Death of integrity

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ArticleYAA

Without exonerating culprits, we need to ask ourselves a question: Do we possess the integrity we demand of our politicians?

 

We lament the increasing lack of integrity in our leaders. From submitting fake degrees to the ECP (in many cases) to scams of all shades and hues, the list is endless. Every stone turned reveals one. Without exonerating culprits, we need to ask ourselves a question: Do we possess the integrity we demand of our politicians?

Urban Dictionary gives an extremely interesting definition of integrity, ‘Doing the right thing even when nobody’s looking.’ On a more formal note, it offers another definition, ‘Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.’ Ethical code is generally defined as, ‘a system of principles governing morality and acceptable conduct,’ and a moral code as, ‘the quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct.’

For example, stealing, killing, lying, cheating are deemed as ‘bad conduct’ worldwide. Adrian Bishop, in a paper, ‘Moral principles defined: a decision-making perspective,’ shares, ‘One does not try and define what morality is, but one defines it by what it does.

Moral values are how one actually measures the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, positive and negative actions. This definition helps to distinguish between moral values and moral virtues. The latter, often quoted as moral values, are characteristics such as bravery, patience, altruism, generosity, prudence and so on, which affirm who the person is, whilst morality concerns itself with defining what the person should do.’

Warren Buffet, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway said it best, “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.” A person’s dishonesty will eventually catch up to them. It may not be today, and it may not be for many years, but you can rest assured that at some point there will always be a reckoning.’ (Forbes, 11/28/2012)

Coming back to the question; if integrity is about adhering to an ethical and moral code, how do many of us actually prescribe to it?

From the lowest level to the highest, corruption, lack of moral and ethical values seems to have replaced integrity. Of course, this is not true of everyone but in general terms seem to be true. Take a look around you. You will see innumerable examples in your daily lives. Going to grocery shopping – each shopkeeper selling vegetables will have a different rate for the same produce, often swinging wildly from Rs15/- a kilo to Rs45/-. Everyone tries to convince ‘Baji’ that the difference of price owes to a better quality of goods he alone is selling. How many times, those working have sent false excuses for not showing up for work? How many times, with unwanted guests turning up at our doorstep have been sent away with a false message sent through the servant that, ‘Sahib is not well and resting’ or the like – often in full hearing of giggling and amused offspring? How often do we grease the palms of people in different departments to get the work done; yes often for legitimate work too – because otherwise it will not be done? The list is endless and I can go on and on. But I guess you get the picture.

From the lowest level to the highest, corruption, lack of moral and ethical values seems to have replaced integrity. Of course, this is not true of everyone but in general terms seem to be true.

Does the ability to observe ethical and moral code and have integrity related in any way to observing laws? I think it does. Law is, by and large, a lot of common sense aimed to look after and preserve the rights of individuals within the society, supporting the ‘good conduct’ and opposing the ‘bad conduct.’ Organizations dealing their consumers and markets with integrity win their trust. Dan Akerson, chairman and chief executive officer of General Motors, in his ‘Leadership Message’ to the company’s employees in 2011 says, ‘Acting with integrity is something we must live every day at GM, and the current business environment makes it more important than ever. It means honest and accurate reporting of our performance. It means careful attention to our internal controls and policies. It means understanding and complying with our legal responsibilities. And, it means competing by the rules and making sure our actions match our words.’ In other words respecting the law in countries it is operating and respecting the law/policies to be followed within the organization.’

The constitution of Pakistan in Article 63 laying out disqualifications of a member of parliament states that a person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen if ‘he has been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction for propagating any opinion, or acting in any manner prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan, or the sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan, or morality, or the maintenance of public order, or the integrity or independence of the judiciary of Pakistan, or which defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary or the armed forces of Pakistan, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release.’ Yet another clause of Article 63 states the person may not be chosen if he has been, on conviction for any offence involving moral turpitude and sentenced for a period of two years unless five years have passed since ending of serving of the said sentence. Black’s Law Dictionary (1891-1991 Pg 1008) defines moral turpitude as, ‘The act of baseness, vileness, or the depravity in private and social duties which man owns to his fellow men, or to the society in general contrary to accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man.’

Things are not isolated. They are intertwined, overlapping and encircling one another. Laws are but an endorsement of supporting the good acts within the moral code of behaviour. The question then arises: Why do wrong acts go unpunished? Why are certain people perceived to be above the law while the same law deals harshly for the same crime with others?

This by no long shot means to imply a wrong becomes a right by virtue of this. What it does mean is, with a lack of respect for law, with a lack of respect for following a moral and ethical code of conduct and with a system in which each clog serves itself and its own, ignoring the ‘social duties which man owns to his fellow men, or to the society in general contrary to accepted and customary rule of right,’ the level of integrity has been allowed to slip and go unchecked.

It is here the role of strong leadership comes in play. A strong leader must support and implement laws, stand head and shoulders above corruption and be seen to be a man (or woman) of unimpeachable integrity. USIAD states on its SITE, ‘Fragile states are also characterized by weak policies, institutions, and governance.’ This will inevitably negatively impact different areas of lives of the common man creating anger and frustration. It will lead to more flaunting of laws at all levels.

A choice has to be made between good conduct and bad conduct.

Cross post from: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/04/28/comment/death-of-integrity/

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