in our culture. As people – men and women – look back over their lives to specific and certain times and instances where they might have spoken-up or acted to stop something bad or wrong from happening – but did not; when, in the name of avoiding personal discomfort or an “awkward situation,” nothing was said or done – leaving nothing changed, the spectre of personal responsibility, of complicity, begins to take shape before each of us.

In reality, when one witnesses evil or badness and does nothing, that inaction has the very real affect of strengthening the transgressor.

Silence = tacit approval.


If no one says, “no” or “stop” or even, “bro, that’s not cool…,” that silence is taken by the aggressor as acceptance, as approval, at the very least as contributing to the perpetrator’s perception that what s/he is doing is Okay, as long as it’s gotten away-with, successfully.

Silence and inaction are, in and of themselves, support for what is taking place.

As this maelstrom of revelation has built through the past months, I’ve seen increasing numbers of men and women now realizing and writing of these moments of silence in their lives and the guilt they now realize they carry for having done nothing in the face of wrongfulness.

Might this mean more…?

…More than the bringing to light of sexual harassment?

Could this possibly be the beginning of a New Awakening in our society? Could it perhaps become more than a trend of the Moment; rather, a movement toward personal responsibility for the quality of life in our society? Might there be a resulting, evolving consciousness and commitment to truth, integrity, honor and respect for others?

Power and Profit

It would mean a society that takes a hard look at our priorities; as these cover-ups are motivated almost completely by two things: Power and Profit.

Sexual harassment does not stand alone in this field. Wall Street, shady business dealings, government and corporate graft and corruption, racism, sexism, ageism…all find strong roots in the high priority given profit and power in our culture and the egregiously low priority (if any awareness at all) given to integrity and honor.

Perhaps what is taking place, here and now, might inspire a broader self-examination of what we accept in ourselves and in others; in the respect we demand of, from and for ourselves.

Government to Serve; rather than to Serve Themselves.

Healthy, thriving businesses that reap appreciable profit while contributing positively to society, to a healthy economy, to a healthy planet.

Am I describing a Fairy Tale? Possibly: I hope not. Am I being idealistic? Absolutely.

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a Heaven for…?”

-Robert Browning


Bullying and Business

When one sees something wrong…dishonorable, dishonest…in any context, is it not a responsibility of the individual to do or say something to stop it, to alert the transgressor to the unacceptability of the action? Whether it’s a bully on the playground, a cheater in the classroom, a thief in boardroom or boulevard,

On the Spectrum of Egregiousness, is there a place where one can draw a line beyond which it’s okay to let things go?

  • Where between a rape and a grope and a pat on the ass does any of that become okay: or does it, ever?
  • Where between copying the answers from another on a university exam to plagiarizing a novel or newspaper article to appropriating intellectual property and selling it does it become okay to take credit for the work of another: or does it?

In our business professional and personal communities, these questions arise and are ignored almost as a matter of course. Can we change that by taking responsibility at some level?

Are we the keepers of our brothers and sisters?

In the sense that we have the responsibility to take care of or protect those around us who become victim to an aggressor: are we? In the sense that we might call out a friend or colleague whose conduct is without honor or integrity, are we bound to address this in the name of said honor, of integrity, of social acceptability or business practice?

The DGA has expelled Harvey Weinstein. Awards have been rescinded and projects cancelled as one after another of the current transgressors have been brought to light. Is this an ad hoc witch hunt that will crest and dissolve, or could it be a new beginning, an evolution of the taking of responsibility for the way the world can work?


Ethics and a code thereof

Is there Code of Ethics inherent in simply being human?

Is this to what people refer when they speak of “doing the right thing”? Were we, as simple and complex human beings, to espouse and adhere to a code of ethics; would the world be a better place?

Are we capable of accepting the vast panoply of differences between beliefs and cultures on this planet while at the same time supporting one another in respectful and honorable ways of treating and interacting with each other?

What a wonderful world that would be.


Whistleblowers Always Pay the Highest Price

The first to step out of any closet take the greatest risks, and virtually always pay the highest price. That willingness to bear the brunt of speaking out against an amoral, immoral or even illegal status quo and face retribution from those who wield the power is the only key to changing the way things are.

The only key.

What is taking place right now, as more and more women and men stand up, step out, speak out is as inspirational and encouraging as it is shocking in its vastness. As disheartened as I am to begin to grasp what I almost cannot understand as I appreciate the iceberg-ian depth; I am encouraged to think that this movement might grow and spread throughout our social consciousness.

Our morale as a country and community are at the lowest point in my experience; we cannot go, I believe, much lower (…though, with each successive tweet I find that we quite possibly can…). Can we inspire and motivate ourselves back from this dark brink and bring ourselves closer to an ideal America that hasn’t actually existed, yet?

It is only after acts of brave integrity and courage that other voices join in to add credibility and support for the righting of wrong.

As long as Profit Trumps Honor, Integrity has a Price.



Something I just came across, today…

“Out of the blue, I asked, ‘Have you ever read Reinhold Niebuhr?’

Obama’s tone changed. ‘I love him. He’s one of my favorite philosophers.’

So I asked, ‘What do you take away from him?’

‘I take away,’ Obama answered in a rush of words, ‘the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away … the sense that we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naïve idealism to bitter realism.’”


IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience” is still a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes. Free. Read it. ]

Easing Back In…


“Life is Hard, Not Fair, and No One Is To Blame”

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The six months since the previous original post (noting the shared reprint in June, “Design Ethics Across Cultures…” ), have been a wealth of unique experience. The Muses are aching to reenter the fray and return from absorption to creation; freshly regenerated and revivified…

There have been some exceptional Moments through this period. One of the most impactful being my invitation by the Principal to speak to the Secaucus High School student body. My name had somehow come up in a conversation about speakers who would have a positive affect on the students; delivering a message of inspiration and encouragement from an experienced perspective. He found my “It Gets Better”  video on YouTube, then googled further and for some reason thought I’d have a positive message for his students.

Thus, I went to Secaucus as part of their annual “Respect, Responsibility and Remembrance” Day.

When I arrived, I learned that I was on an agenda with one of the First Responders who’d been buried in the rubble of 9/11, Jane Clemente – mother of Tyler Clemente, the young student who killed himself as a result of cyber-bullying and being outed online, and a small group of other amazingly accomplished people.

It was an honor to be a part of it.

My talk, “Life is Hard, Not Fair, and No One Is To Blame” was about embracing one’s aspirations and ideals and living with integrity, not taking personally the things that happen to us and striving simply to embrace What Is; knowing that there is so much of one another – of all whom we encounter in life – that we simply do not – cannot – know…and that these are the things that make each of us unique.

AND, about not fearing the making of mistakes, not being ashamed to learn from them, not pressuring oneself to have or know all the answers and just stepping up. Going out on that limb is pretty much the best way to learn.

Leadership is about knowing how and where to get the best answers, not knowing (or pretending to know) them.

The visual metaphor I used is the cypress tree. From tall, elegant, columnar and straight along the roadsides of Italy to whipped by the offshore gales into unique lacework, all genetically identical, each tree is a reflection of experience.

Just like us.

We spoke of life pathways, of our own aspirations and those of others, responsibility, integrity, our own personal darknesses and troubling experiences. And Regret.

In exploring Regret; I made the point that rather than “mistakes,” I look at many of the Life Decisions I’ve made that simply didn’t turn out the way I’d envisioned; sometimes with disastrous effect, but giving me the benefit of learning from each of them…sometimes learning a LOT…but never regretting the act, move or choice.

While I see in retrospect that perhaps a different choice in a given circumstance might have been wiser, I would not give back that knowledge gained. Thus, here we are.

My only true Regrets are when I have hurt another person; done damage to a relationship that I cannot repair. So, we talked about that.

What blew me away is the quality of these High School kids. This is not my experience of High School. These kids are acute listeners, enlightened to so much more of the world than we were (due, obviously, to the internet, YouTube and social media for starters). They are, as a body, very clear on and embrace the difference between Tolerance and Acceptance…and are remarkably Accepting.

The respect I was given, the respect for one another that was evident simply passing through the corridors and in the cafeteria, remarkable.

This is a public school in a working class neighborhood. This country just may have a future, after all.

Talk about knowing our audience; this is the audience for whom we are now creating.

I have presented to colleagues and peers, taught Master Classes in inspiring and managing creativity to graduate students. I was a tad trepidatious at the prospect of this young audience, and I came away having had my own epiphany. The questions these kids asked, the things they said, individually, as they passed by me on the way out…powerful and beyond heartening.

So, I share the presentation with y’all in this Quicktime Movie  of the Keynote. In this 5 minutes, I believe the essence of the thing is communicated. What’s missing is, of course, my brilliant storytelling narrative (there is no sound on the video); the dark and sad interstitials that now inform my experience, fuel my creative work and remind me that I know less about more, every day.


I hope this has resonance.

“IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience” is still a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes. Free. Read it. ]