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Day 192 — The Ethics of Survival

The Ethical CavewomanIf the federal government could do for the unemployed what GEICO has done for cavemen, we’d all feel a hair more civilized.

GEICO has changed the public’s perception of cavemen. They’re not stupid but hairy urban bachelors with enough brains to use the Internet.

I would love for the feds to change the perception of my net worth and credit score. After all, there’s billions of unspent bailout money to employ me, pay my mortgage and maybe give me a bonus night out at the Days Inn. Hey, I’m not asking for a stay at the Mandarin.

Of course, I can imagine that happening as much as seeing Raquel Welch reprise her fur-bikini role as Loana in One Million Years B.C. Taglines: “Travel back through time and space to the edge of man’s toxic mortgages…discover a savage Wall Street whose only law was greed!” and “This is the way it is.”

If cavemen exist in today’s society, as GEICO claims, it makes me wonder how they did it. Did they become unethical and pilfer rocks, food, and water from one another so they could stay warm and eat? Isn’t that called survival?

In today’s society, if you lie on your resume or income statement to get food stamps or take advantage of some other kind of government assistance, that’s called unethical behavior, or in the eyes of the law—fraud.

To me, that raises the question: When does unethical behavior becomes survival behavior?

Through writing Girl on the Brink, I met an ethics expert. (Fate has a strange way of introducing me to people when guilty feelings about how I’m surviving this economic downturn overwhelm me.)

I learned that moral principles stem from neither philosophy nor religion. They are inferred from life like grammar and logic are inferred from language and discourse. Similarly, they also function as conditions for making sense of things.

He says, “Morality is the grammar of life. Some will never learn it; others will choose to ignore it, when convenient. But ever at a cost, and the cost, ultimately, is the inability to make sense of the life we are living.”

How enlightening.

Cavemen survived with at least four basic skills. They could build a fire and find water, shelter and food. (Raquel also had a razor or a very sharp stone.)

Modern man must also possess these skills to survive. But we have more choices that pressure us to do bad things. When primitive cro-magnons roamed the Earth, I think they lived with less temptation.

If they didn’t, would there have been a Ken Lewis of the savanna? Ken, for those of you who have stopped reading the financial pages, is Bank of America’s outgoing boss who will pocket a pension of $53 million in December.

I believe that cavemen had a simpler, more moral life. No toxic mortgages. Just more rocks you could shake a stick at, and there were plenty of those, too.

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