INTEGRITY AND KNOWLEDGE

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It used to be; a knowledgeable person was also someone with high level of integrity. This came about (essentially) as a result of the very process of acquiring knowledge. The business of acquiring first hand knowledge was, for the most part, predicated on truth and truth seeking. Engagement in truth seeking/revealing (science, etc.,) was an inherently integrity enhancing activity. After all, what is integrity if it not the continuous commitment to truth seeking. Those who dedicated their lives to serious inquiry/truth and truth seeking {be it via enquiry (science, etc.,) or osmosis (religion, etc.,) were regarded as embodiments of integrity. Since those who were at the frontier of mathematics & science were also residing at the apex of the truth-seeking world, some of them ended up becoming deep reflectors of the general human conditions on the raw, i.e., philosophers! Traditionally philosophy included, amongst other things; ethics, religion, politics, sociology, etc., this was of course long before utilitarianism relegated philosophy to an assembly line vocation. Today the process of acquiring knowledge hardly requires first hand discovery, as one can easily obtain knowledge through second hand experience (via structured educational system, etc.,). As a result, integrity and knowledge started to part ways!

Human progress as it obtains today wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the proliferation of knowledge via effortless reproduction. That is why we say; ‘knowledge is a dime a dozen’, to use the mercantilists’ proverb. It has also become easy to quantify/measure knowledge. Today a person’s skill, expertise, etc., in short, knowledge (in a particular field of engagement) is certifiable. Most such knowledge is second hand (acquired via communication) and its impact on an individual’s world view, disposition, temperament, etc. is different from that obtained in the process of frontier investigation. This is the essential difference between a theoretical physicist and say a lawyer, or an accountant and philosopher, etc. For example, to a physicist (amongst other things) integrity (of necessity) is one of her main tools, otherwise her occupation/project of truth seeking/fact finding will not go very far. On the other hand, a lawyer makes his living in the world of wallowing ambiguities, between the polar opposites of truth and false. As a corollary, integrity (as a rule) cannot be a lawyer’s forte. No wonder the global polity (stacked with lawyers) considers integrity (of necessity) a nuisance in the important task of global political management! See the articles on page 51.
Let’s bring the discussion down to the level of ordinary chit chatting. It is not uncommon in countries like ours, where education (knowledge to some extent) bestows awe/aura on the learned, generously endowed with decorated parchments. When the grand heist of the learned crooks is publicly exposed, the naïve holler; but why, after all Madam X or Mr. Y are well educated! Identifying education with integrity is one big misconception we must soon rectify before we lose our shirts!
Thankfully, this misconception is being vigorously challenged by the enlightened global youth. Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Etc., all have the agenda of systematically deconstructing the prevailing world order/view that is oppressively imposed on the global mass by entrenched elites/interests. To show some of the unhealthy connection between education and integrity, consider the followings: Who are those who blindly take us into an economic cul-de-sac? Answer: The so called educated lacking integrity. Remember the book ‘The Economic Hit Man’? We have thousands of economic hit men/women that shouldn’t be listened to, anywhere. Who are the big time crooks who steal, not pennies (like the uneducated pickpockets) but millions/billions with acquired knowledge leading to criminality? Answer: the banksters! Remember Mr. Madoff of New York, founder of the NASDAC (the hi-tech stock exchange)? Who are those who preach progressive change while actually implementing Orwellian rules on the global mass? See the article next column and on page 50.
Even poor Ethiopia has now joined a select group of countries where grand corruption is considered a minor nuisance. We now have Madoffs of Ethiopian origin; educated, groomed to kill or rather to steal and hypnotizing the gullible beast (human mass) and goading it to trust them with its lifetime savings! Yes, once the crooked knowledgeable are let loose on us, there is literally no cover, except to stick to our old raw integrity systems, derived not from second hand knowledge but rather from its absence! We believe one of the reasons Islam fundamentalism is gaining ground is because of this obvious shortcomings of the corrupt learned. By and large, the uneducated at least have their ‘god fearing’ temperament and the frontier investigators are vigorously engaged in occupations that enhance truth seeking, the problem as always lies with the in-betweens. Country bumpkins working for government used to be somewhat kosher, a bit inhibited when it comes to big time embezzlement. Not anymore! Today the educated corrupt (hardly knowledgeable) steal millions and characteristically bury their loot underground in their place of birth or over ground on properties in cities/towns! We repeat; education/knowledge cannot and should not be associated with integrity. In fact as more and more second hand or even third hand knowledge/education seeps through the psyche of multitude, impeccable integrity might well migrate probably only to those actively engaged in first hand work of creation and discovery!
Here is how the sage of Omaha puts it: “When I hire people I look for three qualities integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. If you think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.”  He also added: “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.” Warren Buffett. Good Day!