Friday, March 13, 2015
INQUISITION 4: Honor and Integrity in Politics
As we enter an election cycle, it may become appropriate for candidates to consider these terms. I expect that many voters make judgments about candidates on exactly these issues, although it is not likely that voters realize that is what they are doing.
Successful candidates will be judged on their HONOR and their INTEGRITY.
Using the Google dictionary as a beginning place to examine the terms, which dictionary is very handy although perhaps not authoritative, I find these basic concepts:
INTEGRITY is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. "he is known to be a man of integrity". Synonyms: honesty, probity, rectitude, honor, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness. "I never doubted his integrity"
When HONOR is used to describe a person's character, it is an act of a person, when considered as a verb, or the quality of a person, when considered as an adjective.
I leave out of this discussion the act of paying compliments to another and focus on a person's internal character instead.
Honor happens when a person fulfills (an obligation) or keeps (an agreement). Quote: "make sure the franchisees honor the terms of the contract". Synonyms include: fulfill, observe, keep, obey, heed, follow, carry out, discharge, implement, execute, effect.
Honor has been used also to indicate a self sacrifice for the cause of a greater good, as in "he honored the Gods by his bravery."
The above make a case for both Honor and Integrity as demonstrating a consistency in behavior to others. Or, as we say, "Walk the talk', or do what you say you will do.
INTERNAL AS OPPOSED TO EXTERNAL CONSISTENCY
And yet, Shakespeare has Polonius say Act 1 Scene 3 of Hamlet:"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. Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!"
In my mind at least, Polonius' words can conflict with the definitions above. It seems possible to act in consistency with your internal moral principles and yet fail to demonstrate that consistency to others.
One may be behaving morally and yet not seem to be so.
That's a prescription for disaster for any candidate, or any person for that matter.
A MAN OF HONOR
There was a movie some time ago where a minor criminal figure had some information on a major crime figure and was in a jam. So the protagonist asked the DA if the DA is a man of honor. The DA said he was and that our hero could trust him. So, our hero made a deal with the DA that he would give up the information in exchange for a deal of relocating his family. The DA agreed and used the information to put the major crime figure in jail. But, when the protagonist asked the DA to live up to the deal, the DA said he had more important things to worry about and could not make the deal.
But, said our hero, 'I trusted that you were a man of honor and now my family is in danger.' The DA said, 'That's too bad, then, but I can't help you.'
Similar situations happen routinely in politics where a candidate make a promise to a group of voters and then reneges on the deal after winning the election.
EXPECTATIONS AND QUALITY IN PRODUCTS
There is a similar issue in the business world. That issue has to do with customer expectations and the idea of quality.
When a business person wants to achieve a reputation for a 'quality' product, he or she has to consider what are the expectations existing in the minds of potential customers.
If the product can deliver more than the expectations, then it will be considered a 'high quality' product. When the product delivers less than the expectations, then it is considered a 'low quality' product.
Note that this has nothing at all to do with the materials, design or price of the product; it is just about expectations.
To make matters more confusing, consumer expectations are changing constantly. The definition of a 'quality or luxury' automobile from 1985 is vastly different from the expectations which fit that description today.
Of course, this means that some business people will make it their business to 'manage customer expectations'. This is so normal that many business have a saying to describe their managing of customer expectations.
The phrase is : 'underselling versus overselling.'
Simply put, 'underselling' is promising less than you deliver, thus creating customer satisfaction and a reputation for high quality; while 'overselling' is promising more than you deliver, thus creating customer dissatisfaction and a reputation for poor quality.
POLITICS AND THE ART OF UNDERSELLING
Numerous politicians make a career by overselling their opponents and underselling themselves.
But, the delivery that meets or fails to meet the expecations has nothing to do with policy in the public interest.
The delivery referred to here is a speech or comment about some issue that resonates with voters but has little or nothing to do with the public interest.
For example, if your opponent supports free choice of women in family planning, then you claim that he/she supports murdering babies. Then, then your opponent defends the right to choose birth control or abortion, you can claim that your opponent has met the expectation of a low quality candidate.