Drooling on the Pillow

Monday, August 15, 2005

Ethics For Idiots 

I rarely pass up a chance to take a shot at Randy Cohen, the house Ethicist for the New York Times. We're to understand that ethics have changed; they're in transition, so guidance is needed in the form of an old fashioned manners or advice column. And who better to be our cicerone in the tangled weeds of the new ethics than the New York Times?

To be fair, Mr. Cohen often dispenses sensible advice with only slightly cloying humor. Yesterday, for instance, his first two posers are dealt with in a way any normal person would approve. Then, however, as is his wont, he goes seriously off the rails.

While visiting my girlfriend's grandmother, I discovered
her neighbor's unsavory habit of trapping squirrels --
they eat the fruit on his trees -- and drowning them in a
bucket. Ordinarily I'd call the A.S.P.C.A., but this man is
kind and helpful to the grandmother, and I fear
jeopardizing that. Plus, the family is uneasy about our
relationship, and I don't want them to resent me even
more. What's a girl to do?

Anonymous, New York

A girl is to phone the A.S.P.C.A. using a saucy French
accent. That is, report this to the proper authorities

(Is there some kind of squirrel hot line?) You can thus
serve both admirable goals -- preventing cruelty to
animals and preserving amity between the
grandmother and her neighbor.

Okay. This guy is dealing with varmints on his own property in his own way. Let's put aside the fact that in many precincts, getting animal control sicced on you means hefty fines and possible jail time. What it also means is that the guy will have to either call in a professional, who will either poison or shoot the squirrels, or he will have to suffer the continued depredation of his property. Either eventuality, is, presumably, okey-doke with Randy.

But the main thing is, his correspondent will be ethically in the clear by dropping the dime anonymously. That way, see, the neighbor will not connect his problem with the grandmother or the granddaughter or the granddaughter's girlfriend. Everybody's happy. Except the neighbor and he's mean to squirrels so who cares what he thinks?
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