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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Just Another Day: Musings from An Ethical Wallaby by me

I started out my paper route at 2AM listening to a talk series on Ethics as it applies to human rights and legal ramifications. As this Australian/Canadian author, Margaret Somerville, titled the first in her series An Ethical Wallaby – a ‘wallaby’ is a ‘walk about for enlightenment’ – it certainly caught some of my attention amidst throwing papers in boxes or in driveways.

With Scooter Libby getting his prison sentence commuted, the idea of ethics involving the highest office in the land comes to mind. When is it just to pardon or commute a sentence handed down by a judge after a jury of your peers found you guilty? Certainly this smacks of political favoritism – especially so close to Bush's front door – but why doesn’t it happen more often, in clearer instances of miscarriages of justice? Isn’t a pardon/commutation supposed to be reserved for those we are assured after the case was decided were innocent of the crime they were accused of? The fine Scooter will pay is small ($250,000) in relative terms to his income and probation will likely will not be a burden to him – likely a phone call, at best, from a disinterested parole officer.

Beyond that recent political intrigue, I was thinking back to college. Yes, those grand times when I did not do outstanding work or make any headway in putting behind the past.

I graduated with a 2.07 GPA and missed tons of classes, more than I attended in some semesters, while not getting to know my classmates in my major. For some reason, I found people in other majors more appealing to know. Liberal Arts, Management, English, Elementary Education, Philosophy and Poly Sci were all more enjoyable to talk with than a bunch of Engineer brainiacs.

Life was pretty Greek at Purdue. 25% or more were in those organizations. I was a GDI – and not ashamed of it – but I did not join any other organizations, aside from a semester of Pre-Law Society. Course, that did not go far…until later on in my life...

Somehow, I lost interest in learning and being after high school. Classes, socializing (unless just bullshitting) and giving back did not seem relevant. Sure, I knew it could be important, but then again, many of those flaky, superficial Greeks made situations very unimportant out to be the raison d'être to all of their (and their “brothers and sisters”) worldly ills.

My situational ethics later on would include people shown little sympathy today: Mexican Americans. I worked in a Kroger perishable warehouse as an Industrial Engineer for nearly two years. One of my major responsibilities was the setting of fair labor standards based on MSD (A Time Standard Method) using a labor system developed by Gagnon (Red Prairie.)

This system worked in concert with a fairly complex WMS (Warehouse Mgmt. Sys.) and Kronos (Time tracking system.) With that said, it did not work well at all when I got there. (Soon another Purdue Engineer and I were fixing this situation…at least from a technical aspect.) We also used an incentive program, up to 25% of an employees’ take home pay, to get workers to produce at the desired level, according to safe practices, OSHA standards and various other procedures.

However, this did not take place usually. And it was often a case of supervisors ignoring dangerous problems or chastising the wrong people, Mexicans most often, because many were illegal.

So, I did my own informal, if realistic study of people. I took the entire workforce and broke them into 4 classes: white, Mexicans that speak passable English, Mexicans unable to speak English well, and African Americans. I did not do this to support any report; nor to generalize for the sake of justification to a superior, but to know if there were any tendencies.

From memory, the breakdown out of 380 employees was:
35% white
19% Passable English
28% Non-English
15% African American
3% Other
Once trained (90 days selecting cases) the best performers were:
1. Mexican Passable – 117%
2. Mexican Non Passable – 109%
3. Other – 105%
4. African Americans – 101%
5. Whites – 98%

No one knew I did this. But it does reflect many who are here illegally are working much harder for the American Dream than our current legal population does. Upton Sinclair’s 'The Jungle' is alive, to a much lesser degree, as we hear about our non-English speakers getting screwed a great deal. Human Rights go out the door where the goal is to make a buck - even in 21st century.

I once tried to stop a Spanish-speaking supervisor from chewing out a Mexican illegal. He thought I could not understand Spanish – I did not have to know that much to know what he was saying was wrong – but for that interference the Operations Manager was none too pleased. He didn’t quite snap; but he wanted to, on me. (But he knew I had a point too.)

The point of this meandering diatribe is we are not all born to Ethics. Maybe I should have been more aware of what my future would be, if I had taken the time to involve myself in good causes, student organizations and cared about my major, then concrete Ethics might have took sooner. (To little too late if you've read other posts of mine.)

But then again, if I had Scooter Libby’s pull, the ideas of ethics and treatment of information vital to America’s safety, could be pardoned away by an Op. Manager not in charge of his mental faculties.
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