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Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky?

October 19, 2011

Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky? Of course, he got an ice pick that made his ears burn. Assassinated in Mexico, Trotsky was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army. Great job title on his business card and Linked In profile.

The doubts and convictions of a rational Trotskyite were forever formed in my mind by Simon, my housemate in the beer-rugby-politics-indy music fuelled years of my time at university in Sheffield. Sat in the in the Fat Cat hostelry on Alma Street quaffing pints of real ale, we debated everything and anything happening in 1981-1984, the miners strike being a particular evocative and sensitive real-life event in Sheffield that impacted your morality when you were living amongst it. Ultimately Simon and I left nothing but a trail of breadcrumbs leading nowhere, although we did conclude that in life, there are drains and radiators.

That was something to do with the fact that the pub had no central heating and very basic plumbing in the gentleman’s facilities, but it’s a phrase we developed for recognising some people will suck the air right out of the room, while others come in and everyone would bounce with energy, like you would do if Trotsky walked into the pub. Two pints of lager and a packet of crisps please. It’s why I like to make sure I’m surrounded by radiators, or at least make sure radiators are not outnumbered by drains. Anyway, I’ve always been a keen reader of the great Russian political historical figures, they all bristle with one thing – whether you subscribe to their ideology or not – and that’s integrity.

In the last week or so I’ve been an innocent victim of a drive-by shooting around integrity, a bystander minding his own business, caught up in the melee originating from the dysfunctional behaviour you get when someone who can’t spell i-n-t-e-g-r-i-t-y let alone consider its meaning starts to parade their lack of moral fibre, and no, it’s nothing to do with breakfast cereal.

Integrity is all about your values, morals, and ethics – Integrity, without it nothing works. Arguments of convenience lack integrity and inevitably trip you up, and you get what you deserve. Of course there are great example in public life at present. Honesty and integrity, the values that should be the hallmark of a government, have instead been thrown under the bus by an arrogant minority. The lifeboats went out in a misguided campaign to shield from accountability those who abuse their office. Mr Fox’s behaviour is laughable if it wasn’t so stunningly arrogant and contemptible, and nice to see a ‘leader’ promoting a ‘Big Society’ sitting on the fence so long he gets splinters in his arse. Where’s the integrity in leadership there?

I think you get your integrity from your parents. The household I grew up in was very happy, both my sister and me were made to feel like the most important things in the world. It felt very safe, a perfect mix of laughter, over-boiled vegetables and ontological arguments – which I always won hands down, comrade. Mum and Dad were open-minded, liberal, loving, hard working and supportive – always there for me. One particular memory is my dad coming into my room when Tommy Gun by the Clash was playing, well, very loud (great, tight drumming in the intro). No, he didn’t join in with the pogo, but he maintained his integrity and tried to connect his Glen Miller tunes to my music…. but fundamentally they set me on my way with the right values and integrity.

I am most proud of my integrity and least proud of my cynicism. If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters. It’s all about humanity, humility, and integrity. To me, integrity is regarded as the honesty, truthfulness and accuracy of one’s actions. Integrity can be regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy in that it regards internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs. As such, one may judge that others ‘have integrity’ to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.

Want to read more? I can recommend the work of Michael Jensen and Werner Erhard in their academic paper, Integrity: A Positive Model that Incorporates the Normative Phenomenon of Morality, Ethics, and Legality. See, I don’t just read the Obituaries in The Independent and football in The Burnley Gazette

When I was a child I wanted to be either a dog or a long distance lorry driver. I think I have achieved some aspects and attributes of both – for example I’m very good at eating fast and everyone else’s leftovers, even their sprouts, and working for 12 hours at a time just stopping for Big Macs. And similarly from both, very simple, mundane things form the basis of my integrity. Dreams are completely wasted on me! My dreams are things like: I’m in the supermarket, I queue, and then I leave the supermarket. It’s basically my life but I happen to be asleep.

When people are amazing at what they do, there’s usually less ego, more humility, not more. I’ve found that to be the case with people such as Nelson Mandela and Father Christmas. The big egos you do see often come with people who are pretty average; they’re covering their insecurity, and my lesson from last week, total lack of integrity.

So, what you get from me is integrity. Back to the Fat Cat days, sitting with like-minded people gives you a great feeling of unity, it’s why I like the idea of going along to an old-fashioned teddy bear’s picnic. But you wouldn’t go on a teddy bear’s picnic with people like I encountered last week. My experience last week shook my belief in human nature. I like to think the best of everyone I meet and that fundamentally we’re all good people deep down. I realise now that I have chronoptimism, some people lack integrity, sincerity and that fills me with pathos.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Simon permalink
    October 19, 2011 5:23 am

    What ever happened to the heroes….

  2. Denise permalink
    October 19, 2011 5:05 pm

    Ian – I think I followed this but now need a big Mac as I am exhausted by your thoughts – only joking! I too am guided always by integrity and like you always look to surround myself with like minded intergrites (new word?!) – who share my values and who want to share great ideas and opportunities, have fun and enjoy fellowship in the busy lives we all lead.
    Last week’s experience will of course recede, but the true community will still be there, for you the rest of the good guys – and hopefully that splinter will become a huge log which unbalances the perch ‘others’ are sat on!

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