Sexy and heavy at the same time


In an increasingly manufactured world, virtue is a lone island. Saving one’s face is more important than playing by the rules.

A MAN who possesses intellectual prowess does not necessarily have integrity.”

So said a wise friend at a dinner I hosted last weekend.

We had been talking about our disillusionment with a cause and a personality in general, and whether we were too blinded by this person’s charisma and success, that we did not see the forest for the trees.

We too wanted to be part of the cause; we too wanted to change the current realities in Malaysia.

He, my friend, and I, felt like failures.

The word integrity has been bandied around so much that it has been cheapened to the lowest denominator.

In a culture that promotes personality and the branding of one’s self as the path to professional and personal success, seemingly having this virtue – integrity – is an illusion to seduce the masses.

Yes, virtues can be created and marketed – even honesty and sincerity.

In an increasingly manufactured world whereby nobody has the time and resources to contemplate and appreciate goodness, virtue is a lone island.

Man and his companions learn very fast to be different things to different groups of people.

Authenticity does not gel with certain crowds; it is smarter to adjust and be another person.

This is all about survival and winning. Saving one’s face is more important than playing by the rules.

It is easy to do so.

Accountability is another principle that is pushed aside. Look at how we conduct our daily lives.

We double-park or drive the opposite way on a one-way street.

We backstab colleagues and friends, and when we are called on that behaviour, we do not have to be accountable for our errant ways.

In the end, it is the one who seeks justice who loses face and his reputation.

We are so used to corrupt behaviour, we make excuses for immorality and bad manners because “…oh, he’s so clever, he’s so smart and rich … oh, you have to understand, she’s so pretty she’s used to being waited on hand and foot…”

And when we have to make a choice, we choose the easy way out.

We do not risk confrontation, we have our rice bowls to think of.

We do not court trouble, even if we are wronged.

When are we going to reclaim our lives? When are we not going to be fatigued by it all, and put our foot down when it matters?

And when we do, why are we demonised for taking a stand?

But, yes. The word integrity is sexy. Many are starved for it to happen in their lives.

We talk about it, as well as accountability, at the mamak restaurants and smart cocktail receptions.

We demand it in our public lives. But when push comes to shove, would we know what we want to do with it?

Integrity, the word, may be sexy, but its weight is heavy when one considers its truth.

As someone who has worked in the media and public relations, I am becoming more disenchanted by the marketing of values.

We now have fast-food honesty, popcorn principles and teh tarik sincerity.

Branding and public relations can be a boon or a necessary evil to get a product/message across.

What matters is what you put out to the front; forget the reality behind the product. This is 21st century integrity.

How can we bring integrity back to our humdrum, humble Malaysian lives then?

We need to discern what is right and wrong and be able to instill it in the young and ourselves.

We must act on it, even at personal cost. We must also be public about our actions as to our understanding of right and wrong.

We cannot allow personal or professional ambition to overrule everything else, and allow the wrongs to become our pathway to success.

Every faith wants its believers to follow the word of Allah/God, to submit and obey, to have integrity in our thoughts and manner.

But it is not going to be easy.

Another friend complained about how difficult it was to put on so many fronts as she attends the many work functions and events she has to go to.

“It is difficult to be authentic, especially when your life and family depend on the work relationships you create and maintain. One has to close one eye to too many things.”

To walk away, even with integrity burning in you, can mean the loss of everything important to you.

How are you going to allow integrity into your life?

Are you willing to let go of your many faces?