The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles
Editor 

t's time for the development of a new kind of literacy

 


There is a desperate need for integrity literacy in this world.

We cannot call for people of excellent integrity to emerge as leaders, for two reasons. People of high integrity rarely need to be called on to lead; they tend to just do it, typically with few people (especially themselves) recognizing it as leadership. More importantly, calling for integrity is not what the world needs. Rather, it’s understanding integrity, becoming aware of what it means, what constitutes it, how to gauge whether or not a person or a situation is in integrity—in short, what it means to be literate in integrity—this is what is needed.

The poster children for this need are the current candidates for U.S. president. If you were going to do an integrity analysis of both candidates, what criteria would you use? Why would you choose those criteria?

Answers to those questions give some indication of one’s own sense of integrity. But most significantly, just asking those questions in itself establishes in oneself a baseline of integrity literacy. To even ask these questions inherently invites a fuller consideration of the topic. The door is opened, and once opened it is very difficult to close it again. You’ll always want to ask the same questions, in situations from elections, to who you choose to repair your computer, to the effectiveness of public officials, to how much to leave for a tip.

Once on the path to integrity literacy, one can feel challenged: who am I to make such a determination—and now that I think of it, I may not be all that advanced in the value myself, so who am I to talk? (Or one may face another kind of challenge, that of thinking oneself to be above such self-examination. Arrogance is a form of inverted integrity, turned on its head by the presumption that one is correct by sheer self-proclamation. Consider this when taking a fresh look at both presidential candidates.)

For those stuck in the more beneficent self-challenge, it’s helpful to realize that the very ability to examine one’s own qualifications in assessing integrity is inherently an act of integrity. It’s not so much how advanced in it you are as it is having a commitment to it. The commitment naturally develops a greater awareness and a broader discernment and, curiously, a fuller compassion for self and others. As someone put it ages ago, nobody cares what you know until they know you care. The more you care, the more people want to know what you know.

Creating a growing environment for integrity literacy is the key issue and need of this day, and this claim is meant to take nothing away from the pulpit. Religions as institutions (as opposed to the truths they may embrace) can often hobble their own messages, but asking questions from a perspective of integrity literacy helps raise the level of discussion. Politics does have some good people, but the overwhelming numbers of seedy pseudo-servants is so vast that the few true statesmen and women are indiscernible in the forest. Why? Because there aren’t even people literate in integrity.

What prompted this editorial was the latest presidential debate, in which the candidates sought to enroll voters in their respective views of their own integrity. (Yes, they actually do believe they have a standard of integrity; but without the ability to accurately discern the reality behind the rhetoric, one can only feel the blast of blather as it passes.)

Most essentially, one must ponder why they both devote so much time and energy to burnishing their own images. What is their sense of a high road? Do they have truly have one or are they merely trolling for suckers, which could include themselves? And how do the answers to these questions make a difference to you?

Beyond this election, the notion of integrity literacy arises because the standard of what constitutes “normal” continually degrades to the lowest common denominator. With the acceptance of a new “normal,” the common denominator is free to fall again. Without integrity literacy, that trend will only continue. That has led to this writing and to the building of the inexorably approaching Goldendale Performing Arts Center, which has as its central premise—its why—the fostering of integrity literacy through the performing arts. These are the most powerful instruments of persuasion today, particularly for young people.

 

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