I want to talk about ethics and integrity because it terrifies me to see so many people completely ignore serious transgressions by leaders in public office, and to make saints of those who are clearly in violation of transparency and integrity.
While I recently wrote a piece for Beauty of Beginnings titled Ethics Normalising and referenced how we all need an Integrity Council. Our own council of people who love us enough to NOT let us get away with our own BS, violations of integrity, little atrocities, there is still more I need to say.
We humans have walked willingly into doing atrocious things to our fellows. Our history is steeped in blood and cruelty. Still, to this day.
I love the work of Hannah Arendt, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps who wanted to understand the banality of evil; how can we willingly make evil commonplace?
She wrote of the small transgressions, those seemingly insignificant petty violations that end in gross evil.
How did we get there, she wondered? How did evil become so normal, so acceptable, to so many?
I believe it starts with ourselves. With the lies we tell ourselves. Innocuous lies. “I will do this,” when we know we will not. Promises made to ourselves that a part of us knows we will never deliver on.
Self-deception as the original ground for the deception of others. In the fester of self-deception our ethics and morals are hollowed out. We get away with self-deception right? Because no one else knows…it is just between our inner conversation and our failure to keep our promise to ourselves.
I lived this way for years. My list of personal promises was so long each morning when I woke I was already exhausted.
When I woke up to my own self-deception, which breeds its partner self-hate, I destroyed the list, gave myself breathing time and space, then chose ONE thing, one small thing that I would commit to doing, no matter what, and I did that.
My self-trust was so hollowed out by this self deception that I had to restore myself to neutral before I could even begin to trust and respect myself again.
Now my self-talk is honest. “Really Christine, are you are going to do that? Come on, you know you will not! It’s just a wish. No commitment at all!”
When I make a commitment I am prepared to back it. And if for some reason I am not able to keep it, I will declare the truth of it as soon as I am aware of the truth of it.
Lying to ourselves is where we begin.
Lying to others is the second act. Breaking our promises. Making commitments we do not keep. Violating agreements.
This is a relationship, so when the person to whom we have lied doesn’t hold us to account, then we are both parties to a violation.
Yes there is a third act. Integrity, ethics and morals do not live in isolation, they live in community.
Lies and corruption thrive when we step over these three. Even the smallest ones. Like weeds, they shoot wherever there is ground enough, where no gardener is pulling weeds.
We step over a small lie told by another. Then a slightly larger lie. Lies become normal over time. We roll our eyes. We design systems to expect lies. We build whole legal codes to protect against lies and deception. We build walls. We build bigger walls, legal ones, bricks, police, security…
How did we get to this place where people in public office and the supremely wealthy get away with most things? Lies as normal. Corruption as normal. Obfuscation as normal?
Not in one fell swoop.
No, we got here because we the people stepped over the little lies, starting with the lies to ourselves which normalises the pathway to lying to others.
People have often criticised me for the standards I have around integrity, ethics and morals. Oh, this leader did a really good job in this department, so surely we can ignore how she lied over here? She is popular, so we can step over a little transgression can’t we? Surely we can look at all the good and dismiss the corruption in this little area?
No. We cannot. If we want a world that works for all creatures, if we want justice, zero exploitation, zero extraction to extinction, zero colonisation, then we cannot. Left unchallenged the little lie becomes the big lie.
INTEGRITY IS THE ESSENCE
‘Integrity is the essence,’ said Buckminster Fuller. Integrity means to hold its shape.
I will not hold a leader in reverence for good work in the north while the south is being snuffed out. I will not make this person a saint. If they own their transgressions, if they name them, apologise sincerely for them and then commit to reform with evident action taken, then I can and will forgive, wholeheartedly.
Choosing integrity as the path is a very demanding path. It means 100% of everything is up for examination and trial for the person who professes integrity as their prime value. It means that we surround ourselves with people who will not let us violate integrity in any circumstance. It means we hold ourselves to account first and then do the same for others.
Creating enterprises that have integrity as a central tenement requires permission for all participants to hold each other to integrity, to continually seek higher standards, to never step over petty violations. We can do this with love and kindness. We will do it because we know the slippery slope when they do not.
To be active in integrity requires us to make calls, write articles, never step over integrity violations. To be the whistleblower.
In our current society of bankrupt integrity, the whistleblower is the pariah, the criminal. The Integrity Commission is the criminal.
To be a whistleblower is a risky business. If we all become whistleblowers then the risk goes down. But if we all stand for justice, truth, ethics, morals…if we refuse to vote for anyone in the party, good person or not, because they kowtow to violations of integrity by following the party line, then we will turn the needle back towards a better world.
Silence makes us complicit. Silence makes us victims. Silence tells us a false story of our disempowerment.
It is not easy to speak up, to take a stand. To hold people to account. To hold ourselves to account.
What I know from personal experience is that when we do, when we are thorough with our own integrity, this is where freedom lies.
True freedom decreed by ourselves. Not by some other authority or power over us.
I will be a stand for my own integrity, for the integrity of those around me, and for those entrusted with public funds and services.
If we do this together, then we can change the world from violation of integrity as normal, to violation of integrity as the exception.
I know which world I want to live in. In a Syntropic World integrity is the essence.