Who Speaks for Integrity?

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When I wrote my series of blogs on the Seven Most Important Virtues, I neglected to add Integrity.  Limiting myself to seven, I felt that the seven I identified were more important than any other virtues.  This was simply a judgement call.  I have been challenged on it several times and indeed I challenge myself on the list.  There is hardly a day goes by that I wonder if I should not have numbered Integrity among the Seven.  Well, as they say, that is water under the dam.  What I would like to do in this blog is discuss Integrity.  What is Integrity?  Why is Integrity so important?  How do we get Integrity?  Finally, how do we sustain Integrity?

What is Integrity?

download (1)Integrity is everything to lose and nothing to gain, except your self-respect.  Integrity is standing up for what you believe is right even when everyone is against you.  Integrity is the ability to put compassion and kindness ahead of self-interest.  Integrity cannot co-exist with greed.  It cannot co-exist with lust.  It cannot co-exist with a thirst for power.  It cannot co-exist with a drive for money, fame, or fortune.  All of these elements are like Kryptonite to Integrity.  Kryptonite was the one thing that could rob Superman of his powers.  Lust, greed, money, fame, and power all have the ability to rob one of his/her integrity.

One example of a man without integrity was Goethe’s Faust.  Faust was considered the smartest man alive.  He was a genius and a consummate intellectual.  There was little that he did not know about or could not speak intelligently about.  Yet, Faust was unhappy.  Old age had creeped up on him.  His desire for youth and sex overcame his ability to think with the maturity befitting his status.  He sold his soul to Satan and in the bargain sold his integrity.  His lack of integrity lead to the death of another human being and to his own banishment to hell.

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There are many examples of men and women with integrity.  I think of the whistleblowers who sacrifice their careers and sometime their lives to report issues that might be dangerous to others.  I think of the journalists in countries like Mexico who risk their lives every day to report injustices.  I think of the prosecutors and law enforcement officers in countries where criminals have the ability to enact retribution and death when they are charged with a crime.  In all these examples, there is nothing for these courageous people to gain and everything to lose by their standing up for what they believe is right.  This is integrity.

Why is Integrity Important?

I believe that it is fair to say that never before in the history of America has there been so little integrity shown by our political leaders.  Right, Left, Democrat, Republican, Independent, it does not matter.  There are too many political leaders who are driven by greed and a desire for power.  You may argue with this analysis but when I see even a third of our elected officials calling for term limits, I will recant my assertion.  When I see a third of our elected officials with a plan to eliminate paid lobbyists, I will recant my assertion.

Political_Integrity_-_iStock.com-Bobboz_resizedPolitics is a sham in America today.  We have men and women who are elected for life and spend more time campaigning then they do in serving their constituents.  Public servants who start collecting money to run their next campaigns within days of winning their present office.  We have a system of government where money is the most important factor in who gets elected and who gets reelected.  Our politicians are more worried about losing votes than they are in the constitution or in protecting our democracy.  What Integrity is there in supporting a riot to overthrow a fair election that every court and every state in America found was fairly conducted?  The media seized on the outrageousness of the Big Lie to sell news.  The losing party seized on the credibility of millions of gullible supporters to buy the Big Lie and try to maintain their power.

imagesThe media in America has become another hallowed institution gutted by greed and a desire for more and more money.  Reporters, writers, and journalists in America today are more interested in selling advertising than they are in balanced objective reporting.  You can divide the news up by whether they lean Right or Left, Liberal or Conservative, Democrat or Republican.  Each side has a mirror image on the other side of the political spectrum.  CNN is opposed by Fox News.  The New York Times is opposed by The New York Post and the Washington Post is opposed by the Washington Times.  One side supports the Right and the other side supports the left.  This is not balanced reporting, and no truth comes out of the dynamic between the two sides.  What both sides have in common are reporters who will report the most useless, tasteless, uninformative stories if they perceive that these stories will sell advertising or if they can figure out a clickbait title that will attract readers and thereby expose them to paid commercials.

I see few solutions to the problems I have noted above except to start holding our leaders and media to standards of Integrity that do not seem to exist.  This brings us to the issue of where Integrity comes from.

How Do We Get Integrity?

I do not believe humans are born with Integrity.  I do not think that there is a gene or DNA for Integrity.  Humans learn Integrity like they learn to speak.  The morals, ethics and traditions of any society become part of the fabric of learning that a child goes through.  Integrity is a virtue.  It may be valued more in some families and cultures more than others.  There is an Index of Public Integrity that measures five factors that the developers link to Integrity and is used to assess a countries capacity to control corruption and ensure that public resources are spent honestly.   The six scales used in this index include:

  1. Judicial Independence
  2. Administrative Burden
  3. Trade Openness
  4. Budget-Transparencies
  5. E-Citizenship
  6. Freedom of the Press

Idownload (3)f you want more of a description of each scale you can follow the hyperlink above.  The USA ties for 10th place with Great Britain on this index.  I can see some correlation with Integrity, but I can see many differences.  I think honesty is one component of Integrity, but Integrity is more complex than being simply honest.  An honest person can still lack integrity if they are unwilling to stand up for what they believe.  Cowardice and Integrity are incompatible.

Professor Stephen L. Carter of Yale Law School points out in his book “Integrity,” one cannot have integrity without being honest, but one can be honest and yet lack integrity. … Integrity in its bare-bones essence means adherence to principles.

You cannot buy Integrity.  You cannot inherit Integrity.  Fortunately, Integrity does not have a price tag.  It is open to everyone.  Young people, old people, women, men, and people from different ethnic backgrounds all can find Integrity.  I use the work “Find” because you must seek Integrity.  It is a treasure, and you must look for it.  You can acquire Integrity, but you can also lose Integrity.  However, you cannot give it away and no one can steal it from you.  It is one of the most unique treasures in the world.  So, where do we find this treasure?  There are three rules for finding Integrity.

  1. It must be something you value personally
  2. You must value it more than your life, your career or anything else that you might ever possess.
  3. You must not expect applause or accolades. It is more likely you will be criticized and condemned. 

If you can accept these three rules, then finding Integrity is easy.  Simply establish a set of morals, virtues, and ethics that you believe in and start standing up for them.  When they are challenged, you must speak out.  Your actions and behaviors must reflect our values.  Do not preach one thing and do another.  Do what you say you will do.  When you feel like taking the easy way out, you must take the road that leads to consistency with your actions and values.  The simple formula to remember is that:

Integrity = Morals + Behavior + Consistency

How do We Sustain Integrity?

Integrity can be lost as well as found.  There are many examples of people who once were exemplars of shining Integrity but who succumbed to temptations for greed and power.  It takes a great deal of fortitude and courage to maintain a life of Integrity.  I think of people like Jesus Christ who was not tempted by the devil and went to his death for what he preached.  Pilate gave him opportunities to recant but Jesus refused.  Socrates went to his death also after refusing to recant his beliefs.  I would like to share the example of one more recent person of great Integrity.

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“María Santos Gorrostieta Salazar (1976 – 2012) was a Mexican physician and politician of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).  From 2008 to 2011, she served as mayor of Tiquicheo, a small town in the Mexican state of Michoacán.  In spite of three failed assassination attempts during her tenure as mayor, Gorrostieta Salazar continued to be outspoken in the fight against organized crime.  In a fourth attack, Gorrostieta Salazar was kidnapped and assassinated by suspected drug traffickers on 15 November 2012.” – Wikipedia

To this date, there has been no one charged and tried in connection with her murder.  How many people do you know who would stand up to a drug cartel after even one attempt on their lives?  Maria was a physician.  She could have lived a life of relative ease and prosperity simply by ignoring the crimes going on around her.  Instead she stood up for the law and standing up cost Maria her life.  Who is saying her name today?

integrity in the workplace - integrity-traits-integrity-in-the-workplace

Like any skill or talent, you must practice it.  Practice is one means of sustaining Integrity.  Part of practice is an honest self-reflection.  Each day or week you need to ask yourself if you have been a person of Integrity.  What did you do that showed Integrity?  What did you do or say that allowed you to stand up for your values and ethics?  What did you do that was not consistent with your values?  How could you be more consistent with your values and behaviors?

There is a popular meme that says, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice!  Practice! Practice!”  There can be no Integrity without practice, action, and reflection.  Stand up for your values and morals and you will be a Person of Integrity.  Every person who can say that they are a Person of Integrity is one more person that will help to change the world for the better.

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”- Dwight D. Eisenhower

“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”- Bob Marley

 

Facts, Data, Evidence and the Search for Truth. How do we know what to believe anymore? – Part 1

truth-2I watched several shows the other day in which Trump supporters were interviewed.  People are as curious about his supporters as they are about Trump.  Given the unquestionable fact that Trump is a greedy sexist racist hate monger, why would anyone support him?  The assumed knowledge is that his supporters are a bunch of ignorant losers:  people who are uneducated or at best semi-literate.  However, the data and demographics do not entirely support this conclusion.  Many Trump supporters are intelligent educated and literate people.  These are also people who believe in the United States of America and care about their country.  What then persuades or convinces them that Trump is the right person for the job of POTUS?  His qualifications pose a questionable proposition that would seem to fly in the face of all known facts in the entire universe.  This dilemma strikes at the heart of the matter.  We do not know what to believe any more.  What is a fact?  What is evidence?  What is objective data?  Where can we find facts that are truthful (not really a redundancy)?

I think about my graduate students at the college where I have taught for many years.  These are students who are working on an MBA and are highly literate, highly educated and highly intelligent individuals.   Many of them already hold very well paying jobs and responsible positions in successful companies.   Nevertheless, the challenge that I continually face is to teach them the difference between facts, data, evidence and truth.  Despite their literacy, few of these students understand the difference.  This is a scary situation.  If these highly educated students do not understand the difference between these concepts, how can we expect the many uneducated members of the general public to understand and comprehend the essential elements of truth finding?  I say essential because facts, data and evidence are the three pillars of truth.  If you do not have these, you cannot find the truth.

liesSeveral problems make the issue even more complex.  In academia, we are dealing with a subset of life in which there is much less confusion over the truth since no one is deliberately trying to distort, lie or sell us anything.  There may be stupidity, lack of knowledge and even ignorance by many scientists and professors but the greed motive is much less tangible.  I am not saying it does not exist, but for most of my teaching career, I cannot think of anything I have ever tried to sell to my students and make a profit on.  I can say with some confidence that this is also true of all the instructors whom I have ever known or worked with.  The same situation does not exist outside of academia.  The marketplace is a vicious jungle when it comes to searching for the truth while academia is a tame zoo in comparison.

When we enter the marketplace and even more so in the political arena, the motive to convince us of something relies much less on elucidating the truth than it does on obfuscating the truth in order to sell us something.  Wells Fargo Bank wants you to open a credit account.  They don’t care whether you need it or not.  Volkswagen wants to sell you a car even if they have to hide the truth about pollution levels.  Every politician in America wants you to vote them into office.  They don’t want you to know the real truth about their competition or that they do not have all the answers to the problems facing our country.

Companies and politicians have a vested interest in hiding the truth from you.  Stories like Miracle on 31st Street where Macy’s sent people to Gimbels are few and far between and exist mostly in fantasy.  Similarly, stories about politicians with ethics such as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” have become legendary because they depict a reality that seldom exists.  Most politicians will promise you the moon to get your vote and most companies will not tell you the truth about cigarettes, drugs, food or anything else unless forced to do so by some form of government regulation or mandate.  It does not matter whether it will kill you or not as long as you buy it or elect them.

trump-versus-hillaryFinally, we come to perhaps the biggest ruse of all.  If anyone is searching for the truth, they will eventually enter into the Fourth Estate.  This hallowed ground is defined as:  “A societal or political force or institution whose influence is not consistently or officially recognized.  Fourth Estate most commonly refers to the news media, especially print journalism or The Press.” (Wiki).   Thomas Jefferson believed that the two pillars of a democratic society were an educated citizenry and a free press.  Mark Twain was somewhat more skeptical about the power of the press and information to inform people when he noted that:  “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”  The truth seeker has been taught since early childhood that in the domain of the Fourth Estate is to be found the truth.  Little do they know the quagmire they have entered into or that the role of truth finding in the Fourth Estate no longer exists.

Today, the major purpose of the news (whether print or digital or video or audio) is to sell.  Sell, sell, sell, sell and sell some more.  Sell junk, sell drugs, sell expensive credit cards, sell stuff and more stuff.  Stuff you don’t need, won’t need and will probably never need.  The job of the media is to convince you that you do need stuff, that you desire stuff and that you cala_verite_par_jules_joseph_lefebvren not possibly live without stuff.

I once thought that journalists were a group to be respected.   This was based on the knowledge that they had often risked their lives and their reputations to bring us the truth.  Today, journalists are little more than pimps for advertisers.  They have sold their souls to the devil, descended into hell and may never come out again.  The measure of a journalist is not how much information they provide to the public but how many advertisements they can sell.  The changing role of journalists has made it even more difficult for people to find the truth.  Nothing in the news is remotely objective or unbiased any more.  Every paper, every station has their spin on things.  The spin is determined by who owns and controls the media.
Take polls for example.  As we go into the final days of the 2016 US presidential election, you can find polls that favor one candidate or the other candidate.  If there are seventy polls, half may favor one candidate and half may favor the other candidate.  There is no truth even in these so called unbiased statistical polls.  Many of my friends have suggested that the news media want the race to be close because this keeps people tuned in.  Much like a sports match, we would rather watch an event that had a pair of evenly matched contestants.  My friends have suggested that the news seems to do its best to insure that first one candidate gets major media attention thus elevating them in the polls and then it switches to the other candidate providing them attention that elevates their poll numbers.  I am not a big conspiracy theorist but this theory does seem to have some merit to it.

78-trump-debate-lies-758x426Regardless of whether the media intentionally want to keep the race close or not, there is no denying that the candidate who is the most obnoxious, the most outrageous and the most sensational will garner the most press.  Trump has been well aware of this and has continually manipulated the media into providing him billions of dollars in free advertising.   The fickle public seems to swing from one candidate to the other depending on who they see in the news.  Trump has undoubtedly benefitted from his ability to keep the press absorbed with his every utterance regardless of how inane they are.  He can tweet at 2AM in the morning and be assured that Fox News will carry his tweet on the 7 AM morning news.

stupid-trump-supportersHow then can we blame the general public, educated or not, of being uninformed or misinformed when most of our society is conspiring against them finding the truth?  It is a trap that I have fallen into when I have railed against the stupid, illiterate and uninformed Trump supporters.  Sadly, they are not to blame for their reliance on Trump to give them the truth.  The have certainly not found it in academia or the Fourth Estate.  I have some solutions to this issue but I do not have the entire answer to it.  I do have part of the answer.  It is quite clear to me that one must understand the difference between facts, data, evidence and the role of these three elements in helping to shape the truth.   In Part 2 of this blog, I will go into the subject of Facts in more depth.  In the following parts, I will cover Data, Evidence and Truth.

Time for Questions:

How do you know what to believe?  Who do you trust to give you unbiased information?  How much do you trust the news?  Are you satisfied with the quality of the information you get from journalists and the news?  What do you think we need to do to improve the quality of information the American public receives?

Life is just beginning.

“There’s a danger in the internet and social media.  The notion that information is enough, that more and more information is enough, that you don’t have to think, you just have to get more information – gets very dangerous.” — Edward de Bono

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