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re: "My Bob" and John Algeo's talk

Nov 21, 1994 11:12 PM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins


LD> My dear Jerry! Your beginning remarks re questioning my Bob's
ethics, sight unseen, doesn't make me feel especially sisterly
towards you. My very a propos sisterly advice to you would be
"don't be a supercilious academic."

Where in my message do you read that I questioned, either
literally or by implication, Bob's ethics? It is true that I
stated that a Masters in Business Administration does not give
him any special knowledge of ethics--but this is certainly not a
disparaging remark against him.  An MBA certainly gives him
knowledge in business practices, but not ethics.  A trained brain
surgeon would probably have no special expertise in plumbing, but
that is nothing against him/her either.  I'm sure that Bob is a
fine decent person.  But as you pointed out, I don't know him, so
I made no reference to his ethical standards at all.  In my
response, I had confined my replies to the points he raised
through you.

As for being a "supercilious academic," I don't feel the remark
is at all fair, nor is it very neighborly.  I was neither
disdaining or attacking Bob or anyone else.  You posed Bob's
comments to be responded to, and that is what I did.  If
disagreeing with Bob is reason for your "unsisterly feelings,"
then I will refrain from voicing any disagreement with Bob in the

Perhaps one more clarification is in order--A person who does not
have ethical training is not necessarily unethical.  Such a
person could be ethical; unethical; or a-ethical.  Further, a
person who has received ethical training is not necessarily
ethical either.  As for Bob, I have no idea where he is at, nor
(from my view point) is it relevant to the discussion.

LD> As a matter of fact, Bob has tenure, & expressing his
opinions is not going to result in his losing his position,
especially since his bosses' and his outfit's interests don't
always coincide with those of large corporations.

I'm sure that Bob did not express any opinions through you that
would in any way bring criticism from his bosses, let alone
threaten his position.  His answers were, I think, quite
representative of those of a well informed businessman.  Also, I
don't question his sincerity.  My remark was in the spirit of
those made earlier by Arthur Patterson, when he mentioned that
our views are greatly conditioned by our circumstances.  This is
true for everybody--even people with tenure.  Though he may be in
no danger of losing his position, he still has to live with and
get along with his fellow workers.  Your newly raised
qualification that Bob's "outfit's interests don't always
coincide with those of large corporations" of course throws a
different light on his fiduciary obligations.  But he still has

LD>Re the red herring, I think there's no way we're going to be
able, to stop most of the exporting of jobs to places where
hourly wages are lower than ours.

Federal Laws could be enacted.  Similar laws have been enacted
before.  But in this case it would neither be in the interest of
Congress or Big Business to do so.  It isn't a matter of ability,
it is a matter of willingness.

LD>Rather than putting more people to work at McDonald's (who, on
top of it, had lousy, flat, dried up hamburgers back in the days
when I ate them), I would like to see the TRA stepped up, ie
retraining of workers who've lost their jobs to foreign
competition for jobs which are needed here.  As for instance we
seem to have a shortage of Master electricians & plumbers. That's
one I happen to know about. There are others, but I don't have
access anymore to the Dept of Labor's statistics.

Sounds good to me.

LD>In my experience all corporations are in business
to make money, and only become ethical if someone else makes
them... Very rarely do you find a business man who concerns
himself with ethics, when he's concerned with his profit & loss

Well stated, and this is exactly my point.  This is why ethics is
not a subject taught in Business schools.  It is irrelevant to
big business.

LD> Andrew Carnegie comes to mind. He amassed a fortune not too
ethically, & at the end of his life decided to donate a lot of
money to building libraries.  The Rockefeller Foundation has
donated to worthy causes ... there's another one, whose founder
wasn't too bent on running his business on ethics.

What are you suggesting here?

LD> You're barking up the wrong tree by asking whether the
corporations are being ethical. That isn't going to change
corporate thinking & acting one iota.  You need to find a
different handle. Preferably one with a Dollar sign attached to

Of course you are right--corporations are in fact amoral
entities--nor would I ever dream that my addressing a
corporation's ethics would change them.  My "handle" is not
addressing the Corporations at all, but to make people
(corporation's end customers) more aware of business practices.
Things change when the majority of the people are fed up and are
ready to change them.

LD> I'm with you when you talk about that we have the power to
push for changes in the 3rd world countries. I'm all for doing
that.  I used another more personal & smaller power. I told my
African Theosophical correspondent about what I'd read in that
book, after he'd told me there were some American firms starting
up in his country. For whatever it's worth.

Right on! It is what you can do, and you did it.  That is worth a

That brings us back to my bottom line, which you did not quote
from my last post:

JHE>>   If the doctrine of distributive karma is correct, then we
 will have to suffer the consequences of the damage done in other
 countries, whether we are "responsible" for it or not.
 Therefore, theosophically speaking, this country has a moral
 obligation to try to mitigate this situation--not encourage it.

By "this country" I mean the people as well as the government.

LD> You're right, John Algeo's talk was given at a convention,
probably at Lake Geneva, a number of years ago. Of course, John
set up the whole thing.  I can't see that you can draw situations
from & have a free wheeling discussion with an audience of a few
hundred people.

With my training as an educator, I can.  With John Algeo's many
years as a university Professor I think he could too--if he
wanted to.  Also, the audience probably wasn't over 120.

LD>When I went to school a prof with that many in class always

The old time professors still do.  Many of them don't like to
change.  After all they have tenure--they can't be fired--they
can recycle their twenty year old lecture notes without having to
keep up with the changing ideas in their area.  It can be a real
soft job, or a challenging one.  I've known lots of profs like

LD>I think the talk was given before the days when they broke up
meetings such as this into small groups who discussed & then
reported their findings & decisions back to the assembly as a

The talk was given in the mid eighties.  Cooperative education
(breaking into groups and reporting back) started in the
educational system in the early seventies.  My wife and I have
been breaking large audiences into groups since 1980 when we met.
She has been doing it since it began in the early seventies
perhaps earlier--I'll have to check with April).  In 1984 at the
Ojai Theosophical Networking Conference, we broke up an audience
of 150 into small groups to discuss intertheosophical networking.

LD>I thought the 2-choice answers were an imaginative & feasible
middle ground between those 2 ways of presenting material.  I'm
sure that the questions John posed, which are realistic enough to
this day, caused people in the audience to think & discuss among
themselves what they would do under these circumstances.

It is not the realism of the questions that I have a problem
with.  His limiting the responses to two answers just created
anxiety, and as I remember, a lot of protests and grumbling from
the audience.  It was just another version of the old Skinner
approach to behavioral psychology--put a rat in an electrified
box and see how it will react.  It is not a natural situation.
For instance, under natural circumstances, the rat would have the
option of walking away from the situation.  With John's
questions, the audience would have had a wonderful opportunity to
explore the issues behind them if they had not been restricted to
two precalculated answers.  Further, as I recall the talk, the
responses from the audience did not matter anyway, as John had
already written his conclusions.  As I say, the whole thing was

LD> At least I put these situations onto our net because I
thought they'd be interesting to discuss.

I'm glad you did.  I think the questions have value when opened
for free discussion.  I also think that individual experiences
have even more value for this kind of discussion, because we are
able to look more deeply into the underlying circumstances by
asking questions of the person who had the experience.

Jerry H.E.

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