Am I Right?

How to live ethically

Lessons from 9/11

No one has a monopoly on the truth


There are lessons to be learned from 9/11, lessons that go deep into the heart of who we are. Here are those that I think are the most important:

We are beings that need others for our very survival. We must live in a world with other people, even those different from ourselves. What happens anywhere is felt everywhere.

While boundaries still exist, there is now a world community in a new and profound way. Everyone is everyone else's neighbor.

While many are deeply affected by the recession, we are still privileged. The average standard of living was unimaginable just a few generations ago. However, this wealth is unevenly distributed. While individual efforts count, much of what we have has been inherited from the efforts of others. Where and when we were born matter a great deal in the lottery of distribution.

We are privileged and privilege brings with it obligations. Those who have much are morally required to pay attention to those who have little. Social justice is an ethical imperative. How wealth is acquired and how it is distributed is a central moral and religious concern for both individuals and society.

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We don't need to love our neighbors as much as respect them by giving them their due.
No one has a monopoly on the truth. Only fanatics believe that they have the whole truth and nothing but the truth. While not all fanatics are terrorists, all terrorists are fanatics.

Arrogance is the enemy of social harmony. Humility is required for people to get along. Taking another's perspective is essential for personal growth and social development.

Life is fragile and for that all the more precious. But we are also resilient. Jenna Jacobs' husband was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center; daughter was born soon after 9/11. Jacobs said "Sometimes I get the impression that people think we are the sum total of our loss. But that's not true. Above all, we are mothers."

I would add, above all, we are all human.

 

Arthur Dobrin, D.S.W., teaches applied ethics at Hofstra University. He is the author, coauthor, and editor of more than twenty books.

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