I remember hearing fellow employees say, “Well, I am not going to do it; it’s not part of my job description.” As though everything we do in a job is part of a job description. In fact, for nearly twenty years, if my immediate boss wanted me to get him a cup of coffee, I did it. Upon reflection, when he wanted me to pick him up at the airport, I did it. When he wanted me to pick up his Gin, I did it. I could go on and on. The point of this month’s short article is the guiding Masonic principles of ethical behavior, like “Honor and Duty are the pole-stars of a Mason” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 96), which often stands in stark contrast to Postmodern ethical thinking.
Yet, it was not until I became a Freemason did I truly understand the words of my father, “If It’s Not Illegal, Unethical or Immoral just do it!” In other words, if a person, a company or even the Government is paying you a salary, which is nothing but buying your time, simply do your job without complaint. Pike confirmed such thinking when he wrote:
Duty is the moral magnetism which controls and guides the true Mason’s course over the tumultuous seas of life. Whether the stars of honour, reputation, and reward do or do not shine, in the light of day or in the darkness of the night of trouble and adversity, in calm or storm, that unerring magnet still shows him the true course to steer, and indicates with certainty where-away lies the port which not to reach involves shipwreck and dishonour. He follows its silent bidding, as the mariner, when land is for many days not in sight, and the ocean without path or landmark spreads out all around him, follows the bidding of the needle, never doubting that it points truly to the north. To perform that duty, whether the performance be rewarded or unrewarded, is his sole care. And it doth not matter, though of this performance there may be no witnesses, and though what he does will be forever unknown to all mankind (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 123.).
Indeed, there may be times when remaining silent is not an option; the most obvious being something maybe illegal. In the case of an illegality, the Mason is of course not required to do the task requested of him. Nevertheless, the legality of certain behaviors is constantly changing, especially in our society today. That is why it is important to stay on top of law and rule changes that apply to one’s life. I am reminded that my mother was first married when she was 14 years old – and yes it was legal in those days. Moreover, when I was young, the age of consent was 16 years of age; but today, the age of consent is 18. You see, laws are constantly changing.
Yet, even after reviewing the legality of an action or behavior, one still must address the ethics involved in such a behavior. Now, in the Postmodern world, the word ethics has a different meaning than in the Masonic world. I remember a discussion I had with a very intelligent individual. I told her that our ethical behavior was based on western religious values. This lady, who was proud of her intellect, immediately countered with the Postmodern diatribe that one can be a good and ethical person without religious values – that religion was in no way associated with ethical behavior. In short, she drank the cool-aid she had been fed by her Postmodern college education. I simply asked her if she ever looked up the root meaning of ethics; she of course said no. We immediately went to a computer and discovered the following:
The Encyclopaedia Britannica explains that every society has an origin story with an accompanying code of ethics. One well-known example is that of Moses being presented with the Ten Commandments. For many in Western culture, these commandments have shaped their government and system of law. What separates the civilized from the uncivilized in history is system and code to live by. Few would consider cavemen lifestyle as an outline for how to construct a system of government, but looking to Plato’s Republic, written in 380 B.C., is reasonable.
The modern world has a much more complicated look at ethics than older societies. This complexity can be understood by our expanded understanding of the natural world. Pëtr Kroptkin, a Russian philosopher, tried to look at and assess human behavior apart from ethics. If humans were to act without concern for ethics, we would act solely to serve ourselves. With ethics, modern society can operate in cooperative manner, allowing those with more resources to assist those without. While the origin of ethics remains unclear, it is well agree that without it, humanity would work in a vastly different manner.
You see, whether an individual is religious or not, many of our social and ethical norms are governed by and are based on our western religious values, “The word ‘ethics’ is ‘commonly used interchangeably with ‘morality,’ and sometimes it is used more narrowly to mean the moral principles of a particular tradition, group, or individual.'” Yes, much of it is Christian, but let me educate the reader about something not seldom mentioned – Christianity grew out of Judaism; as well, it quickly adapted to social changes that took place after the death of Christ. And Christ himself simply taught ideas that originated from Egypt and the east, under other religious systems. Interestingly, most of the ancient world, which is the foundation of our ethical behavior today, was itself based on some type of religious belief. Therefore, the foundation of our ethical behavior today has its origins based on religious values and behavior. So much for the Postmodern notion that ethical behavior has nothing to do with our religious past.
And lastly, the issue of immoral behavior. This too is closely aligned with ethics; although, it is more closely aligned with religion. In truth, our moral behavior is synonymous with our religious past and is a guiding us, even today:
Morality (from the Latin moralitas “manner, character, proper behavior”) is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper. Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion, or culture, or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal. Morality may also be specifically synonymous with “goodness” or “rightness.”… An example of normative ethical philosophy is the Golden Rule, which states that: “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.”
I know it sounds petty, and for some people getting a cup of coffee for a boss is considered demeaning. I will attempt to stay away of the gender angle; especially since most of Freemasonry is male in this country. My boss was a male and I was a male, and I did not find it demeaning in the least. I looked upon it based on what my father told me when I was young, “If it’s not Illegal, Unethical or Immoral just do it.” In fact, it is not uncommon for myself or one of my fellow Brothers to volunteer to serve either coffee, orange juice, or even wine when we refill our cup. In fact, the Grand Commander of Knights Templar in the state of California can be seen in our kitchen either making food or serving his food in our dinning room. You see, humility of a Masonic virtue.
Here is a short quote, which clearly defines the simple act of getting a boss a cup of coffee is not an illegal act:
After working for a few weeks, her (male) bosses asked her to get their coffee for them. She declined, and her manager e-mailed her, saying: “This is not open for debate. Please don’t make an easy task a big deal.” Klopfenstein felt that getting coffee “reinforced outdated gender stereotypes,” so the next day, when she was asked to get coffee again, she sent an e-mail that read: “I don’t expect to serve and wait on you by making and serving you coffee every day.” Nine minutes later, she was fired. Klopfenstein promptly sued the company for sexual discrimination and sexual harassment. The judge ruled: “The act of getting coffee is not, by itself, a gender-specific act,” and dismissed the case. But Klopfenstein’s attorneys argue that “Some tasks are inherently more offensive to women.”
Therefore, get over your Postmodern thinking and start acting like a Freemason; it is always better to give (serve) than receive (be served)!
So Mote It Be!