Thursday, March 22, 2012

True Diversity: Ethics Development, Understanding, and Application

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One Saturday I walked through the Prudential Mall and stopped into a fascinating store called Successories ( where I came across the following quote on a small colorful card, “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Choose your words, for they become actions. Understand your actions, for they become habits. Study your habits, for they will become your character. Develop your character, for it becomes your destiny.” I strongly agree with the quote and try to use it as a guide each day. This writing exposition will cover thу following area ethics, the difference between ethics, morals, beliefs and values, my ethics, what has influenced my ethics, manifestation of my ethics, and how my ethics affect my decision-making. defines ethics as “motivation based on ideas of right and wrong” (Source Websters Revised Unabridged Dictionary). Ethics are behavioral traits that define the manner of a personal conduct upon the individuals’ core values, beliefs and morals. In effect, one determines how one will interpret rules, and how one will treat others, based upon well defined morals. It is not possible to have ethics without morals because ethics is a measure of the consistency of conduct to morals.

Ethics are situational because they provide the decision making framework for an individual faced with apparent conflict. For example, how does one interpret “Thou shalt not kill” when one must east to live (whether is it animal or vegetable life being compromised)?

Morals are fibers from which all else is made. These are core values and beliefs. Core values and beliefs are fixed, black and white, and not negotiable. They represent basic, inherent understanding of how things are, or ought to be. They are not situational, unlike ethics, nor are they topical. Morals start from birth and are built brick by brick as we grow and mature. At some point in our lives, they become fixed and ingrained in each one of us.

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Morals are core values of ourselves within society and without. They are not things that we have based upon what we believe about other things. For example, one might proclaim to have certain morals based upon a particular religion in which one has received an instruction set from God or a god. In effect, the instruction set is just that actual rules. How the rules are interpreted reflect personal ethics. Whether or not an individual may be attracted to a particular religion reflects upon core values and beliefs. Core values and beliefs, as defined in morals, does not refer to beliefs about God, but to personal instruction set.

As religion has entered the discussion, it is necessary to fine it as well, but it will not be a topic of further discussion. Religion, defined by, is a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader. Thus, it becomes evident how such necessary structure affects the nature of personal core values and beliefs.

Following a brief explanation of ethics, morals, beliefs and values, I would like to mention a little about what my ethics are through karate, a way of life for me. Karate training builds character. It makes one a better human being. Most people are familiar with the rigorous physical training endured by karate students, particularly in the early days of the art in Okinawa, Japan and Hawaii. Despite the seemingly “superhuman” feats of some karate practitioners, physical conditioning and demonstrations represent only the most basic level of training.

Because of the tremendous danger posed by a well-trained fist, the teachers of old were extremely careful in selecting their students. A prospective student might be forced to endure numerous rejections, insults and even physical attacks from the teacher before he is considered for acceptance. Once accepted, he might then have to endure months or years of menial chores followed by grueling and monotonous basic training exercises. A student could expect to spend at least three years on the first kata (form or sequence of movements). All this was designed to test the students patience and determination. Moreover, it ensured that the student would develop sound basics. Naturally, a high percentage of students quit out of sheer frustration. The system was designed to eliminate hot tempered and impatient students before they could learn the more dangerous aspects of karate. In addition, students were constantly taught ethics in the form of sayings or stories that were handed down from generation to generation.

One of the most well-known sayings is that “karate begins and ends with courtesy.” On the surface level, we observe that each kata begins and ends with a bow. The student also bows when entering and leaving the dojo and when greeting his sensei and seniors. Bowing and similar formalities, however, represent only the outer form of courtesy. A karate students courtesy must flow from the “kokoro” or heart and extend to respect for life itself. As such, karate is never used for aggressive purposes but only for self-defense as a last resort.

The greatest ethic of karate is to avoid its use. “Karate ni sente nashi” means that “there is no first attack in karate.” As a defensive, unarmed art, karate is only used when there is no other alternative. The best strategy is to prevent or avoid a confrontation. When one is attacked unexpectedly, karate may be used but only to the extent necessary. If attacked by a single assailant, some of the teachers of old recommended the use of non-deadly techniques similar to those practiced in judo or jujutsu. The potentially lethal striking and kicking techniques of karate were reserved for attacks by armed or multiple assailants. “Karate ni senti nashi” means more than not attacking first. By such as simple definition, a karate practitioner could simply wait for an attack and deliver a deadly counter-attack. Karate students are taught to hold back their fists when angry and to ensure that they are calm and clear-headed when forced into a defensive situation.

When the situation calls for it, a karate practitioner will commit himself wholeheartedly to the cause of justice, whether directed toward his own defense or the protection of others. Gichin Funakoshi, one of the Okinawans most responsible for the introduction of karate to mainland Japan, and the founder of the Shotokan form of karate, wrote that “true Karate-Do is this that in daily life, ones mind and body be trained and developed in a spirit of humility; and that in critical times, one be devoted utterly to the cause of justice.” Shoshin Nagamine, founder of the Matsubayashi-Ryu form of Shorin-Ryu wrote that “the dojo is the place where courage is fostered and superior human nature is bred through the ecstasy of sweating in hard work.” When asked for a brief definition of a good Karate person, Shoshin Nagamine replied “Kisshu fushin (Oni te hotoke kokoro) - a demons hand, a saints heart.”

Hence, with karate being a large part of my life I have abided by these underlying principals of karate-do for almost 15 years. I am faced with using these principles on a daily basis to help handle criticism and unexpected difficulties; such as how do I act when I am faced with a problem at home, work, or school. As being a karate practitioner, such situations are a part of my training. I must remain calm when punched or kicked and easily deflect the blow - and should be able to remain calm when cursed at or when a driver acts rudely on the freeway. How do I act in an emergency? Am I able to summon all my strength and determination at a moments notice? These are the true test of my ability and manifestation of my ethics. Karate without the ethical component has been described as nothing but “beastly behavior.”

Everyday I am faced with decisions, some more critical than others. For example, my fiancу was in an accident about 1 month ago and she called me at 4.45 a.m. awaking me. Taken completely off guard, I was barely awake and then suddenly I became alert and took passive control over the phone conversation. I had to think quickly because I did not know if it was a serious accident or mild. I started asking with “are you okay”, “where are you now”, and after a few quick questions, “I finished with do not worry about anything; just come home, everything will be fine.” I realized this was a critical time for my fiance and I had to be very careful with what I said otherwise I could exacerbate her emotional state. Another example would be at my current job, as IKON Office Solutions Boston Senior IT Specialist. My team of people and I support more than 500 people, most sales representatives. Sometimes we get issues where we are dealing with a very impatient person. If my team cannot handle them I have them escalate the issue to me immediately. I listen, and at the same time think very quickly and the respond, all with never raising my voice or cutting off the individual. I want to respect their thoughts and frustration. When they are done I usually have the opportunity to speak and resolve the situation as quick as possible or provide them with comfort. If I decide to cut off someone, then I feel as if I am disrespecting trying to push myself over them and the user might feel they are not being heard. I have developed a great amount of patience and will not allow much to throw me out of mental balance. Over the past 4 years, I have noticed I remain calm in just about any situation.

Whenever I have the opportunity I walk into Successories wondering what other words of wisdom I will be able to come across. I believe that my destiny has not been determined and that every decision I make or actions I take will affect my life in some way. A note to end on, “The future doesn’t just happen, it is created…Our destiny is not in the stars, but in ourselves. We may need to follow in the wake of those who have gone before, but what we do and where we go is ultimately up to us. The attitude of initiative is an on-going state of exploration that is never finished…a journey that never ends, until you want it to end.”

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