18 August, 2005

On Itegrity

I started watching "24" the other night, the show that takes place in real time.  I had never watched it before, because I have always shied away from television shows that were progressive in nature.  I knew that I would not be able to keep a commitment of watching a show every week, and so I did not want to start a television relationship I knew had no future.  (I am not afraid of commitment, I am afraid of breaking my commitments.)  Now, thanks to the beauty of DVD sets, I get to go back and watch all those shows I never watched before, without the commercials.  I like it fairly well, I have only watched the first four episodes, but so far, it seems well written.  I like Kiefer Sutherland, also; ever since he was in "Lost Boys", I liked him.  I like the character he plays on the show.  In the show, one of the sub-plots is a mole in his organization, and he is tasked to uncover the mole.  He comments that no one will let him get close, because he had turned in some of his own peers recently for taking bribes.  Later he is talking to another character, and he says, "Do you think they were bad guys?  They weren’t the bad guys, they just compromised one time too many." 
I don’t think anyone sets out to be a bad person.  I think they just get misguided.  Perhaps there are those few who arguably are just bad seeds, but to believe that there are some who are born with a propensity towards evil is tantamount to acknowledging original sin, and that just throws free will out the window.  I learned long ago in a Criminal Justice class that 25% of the people will do the right thing all the time, and 25% of the people will do the wrong thing, all of the time.  Laws and punishments are designed to motivate the 50% of the population that can be swayed.  I am not sure where the Professor had gotten his data, it sure seems like it was pretty simplistic; I think perhaps he was just trying to explain why there was still crime even though we have laws before anyone asked the question.  He could not have afforded to have the question asked because the criminal justice system is quite often barbaric, and he must have known it.  I did not see it back then; I was naïve. I used to be a fan of capitalism; my loyalty to the justice system went hand in hand with it.  It was the carrot and the stick on a grand scale, and I falsely believed that people pretty much got their just rewards (or punishments).   
The carrot and the stick philosophy, if applied to a child, will likely wind up with either a spoiled child (who does the right thing for rewards) or an abused child (who does the right thing out of fear of punishment, or does the wrong thing out of rebellion).  What we should be trying to do is raise a child who dos the right thing because it is the right thing to do; we should be trying to raise a child with integrity.  Integrity is truth in action; it means doing the right thing no matter who is watching, and even if you have no chance of ever getting caught, and there is no reward other than the gift of honor to your character.  Integrity is not expected of our children, we just want them to obey the rules, or at least not be caught.  Integrity is not expected of our leaders, which is why they can, with a straight face, say that what they did was not ‘illegal.’  They do not even try to say it was not wrong.  The ‘stick’ of the justice system is an ineffective deterrent against these spoiled children masquerading as leaders. 
 They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely, but that cannot be true, because the corollary does not check.  Powerlessness does not make us pure.  I believe that the source of corruption must be the compromises that people succumb to while trying to hold on to the power they have gathered, or trying to get the power that they crave.  Avarice corrupts, not power.

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