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Integrity - a sense of wholeness.

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

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. 

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".

Integrity is finding your unique individuality.  It is associated with self-respect, honour, scruples, ethics and high principles in morality.  Above all it requires that an individual be true to themselves. First and foremost we are all human beings; after that we become what society expects us to be.  We should never give up our humanity.

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.”

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.  -  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:

“but I will bury him: well for me to die in doing so.  I shall rest, a loved one with him whom I have loved, sinless in my crime; for I owe a larger allegiance to the dead than to the living… But if thou wilt, be guilty of dishonouring laws which the gods have stablished in honour.” 

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.  …

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?

So for me to meet this doom is trifling grief; but if I had suffered my mother’s son to lie in death a corpse unburied, that would have grieved me; for this, I am not grieved.

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

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.

In Self-Dependence, Matthew Arnold,  standing 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!'"

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

Apostasy  - 

  When founding principles give way to pragmatic compromises.


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.

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

    "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.'  

    Tony Blair
    article by Stephen Goodwin, "The Labour Party in Blackpool: Blair urges politics of courage and trust," Independent , October 4, 1994.   - A justification for apostasy if ever there was one.

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

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