My Mini Manifesto on The Prevailing Culture of Dishonesty
The plagiarism controversy with Senator Paul is symptomatic of a set of larger disturbing trends in our society. Here are just a few:
Interns undercutting the labor market for college grads: Like most politicians, Sen. Rand Paul probably relied on interns to research, write and edit his speeches. The fact his words were plagiarized from Wikipedia suggests that the interns doing the research were probably very inexperienced or else why would they use such a notoriously unreliable source? Considering that most interns are not paid an actual salary or they make minimum or poverty wages without any actual benefits (healthcare, paid sick days, etc.) as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Since we are planning on graduating and entering or re-entering the job market, the explosion of internship opportunities and scarcity of decent entry-level jobs for recent college grads is an issue we must all pay close attention to. Ross Perlin did a lot of research on this topic and his book Intern Nation is a great read that I highly recommend.
A dearth of originality: During our class discussion about the commercialization of hip-hop David made a comment about a prevailing lack of creativity in our current culture. If you focus on the movie industry and count the number of remakes of films from past decades in this year alone, you can see how true that realization is. In and outside of the creative industries there is a heavy reliance on the successes of others and less innovation and risk-taking. When you cannot successfully think outside of the box you become desperate and rely on the work and words of others rather than your own ingenuity. Whether we’re talking about Rand Paul or former journalist at the New York Times Jayson Blair or James Frey making up parts of his own biography in A Million Little Pieces, recent instances of plagiarism seem to reflect the woes of mediocre individuals trying to fill some very ambitious roles.
A race to the bottom: We live in a time where people have no morals. Anything goes. Lying, cheating, stealing, adultery, murder, you name it. It is not that these pathologies did not exist in the past, what is new is that there is no longer any shame or remorse. Just look at what questionable or in some cases illegal things people post on Facebook or Instagram without fear of being disgraced or even getting locked up. Remember, plagiarism is not only an issue of incompetence but also an ethical issue as well. The fact that Sen. Paul stood in front of a room full of people and confidently, knowingly spoke words that were not his own shows a brand of psychopathy that only in our times would not be seen as disturbing evidence of some deeper character flaws. As we collectively get less creative and talented, we rely on more desperate and unethical measures to succeed because we are limited in our capabilities and lacking the skill set needed to achieve our goals.
A crisis of leadership: In politics, countless politicians have been disgraced through scandals involving mistresses, call girls or boys, corruption and lies. Today, the mayor of Toronto admitted he has smoked crack cocaine while in office and he does not plan on resigning. On Wall Street, bankers have gambled away people’s futures and stolen money belonging to millions. The retirement funds, college funds, savings plans and essentially the dreams that people worked their entire lives to save for are gone because of the greed of those entrusted to manage those funds. In the school system, an epidemic of pedophiles has infested our schools preying on children of all ages. In the home, there are daily news stories of shockingly horrible cases of child abuse including parents selling their own kids, some as young as 5 years old, online as if they were selling a piece of furniture on EBay. And of course, we have Sen. Rand Paul. Maybe he is not an adulterer or a pedophile but he too embodies what is wrong with our current leadership make no mistake about it. He is someone who cannot even honor the people who elected him to office and pay his salary by bothering to do his own homework and write his own words using his own ideas.
You can call me crazy, you can say I am overreacting, you can tell me I’m like Chicken Little declaring the sky is falling when in fact it is not but I think Fukuyama was right. It is The End of History. World, hold on.