Bad broughtupsie

This week, two seemingly disparate stories.

In one, a young boy brings down the once-great Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

In the second, a couple screaming at each other in a fast food restaurant make national news.

The first story is about a single individual who speaks up about a harm that’s been done him. A great harm. With hours, the story is famous. In fact, the unraveling brings in seven other young boys who basically tell the same story as the first. Further unraveling leads to the top and topple of the Penn State football empire.

The second story is about a Burger King patron who becomes so enthralled with what appears to be the demise of a relationship that he turns on his phone camera. He video records the transaction and posts it to the Internet, saying “I am listening to a marriage disintegrate at a table next to me in this restaurant. Aaron Sorkin couldn’t write this any better.”

Both stories are about tremendously bad and selfish decisions. In the first story, a head coach and his henchmen refuse to report the rape (by one of their own) of a young boy in 2002. And perhaps other rapes of young boys as well.

In the second story, the decision was TO publish another very personal affair, albeit a loud one that must have affected the entire restaurant.

This decision affected not everyone in the restaurant, but did seriously affect the couple and their families. And may even have caused the demise of a marriage.

Both decisions, both stories, are about people who had something at stake that they wanted to preserve. For Joe Paterno, it was his empire. For the videographer, Andy Boyle, it was a random piece of entertainment. 15 minutes of fame.

Both decisions were at incredible expense to other people.

It has been said that the strength of a civilization is in how it treats its weakest (or poorest, or more vulnerable). The thought has been attributed to Gandhi, Pearl Buck, and Pope John Paul II.

If that’s the case, we’re not doing very well as a global civilization.

Not self-preservation, but self-aggrandizement, is the culprit here. Of course we can blame any media, including the dastardly ABC news (who aired the Burger King story) for participating in the second story. Turns out Andy Boyle is also in media, the web developer for the Boston Globe. Should have known better.

For all of our new-fangled communications tools, we’re not really communicating. We’re each more an island than ever. Each making decisions that at any moment can ruin other people’s lives.

Where have ethics gone? Moral judgment?

Jamaicans call this flaw “bad broughtupsie.” Amen, and how. But where and when will good broughtupsie become the norm?

Worse, people are still debating whether Joe Paterno should have been banned from “his” 410th game.

More reading:

Four questions for starters, New Yorker
Something disintegrates at a Burger King, NPR
Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story, Penn State review


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