(Warning: This is a blog that will get deeply philosophical on your ass and probably should be the summary of a book and not a blog. If you are of the non-philosophical variety, you may want to forego this one and do some fun reading with this one!)
I always attempt to be as blatantly honest and forthcoming as possible in my blogs. I believe that people resonate with what is true, realized by the use of specific examples (names, dates, situations, etc.). An “intense” issue has been strong and central on my mind recently and I REALLY want to openly write about it -complete with names, dates, and situations. However, writing about the topic in a totally honest and non-discreet fashion may put some others in a potentially negative light. I realize I have no trouble making myself look bad or like an ass when the truth needs to be realized, yet my personal value system (yes, I have one of those…we all do) dictates that I not put others in such a potential negative light -I have the right to make myself look bad, and, unless you are a traffic cop, very few others.
Therefore I write the following as specifically as possible without the use of any specifics. By omitting names I accuse no one of anything and, not coincidentally, any libel suits from happening. You will just have to trust me this is really happening.
I will break this down as simply as I can.
I serve with a group that currently needs to make a very important decision in the near future. This decision will affect lives and, potentially, a lot of people. In a recent discussion with another member of this group that also plays a part in this important decision-making process, I asked “him/her/it” how “his/her/its” (from now just lovingly referred to as “it”…it could be an alien) decision may go if we had to make the decision today.
I asked “it” this question because “it” is a purveyor/believer of all things “ethical.” It is a religious it with a strong moral code and its opinion was of great interest to me. I not only really like this it a lot and have great respect, I really desired an honest and reflective opinion.
When it responded that it is not going to play a part in this decision process by recusing itself, this was of great surprise as a lot of people could be affected by the decision. Though I paraphrase when I write its reason for recusing, “I cannot be a part of it because it may jeopardize my job,” I was taken aback.
“So,” I thought to myself, “You are not going to take part in an extremely important decision that may affect MANY lives because it MAY have negative implications for you personally?”
Wow. I mean, I get it. I understand it. Yet I would empathize far more with that response from the local narcissist who cared little for the universal whole, but from this “it?”…an “it” with morality and integrity?
This has me thinking about the larger underlying issue at play here. Thus, I blog about the issue of integrity. What is it? Who has it? Is it contextual? This situation really has me thinking.
At the risk of a dangerous oversimplification, it seems to me the world breaks “integrity” down into two general areas -and the two have only slight concentric overlapping.
“Personal Moral Codes” integrity vs. “Public Moral Codes” integrity. In other words, the former are those who would place their personal belief system as their guiding light for decision-making; while believing this personal system would also be best for society at large –usually a personal system driven by a code of conduct, holy book, philosophy- as the basis for public decisions (i.e. personally I am against homosexuality therefore I will vote against gay marriage). The latter would be the group who would put public interest first and foremost -a philosophy called Utilitarianism- before personal conviction (i.e. I am against homosexuality though I do not want to deny basic civil rights to a large group of law abiding, tax paying citizens of this country, thus I am for gay marriage).
I believe both processes are ethical and have their merits.
Perhaps the issue of legalizing prostitution is a good example to distinguish between personal vs. public integrity. One with a set of personal moral codes may believe that prostitution is wrong and should remain illegal because of a set of personal moral codes generated by said religion, personal conviction, or a general set of personal values. However, one who views the collective, public welfare first and foremost may see this as the “world’s oldest profession” and that consenting adults have the right to engage it in a professional and lawfully protected manner, though they personally do not engage in it or believe in it.
Do I judge one any better than the other? Hell no. Though I personally take the “Public Moral Codes” position, I completely respect both views of integrity as they originate by a sense of right and wrong and what is best for this world; perhaps for different motivations and with strong different orientations to how they perceive the world, though both sides practice thinking beyond self.
The lack of integrity issue arises when thinking beyond the self is lost and things go terribly selfish. So, let’s say, prostitution becomes legal and subsequently it is very lucrative to be in the business of whoring. I would take issue with the person who has a personal moral code problem with prostitution yet, if and when legalized, elects to open a brothel because it may benefit them financially—at the expense of their own personal convictions or even voting record.
That is called hypocrisy…plain and simple.
I also would also have issue with the person who believes prostitution would be good for the larger whole of society (safer working conditions, less sexually transmitted infections, etc…) though elects to vote against it because there is word they may open a brothel next door to their house if legalized. He or she concedes it may be good for the whole…though not in their backyard.
That is also called hypocrisy…plain and simple.
To crystallize another scenario, I personally experienced such a conflict of interest. In the 2012 California election there was Proposition 30, an initiative that proposed to raise taxes to help fund public education. Personally, I am fiscal conservative that possesses the conviction that the government wastes a shitload of money and raising taxes only exacerbates problems. However, I am also a California Community College professor who would personally benefit greatly from the passage of this proposition –not only might I see a raise I would also be granted some nice job security for a time.
I like to think I am a person of integrity thus I voted against this initiative. Sure it would have benefited me personally though I believe it would have damaged the public whole…thus I needed to be consistent.
It is consistency, even at the possible expense of self-gain and benefit, that is the cornerstone of integrity. It is thinking beyond self and doing what is best for the whole. I believe both personal and public moral code individuals can both practice integrity as the morality of both is ultimately driven from thinking beyond self. The “beyond self” for the private person may be in the form of God or religion, while the public code individuals are driven by what is best for society at large.
Do I have an integrity problem with one who voted for the measure who believes that raising taxes is generally a good and healthy course of action? HELL NO. Why? Because they are consistent…even if I may personally disagree with them.
The initiative passed (hey, nothing I could do about how others voted) AND my conscience was not violated because I voted with my “Public Moral Code” first and foremost, even at my own potential personal expense. I could sleep at night…and, fortunately, still have a job to go to in the morning as well.
Please know I am not tooting my own horn (well kinda) but realize that is the way I interpret integrity…and I am open to competing points of integrity views.
Therefore that is the problem I have with “it.” As an advocate of public morality, I find it hypocritical and self-centered to potentially harm the public good for the sake of keeping the self safe and secure…i.e. covering your own ass at any price. Yet, to be fair, I have not yet had the opportunity to have a follow-up discussion with it over this issue as I am sure it will offer me a sound philosophical reason why this action is justified…we shall see.
I also believe the great majority of people stand for what benefits them personally first and foremost; therefore I do not find this position at all unusual. The world is full of the, “I’m-fine-with-it-just-not-in-my-backyard” crowd as well as the “I’m-against-it-unless-it-benefits-me-personally” contingent.
I guess I have always held a different definition of integrity, and most things I suppose, throughout my life.
Well, I warned you I would get all philosophical on your ass. At least I’m consistent.