Ethical Obligations

Tyler, Jeannie, Margeaux, and Madhukar were sitting around Margeaux’s dining-room table working on a group marketing project. It was 2:00 a.m. They had been working since 6:00 p.m. and still had several hours’ work remaining.

“Oh, the misery,” groaned Tyler, pretending to slit his own throat with his finger as an Exacto knife. “If I never see another photo of a veggie burger, it will be too soon. Why didn’t we choose a more interesting product?”

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“I think it had something to do with someone wanting to promote a healthy alternative to greasy hamburgers,” Jeannie replied sarcastically.

“Right,” said Tyler, “I don’t know what I could have been thinking. Speaking of greasy hamburgers, is anyone else starving? Anybody want to order pizza or something?”

“No one will deliver up here this late,” Margeaux replied, “but I have a quiche that I could heat up.”

“Fancy,” Tyler quipped.

“You wish,” Margeaux said. “It came out of a box.”

“Sure, that sounds great, thanks,” Jeannie said. “I’m hungry too.”

“It doesn’t have any meat in it, does it?” asked Madhukar. “I don’t eat meat.”

“Nope, it’s a cheese and spinach quiche,” Margeaux said.

Tyler and Margeaux went off to the kitchen to prepare the food. Tyler took the quiche, still in its box, from the fridge. “Uh-oh,” he said. “My roommate is a vegetarian, and he won’t buy this brand because it has lard in the crust. Better warn Madhukar. He’s a Hindu, so I imagine it’s pretty important to him not to eat certain animal products.”

“Shhh!” said Margeaux, “I don’t have anything else to offer him, and he’ll never know the difference anyway. Just pretend you didn’t notice that.”

“Okay,” Tyler said. “It’s your kitchen.”

 

Discussion Questions

 

1. What exactly are Margeaux’s ethical obligations to Madhukar in this situation? Why? Is it more important to feed a hungry student or potentially exacerbate it by withholding the only food available?

2. Does the fact that Tyler is not the host relieve him of all ethical responsibility in this case?

3. Does gender play any role in this cultural encounter?

4. How does this situation bring up uncertainty avoidance?

5. Does power distance perhaps play a role here?

6. Who, if anyone, might you criticize for acting ethnocentrically?