War on Drugs? Nov 24.

In June of this year one blog made this summary “Forty years and $1 trillion later, America’s “War on Drugs” remains a costly, colossal failure – as evidenced by a new report released this week by the Global Commission on Drug Policy.”

Click here to join the debate at 4pm UK time, Thurs Nov 24

One Thinking Tanker has commented

“The war on drugs not only is a total failure, it makes the problem much worse.
It creates much more and much bigger problems than it is trying to resolve, because it starts form a totally wrong premise: for purely ideological reasons, it totally irrationally defines a difficult medical problem as a criminal one.”

Click here to join the debate at 4pm UK time, Thurs Nov 24

Start the debate now by tweeting with #thinkingtank

Stimulus

  • Yesterday’s article in the NY Times ““It could lead to a nationalist backlash in the countries involved,””
  • Huffington Post: Is legalisation the answer?
  • RSA Drugs – is it always abuse?

Click here to join the debate at 4pm UK time, Thurs Nov 17

Future Thinking Tank Discussions

(always Thursdays, always 4pm UK  / 5pm Euro / 11am US East Coast…). Topics may change if there is a more pressing issue at the time. Please feel free to make suggestions by adding a comment below

  • 22 Dec (Winter Solstice): Rituals and their role in modern society. As you prepare for Christmas, Hannukah, recover from Eid or plan your own rites, we take a break to reflect on why rituals are so important to us and how they might help even a post-modernist society.
  • New Year (Jan 26). Stopping and Starting. What will you leave behind with 2011, what will you work on in 2012?
  • Feb 23: The F-word. Over a century after New Zealand gave all women the right to vote and nearly 50 years after the US Equal Pay Act the situation is still far from balanced. 70% of the world’s poor are women and girls and the gender pay gap still exists. Where do we go from here?

Results: why we are not as ethical as we think

One of the first things I noticed about today’s debate was the poll results. At the beginning each participant rated themselves on a scale of 1-5 how ethical they are. The weighted average was 4.4. At the end of the discussion we took the same poll and scored ourselves as 3.7. As a main premise of Bazerman and Tenbrunsel’s recent book “Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It” is the tendency to turn a blind eye to our own failures to be ethical (like the mice on the right), it seems that the Thinking Tank helped to raise consciousness. It’s a good start.

And some of the well supported statements in our last 5 minutes was a good finish:

  • when I tell my wife what I was doing all this time on my pc I shall answer, I was working on how to make the world a little better
  • Thank you very much- I think we learned quite a lot due to our anonymous discussion…….

What we need to be ethical

We generally agreed that ethics were necessary and standards should be met. But how? The 2 strongest statements in the debate were both about what support we need to be ethical:

  • a clear set of values
  • having the guts to risk being unpopular / sacked, having a greater purpose

We also agreed (like Barry Schwartz on TED) that actions speak louder than words:

  • it is not about the word but more about the behaviour
  • Yes, bringing ethics into everyday life and conversation is a great idea. It cannot be left in theory-land
  • ethics is not just a philosophical concept, it is a day to day issue to discuss and bring to life
  • It is not sustainable for us to all behave selfishly (often the opposite to ethically). In the end we all suffer

And the actions that the group supported most strongly are:

  • I will live and act more closely to my set of values
  • I must be on the alert watching the public discussion on ethics, including the role of the churches and our politicians, discussing these items with my family and children
  • speak up if I notice unethical behaviour

The ethical problem

We also had a frank discussion about the challenges of ethical behaviour. Although as a group we found it easier to criticise others (child abusers, politicians, high profile business fraudsters) than analyse our own shortfalls, there were some personal admissions:

  • So easy to lose touch with reality and believe in your own version of the universe
  • The same thing happens with discounters when they mistreat their employees but you go there shopping almost every day

The most common feelings from behaviour falling short of our own ethical standards is guilt

  • Feel like I let myself and others down. That I was not enough.
  • Feel like I just learnt something and will avoid that mistake next time
  • Turning a blind eye is easy in the short term than hard to live with in the long term. I feel like a coward

If this is an issue that interests you and you would like to see a complete list of the 100 statements put forward and evaluated, contact me cmshovlin@gmail.com. Join us next month? Thurs June 16th, 4-4.45pm UK time. All welcome.

Try this May 31 at 1pm UK time: RSA talk on Jonathan Wolff on #ethics and public life.

Next Thinking Tank 19.05.2011 “We’re not as ethical as we think”

This is the challenge thrown down by Max H. Bazerman, a professor at Harvard Business School, and Ann E. Tenbrunsel, a professor of business ethics at the University of Notre Dame. Their new book examines the reality gap between how “good” we like to think we are and what we do in practice. Uncomfortable stuff.

The main causes they identify include biases and prejudices, turning a blind eye and self interest. In our discussion we will attempt to look at our own blind spots and consider what we – and society – can do to address this issue.

Join us for this online debate where we dare to examine our deepest motives. 45 minute live event on Thursday 19 May. Starts 4pm UK time, 5pm CET

See here for information about their book: Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It

Join the discussion here. As promoted on RSA USA website

Thinking Tank on Crime and Punishment 17.02.2011

In this debate we took a broad look at the challenging area of crime and punishment. Considering reports of high correlations of those in prison and those with dyslexia, communications disorders, child abuse, sexual abuse etc, maybe it is time we reflected on how to address crime in a more integrated way – and we saw more empathy for criminals than the popular press might suggest.

For the first time we ran the discussion at two time slots – afternoon and evening (GMT) to see which worked best. Turn up at the evening slot was very low but we will try it again in the March 17 debate in case that is just a one-off. All the results below are based on the combined debates. All comments are verbatim and got support from at least a third of the group, those in bold had majority support.

Tough on crime and the causes of crime?

The overall attitude towards crime was split with about half the group on the “hang them” side of the spectrum and half on the “heal them” side. There were diverse views about the underlying causes of crime because of this diverse group of participants, but we did agree on:

  • lack of community
  • sadly enough it is often related to social factors, education, family life, role modelling.. moral values

The view that “there are really bad people out there” split the vote, but there was general agreement that putting all crime in one basket from shop lifting to murder was unhelpful. The Thinking Tank did not feel that it was reasonable to manage these through the same system.

  • I am more relaxed about petty crime.. the stolen PC etc is annoyance, but no infringement in my family’s physical safety
  • Though crime is always crime I think a clear classification of crime is needed. Also perhaps for really petty crime a better way of dealing with it.
  • eg just focus on violent crime / criminals

Criminals

There was a lot of debate about the possibility of pretty much anybody losing their path and becoming a criminal of some sort. Many did not see criminals as a different species. But there was not enough convergence on this view to generate strongly supported statements other than:

  • Criminals come in all ages, ethnic backgrounds, etc.
  • I’ve done massage for women prisoners. Very moving (and disturbing) that they are so unused to kindness

There was much more agreement on the positive aspects of criminals, particularly if they are reformed and prepared to communicate about their journeys:

  • There are some reformed criminals who make excellent mentors for younger people. They understand how it goes, on the right wavelength, high credibility and a strong message
  • indeed my son has been given info from an ex drug addict criminal and this has helped him
  • My decorator was an armed bank robber… now he works in the local community centre and tries to discourage young people from making the same choices that he made
  • Yes, I think there are examples in lots of communities where criminals have made a positive contribution to society.  In terms of peer education, many young people are more likely to listen and take heed from people who have experienced it themselves.  It’s much more meaningful and so if they can prevent even one other young person from following a life of crime then that is positive

But this wasn’t enough for everybody and these statements also got support:

  • I don’t like the hopelessness of giving up on people but I’m no softie either, I’m a mum of 2 kids … I agree with the comment re life should mean life … but for me that would be a lifetime’s worth of rehab I guess!
  • Although I can see many criminals as “victims”, I believe that their real victims are more entitled to attention and fair treatment – which is not trivial

What next?

Lastly we discussed ideas for useful action in this area – which focused on prevention and cure rather than punishment.

  • Rehabilitation through work: couldn’t prison sentences be turned into useful work ? Doesn’t have to be slavery …
  • “I have recently learned how poorly “re-entry” into society is managed. Criminals need to be welcomed back if they are to “”recover”” rather than be treated as outcasts – so they may as well reoffend.
  • If criminologists can use their skills to work out who committed a crime, or profile a likely murderer can they not use this insight to help prevent criminals before they are fully developed?

To see the full list of comments made contact Catherine Shovlin
Some Inspiration:
TED talk by Kiran Bedi – the female former Director General of the Indian Police Service who introduced education and meditation for all in one of India’s toughest prisons.
Lord Ramsbotham on startups not lockdowns
Life science in prison TED talk
Women in prison. Smart Justice video on youtube

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