Failure to Launch – Turning the Blind-Eye on Ethics

The term “Failure to Launch” is not meant to be a statement about the movie of the same name, nor is there any correlation between the movie and the subject of this post.  Failure to Launch is intended to mean “The Act of Inaction where Action is Required.”

When this blog was started there was a deep concern over what persons or entities might think about some of what is being commented upon.  Several conversations with trusted colleagues with both legal and professional expertice were consulted and everyone agreed…the subject matter, if true, is unethical and there should be ramifications for such behavior, but to be the whistle-blower is to place oneself in harms way.  In short, while it may be morally correct to out these issues, it is prudently wiser to turn the Blind-Eye and let the chips fall where they may.

Letting the Chips Fall, is a phrase that comes from the philosophical ideal of “Karma”.  Another way of saying this might be to say, “What goes around, comes around,” or “Those that live by the sword will likely die by the sword.”  The point is, sooner or later persons who live with unethical standards or behaviors will eventually get stung by their behavior.  I’ve often thought about the image of a bank thief burying his money in some unknown place or the burglar whose home has more locks and alarm systems in it than Fort Knox.  It seems that unethical people are also the ones who complain the most when they get burnt.  Then out come the excuses, “Well, everyone else is doing it!”  Or “That’s just the way business is done in Baltimore.”

What troubles me about turning the blind-eye or trusting in Karma is that there is no time frame in which the truth will become known.  It could be years before anyone ever discovers that so-and-so has been moonlighting with the competition and sharing company secrets.  And in that time, a lot of damage is done and many lives are wounded.

So, the question becomes, when is it appropriate to act on something that you know is wrong and when is it best to keep your mouth shut?

For some, it is best to keep your mouth shut as long as secret benefits you, your family, or your career.  These persons need to realize that by benefiting from the unethical, they themselves are promoting the same.  They become part of the corruption as willing participants in the activity, even when they are not directly involved in the activity.  Think of the baseball player who is suiting up before a baseball game.  While he is dressing his teammate, in the adjacent locker, pulls out a syringe filled with an unknown substance and injects it into his thigh.  That day, the teammate hits a homerun and contributes several RBI’s to their win over the opponent.  The player has knowledge of what his teammate is doing, but at the same time, he keeps his mouth shut because, until his teammate is caught, they will continue to improve their chances of winning and advancing to the championship.

Not too long ago, then Head Coach Joe Paterno was villified for his involvement in the cover-up of the Penn State Football Sex Scandal.  Coach Paterno was long heralded as one of the great collegiate football coaches of all times and was well-known for his dedication to the academic success of his team, as much as their success on the field.  The stain on his career, however, was in thinking that the matter of inappropriate, albeit criminal, behavior would be best swept under a carpet, and forgotten about, so as not to impact the university or the football team that he loved.  Were his decisions unethically based?  It is reasonable to assume that Coach Paterno knew that what was known at the time was grave and morally wrong.  It is also reasonable to assume that his decisions were born more from a love for the school and the football program, then a desire to protect his storied career.  My point is that even when you think you are acting in the best interest of others, covering up what is morally or ethically wrong is, in itself, an unethical act.  For Coach Paterno, the “appearance” of impropriety on his part was enough to cause the university to ask for his resignation.  In a merciful way, his death would ultimately prevent him from facing what would later be the full accounting of all those involved, of which it would become evident… he was one.

So to conclude this article I offer only this; to stand on the sidelines and watch the carnege around me is to invite darkness into my soul.  I’d rather rage in protest against the seeming din of moral and ethical decay, then to step in line and become part of the cattle that are driven to their destruction.  That or I am a complete fool.