“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. “ — Edmund Burke
It is an unending riddle for the student of human behavior: why do so many people love to hear fine words about integrity and morals and yet fail so clearly to act in these ways?
Worse than this hypocrisy is the fact that the very people who love to talk up the essential nature of integrity will start to become very uncomfortable if you begin discussing actions to actually address unjust or corrupt practices. You doubt me? Try it.
Especially if such unjust practices produce some personal gain for themselves or could involve them having to deal with numerous complaints from those who stand to lose if things became fair and open.
People like to talk about integrity and justice but it is never convenient to act on such noble ideals. Especially if introducing justice, fairness and openness would involve some personal inconvenience. You doubt me? Try it.
It is astounding to look at the names of people whose famous words on integrity and leadership are quoted with wild abandon in discussions of leadership and yet who were in reality either murdered or silenced as their truth was just too inconvenient for the general population to tolerate.
Everyone loves to believe they are filled with integrity. I have met people who would think nothing of destroying a human life or perverting due process for personal gain and yet were filled with self images of their own absolute integrity and righteousness.
The human ability to be able to justify our own actions as being ethically correct no matter what evil those actions produce is literally terrifying.
Acting in a right manner is not some word game.
If you really do it then you will know you are doing it because it costs you personally. Most often in lost personal advantage and inconvenience but sometimes much more. At some moment you will find you have to decide if you will take a stand on moral principle. This is what you will have heard of as a defining moment. It literally defines your worth as a rational, intelligent being with free will.
For make no mistake such decisions will define and change you forever, either to make you (as Churchill once said) “a wooden puppet or a golden giant“.
Too many people never take such a stand. They always take the easy route. They never rock the boat, no matter how rotten that boat might be.
Such people will never understand the sacrifice needed to stand for what they believe in. Their masters (and make absolutely no mistake their decision not to make a stand means they have masters) will tell them what good people they are to understand “the greater need” to maintain the injustices and corruption that surrounds them.
Such people can quote the fine words of others on integrity and justice, but they will never really understand them, for to understand them really demands that you live them.