The reality of blind ambition versus integrity could not be better illustrated than by the embarrassing debacle that took place in the U.S. House of Representatives this past week. Kevin McCarthy is obviously completely willing to abdicate any sense of integrity, or public service, to his craving for the position of House speaker: He has reversed himself so many times that his head must be spinning. First by supporting Donald Trump, then by condemning him, then by flying to Mar-a-Lago to kiss his arse, and now to “give away the farm” of congressional rules by trying to buy the support of the Trump fanatics in order to obtain their support for his quest.
How much longer can we put up with a man who will sell anything and everything, probably including his mother and his first-born, to pursue his single-minded ambition? It’s a disgrace, it’s embarrassing, and it’s bad enough to qualify as criminal, at least in my book. Unfortunately, McCarthy seems to be part of a trend that abrogates integrity to ambition at many levels of public life; on a broader scale that trend includes Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump.
I’m not so naïve as to think that such a situation has not always existed, it most certainly has. However, the level it has now reached has virtually eliminated integrity from public life in many instances. Gone are the days when even a whiff of scandal, actions that could affect your institution, or even a touch of “non-integrity”, would result in instant resignation. Kevin McCarthy lost 14 caucuses in a row, and many pundits were speculating that the number could reach 50 or even higher. The man, and his party, obviously have no self-respect whatsoever, let alone any integrity or conscience about destroying the legislative system of government by their blind ambitions. It is a blatant example of a “Me-Me” culture. “I will do whatever it takes to achieve MY ambition, and to hell with anything or anybody else.”
Given the current political mess in the U.S., we may deserve such leaders (I use the term very loosely), but we absolutely don’t want them. I also have to wonder if democracy can survive them.
So, what can we do about it? How can we reverse the apparent inexorable trend away from integrity towards blind and raw ambition? We will never reverse it completely, it is part of human nature but, when it threatens our democratic future, we have to try.
I have to admit that I don’t have the answer. I wish I did. Apart from using the Stalin doctrine “if you have a problem with someone and he/she dies, you don’t have a problem anymore”, it is a perplexing issue. How do you instill integrity, so it can triumph over ambition when necessary?
It has to start with education and a societal acceptance of community responsibility. Unfortunately, that possibility is “dead at birth” in an autocracy, and it also appears to completely contradict the U.S. obsession with individual rights as THE fundamental tenet of the country. So, is there any hope? Even an optimist would have to say no, at this point.
On the other hand, there are many people in public service who can, and do, put integrity above ambition, so all is not lost. The problem is how do we, as the voting public, encourage and support these individuals to run against the ego-centric blind “ambitionists” (I know that’s not a word, but it seems to fit).
One main problem with the fight for integrity is that it doesn’t make news; it is not sensational enough to command air time, so the media doesn’t report candidates, or representatives, that exhibit such a rare attribute. We, the voting public, therefore don’t hear about such candidates and, consequently, their possible futures as our representatives is frustrated and doomed. If the blind “ambitionists” are more sensational, and they generally are, they get more coverage.
Expecting the media to show some integrity above sensationalism is a lost cause, as we all know.
However, the main culprit, in the long run is, unfortunately, us. If the general public didn’t crave sensationalism over integrity, there is a chance the media might show a more balanced reporting stance. The media are basically prostitutes; the more sensational the news, the more f…. newspapers they can sell, and the more money they can make. We, the public, are really the only ones who can change that, and human beings don’t seem to have the capacity as a group to entertain such an idea because we are addicted to sensationalism. How we got to that point is debatable – it is a chicken and egg question. However, it does bear serious discussion if the Kevin McCarthy’s of this world are not to dominate our public life.
Help! Suggestions gratefully received.