Question 1: How responsible is the media for cynical attitudes?
In today’s society, words can spread like wildfire, especially when it comes to “hot news”. Think about how many news channels, magazines, websites, social networks, and people you know of. That why it is so easy for news to get around.
In “Managing Business Ethics”, Trevino and Nelson mention a survey conducted by the Media Research Center. “The Media Research Center conducted a survey of 863 network TV sitcoms, dramas, and movies in the mid-1990s. Nearly 30% of the criminal characters in this programs were business owners or corporate executives” (10). As I was reading this statement, I couldn’t help but think of the “Greed is Good” speech from Wall Street as well as the storyline of a recent movie release, “The Promised Land”. In the “Greed is Good” speech, Gordon Gekko portrays a powerful (and greedy) business man, which could definitely influence what viewers think of corporate executives after leaving the theater. I also wanted to bring up “The Promised Land” in this blog post as this film brought environmental ethics into play. While a “big business” was still involved, trying to buy up a typical small town in Pennsylvania, viewers of this film were exposed to the negative impacts of fracking throughout this film by characters who would not sign a contract with the company. Characters talked about what happened to their towns after fracking had been permitted, and I even saw pictures of worse-off farm land and dead cows. I highly doubt people walked out of the theater thinking fracking was totally harmless. Fracking is currently a very controversial discussion, and it will so for years to come. This movie gave powerful insight to the damage fracking (and the businesses in charge of it) have on land throughout the United States.
Jerry Sandusky is a man who has now become a common example for “unethical behavior” after taking advantage of younger children during his coaching career at Penn State. His case also demonstrated how inaction is often as powerful as action; many officials and bystanders were charged with perjury for covering Sandusky or not reporting his behavior to higher authorities. I figured the name “Sandusky” might ring a bell for most people reading this. The Sandusky case is one that just about anyone I talked to this summer seemed to know about. It came up at lunches at work, with friends at the mall, or even in short car rides if something was broadcasted on the radio. Why is that? The power of media. Just about every detail, update, finding, witness, new statement, and interview was presented to the public through magazines, news reports, websites, and even my Facebook newsfeed. Facebook, a supposed “social” network, actually turned out to be a source of information and a forum for debate. Over the summer, I would log on and see paragraph-long statuses with opinions on the case. After seeing so much coverage on this case, I cannot deny that my view of Sandusky was significantly tainted. The Sandusky case has demonstrated that no unethical behavior will fall to the wayside forever. Secrets find their ways of surfacing, and reputations fall.
Question 2: Why is the sociological imagination important?
“You shouldn’t care what people think.” We’ve all heard this line, and have probably even had it said to our faces. Let me tell you: this is terrible advice. The sociological imagination is incredibly important. You should absolutely care what people think of you; how many people like to have bad things said about them? Not many. The world does not revolve around you. It is important to realize the impact of those words, choices, actions, and inactions. It is a lot harder to build up one’s reputation than it is to ruin it. Make one “bad” decision and it might be remembered forever.
If everyone were to properly utilize his or her sociological imagination, I would like to believe this world would run more smoothly. Our society would be made up of more thoughtful, analytical, caring people and much of the drama in our lives would not exist. Had Clinton utilized his sociological imagination during his presidential term, his life would probably have been a whole lot easier. By having his affair with Monica Lewinsky, not only did he impact his relationship and trust with his wife and family, but he also lost the trust of thousands of Americans as well. This affair tainted citizens’ images of him as a person and as a leader from that point on.
Question 3: Is it worth it to sacrifice ethics for achievement?
While it may be tempting in the short term, watch out. As the saying goes, “Karma’s a b*tch.” After doing a bit of brainstorming, I feel like I have a case here. “[…] our society, with its emphasis on money and material success, is rearing young people who strive for achievement at any cost” (Trevino and Nelson 10). Let’s take the case of a young adult named Sam Eshaghoff. I remember watching his interview on 60 Minutes and feeling shocked that he was able to get away with his scheme and “business” as long as he did. Within a few short years, Eshaghoff took the SAT and ACT approximately 20 times, with a score usually between 2170 and 2220, for clients willing to pay $2,500 and was able to keep things under the radar. However, all good things come to an end, including his seemingly easy-to-maintain business. He used to have a bright and clear future including an undergraduate degree from Emory and many potential career paths. Now he is dealing with an arrest and negative media exposure. So, was all of the money really worth it? It sure does not seem like it to me.
Outsourcing is another ethical issue that is pretty hard to avoid; at the moment, I am wearing a t-shirt made in Mexico and neon running shoes made in China working with a computer and pen which were both probably made overseas as well. Hundreds of companies abuse the opportunity to obtain cheap labor costs and outsource the manufacturing of their products. These wealthy corporations pay their workers pathetic wages and force them to work in unhealthy conditions. Workers are forced to work in dirty environments for long hours at a time and are often mistreated by their superiors. As many of you have probably noticed, companies that outsource their manufacturing often still perform well financially but are negatively talked about in society. Some people have picked up on this reaction to outsourcing. Since their discoveries, they have ensured manufacturing will only occur in the United States not only to provide jobs to Americans but also for advertising purposes in hopes of swaying consumers to purchase their goods. Companies that are known for manufacturing their goods in America include Volkswagen, American Apparel, and LL Bean.
To finish my answer to this question, there are ways to be successful without having to sacrifice something as important as ethics. As Mills mentions in “The Sociological Imagination”, “They do not seem to know that the use of this imagination is central to the best work that they might do.” Be creative. Think outside the box. Be aware of who is affected. Know your impact. If you put in the time to exhaust all ideas and options, usually there is a good and fair path to take.