We live in two realities, the things that exist in our physical world and the things that happen in our minds. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference.
When I look out of my window I see trees moving in the breeze and red rooftops with the odd pigeon or two. Cars pass by along the road driven by neighbours I recognise. This is the physical world.
When I look at my work however, I come across companies, laws, money and transactions. None of these really exist, they are products of our fertile imagination and will only continue to exist as long as we believe in them and trust their value.
My company exists because it was created and a record kept in Companies House. All of us in business recognise that it must be a real business if Companies House says so. Laws exist because we believe in the institutions that made them and accept, mostly, any punishment that is dished out should we digress. Money only has value because we believe it does and are prepared to accept it in lieu of goods and services.
What happens then when we stop believing? What happens if I don’t accept the validity of a company, don’t accept the law of the land and don’t recognise the value of money.
Nothing. If it is only me then I will be regarded as a social misfit and largely ignored.
If there are lots of people who stop believing, however, then either anarchy is created or new paradigms developed. Society can tolerate a small number of non-believers but not too many.
This is why ethics are required. For society to function we need to have a basic set of rules and guiding principles that govern our behaviours. Without them normal rules would not apply.
Of course, everyone has a different set of principles. No two people are exactly the same and so having a stated set of ethics that others can consider and that you live by is a clear demonstration of your willingness to fulfil your place in society.