Thursday, December 12, 2013

Newspapers show just how much personal integrity matters

Apparently Karl Barth would begin each day by reading the newspaper and listening to Mozart. Various statements he made about the importance of reading the Bible and the newspaper together can be read here, including
"Reading of all forms outspokenly secular literature - the newspaper above all - is urgently recommended for understanding the Epistle to the Romans".
I grew up in a family that spent a lot of time reading newspapers. We received two each day, The Canberra Times and the Sydney Morning Herald. Often my father would buy the New York Times "Week in Review." But, now I struggle to keep up. I don't like reading stuff online. Hard copies seem expensive, waste a lot of paper, and can consume a lot of time.

During my recent visit to India we received a copy of The Times of India each day, for a month. In hindsight, we should have got The Hindu, since it seems to be of higher quality. I made sure I spend some time reading it each day. I really enjoyed this, but was motivated by the hope of better understanding India through this exercise. I feel I got a much better sense of just how India is both changing rapidly and struggling to adapt to that change. Unfortunately, it was also depressing because there was so much crime, corruption, suicides, silly advertising for luxury goods, political intrigue, .... It was just like a newspaper in Australia or the USA!

There was also one strong conviction I often come away with from reading all these human failings that enter the public domain. Personal integrity matters! A lot. The negative consequences of moral failures multiply "exponentially". Suppose I do something wrong [e.g. embezzle some funds at work], it becomes known, and enters the public domain. I contest my "innocence". This may lead to a work inquiry, debate within the institution, new policies, newspaper articles, statements by politicians, law suits, new laws, more public debate, more accusations, ... more newspaper articles, a broader government inquiry, .... This all costs money [perhaps far beyond the money I embezzled], takes up lots of time, and particularly distracts a whole range of people [my employers, journalists, politicians, my colleagues, lawyers, judges, ....] from focussing on weightier and more important issues they should be concerned with.

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