Sunday, April 04, 2010

Three Cups of Freshly Squeezed Ethical Juice

I posted the following item on my ethics class's forum. I'd thought I'd re-post here as well:

1) Smedley Butler, AKA "Old Gimlet Eye" (You just can't make this stuff up):
War Is a Racket (By Smedley Butler)
  • "[T]he title of two works, a speech [1930] and a booklet [1935]... in which Butler frankly discusses from his experience as a career military officer how business interests have commercially benefited from warfare."
  • "War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."
  • "I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."
2) Narco Cinema

Want to disappear down a rabbits' hole of cultural and ethical surrealism? Then this be for you:
3) Zimbardo & the Prison Hoopla

I might not remember a lot from Social Psychology a decade and a half ago, but at least three things have stuck with me: marshmallows (Mischel), shocks (Milgram), and... prison insanity (Zimbardo).

Zimbardo's experiment shows that the power differential between those playing the roles of officers and inmates led quickly to social problems. In fact, the experiment was called off after just 6 days because the "experiment quickly grew out of hand. Prisoners suffered — and accepted — sadistic and humiliating treatment from the guards. The high level of stress progressively led them from rebellion to inhibition. By the experiment's end, many showed severe emotional disturbances" (

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