There was a time, perhaps while Jane Austen was penning her first novel, but nonetheless a time when a person of noble character who uncompromisingly declared the line between right and wrong as a non-negotiable was NOT somebody worthy of admiration and imitation but the STANDARD for acceptable human behavior. This was what you were supposed to be. Anything less was vulgar and merited a person's denouncement as a scoundrel.
Okay, so scarlet letters were somewhat barbaric but why today is there an acceptable degree of dishonesty and eroded propriety depending on situational circumstances that would have been outrageous 200 years ago? Isn't that like those FDA standards for an acceptable percentage of rat feces in peanut butter? I don't want ANY rat feces, thank you very much. Does that make me a prude? Yet, those of us who find unethical behavior irresponsible are considered pesky letter-of-the-law nuisances because we give off an air of superiority.
I don't feel superior, only free of feces.
I know dishonest people. These aren't other people's friends in lands far away. These are MY friends, family, co-workers, and colleagues. I LIKE THEM but they're slothful and deceitful so it's impossible for me to be in their presence for long periods of time without feeling revulsion. Most of them have a ready justification for their action and pity me for my naivet'e.
The situation may be simple - wanting to slug my nephew for trying to sell his eighteen borrowed text books paid for by tax dollars instead of returning them to the school. Those aren't your books, kid. They belong to the taxpayers. Give them back. Other times, the situation is more complex and yet the same - somebody not doing the right thing and it costing somebody else, directly or indirectly.
I suppose people excuse bad behavior by suggesting that they aren't hurting others but the world is far too occupied to present that argument. You can't even forget your underarm deoderant without gagging people in line with you at the post office. How can somebody possibly make excuses for deeds that violate another person's rights or come at a cost to their health, safety or pocketbook?
I must have been born in the wrong century.