“Remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”
– George Costanza
Today’s sports headlines have led me to consider Alex Rodriguez as my latest candidate to be the poster child for the practice of Situational Ethics.
Now in case you don’t know who Alex Rodriguez is, he’s been the New York Yankees starting third baseman since 2004. The Yankees thought enough of his talents at playing the hot corner to sign him to a contract in 2007 which will pay him a total of $275 million for his services through 2017.
Alex, aka ARod, is also a baseball player who for years vehemently denied using PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) only to recant and confess in 2009 that, in fact, he’d been lying about his drug use and had “experimented” with PEDs back in 2001 through 2003, but only because he was under such tremendous pressure to perform. Subsequent to his contrite mea culpa, the presumption was that Alex had clearly seen the error of his chemically augmented ways and that he has been performing as an “unenhanced ” athlete since that time.
At least that’s what we were supposed to have believed.
Fast forward to Monday, August 5, 2013. Based on an extensive investigation and what can only be assumed to be overwhelming evidence, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced that Alex Rodriguez was being suspended from baseball through the end of the 2014 season; a total of 211 games. His offense? The continued use of PEDs and his attempts to mislead representatives of major league baseball who were conducting the investigation. As a footnote, twelve other current MLB players were suspended for inappropriate drug use at the same time.
Enough about Alex. What really concerns me is our society’s continued and growing acceptance of what I refer to as Situational Ethics. I think that it’s safe to list Rodriguez as a practitioner of this particular philosophy.
I subscribe to the simplistic belief that ethics can be defined as doing what is right, even when no one is looking. I believe that rules are necessary and that in most cases they are based on well-established behavioral norms which society has put into place as a means to clearly define the difference between behaviors which are acceptable (right ) as compared to those which are unacceptable (wrong).
On the other hand, Situational Ethics assumes that the situation in which a person finds himself, rather than the behavior itself, is the ultimate determining factor as to whether or not a particular behavior is ethical.
I’ve always believed that cheating in any form and in any situation or context is wrong; whether it’s done while taking a test, playing a game, or in any other activity where one can manipulate the rules or circumstances to improve one’s advantage.
Using the behavior of cheating as an example, Situational Ethics, enables one to engage in the following type of rationalization:
“In general, cheating is an inappropriate behavior, unless (fill in the blank with a situation
or circumstance in which you believe the desired outcome justifies engaging in the behavior) .“
It’s interesting to note that this line of thinking is often reinforced with the addition of a quick, “Besides! Everybody does it! ”
Alex Rodriguez, my designated poster child, has already given us a hint as to what verbiage he’s used to fill in his personal blank – the tremendous pressure he felt to perform.
I suspect that there may well have been at least 275 million other enticements which were vying for room in his blank space as well.