November 29, 2020

Does Economic Prosperity trump Moral Integrity?

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What is the cost of winning?

This year, I wrote a book called Deep DiveExistential Essays for Personal Transformation. It contains a series of essays about existential issues in our contemporary environment. Prosperity and integrity are two topics covered in the essays.

Now, after further reflection, I am writing this essay because these two issues, while seemingly not connected, are worth exploring and asking this question:

Does economic prosperity trump moral integrity?

Success and winning are defined differently based on perspective.

So, I ask, “Who am I?” “Who are you?” “Are we what we pretend to be?”

I pretend to be a writer, and I do like to write, but I don’t claim to have any special talent in these endeavors.

In my writing, I like to observe irony and hypocrisy.

I tell people that I don’t like to be judged, yet I judge. I claim to hate hypocrites, yet I am one.

Let’s allow this to be the lens that we use to view our current president: he is a hypocrite, yet he has millions of followers who love him.

Maybe that is why I have such a hard time with Donald Trump. I see his behaviors, and I know that I also sometimes exhibit the same behaviors. I hate myself for it. (We often despise ourselves more when we see that same behavior exhibited by others.)

But, I feel our president should live up to a higher standard of behavior than what is expected of me. Other people see him in a different light and forgive his sins because he delivers according to their desires.

Who is he really? Well, it depends upon how you see him.

Some people see a lying hypocrite and many other despicable things. Or, other people see a hero for delivering his campaign promises to them. In fact, he is beloved by many. 

How is this possible? His detractors would say that:

>> He has a causal relationship with the truth. The only truth that matters to him is his truth, according to how he wants to see things. He has taken the idea that everything is subjective to an extreme.

>> He is faithful only to his desires and people who support him unconditionally. He has never shown humility or remorse.

>> For him, winning is everything. It is the only thing that matters, regardless of the method of winning or consequences of that win.

>> If you disagree with him or his behavior, you automatically become his enemy and are conspiring against him. He will condemn and try to destroy you. Because, in his mind, he is never wrong. And his subjective perspective is all that matters to him—that and winning.

>> Complicit politicians refuse to condemn him because he helps them stay in power and achieve their political objectives.

>> Gullible people adore him because they think he will help them financially protect their jobs and demonize perceived potential competitors for the same jobs.

>> Evangelical Christian leaders support him because he enables their desire for moral superiority through his advocacy for the Right to Life and stacking the Supreme Court.

Yet his supporters seem to adore him.

Maybe because he is so brazen and unapologetic for his behavior? They call this “straight talk.”

He has branded himself as the ultimate winner. He panders to his base and has been proven to be brilliant at positioning himself as a winner at all costs.

But, in my opinion, his victories are pyrrhic victories. His “victories” cost our country the mantle of the moral leadership we once held as a democracy leading the free world.

His “victories” are representative of his mindset: “Win now, worry later about consequences.”

Under his leadership, we now prioritize “victory” over integrity, economic gains over environmental ones, raw power over empathy, hatred over love, and division over unity.

No wonder he won’t admit defeat in the recent election. It would undermine the entire façade that he created as the ultimate winner.

(To be honest, I would not want to leave the White House either if it meant that I might end up facing lots of lawsuits and jail.)

But let’s take a moment to look at the other perspective. According to some, he is a savior—a winner.

Here are 10 examples of why others might see him as a “winner” in life:

1. He is a brilliant self-marketer. He is so good that he often impersonated a PR person to embellish his accomplishments.

2. He is a great supporter of the judicial system (having sued and been sued thousands of times).

3. He is a great supporter of the beauty industry, spending millions of dollars on hair, makeup, and a pageant.

4. He is amazing at avoiding tax payments and spending other people’s money. 

5. He made friends with other world leaders that his predecessor couldn’t, like Putin.

6. He loves women and supports immigration through his marriages.

7. He sees both sides of issues like when he said, “You had very fine people, on both sides” after a white supremacist march included the chants of Jews will not replace us.

8. He loves lots of great American food like McDonald’s.

9. He successfully avoided the draft five times.

10. He has the tremendous ability as a “stable genius” to make up his own facts when the truth doesn’t fit his narrative.

What do these 10 things tell you about success and winning?

To me, he is acting like a petulant child. He refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power while campaigning. Then he lost the election. Then, he denies that he lost, blames a conspiracy against him, and held a nation hostage while undermining a fundamental aspect of democracy. To him, staying in power is more important than our democracy.

To him, winning trumps the means of winning and the consequences of winning.

Who I am and who we are is based on what we do, and how and why we do it.

We all have different priorities based on our unique perspectives.

In the end, we are what we do.

Who do you want to be?

I want to be someone who stands up for decency, truth, honor, integrity, humility, science, and our country as a beacon of light for other countries to admire and follow.

Let’s win, but let’s win the right way, with morality and integrity as a foundation, instead of saying that the end justifies the means.

Economic prosperity is important, but not at the expense of moral integrity.


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