Saturday, November 12, 2011

If we do not act, we bear the guilt

"Its the name on the front of the jersey that matters most, not the one on the back."
Joe Paterno (Penn State)

Legendary coach Joe Paterno and Penn State are in the news but not for football results or academic achievements. I won't repeat details except to say numerous children were abused over many years by Paterno assistant Jerry Sandusky, often in team facilities. The salient question is why did respectable adults, senior university officers who knew details, provide cover so the perpetrator could harm more youngsters.

Nicole Rodgers, writing in American Prospect, considered that issue in Good Ol' Boys' Good Ol' Cowardice. This is her view:
"...A more straightforward explanation might be simply that Sandusky was just another member of an Old Boys Club that always protects its members. ...These Penn State college football men make up a very powerful club, one with lots of prestige, influence, and money..."
It does seem apparent that group loyalty overrode individual morality. Courses of action that should have been second nature were not taken. Rodgers emphasizes a gender component that weakens her arguments but she is right about misplaced loyalties shaping behaviour, both collective and individual.

Edward Queen of the Emory Center for Ethics blames a culture committed to prostrating itself before the idol of monetary success,
"From banking scandals to Wall Street, elementary schools to universities, the scramble to succeed in dollar terms, to bring in ever more money has led individuals and organizations to ignore visible, powerful, and pressing evidence of malfeasance. Money and power buy impunity, or at least rent it."
A group may elevate an individual's status and loyalty to it can strengthen identity and sense of belonging. Usually, groups begin with admirable attributes but, with time, boundaries may blur and initial objectives become subsidiary to the group itself. We've been hearing of the effect lately in the RCMP. Wrongdoers were routinely protected from punishment because senior officers viewed the service's reputation as paramount. They preferred to ignore or sidetrack victims rather than admit to systematic wrongdoing.

Misconduct is regularly tolerated in politics and government because of group loyalty. In British Columbia, Liberal MLA's tolerate frauds that were committed or planned by Gordon Campbell's circle, including those associated with public/private partnerships, independent power purchases, the Pavco/Paragon hotel casino and others. The Liberal MLA's also know their government and BC's legal systems were compromised to protect insiders involved in the transfer of BC Rail. Staying quiet, allowing thieves protection, is little different in moral terms than allowing child rapists to go unpunished.

Again, from Emory's Professor Queen,
"...misplaced loyalty, whether to a colleague in a hospital, a comrade in battle, or a stock trader on the floor, can only lead to error, wrongdoing, and evil. For if we do not [act], we ourselves must bear the guilt."
"A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall."
Frank Leahy (Notre Dame)
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