Tuesday, 15 November 2016

In this 'Post-Truth' world, how honest are you?

So 'Post-Truth' has been coined by Oxford Dictionaries, a term that pretty well sums up the world today.

How appropriate. And how very, very sad. 

When politicians, banks, newspaper chiefs, big businesses and even religious leaders can’t be trusted what chance is there for the rest of us? And, in the face of what must surely be the most corrupt, exploitative, money-obsessed period in human history, is honesty still the best policy? Is it actually possible to be 100% above board living in this woefully corrupt system?
On a personal level we all like to think we’re basically honest and truthful – but to what extent? Do we always fill in our tax details accurately, or do we ‘accidentally’ forget to include the occasional cash payment or perk. If we find a purse on the street, do we attempt to return it, or is it a case of ‘finders keepers’?
What often makes it hard to be honest is pressure from others.  One factory worker, for example, became extremely unpopular with his colleagues as, unlike them, he refused to take things easy when the manager wasn’t around.  Believing in the old adage, ‘a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay’,  he was determined to keep his side of the bargain and kept on working despite recriminations from his less industrious peers.
Equally honest was the financial director of a large corporation, a God-fearing man who could spot anomalies on an expense sheet from 50 metres away. So, naturally, after lunching with prospective clients at a star-rated restaurant, he was the obvious person to scrutinise the bill. One sweep of his eagle eye was all it took for him to see the mistake – the omission of a rather pricy bottle of wine which, to the horror of his fellow directors, he was at pains to point out. 
Was he a killjoy? Overly pedantic?  Depends how you view it. Getting away with a free bottle of plonk may be something of a coup for some folk, no matter if the hapless waiter lost his job.  But, would taking advantage of a simple human error have impressed the potential clients? And, let’s face it, what better qualification could there be for anyone in finance than sheer, straight-down-the-line, honest-to-goodness integrity? (Whether we see much of this virtue these days is another matter!)
Let’s look at the other side of the coin. For over a decade, an anaesthetist renowned for his pioneering pain relief fabricated research results which appeared in leading medical publications. But why compromise himself in this way?  According to a former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine, greed is certainly a factor:  “When researchers are beholden to [pharmaceutical] companies for much of their income, there is an incredible tendency to get results that are favourable to the company.”
Meanwhile, students are acquiring extra-curricular practices to ‘big up’ their skills. As highlighted by The New York Times, it seems many students will compromise ethics to achieve ambitions, intending to “follow a strict code of values” afterwards. For example, science students in Germany were discovered bribing their teachers in order to be recognised as Doctors.
Poor role models also play a part. Talking to The New York Times recently one professor states that high school students may be losing their moral compass: “It’s probably better to say that their teachers and mentors and the rest of society never helped them construct and internalize a moral compass in the first place.”
If supposedly respected individuals from government ministers to bishops fail to set a good example, little wonder younger people regard the rules as there to be broken, as demonstrated in a recent study. Out of nearly 30,000 students, 98 per cent believed honesty to be vital in personal relationships. Yet 8 out of 10 students said they’d lied to their parents, while 64 per cent admitted having cheated in an exam.
Be honest
Are you as trustworthy as you think you are? Ask yourself these questions:
·        You find a valuable piece of jewellery left on a washbasin in a public convenience. Would you hand it in at a police station or keep for yourself?
·        The cash machine is paying out more money than requested. Would you return the cash to the bank and report it, or go back for seconds?
·        At work or school, do you help yourself to pens, notepads and other stationery items to use at home, or do you ask permission first?
·        The newsagent gives you too much change. Do you take it back, or congratulate yourself on making a profit?
·        You’re out of work and claiming benefit. Then someone offers you £50 ($100) to paint their living room. Do you declare this to the benefit people, or keep it quiet?
·        Your boss asks you to lie about a product or service. Do you tell the truth and risk losing your job, or do you do as you are told?
·        You need to write an essay for college and time is running out. Do you find a piece online to copy and paste, or do you write the essay yourself even if it isn’t up to usual standard.

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