Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Uncovering the More

Originally posted on May 15, 2013

In the last half century humanity as extended itself tenfold (at least) in many directions: We now know there are many galaxies orders of magnitude in numbers and distance beyond what we knew before (thanks to Hubble-like telescopes); and realms of atomic interactions more subtle and complex than we knew before, with theories involving orders of magnitude smaller and more unknowable. Serious scientists are seriously considering dimensions of existence beyond our own, though they stop short of considering that these dimensions might have any qualities of mind associated with them—alas. Biology has vastly expanded, realizing that only a small fraction of all the germs are able to be cultivated on petri dishes or the like—that there are ten times more kinds of viruses and bacteria and who-knows what. Similar expansions in subtlety and fine differentiations are unfolding in so many fields. Nor is there any sign that we have reached the peak much less the end of discovery—more like Columbus’ time of new worlds that we didn’t even know existed!

What if the same process lies in wait, has already begun, regarding social psychology and economics, the practice of not just technology, but the way we work with people, use their gifts, help them to feel aligned with the mission? Of course, do we ever question the ethics of the mission? Is it taboo to ask the question, just because a market can be generated for a service or a product, should it be? Are some businesses ethically more noble than others? (Might it be so that in the name of unity many ministers minimize the implicit tensions in their churches that would lead of course to schism? Might it be so that daring to highlight the ethical virtues of one side may be more important than avoiding the conflict in the name of unity? Is that not like pretending that a minister or priest who molests a parishoner should be shielded, transferred? Is “we take care of our own” sometimes an unethical position?) Such considerations point out the underlying resistance to daring to investigate the psychosocial realities that underlie our institutions, our extended and nuclear families, ourselves!

But no one said that there are no obstacles to uncovering the more. It’s just that human obstacles can be more touchy, problematic in certain ways, than technical obstacles. We wouldn’t want to ruffle feathers, now, would we?

But this whole enterprise of Russ Williams, this promotion of ethics, does have an underlying negative edge. Could it be (not that we would dare point fingers!) that some enterprises are intrinsically less ethical in the wider scheme of things than other enterprises. I’m not talking about intra-business shenanigans. I’m daring to suggest that some businesses create and cater to addictive processes and that no one speaks up about this. Other businesses do a lot of exploitation and some good and want to get credit for the good and the bad must be ignored. Can this be even talked about?

The problem is that when academics talk about it they tend to over-generalize, or hide their notions within a heap of jargon. Many seem anti-business, lumping the most flagrantly oppressive with the most culturally constructive. So I am wary of the critical thinking and discrimination capacities of people judged to be able to know better. Some, maybe, but not based on their role, certainly.

What about working at the level of the organization itself. Is there an unconscious conspiracy to avoid the issue. Like some families avoid Aunt Margie’s alcoholism for decades? Excuses are made. It’s not so bad. This kind of thing has come to be well known in community psychiatry and addictions treatment circles: family “enabling.” These are good people, so why make trouble? Well, somebody has to giggle and maybe even just whisper loudly to his mama, “The Emperor is NAKED!”

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