"Condition Yellow" — A Guide to Behavior?
It appears to be the opinion of some training personnel of the State of New Jersey that a certain "safety" course, as designed by Nova Defense Systems, has such potential in benefiting the employees of the State of New Jersey as to be appropriate to be mandated as training. One important component of this training is the teaching and practice of a system of awareness referred to as to as "Condition Yellow", which appears (from the descriptions of staff members who have taken the course) to be based on regarding every person one meets as a potential source of danger and acting accordingly.
Far from being beneficial, such training and practice is apt to be harmful. Further, it contradicts many moral and philosophical traditions of the Republic, as well as many of the religious systems practiced by its Citizens. There are serious questions as to whether such a training should have been offered under official Governmental auspices, let alone mandated for employees. These stem from two primary sources:
|"We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends." (italics added)|
What is noticeable here is that, in the midst of proclaiming a position which is likely to lead to war, the Congress takes time to note that the normal attitude held by Americans towards others - indeed, towards the entirety of mankind - is one of friendship. Individuals or States among the entirety of mankind are only regarded as enemies once a hostile action has ensued between Americans and others. The default mode for the categorization of the "other" is friend.
In the Virginia Declaration of Rights, resolved by the Virginia Convention on May 15, 1776, the sixteenth article states:
|'…it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other."|
This philosophy of the early government of the Commonwealth of Virginia stands in stark contrast to the philosophy now being promoted by the State of New Jersey.
Much of the philosophical tradition of Western civilization, and of the United States, derives from Christian philosophy1. I turn now to the tradition of "good will as developed through Christian philosophy.
The classic fundamental reference to one's attitude toward others is the tale of the "Good Samaritan", found in chapter 10 of the Gospel of Luke, verses 30-372. (The text is in the Appendix.) Something often lost here, due to the common association in the American mind of the terms "Samaritan" and "good", is that the people of Judea in the year 30 C.E. looked upon the people of Samaria much as a modem American might look on a Shi'ite Ayatollah or on Osama Bin Laden. Yet, here was a teacher saying that the correct moral attitude was to look on even such horrific persons as "neighbors" rather than as outsiders who were unfit to be trusted.
One of the major Christian philosophers, whose writlngs have major influence even today on several of the Christian sects (most notably Roman Catholicism), is Augustine of Hippo (354-430). In Book XIV, Chapter 6, of his work City of God (De Civitate Dei), he writes:
|"For this reason, the man who lives by God's standards and not by man's, must needs be a lover of the good, and it follows that he must hate what is evil. Further, since no one is evil by nature, but anyone who is evil is evil because of a perversion of nature, the man who lives by God's standards has a duty of 'perfect hatred' towards those who are evil; that is to say, he should not hate the person because of the fault, nor should he love the fault because of the person. He should hate the fault, but love the man."3 (italics added)|
Following on this tradition, the Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died in the Flossenburg Concentration Camp in 1945, wrote in a scriptural analysis of Matthew 7:1-12 (biblical text in the appendix):
|"When we judge other people we confront them in a spirit of detachment, observing and reflecting as it were from outside. But love has neither time nor opportunity for this. If we love, we can never observe the other person with detachment, for he or she is always and at every moment a living claim on our love and service. But does not the evil in the other person make me condemn him just for his own good, for the sake of love? Here we see the depth of the dividing line. Any misguided love for the sinner is ominously close to the love of sin. But the love of Christ for the sinner in itself is the condemnation of sin, is his expression of extreme hatred of sin. The disciples of Christ are to love unconditionally."4|
The philosophy by which men are not evil by nature, and that therefore evil should not be imputed to any one without good cause, continues in Christianity to the present day. In Roman Catholicism's catechism, the guidebook to moral behavior for approximately 20% of the United States' population — and for over 40% of the population of New Jersey — the following guidance is given:
|"Respect for the reputation
of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause
them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:
- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor…"5
"To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way…"6
Numerous other philosophical and religious traditions have teachings paralleling those of Christianity when it comes to the treatment of the 'other". Thus in the Way of Changes (Tao Te Ching), Lao Tzu says:
|"The sage has no mind of his
own. He takes as his own the mind of the people.
"Those who are good I treat as good. Those who are not good I also treat as good. In so doing I gain in goodness. Those who are of good faith I have faith in. Those who are lacking in good faith I also have faith in. In so doing I gain in good faith."7
This differs from the Augustinian standpoint in not necessarily requiring the sage or good person to assume that the 'other' is good; but the actions recommended are the same, in that the treatment of the "other" is the same.
In the Isa Upanishad, a Hindu scripture, the poet remarks:
|"Who sees all beings in his own
Self, and his own Self in all beings, loses all fear.
"When a sage sees this great Unity and his Self has become all beings, what delusion and what sorrow can ever be near him?"8
Indeed, how can one suspect all others of intending harm to oneself. when one sees oneself in all beings?
In his Meditations, the Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius points out how the philosophies espoused in the Nova training can actually be harmful to oneself in their very practice:
|"Waste not the remainder of your life in thoughts about others, except when you are concerned with some unselfish purpose. For you are losing an opportunity to do something else, when you have such thoughts as: What is such a person doing, and why, and what is he saying, and what is he thinking, and what is he contriving? And whatever else of the kind makes us forget our own ruling principle. We ought to check in the course of our thoughts everything that is without a purpose and useless, but most of all meddling and maliciousness. A man should train himself to think only of those things about which if you were suddenly asked, what have you now in your thoughts? With perfect openness you might immediately answer, this or that: so that from your words it should be plain that everything in you is sincere and kindly, and befitting a social animal, and one that cares not for thoughts of pleasure or sensual enjoyments or any rivalry or envy or suspicion, or anything else which you would blush if you were to say it was in your mind."9|
In the modem world, where secular organizations and councils of nations have been enabled to take on the task of proclaiming aspirations for their members and citizenry, these philosophical notions of treating the "other" as good unless there is due cause for the contrary belief have been continued in a non-ecclesiastical way. The Preamble to the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, adopted by the Organization of American States in 1948, begins:
|"All men are born free and equal, in dignity and in rights, and, being endowed by nature with reason and conscience, they should conduct themselves as brothers one to another."|
Echoing this declaration by the OAS, the General Assembly of the United Nations in article 1 of its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted December 10, 1948, says:
|"All human beings are born free
and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason
and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
The entire philosophy of 'Condition Yellow", which requires that trainees regard other human beings in a spirit of mistrust and suspicion, rather than a 'spirit of brotherhood", thus finds itself at odds with the fundamental philosophies of the two basic rights-oriented international organizations which the United States is a member nation of.
Management and Service Issues
What effect does the Nova philosophy have on the performance of the duties of NJ Government employees? An agency's "customers" in this new age of 'Total Quality Management' are the public at large. Total Quality Management emphasizes a relationship with the customer based on how the service organization can best aid the customer:
|"The customer is the most important part of the production line ... But what does the customer need? How can we be useful to him? What does he think he needs?"10|
Contrast this helpful, open to the customer attitude with the distrustful,
closed attitude of "Condition Yellow".
The customer is perceived as a threat rather than as an aid. Such an attitude is likely to lead to less respect for
the needs of the customer instead of more,
undercutting the long-range quality plans of the State at
Civil Rights Issues
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires all employers to make any reasonable accommodation of an individual's religious beliefs; further, it requires employers who say that there is no reasonable accommodation possible to demonstrate to the Civil Rights Commission the reason there is none possible As has been elucidated, there are aspects to the Nova Defense training that a large percentage of the population might well find offensive; yet, there has not been a large outcry against it. Part of the reason for the lack of outcry may be apathy; unfortunately, another reason may be fear. Fore example, better-paying management positions within the Judiciary are appointive and therefore susceptible to subjective and personal bias. While the bias may not exist in most cases, the risk is enough to make any person responsible for the support of dependents think twice and even thrice about proceeding with a complaint, especially as average workers are not well educated in their rights under Title VII. Indeed, many may be completely unaware that the Federal Government treats religious discrimination and failure of accommodation on an equivalent basis with racial and sexual discrimination.
A fact sheet published in the Federal! Register by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Friday, October 1, 1993 says in part:
|"The principle that employees have a right to 'work in an environment free from discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and insult,' was recognized by the Supreme Court in 1986 in the MERITOR SAVINGS BANK V. VINSON, 477 U.S. 57, 65 (1986). Though MERITOR was a sexual harassment case the court made clear that it was applying principles applicable to other classes covered by Title VII. The court specifically accepted the principle that creation of a hostile environment based on discriminatory racial, RELIGIOUS. national origin, or sexual harassment constitutes a violation of Title VII, SEE ID. at 66. Just this year, in HARRIS V. FORKLIFT SYSTEMS, a sexual harassment case the Supreme Court indicated that all bases covered by Title VII are treated the same. SEE HARRIS V. FORKLIFT SYS., INC., No. 92-1168 slip op. at 4 (Nov. 9, 1993);ID. at 2 (Ginsburg, J., concurring) ('Title VII declares discriminatory practices based on race, gender, religion, or national origin equally unlawful')."|
Federal and State Constitutional Issues
The First Article in Amendment to the Constitution of the United States bars the Congress from passing any laws respecting an establishment of religion. The US Supreme Court has long held that the Fourteenth Article in Amendment extends that ban to States and their subsidiary governmental units.
The Oxford Dictionary of the English Language defines religion as follows:
The Nova Defense System states openly that it is a system of beliefs and values intended for some material (albeit not pecuniary) gain. This fits the definition of a religion: it is therefore not an appropriate training program for a governmental unit. Further, there are references both in the training book and in the oral training to a specific male deity (a "God"); this deity being male and singular. it is likely the Judaeo-Christian deity. This action places a specific family of religions in a place of greater respect by the government than ones that worship multiple deities, female deities, or consist solely of a system of belief which does not rely upon deities Again, this makes the training inappropriate for a governmental unit.
The Sixth Article, section three, of the Constitution of the United States reads as follows:
|"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."|
Again, the provisions of this have been extended to the several States by the action of the Fourteenth Article in Amendment; and even had they not, the 1947 Constitution of the State of New Jersey, Article I, section 4, reads as follows:
|"There shall be no establishment of one religious sect in preference to another; no religious or racial test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust."|
The Nova Defense System training, which has been shown to be of a religious character, has a test that must be repeated throughout the training, and must be completed with a passing grade by employees who have been mandated to take the training. It is mandatory to re-take the course upon failing the test. This constitutes a religious test as a qualification to holding affected positions, each of which positions constitute an office and public trust under the sovereignty of the the United States as well as of the State of New Jersey.
The Nova Defense System training runs afoul of one section of Federal Civil Rights legislation as well as two separate articles of the United States Constitution, and one article of the Constitution of the State of New Jersey. Serious consideration must be given to the following options:
Eliminating the course altogether, substituting a newer course that focuses directly on the intended benefits and does not range so far afield as to violate the rights of employees; or
Revising the course extensively so that it no longer violates the US Constitution, NJ Constitution, or Federal Statute. This might be addressed in part by eliminating the mandatory nature of the training.
1Note for example the Virginia Declaration's reference to "Christian" forbearance.
2An example of the continuance of mistrust of the other or the Gentile is found in the Mishnah, written around the second century C.E.: "A woman should not be alone with them (gentiles), because they are suspect in regard to fornication. And a man should not be alone with them, because they are suspect in regard to bloodshed." (MIshnah, The Order of Damages, Tractate Abodah Zarah, Chapter 2, verse 1, tr. Jacob Neusner.)
3Augustine, The City of God, Henry Bettenson, tr., Penguin Books, 1984, pg. 556.
4Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, The Cost of Discipleship, tr. R.H. Fuller, Macmillan Publishing, 1963, pg. 204.
5The Holy See, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Liguori Publications, 1994, article 2477.
6Ibid., article 2478.
7Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, tr. D.C. Lau, Book Two, Chapter 49, Penguin Books 1963, pg. 110.
8The Upanishads, tr. Juan Mascaró, Penguin Books, 1965, pg. 49.
9Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, tr. George Long, Walter J. Black Co., 1945, pg. 27.
10Deming, W. Edwards, Out of the Crisis, MIT-CAES 1993, pp. 174-175
Last update: Friday, December 23, 2005 08:33