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Integrity - a sense of wholeness -  Integrity: A Universal Principle

Integrity is connected to people who have a sense about themselves, or as the Greek dramatists depicted it, they had experienced self discovery and “Know who they are”.  Sophocles – Oedipus Rex

Integrity is associated with self-respect, honour, scruples, ethics and high principles in morality.  Above all it requires that an individual be true to themselves. 

Integrity: A Universal Principle

Integrity is a multi-faceted principle. It evokes entirety, wholeness, purity, indivisibility, consistency, sincerity and tolerance.

Integrity is the integration of outward actions and inner values. A person with integrity does what they say they will do in accordance with their values, beliefs and principles. A person of integrity can be trusted because he or she never veers from inner values, even when it might be expeditious to do so.

A key to integrity, therefore, is consistency of actions that are viewed as honest and truthful to inner values.1

 1 National Sport Commission, Australia

Sophocles in Antigone poses the conflict of Natural jurisprudence and State Justice.  Following a dispute her two brothers, having killed each other, the King Creon, has decreed that her exiled brother Polynices’ corpse be left outside on the hillside to be devoured by dogs and vultures.  Antigone is determined to obey the divine laws of proper burial by giving her brother Polynices a proper grave on the simple moral point that “he is still my brother”.  In her arguments with her sister, Ismene,  she asserts:

Die I must… But if I am to die before my time, I count that a gain; for when any one lives, as I do, compassed about with evils, can there be any gain but in death?

When Creon charges her for breaking his law, she defiantly counters:

Yes, for it was not Zeus who made that edict…nor deemed I that your decrees were of such force, that a mortal could override the unwritten unfailing statutes of heaven.  …

 And if my present deeds are foolish in your sight, perhaps a foolish judge arraigns my folly

People frequently go on holiday to remote places - to lose themselves - in order to find themselves. Jesus spent 30 days in the desert before starting his ministry. 

Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.  Dr. Samuel Johnson

In Self-Dependence, Matthew Arnoldstanding at the prow of the ship bearing him back to England, "Weary of myself, and sick of asking/ What I am, and what I ought to be," Arnold sends "a look of passionate desire"  to the stars, and asks that they "Calm me, ah, compose me to the end!"

The Socratic answer comes, that to live "self-poised" as the stars do, there is only one prescription:" 

 'Resolve to be thyself; and know that he,

Who finds himself, loses his misery!'"

One of my favorite cartoons has Mr Dithers disturbing Dagwood in his office with his feet on the desk asleep.  Startled, Dagwood explains that he is merely trying "to find himself".   Mr Dithers quips: "Don't bother; if you ever succeed, you'll be very disappointed".

Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialism implies that it is possible to be authentic and free, as long as you keep up the effort. It is exhilarating to exactly the same degree that it's frightening, and for the same reasons. As Sartre summed it up in an interview:

   “There is no traced-out path to lead man to his salvation; he must constantly invent his own path. But, to invent it, he is free, responsible, without excuse, and every hope lies within him.”

Chaucer presents a portrait gallery of the 14th Century, renown for its wit and use of Chaucerian irony;  praising a character, but undercutting it with subtle wit. Only one character survives Chaucer’s sarcasm unscathed – the lowly Parson "Erste he wroughte, and thanne he taughte"  - first he practiced then he taught. All of the other Pilgrims prove to fall short of their projected image.  He depicts society inverted; the top echelons are corrupted, while the lower orders have integrity and dignity. 

In A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt,  Sir Thomas More has to reconcile his Public duty and his private conscience when King Henry VIII  defies the Pope by asking More to provide him dispensation to divorce Catherine of Aragon so he can marry Ann Boleyn.  More wrestles his conscience in an attempt to find himself as an individual and gain a sense about himself at the risk of dying as a martyr. 

To More there is something that most of us would prefer not to violate; if he is not true to himself, then his self has no meaning, no identity.

Shakespeare addressed this in Hamlet when he has Polonius advise Laertes; 

“This above all, to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man” 

Integrity is related to a sense of honour; that of your name or reputation.  Shakespeare again addresses this issue in Othello when he has Iago tell Othello,

“Who steals my purse steals trash; …………

 But he that filches from me my good name

Robs me of that which not enriches him

And makes me poor indeed.”

The fact that Shakespeare has his worst characters express such noble sentiments could ironically suggest their lack of integrity.

On reputation:

 “The purest treasure mortal times afford is spotless reputation – that away, men are but gilded loam or painted clay.”  Richard II, Act I, sc. I


John Proctor in Miller’s The Crucible, is sorely tempted to save his life by giving his signature to his tormentors, however, it is his conscience that prompts him to realize that he would then lose his “good name”.  It is this crisis of conscience that provokes him to tear up his confession and die honourably, his integrity intact.

       The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."  Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird

Throughout history many people have had to choose between following their conscience in conflict with what the Authority demands they do.  Such people demonstrate courage of conviction and often pay dearly for the moral acts.  Jesus Christ refused to compromise with evil and was crucified for it.   Julius Caesar remained firm in his convictions and was assassinated for this.   Sir Thomas More defied the orders of King Henry VIII and was executed for his courageous stand on principle.  Gandhi tackled British colonialism while Martin Luther King challenged racism and Nelson Mandela apartheid.

In recent times there have been many people who have followed their own conscience rather than commands of their superiors, often in government.  Catherine Walker, a board member of National Australia Bank stood up to the board and only resigned after she gained concessions of reform.

Andrew Wilkie, a former Australian Intelligence officer, resigned from the Office of National Assessments because he could no longer keep secret some of the deceit he felt the government was engaged in.  Since then, Mike Keelty expressed his misgivings, 43 former Generals spoke out against government policy especially in regards to the war in Iraq.  Lately others have spoken out regarding the lies told about the Children Overboard Affair.   

Each of these has demonstrated courage.  The common term for this act of speaking out is called “Whistle Blowing”.  This refers to the fact that whistle blowing alerts people to the fact something is wrong.   Policemen, nurses and teachers often do it to expose faults in the system.  Whistle Blowing, when done without ulterior designs, is an example of altruism and integrity motivated by a crisis of conscious and is becoming an acceptable practice in the modern world.

Allan Kessing, Bradley (Chelsea) Manning,  Julian Assange, Edward Snowden…….are a few more examples.

For more examples: Whistleblowing

Crucifixion

Australians love a good crucifixion, not least the one we commemorate at Easter; Christ challenging the ruling class, the mockery and the execution that followed. But we don’t only know this story from the religious tradition, we recognise it – even celebrate it – in the pattern of our political debate. The Passion play repeats whenever the powerful, prejudiced or privileged begin to feel uneasy.

A voice challenges the status quo but the public execution that follows distracts the baying crowds. The establishment’s anxiety is then allayed and structural injustice maintained.

All who challenge power and injustice can be certain public excoriation is on its way.   As soon as you do something good for the greater public, your destiny is assured.

Prime examples throughout Australia's history include, (but not limited to):  Captain Bligh,  Lachlan Mcquarie, Jack Lang, Gough Whitlam, Julia Gillard, Malcolm Turnbull.

Welcome to Australia, where voting is compulsory, but the results don’t matter.

Australian governance has been called a revolving door of leadership.  It has had a long history of coups, from William Bligh’s arrest in 1808, to Lachlan Macquarie 1820, sent back to England in disgrace, Billy Hughes sacking from the Labor Party, to Jack Lang’s dismissal in 1932, John Gorton betrayed by Malcom Fraser in 1971, Gough Whitlam’s, in 1975, Bob Hawke, overthrown in  1992, Kevin Rudd, 2010, Julia Gillard, 2014, Tony Abbot, 2015…  Malcolm Turnbull – 2018.  Seven PMs in 11 years makes post-war Italy look positively stable by comparison.

That many consider it a blood sport was confirmed when Richard Carlton asked Bob Hawke what it was like to have blood on his hands in disposing of Bill Haydon in 1983. 

When Malcolm Turnbull ousted Tony Abbott back in 2015, Wikipedia pranksters updated the “Sport in Australia” page to say: “The main national sport is the Leadership spill which fixates the nation on a random but regular basis.”

As Guy Rundle put it: “a country that changes leaders like underwear and for the same motive, when they’re more skidmark than fabric — has to be understood as a traumatic event in the national order.”

On the contrary it has become normalized; a predictable It’s become a continuity seared into the national psyche.

In the gospel narratives, Christ’s mockery and execution was the consequence of publicly challenging those in power (Mark 11:15-18). While plotting Christ’s death, one high priest stated “It is better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed” (John 11:50) – which could be interpreted as “It is better that one person die than that all my privilege perish.”

The spectacle of retribution that follows is not mere tabloid entertainment. It has political purpose – distraction and deterrence – and is as old as the Easter story itself.

As Christ faced trial, so the scriptures say, his disciple Peter infamously denied knowing him in order to avoid sharing the same torturous end (Mark 14:66-72). The threat of political execution works, silencing dissent and leaving the truth unspoken.

According to Mike Carlton, The Saturday Paper, “the mainstream media are on the same bandwagon, chiefly at Murdoch’s News Corpse, where vendetta journalism has become an art form. Targets – frequently prominent women – are chosen to be relentlessly reviled and bullied for trumped-up transgressions in both the news columns and on the opinion pages. Julia Gillard, the young Muslim activist and engineer Yassmin Abdel-Magied, the former human rights commissioner Gillian Triggs, the Indigenous academic Larissa Behrendt and, most recently, the ABC’s economics journalist Emma Alberici, have all been singled out for the lash”.

Apostasy  - 

  

The formal disaffiliation from, abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person. It can also be defined within the broader context of embracing an opinion contrary to one's previous beliefs. – Wikipedia   

The Catholic Church by the 15th century had become so corrupt, many priests broke away in an attempt to start afresh.

Secular apostasy:  - When founding principles give way to pragmatic compromises in everyday life.  Whenever officials or authorities disavow their oaths of office, they negate their purpose.  

Orwell  warned us that totalitarianism can come from the apostasy of Socialist governments.  

Socialist governments espouse high ideals, yet when they get to power they are often quick to abandon those ideals to maintain control.  In Orwell’s time, the Spanish Civil War opened his eyes to the apostasy of Russia’s Communist Government.  During the Second World War, he saw further evidence that the British Labour Party was prone to abandon its principles to gain power.  In many ways, the novel, 1984 is a warning about the dangers of the erosion of ideals, since the governing party, called INGSOC, represents English Socialism in a corrupted, perverted and debauched form.  It has succumbed to the seduction of power and is determined to hang on to power by whatever means it can - expediency - pragmatism - realpolitiks.

George Orwell also observed "only a socialist could have such contempt for ordinary people".

When the Tories screw workers, they get angry; when the socialists do it, they get sad.

After the inglorious demise of the Whitlam government in 1975, the Australian Labour Party fell into the hands of the ultra pragmatists with the dominant philosophy of "whatever it takes".  If you can't beat them; join them or play by their rules.   The extreme right of the party came to so closely resemble their opposites in most regards.  Bob Carr could easily out bid Howard in his zeal to posture as being tough on issues as law and order, use of terror as fear mongering or tightening laws to restrict our freedoms - 

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”      George Orwell -  Animal Farm

Tony Blair, justified apostasy as:.  

"If the world changes and we don't, then we become of no use to the world. Our principles cease being principles and just ossify into dogma.'  

As the parody of the Internationale goes: "The working class can kiss my  a-s, I’ve got a politician’s job at last"


  1. “liberty should not be lightly exchanged for coercive security”.   


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