Contrasts: A Senseless Act & A Senseless Act of Courtesy

Over the past month, the Barometer noted two articles that presented a stunning contrast. The first, by Bob Greene, in the October 20-21, 2018 Wall Street Journal. Mr. Greene told a story that unfolded during a Sunday morning walk. An elderly couple pulled up at a medical complex, parking in a lot that had 100 parking spaces. When the couple got out of their car, they realized that they had parked over the white line on one side of their parking space. Rather than take up two spaces, the man got back into the car as his wife directed him on moving the car within both white lines. They then went into the medical building. Mr.Greene rightly observed that no one would have minded if they had not reparked. No one would have been affected or inconvenience by a single car taking up two spaces. Yet, they followed a small rule because they had in their minds the thought that you just don’t do those kind of things. It was a small but inspirational act of doing the right thing — a random act of courtesy.

In the New York Times, there was the story of the death of Professor Kurt Salzinger, a professor and scholar of behavioral psychology at Hofstra University. He was 89, a native of Austria who had fled the Nazis and come to the United States. Having survived the horror of the Nazis, Professor Salzinger was the victim of a random act of physical rudeness. While Professor and Mrs. Salinger were waiting on a subway platform to go to Macy’s Herald Square when hurried straphanger pushed them aside as he hurried to catch the southbound train to Brooklyn. The Salzingers were knocked to the ground, and Professor Salzinger suffered bleeding in his brain from being knocked to the ground. He subsequently died when he contracted pneumonia in the hospital as they struggled to save him. Someone in such a hurry that others’ lives did not matter rudely pushed aside two tender human beings and now one of them is no longer with us. A random act of brutality committed in the name of time pressures. What drives someone to be so unaffected by the lives of others? What has happened to common courtesy? The Barometer need not have graciousness from all, just common courtesy, the kind that would never take human life in the subway rush.

Two different stories with the common thread of courtesy — in one courtesy was inspirationally present, and in the other shockingly absent. One cannot help but wonder in which direction we are headed.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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