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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Morality Challenged Part 1

First, before getting into today’s post let me welcome those who have taken time out to read and comment on my previous posts and those who have participated in my little poll. I really appreciate it. I read all of my comments, emails, and take note of my poll results. As a student of psychology I am always interested in what people think and why they think as they do. So keep ‘em coming and make yourself at home here.

Now to today’s post. Morality is a very important concept to me. I try to apply morality to every aspect of my life. The secular, postmodernist world does not believe that there is an absolute right and wrong. Even so called believers think that morality is something that is specific to a particular person. Ultimately, everyone wants to behave however they see fit and then try to justify their guilt away.

As an undergraduate I conducted a study on morality and abortion. The study itself was pretty unremarkable, but what was incredible about it was the amount of discussion that it generated, as well as the personal introspection that it inspired. The study examined how people make decision concerning controversial topics and the implications that that decision-making process would have on one’s attitudes towards abortion. When asked the seemingly simple question, “Are you pro-life or pro-choice?” I could sense the wheels spinning in those participants’ minds. How can they check one or the other and how could they justify it? As a result many participants left that critical question blank confirming what I already suspected: that often times right and wrong prove to be abstractions until they are put to the test. The participants may have had varying opinions on that topic. Many may never have been put in that situation where they must decide whether to have an abortion or not. But when it came time for the test—for them to either identify as one thing or another their moral consciences where screaming at them. Some checked pro-choice when subsequent tests showed that their ideology was more closely pro-life, and vice versa. I took this as evidence of their moral dilemma.

I believe that morality can only triumph when it has been tested. If one never has to make decisions concerning right or wrong, and lives in a vacuum, how can one develop a moral orientation? When our morality is challenged it reveals one of two things about us: our character strength or our character deficit. In the last week my belief system has been put to the test.

A few weeks ago the specialty shop I work for changed their policy. Management instructed me to tell customers that our store would be creating and delivering products when in some cases we would be sending orders to other stores. So if a customer, were to walk in and ask whether or not our store delivered to some area that we did not, I was to say “yes” take the order, send it to another store, and the customer would be none the wiser. This, I was told, would keep down on customer complaints. Believing the policy to be dishonest, I called the manager. I explained to her that we were leading customers to believe something that was not true. I then gave her a scenario. We are a Kosher certified store. Suppose a Jewish person places an order in our store expecting his product to be Kosher, and we send his order to another store (we are one of two such stores in the entire state that has a Kosher certification) that in all odds probably won’t be Kosher. When he sees that his product does not have kosher identifiers on it, he’s going to be upset and rightfully so. The manager defended the policy, explained that she was not trying to deceive anyone, but that this policy proved more beneficial and made us look more competent than our former policy of being up front with customers.

I had two choices. 1)I could go along with the policy even though it went against my morals. 2) I could defy the policy and risk losing my job. What a quandary! I could choose the easy, but morally wrong decision, or the hard, potentially punishable decision. I choice the second option, with the intent of finding other employment as soon as possible because I knew I was going to get fired if I went against the directives given to me.

Then came the next test. Enter Bill*, the male manager’s brother!

Bill and I were hired at the same time. He has a criminal record, does not even possess a GED, has previously been fired from several jobs (for one particular job for stealing) and has consistently behaved like an untamed ass since his very first day of work. I and other employees have repeatedly complained about his unruly behavior, but at the end of the day he is the boss’s brother. (Does anyone smell nepotism?) At one point even the male manager had gotten fed-up with Bill’s behavior. He caught Bill sleeping in a bathroom while still on the clock and fired him! Three weeks later I walked into the shop and Bill has returned!

Bill had only been back for one week before it all hit the fan again. This time Bill and I were scheduled for the afternoon shift. At around 2pm, the other three employees had clocked out and the female manager had left to pick up her kids from school. So it was just Bill and I. In the state of Maryland that’s against the law by the way. When serving food there is always supposed to be at least one person on the premises who has a safe food service certification. Neither of us has one. Anyway we receive an order for delivery that comes in late. That usually upsets everyone, because we work so hard during the day, and we want to go home or at least have a few minutes to rest. Bill begins swearing and insists the he isn’t doing s***. I shrug. He is known for using vulgar language, even in front of customers, and having temper tantrums whenever something happens that he dislikes. No matter how many times I have complained about it nothing has been done. I go to the back to begin dipping the fruit in preparation for him to put into the gift basket. Bill comes in, goes into the cooler, pulls out dirty kale that we use to create arrangements, and proceeds to say “this isn’t going to be f***ing Kosher. I tell Bill, that I refuse to wrap a dirty arrangement. This angers him. Enraged he goes over to the sink and pours a 12 ounce bottle of concentrated soap on the basket, whilst the kale and other component are in it, thus saturating this entire thing. Now we use a special soap to wash the kale and strawberries, and just a little dab of soap is diluted in a sink full of water and the kale is placed in the sink to soak. This makes the basket Kosher. Thus the arrangement he has made at this point is unsalvageable. He then takes the ruined basket into the walk-in cooler and makes the rest of it inside. I have no idea what he did inside of that cooler because I wasn’t going in there to find out. Making an arrangement inside of a cooler is the equivalent of making a sandwich inside of your refrigerator. It’s plain trifling!

So the moment Bill begins pouring the solution on the unfinished arrangement I immediately walk to the front, search for my cell phone and just as I am about to call his brother, the manager…

To be continued…

*Bill is not his real name.

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