“the situation” of the “ethically blind” in Jefferson Parish

Unlike Sop and those of you “in the know” commenting, I know little about any of the individuals who are among “the cast of characters” in the Jefferson Parish story.  Behavioral science, on the other hand, is a subject I know something about – more than enough to tell me that among “the cast of characters” are some who were “caught up” in “the situation”.

I began writing this commentary as a comment in response to one Whitmergate posted that began: “Well Sop, I would like to believe that a person who has a grasp of reality would do exactly what one’s gut feels is right…”  Unfortunately, for some in Jefferson Parish, “what one’s gut feels is right” was shaped by “the situation”

In my off-blog life, I’ve been researching and writing about behavior – most recently about the reasons for “misbehavior” and how it develops.  In order to reach the point I needed to make, I’ve had to go all the way back to the period immediately following birth and work my way forward.

Along the way, I passed the period when children begin functioning as a member of some group – meaning preschool or school.  In their first group experience, many children will exhibit what is deemed “inappropriate behavior” by the  standards of the group.  Often, however, these children are simply behaving in a way they’ve learned and believe appropriate because it is “acceptable behavior” in their home, community, or culture.  Nonetheless, in order to be a successful member of the group, these children must change their behavior to that deemed appropriate for the group.

Hold those thoughts and  I’ll spare you a discussion of the in-between years and fast forward to adulthood: “Why Good Intentions are Often Not Enough: The Potential for Ethical Blindness in Legal Decision-Making”a challenge to “the pervasiveness of assumptions about the power of conscious processes in ethical decision making…

… Within the common framework of deliberative action, we tend to see unethical behaviour as the result of conscious and controlled mental processes.

Drawing on a range of psychological research…[this paper] focuses on two important findings: first, that automatic mental processes are far more dominant in our thinking than most of us are aware; and second, that because we do not generally have introspective access to these processes, we infer from their results what the important factors in our decision making must be. These findings challenge the notion that individuals can be fully aware of what influences them to act ethically or unethically.

As humans grow and learn, they develop “automatic mental processes”.  Simply stated, we no longer need to consciously think about how to do certain things.  For example, we once had to learn how to use a knife and fork.  Once learned, those skills become “automatic mental responses and we eat a meal without any thought of the skills involved.

Researchers have long noted that it would be impossible for humans to function effectively if conscious, controlled, and aware mental processes had to deal with every aspect of life. Instead, it appears that the sophistication of our minds has developed along side human evolution so that over time more aspects of our daily tasks have been assigned to the realm of unconscious acts.

“…one of the most important cognitive processes in the context of ethical awareness is rationalization. Not only is rationalization part of how we consciously reason about our ethical decision making, it also has the capacity, when used over time, to become an automatic mental process.

This tendency can be increased by situational factors that encourage rationalization, and by professional and organizational justifications that mask unethical conduct. As such, rationalization is important to consider in the context of legal decision making. If reasons such as ‘It is just my job’, ‘I was told to do it’ or ‘Everyone else is doing it’ become deeply embedded…and this thinking is reinforced by workplace or professional norms, ethical blindness can result…because rationalization processes remove the ethics from view.”

In “the situation” of Jefferson Parish, what appears to be an entire parish government came to be a group functioning with standards of “acceptable behavior” that were – and are – “unacceptable” outside that group.

Welcome to Jefferson Parish, home of the ethically blind!


2 thoughts on ““the situation” of the “ethically blind” in Jefferson Parish”

  1. If there was any doubt about the integrity of this blog, (not to imply or infer there was or is) your article negated that cavil. With that said, Pelican and I will commiserate with ya’ll.

    I was resigned to accept my travails of the day of what I should have expected, but did not want to know. Free speech is an affront to the powers that be here in Jefferson Parish, La. My computer and others of my friends have allegedly been compromised by “unknown” investigative authorities (State Legislative Auditor, formerly run by Steve Theriot), as a result of an investigation ordered by “unknown” governmental authorities (Jefferson Parish President, Steve Theriot). We believe that such conduct is unacceptable. Mr. Theriot apparently believes it is acceptable. Welcome to Jefferson Parish, La.

    As Pelican and I watched Val Bracy’s Fox News report at 10:00, sipping our long time addiction, Rebel Yell, we began to yell for the good and curse the bad. What a fun way to watch the news I might add. Her report focused on the Jefferson Parish Personnel Board meeting held today to review certain conduct of the Parish Attorney, Mr. Tom Wilkinson. Mr. Wilkinson’s transgression being that as a parish employee he engaged in prohibited political activity, in particular, conducting the affairs of Tim Coulon’s political committee in and from the East Bank Yenni parish building. deBrief and I yelled with delight; then cursing as Asst. Parish Attorney, Mr. Louis Gruntz mumbled about the due process of his client; all too reminecient of Mr. Broussard’s overly zealous plea for Mr. Whitmer’s due process. Which segues into the ethical question, who exactly is Mr. Gruntz’s client ? Mr. Combs, a gentleman lawyer from the Jones, Walker law firm and an independent appointee by both the Loyola and Tulane Law Schools to the Board opines that he is at a lost as to why Mr. Gruntz is lawyering up for Wilkinson, his boss ? Which again begs the question, who is Mr. Gruntz representing ? The Parish Attorney’s office is mandated to represent the citizens of the Parish of Jefferson, through it’s duly elected officials, the Parish President and the Parish Council. We yelled again in approval of Mr. Combs clarity and insight as he explained that the the Council and the Administration should be in concert with their mutual goal of exposing illegal conduct of any Parish employee under their jurisdiction. Boy did we yell. Then ya just knew it, Mr. Gruntz had done what he was expected to do, confuse with lack of due diligence in providing the material necessary for subpoenas, confuse with legalese, cause delay no matter what, keep your eye on the prize, STONEWALL ! But for who ? Pelican and I were just about to throw our glasses, with the bourbon God forbid, at the TV in disgust.

    Then to our delight, Ms. Bracy again interjects with her interview with Ms. Debbie Villio from the night before. It was exhilarating, and we poured another gulp and yelled that yell. Ms Villio again tells us that breaking the law in Jefferson Parish is not only acceptable but that she checked with Mr. Wilkinson, this is the way the administration has always treated these matters for years !

    Frankly the words ethics joined together with Jefferson Parish, La. is not only a contradiction in terms, but a bastardization of the English language. !

  2. Thank you, Whitmergate. Next time you stop in so late, by all means, bring the Rebel Yell or, better yet, invite us down to watch the news with Pelican.

    Although I’m going to reveal one of my own acquired “automatic mental processes” with this comment, I can help but say that from your description of Theriot, Gruntz, et al, they must have looked like “a bunch of monkeys f^@%*#$ footballs” today.

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