Punchinello’s Chronicles

January 27, 2009

If Not Us, Someone Else Will

Filed under: Word of the Day — Punchinello @ 9:56 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Integrity. Honor. These are two of the highest level abstractions we have in our personal lives. Yet they’re also the most complex to define and even harder to live with.

“If we don’t sell these, then someone will. So why shouldn’t we be the ones to make the money?”

This is one of the most powerful, dangerous, and damning rationalizations known to humanity. It’s everywhere! Whenever anyone comes up with an ethical conundrum, there’s always some version of the same phrase.

“If I don’t take this action, someone else surely will. So I may’s well be the first!”

For example, let’s suppose you’re a journalist and you happen upon a story involving a scandal. The result of the story will be to ruin someone’s life, ruin a marriage, destroy a company, or otherwise cause harm and great damage. You’re a journalist and reporting “news” is your business.

Additionally, being “first” with the scoop is a key part of successful journalism. What do you do? “If I don’t report this, there’s sure as hell going to be another paper-station-whatever who’ll find out, and they’ll report it. I may as well be first, since somebody is definitely going to report on it!”

What about integrity? What about honor?

Are those terms and concepts so outmoded and obsolete now that they simply don’t matter? How often will we rationalize disgusting actions before we forget that it even matters? How long before we don’t even consider it to be an ethical question at all?

One response to this type of event is to decide that it isn’t worth it. But what’s the “it,” and what sort of value are we considering?

The “it” is your integrity and honor, and the value is whether or not you even have such moral concepts in your life. Is the momentary satisfaction of reporting a flash-in-the-pan story, something that’ll be forgotten in a week — is that worth the pain and heartache you’ll cause to people around you?

What if you decide to sell tainted milk, or shoddy clothes? What if you decide to hike the price on water during a natural disaster? “If I don’t, the next guy will, so I may as well make the money instead.”

Suppose you find out that a secret operation is about to take place in your neighborhood. It’s an attempt to prevent terrorists from attacking the country. Should you report it? If you do, the terrorists will be warned and either speed up their time table or disappear.

“Well, the public has a right to know! And if I don’t report it, somebody else will. The story is GOING to come out, that’s for sure, so why not benefit from it?” And the hell with how many people get killed or maimed, right? That’s none of your business. “They” should’ve kept the secret better!

Sadly, we’ve come to a time in our culture where everyone is out for themselves. Words like integrity and honor, character and values have been under assault for so long they’ve become lost in the rubble. Even worse, in many instances “integrity” means wiping out one’s competition for the express purpose of being the first to report, or the one to sell the item!

“The public has a right to know….” Whatever that means. That’s at the foundation of unbelievably disgusting journalistic practices, lies, slander, and complete invasion of privacy. Does anybody care?

“Well, if we don’t report it, somebody else will. We may as well be the ones doing it, since at least there’ll be a benefit to us!”

Integrity is the act of using will power to hold to a set of moral values. Honor is having a moral code in the first place. The complexity of the two terms has to do with the moral code itself, whether or not it’s “good” or “bad,” and how it serves to further the creative enjoyment of life…or not.

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