What does it say about our society and the people within it, when the measure of a man (or woman) is his success at achieving the maximum in money and power with the minimum morality required by the law or his job.  What about the minimum required for humanity?  Shouldn’t that be a part of our measure of success?

Hearing and reading about the Penn State horrors and then the “minimum legal requirement” defense of Paterno made me sick to my stomach and seeing red… How can so many apparently smart “successful” people so utterly fail to get it.

Blogger/writer John Scalzi gives a simple explanation of the minimum requirements for humanity in this instant.  From his post Omelas State University:

These things should be simple:

1. When, as an adult, you come come across another adult raping a small child, you should a) do everything in your power to rescue that child from the rapist, b) call the police the moment it is practicable.

2. If your adult son calls you to tell you that he just saw another adult raping a small child, but then left that small child with the rapist, and then asks you what he should do, you should a) tell him to get off the phone with you and call the police immediately, b) call the police yourself and make a report, c) at the appropriate time in the future ask your adult son why the fuck he did not try to save that kid.

3. If your underling comes to you to report that he saw another man, also your underling, raping a small child, but then left that small child with the rapist, you should a) call the police immediately, b) alert your own superiors, c) immediately suspend the alleged rapist underling from his job responsibilities pending a full investigation, d) at the appropriate time in the future ask that first underling why the fuckhe did not try to save that kid.

4. When, as the officials of an organization, you are approached by an underling who tells you that one of his people saw another of his people raping a small child at the organization, in organization property, you should a) call the police immediately, b) immediately suspend the alleged rapist from his job responsibilities if the immediate supervisor has not already done so, c) when called to a grand jury to testify on the matter, avoid perjuring yourself. At no time should you decide that the best way to handle the situation is to simply tell the alleged rapist not to bring small children onto organization property anymore.

It really is that simple.  Like it or not.  Convenient or not.  Costly or not.  Risky or not.  Putting aside the whole issue that with greater power comes greater responsibility, as members of society we owe each other more than the institutionalized morality of the minimum required by law.   We need to stop pretending we don’t see what is right in front of us and start taking responsibility for it.

“The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. 

And once you've seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing,
 becomes as political an act as speaking out.
 
There’s no innocence.
 Either way, you’re accountable.”

                  ~~ Arundhati Roy

This isn’t about what we want as a society; it is about what we need as a society.  Morality is the basis of every society.  When we fail to demand this of each other we lose our humanity and we lose our bonds as a community.  Look beyond Penn State, the rape and abandonment of those boys, and the powerful men who sold their morality for success  —  our societal bonds are unraveling at the speed of light.  We need to reclaim them.

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2 thoughts on “The Minimum Required”

  1. Beautiful words for such a heartbreaking topic. I see this so often as an officer and wonder why I am amazed when someone does the right thing. It happens but seems to be less and less. We CANNOT look the other way!

    1. Thank you, Suzie. But writing about it is easy. You are on the front lines dealing with the reality of this heartbreak everyday. My hat goes off to YOU.

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