The setting is of a true story of a group of hikers on the Himalayas who came across a Sadhu, or a holy man on their way up. The group comprised Japanese, Swiss, New Zealanders, some porters and Sherpas who were very goal-oriented about their climb. They all come across the Sadhu, who was severely hypothermic and very close to death. All the group members were at different stages of their ascent and had the moral obligation of helping the Sadhu. They all did their little bit as far as it was convenient for them, but did not go the extra mile to help him even if they could. Stephen, an anthropologist and the protagonist Bowen McCoy’s guide, presents a moral question in front of him about saving the Sadhu and compares the situation with the corporate ethic and how it differs with an individual’s sense of ethic. The options available to the group were to either help the Sadhu completely and ensure that he lives under their care; or they could have moved on with their climb without paying any heed to him; or they could have partially helped him and left him with the villagers nearby who will choose to tend to his needs, or not.
After careful evaluation, I have arrived at the conclusion that the Sadhu will be affected (50%) because it is his life at stake; the protagonist (10%); the New Zealanders (10%); the Swiss (10%); the Japanese (10%) and the Sherpas group (10%), because they have an equal level of responsibility as far as saving the Sadhu was concerned. It is Sadhu’s life which will be lost due to indifference of the other people, and the other’s will either have been left behind in their climb and may have potentially lost their lives had they chosen to help him, or they would’ve made it on time as per plan, which is what actually happened.
If the Sadhu was helped completely irrespective of which point of the climb they all were on, it would have affected everyone in the group. In McCoy’s case study, there was no clear leader of the group. Thus, everyone did what they felt best and was convenient, without having to be accountable for their actions. Also, since they all were travelling independently, labeling them as a group would be a bit unfair since they all had different objectives, resources and experiences. They cannot be tagged as a single corporate group having a single objective, and hence, collectively decided to ditch the Sadhu. McCoy also thought that without the help of a group, an individual is lost. The same applies to the Sadhu who was in a predicament because of travelling alone. The other people who he did come across were not strong enough to help him because of the difficult terrain and nature of the hike. Had there been one group, tied by similar values and even opposing stances to the next point of action, they would have been able to put their heads together and arrived at a solution to both Sadhu’s problem, and their ethical dilemma.
When looking at the situation from a consequentialist point of view, that is what the group decided to go for. They wanted to reach the end result as quickly as they could, and therefore decided to do only a little for the Sadhu, and leave the rest to each other. No one blamed another for their action, except Stephen, and everyone was able to reach their goal. There was only problem, and that was McCoy feeling guilty about the whole episode in the end. So the consequentialist approach did not work quite completely.
The deontological aspect was followed more closely by everyone in this expedition. They all had varying notions of the degree of their responsibility. Each one thought that whatever little they did was best for the Sadhu and themselves. Shifting responsibility to the next person would have distributed the burden equally and not one person would have had to suffer alone. Also, no one forced another person to do more than they could because each one felt that they had no authority over other, and that overstepping this limit of authority would have resulted in a conflict. Thus, no one was obligated by another person, but by their moral values, irrespective what its extent was for each individual. Learning from this, I would say I would prioritize my duties based on my own moral values as long as it does not affect someone else in my group since they are my responsibility too. Only if the group does not suffer as a whole, can moral obligations be fulfilled at the fullest.
Virtue ethics play upon the kind of individual each one wants to be. There are principles of compassion into play when everyone should have helped the Sadhu, or goal-seeking, wherein everyone did their bit and moved on. My value of helping another person is being challenged, whereas the norm of looking out for myself first in a time of hardship is being compromised should I choose to help the Sadhu. If I were to go help the Sadhu by listening to Stephen, I would have potentially put my life in jeopardy, and if not, I would have challenged the basic value of helping others that we are taught since childhood. (Bredeson 2012)
Had I been in the situation, I would have chosen to help the Sadhu completely until I was sure he was going to live. This was simply due to the principle of being compassionate and helping another human being without the fear of feeling guilty later on, or being the victim next time. I would have done everything in my power to help the Sadhu because doing otherwise, would have been based on an inkling that things could go wrong. Not helping him would have killed the Sadhu for sure. Stephen made sense in what he said, and could not be ignored due to an impending feeling of guilt, which would have come any way later on for not helping another human being. (Jennings, 2012)
I intend to take responsibility for my action and decision, and the same has been done by the protagonist by writing this article and putting the guilt out out in the open. He even continued to argue with Stephen about how whatever little everyone did was enough, when the truth is that his conscience did not let him move on. Thus, it is important to face up to the task and situation, and calling a spade a spade. Also, the group should have listened to Stephen’s point of view in helping the Sadhu, including the protagonist. Maybe then, the feeling of guilt would not have prevailed. Thus, I have learned that listening to feedback is important. We tend to overlook these clichés in a sticky spot, but truth is that the repercussions will come back haunting our conscience maybe even years later. (Trevino & Nelson 2011)
Bredeson, Dean. Applied business ethics. Mason, Ohio: South-Western/Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.
Jennings, Marianne. Business ethics: case studies and selected readings. 7th ed. Australia: South-Western, Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.
Treviño, Linda Klebe, and Katherine A. Nelson. Managing business ethics: straight talk about how to do it right. 5th ed. New York: John Wiley, 2011. Print.