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Developing a Catalyst for Global Integrity

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Understanding the Importance of the Constituency for Ethics
And the Nature of Ethics as a Power
Presented to: The Integrity Task Force FIDIC

September 7, 2006
Beijing, China

Thank you both for your kind invitation to join you at your meetings today and most importantly for the work that you have done on developing a Corporate Integrity System with a concept to global business. When I wrote The Language of Conscience your work and that of the Ethics Officers Association in America were two of the case examples that were critically important because they dealt not just with ethics, but with the realities of life.

In our limited time this morning I would like to speak to a much more significant issue which is how systems such as these can effectively be placed into operation in a global environment far too often dominated by corruption. In writing these series of books, I have had the opportunity to work with many people and to get the insights of very diverse parties. You quickly see that first and foremost integrity is a cultural power more then economic or political power and that is very important in refining a strategy of how to enhance it. The man considered the father of modern philosophy in the West, Rene Descartes’, made a few observations that are very appropriate here. He distinguished ideas in different ways and separated them on the basis of being clear or distinct ideas which had parts. A philosopher’s job was to analyze these complex ideas to simple ones. He also distinguished between the ideas of the mind which are often much more clear and those of the reality of the world were often more distorted. As I began writing this series of books, The New Legacy, The Language of Conscience, and now Instilling Values in Transcending Generations, it has been a course of refinement of a number of these concepts. The concepts of the mind are the more noble ideas that have been put forth to develop history. They believe that man can be enlightened to a better character and are found in the words of leaders such as Aristotle, Confucius, Christ and others. The observation of the realities of life quite often can take the approach that man is inherently evil and the observations of very thoughtful writers such as Machiavelli or in the East, The Science of the Thick and the Black, or in part the concept that man is but a blank slate affected by rewards and punishments such as the legalism of Han Fey. The reason good ideas of the mind often do not work, is a lack of understanding the function of the powers in reality that both support and hinder them. As International Consultants facing this daily, you understand the reality of the interaction of which I speak.

I have taken the approach that there are three significant powers in which others can be grouped; economics, politics, and culture. Politics may judge from the right / left, or small government / big government, but is usually the resulting intellectual thought of the impact of culture and economics. Economics often in terms of is rich versus poor driven by the power of self interest, but at some stage a part of self interest can be driven to greed which brings corruption and to free market systems that corruption is ultimately a cancer because it destroys the level of competition that makes markets operate effectively. The third and final power is that of culture. In the past many political philosophers have looked at it as the power of media because media conveyed culture, but in a modern world of communication culture is becoming much more dominant. As we globally expand business and become more closely entwined, the individual cultural values seemed to shrink into smaller groups even within societies for preservation and are not necessarily being as broadened as logic would expect. It shows that cultural values are more important than is perceived. This means that we are increasingly going to have to find a method by which to blend cultures that comes from within themselves and thereby provide common values that unify us rather than separate us. Within each culture there is a battle over character. It is the battle between conscience and convenience. Conscience has two parts – obligation and compassion. In the realms of power convenience often dominates at higher levels because of the nature of ambition, greed, vanity, and simply the nature of competition. Conscience does much better in other arenas where the Golden Rule sets the stage for integrity. The secret is to get conscience into power we must make it convenient in its own right and the way that we do that is to have it appreciated by the culture as a whole so that people strive to demonstrate it in order to advance. So the battle for integrity is cultural, not directly economic or political. Marcus Aurelius noted that men should be upright, not be kept upright. This shows the two forces for integrity. One is the law if it is obeyed, one is cultural morality which sets the peer pressure, but because it also supports the law is the basic power to be expanded.

That means we need to understand two significant parts of conscience. The first is what is its constituency and the second is how to look upon it as a cultural power. Ethics is but a thought definition of the terms of what society looks upon as being proper behavior in the morality between men. Integrity is it functional counterpart in the sense of putting ethics into actions. If we think of both as a codification of the basics of morality, it is what men owe each other beyond the legal requirements of law. The law is the codification of the minimum that we owe each other within society as determined by culture. The culture determines the law, not the law the culture. The enforcement of the law is also the tool of the culture because it directly affects the politics that drive it. So the power of ethics, of conscience, of integrity, depends a great deal on how it is perceived and used and it is a tremendous power. It is used as the reason for dislodging politicians or people in economic positions. It is used in negative politics often improperly, but to show that people did not do things as they should. It is used in the prosecution and allegation of corruption for many purposes. The point that I would make is the concept of ethics and integrity is an extremely powerful one, but like many of the concepts of thought of history, it is a power that can be distorted, abused, or rationalized away.

The discussion of ethics and integrity, or character (when you choose conscience over convenience) suffer on occasion in the modern world because they are often looked upon as the values that they are. They require an established set of acceptable rules of behavior and as you try to combine cultures one of the forces that is most prominent is that of toleration which presses the force of relativity as opposed to the force of morality with its more defined limits. What this often does is diminish, rationalize, and make ineffective the power of true ethics because they lose respect. People ask whose values should we follow and thereby diminish that there are fundamental values. To me the fundamental values are the Golden Rule, the common good, and the goal of the enlightenment of man that he may understand conscience and both its parts of obligation and compassion. It is in effect the search for the judgment criteria by which each individual values his personal dignity when it is buffeted by the forces of enlightenment of change through technology and education against the structural forces of cultural values and entrenched interests. The problem that the current environment provides is that the Ethics groups with which we work and of which we are a part are often but individualized shotgun pellets. They go in more diverse directions with noise, but do not travel any distance and therefore are not effective in hitting a much more distant target of creating a true power for integrity. Only if we find catalysts both in ideas and in the realism of combining the efforts of organizations can we truly be like a rifle bullet that has the intelligence to look at the target that we need to strike. The goal must be a the capacity to have integrity has a vehicle that helps eliminate corruption and terrorism to allow a better world and an advancement of civilization.

Where many of these thoughts may be noble clear thoughts of the mind, the problem is how do we implement this in the reality of the complex ideas in the realms of the powers of economics, politics, and culture. To focus on the fact that culture is the ultimate goal because it is the peer pressure of the culture that brings about change is a necessary fundamental understanding. It is why rather than studying the highly technical aspects of ethics choices and theory, which may be irrelevant to the reality of where the world is headed, we must study the very nature of man and try to impact the values that our children hold so that each generation can come closer together on common values from their own cultures. The future is not so much a battle between cultures as it is going to be determined by a battle within cultures. You are a group of people most knowledgeable in these problems because as the premier consulting engineers of the world you deal globally and you understand the nature of these forces. It is why your efforts to develop concepts that change the nature of culture within corporations by changing the peer pressure between cooperation can have such impact globally over time if it is understood and introduced. I know that often there is a frustration that the constituency of integrity and ethics seems to have little power within the mercenary global economic system. But the age of culture is now evolving. The most recent area of politics, the 60’s and 70’s changed the dynamics of economics in the 80’s and 90’s, but the next twenty years and beyond, because of these changes and the emergence of terrorism and corruption, will increasingly be the battleground of the intellectual thought you do not fight bad ideas with a vacuum of ideas, you must develop constructive ones to compete. The outcome will depend not upon the power of ethics, but whose judgment of values are truly implemented. So there has to be a constituency that demands that the Golden Rule, the anti-hypocrisy rule as I often refer to it, is at the fundamental of thought as increasingly taught. One of the changes from the political era of ideology that was dominated by American Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, Russian Presidents Kruschev and Brezhnev, and Chairman Mao in China, was the fact centralized economic systems were dramatically affected by technological change that hindered their effectiveness because centralized systems did not have the speed to make decisions that market economics provided because technology created a multitude of consumer options and decisions into the economic process. The power of markets to address this change was taught by universities and very much captured by Milton Friedman in his series “Free to Choose”. It set the stage for the next era of economic power with Presidents Reagan and Thatcher, Gorbachev in Russia, and Chairman Deng who dramatically changed China technologically. We now are in some of the final stages of this era where economic corruption in all nations is emerging as a serious problem. It is in different forms but it is the nature of the evolution of current business. Political terrorism feeds upon that corruption and has many similar causes. The question will be in this cultural era whether conscience or convenience dominates. It’s not in within singular organizations or with one set of parents teaching their kids the proper values. For every corporation works in a global marketplace and every child has to work in combination of a culture within its business or within society. It is going to be a choice between each of us as parents and as individual how we unify a set of concepts to provide the basic dignity of man and the sense of honor that must be at his core, and then who we instill these actions in our children not only by what we teach, but our actions. We should not try to tell others what to do, but lead them by the example of our own enlightenment and the benefits provided.

I use the word honor differently than I do the thoughts of integrity and of ethics and even of conscience. They are to me ideas of the mind that are more pure. The world is much more affected by the word honor and integrity because it is ultimately an action terms of warriors. Honor is a term that conotates not only believing in certain fundamental concepts but more importantly being a person of action to implement them not only out of self respect, but of obligation. It is a cultural term of reality.

This is a distinction that I make because we are emerging in a battle to be fought between forces that I would call honor and the forces of corruption which are to me dishonor. We must think not terms of law, but they are terms that unify cultures. The Chinese culture was built in large part from a history of the Duke of Zhou and his sense of honor. Much of my book talks of my father who was a man who did not have great education that he could tell you all of the rules of ethics or philosophy and conscience, but he was certainly a man of absolute honor and it mattered far more to him than material gain. The stability of societies and the support for their political thought will increasingly be impacted by these values. And what we need, being as a group of dedicated believers is a concept which unifies a set of ideas that can help these concepts move forward. We need an intellectual foundation that is not based upon relativism or absolute toleration, but is instead upon a set of concepts of the dignity of man which involves obligations of men to each other and to a concept of honor to enforce it beyond just law and legalism. That is the core of the essence of The Language of Conscience. It is far more greatly broadened by the new book Instilling Values in Transcending Generations. I am distributing a set of triangles, both in English and in Chinese, that will give you some insight as to the thought process that has been developed to try and move forward on some of these concepts. Some people call it a Rosetta Stone of cultures, but others look upon it more appropriately as a perspective for enhancing conscience. What has been important in this effort is that it did not start as an effort to teach people ethics. The first books were written primarily to help explain character to three groups with I most actively worked in Texas. In the modern times I felt they were forgetting that it is not what you do, or even how well you do it, but why you do it that is the critical issue. That process has gradually involved a number of people. With Dr. Felipe Ochoa, your Chairman, I have gone over the years to witness the ethics compacts drawn by this organization in Latin America and the principles for which you have stood. You are a sterling example of trying to do something for the right reasons. The Ethics Officers Association in the United States, which has many of the Fortune 500 ethics officers, has done much of the same work to try and define cultures within corporations. But my point has been that each of these are but pellets in the shotgun blast unless you have the ability to have an impact. That is why I was extremely happy to see The Language of Conscience and the summary of your work published by the Press of the Central Party School of the Communist Party. Their action in publishing it as the first Western book with their Press insignia says much about their interest in fighting corruption. Yesterday several of us had the opportunity including your Chairman to visit with the School at a seminar on how to teach leadership for a culture of ethics and service and I had the opportunity to present Instilling Values in Transcending Generations to their Press for its potential publication by them. You have extended invitations to their leadership to speak here and for that reason I think that in some way, though we may not be that important individually, we are beginning to form a nucleus of a catalyst for the power of honor beyond just the thoughts of integrity and ethics. The Central Party School is one of the most powerful think tanks in the world because of its impact upon China and it is also, like you, one that is well versed not only in the cultural problems of corruption but also the intricacy of power. Because of Chinese culture they understand the power of culture itself and what it ultimately means to a civilization. While only time will determine whether any efforts are successful, the ability for you, they, and other ethics organizations to build relationships and work together is absolutely critical because it gives a power to the ideas of integrity which are defended through the warrior sense of honor. These books are but ideas that I have tried to compile to give insights from history that could be studied and better developed within differing civilizations.

The ultimate goal, if I had one, was to help initiate with you and many others a unification of groups that cared about developing these concepts enough not only to study them, but to teach them, and in teaching them, to put into the realm of world competition for ideas. The values of the concept of integrity to the individual is no different than the power of competition to benefit the individual, which was a fundamental driver of the emergence of market economic systems. It takes years to have effect, but thoughts must be planted to grow. These are not my ideas or any of yours individually; they are the ideas cumulatively of the positive movement of civilization. We individually are insignificant but cumulatively we can do a great deal to develop them not only through these organizations, but through universities in our home countries. How you think determines what you think if you want a society of integrity, and values should determine how you think. That is the essence of those triangles, it is the essence of the critical decisions that will determine much of the future world’s relationships between cultures, and I think it is why you are here today or you would not be spending your time in Beijing at an Integrity Task Force meeting if it did not matter deeply to you.

Thank you again for your contributions and allowing me to use them. I hope that these books and the cross – introductions to other organizations they provide will be of benefit to you in your efforts.

 
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