The question is drawn from the Greenhaven Tradition; the YaaD course is not published on the Greenhaven Tradition website, but is made available on a person-to-person basis. Material that is not so closely held is available at http://greenhaventradition.weebly.com/
Class 10, Paper 2 (after class discussion): Choose either ethics or etiquette, and write down thirteen of your principles in it. Discuss their importance to you.
Assignment submitted July 21, 2012
Writing Assignment: YaaD Class 10 - Ethics and Etiquette
My code of ethics is based pretty much on informed consent, from which almost all else follows. Some of the specific principles that flow from this basis are:
- Hands off. Don't touch people or their property without permission. Exceptions to this rule include expected social interaction (such as shaking hands when introduced to someone) and emergencies (it is ethical to grab someone's hand to keep them from touching something they don't realize is dangerously hot). This is actually, probably, one of the most important to me simply because I tend so strongly to be touch-aversive (and yet choose to hang out in groups that are strongly touch-dominant).
- Don't out people. Do not expose to public scrutiny, for any reason, someone who has not agreed to be publicly known for that reason. Again, exceptions would include emergencies (for example, it would be ethical to tell the paramedics that someone has a medical condition, even if that person is not open to discussing it with others).
- Don't gossip. This is not identical to "don't out people," although it's close.
- Don't lie, don't cheat, don't keep hurtful secrets. Lying invalidates the informed part of "informed consent." I realize that "don't lie" may conflict with "don't out people"; for the most part, I think that not outing someone is of higher priority.
- Share knowledge and information. The more people who know facts or how to do things, the better, because I'm walking proof that anyone can be hit by a truck. Again, this is similar to "don't keep secrets," but not identical.
- Keep promises. If I tell someone I'm going to do something, that information will presumably keep them from taking other action to make sure that the thing gets done. If it becomes impossible to keep the promise, inform the other person as soon as possible.
- Follow people's house rules. Even if I disagree with a rule or think it's silly, it's their house and I entered it of my own free will. If there's a rule I simply cannot abide, I should decline to go there.
- Do not force people to participate in anything they don't want to. Exceptions here are for people who are legally or ethically responsible for someone who cannot make his or her own decisions (it is appropriate for parents to make their children go to school, or for a conservator to keep a mentally ill adult from spending his or her rent money on video games) and, again, in emergencies. It occurs to me that this may conflict with "follow people's house rules"; I think the break comes down to "it's okay for other people to require me to follow their rules in their house, but not fair for me to impose on them even in mine". On the other hand, I wouldn't want to let anyone smoke in my house. Clearly, I have some issues to resolve on this point.
- Be kind, or at least courteous, to others, especially people in service capacities who can't defend themselves. They have consented to provide a service, but not to be abused. I recognize that sometimes the service provided is truly bad, but even in that case, the appropriate behavior is to speak to a supervisor or manager, not to scream at the individual.
- Be kind to the environment, insofar as possible.
- If everyone involved has given informed consent, it's not anyone else's business – including mine – what they do. Don't let social pressures keep you from being happy, as long as your happiness doesn't depend on depriving others of their life, health, resources, or free will. Further, accept that others' ethical choices may differ from mine, and tolerate or accept those choices (as long as they aren't depriving others of their life, health, resources, or free will).
- I'm actually not sure if this one comes from my "informed consent" framework or from my Jewish heritage, but where possible, contribute to charities and social organizations whose goals are complementary to my ideals, and avoid supporting organizations whose goals or methods I find objectionable. Giving to charity is a mitzvah, a blessing in itself, but not if the charity behaves in ways that I think are hateful.
- Finally, and I know this is from my early religious background, protecting life and health takes precedence over everything else. If you find yourself in WWII and need to lie to the Nazis about the Jews hiding in your attic, go right ahead. If you find yourself in an emergency situation and need to force people to leave their desks and go to the tornado shelter, have at it. If you know that someone's behavior is not merely annoying but actually abusive, tell the person who's looking to get involved with them.