Is it possible to look at someone and tell if they have integrity?
I think yes. And this was illustrated quite beautifully in the recent Munk Debate between Michelle Goldberg and Michael Eric Dyson on one side, and Jordan Peterson and Stephen Fry on the other.
Just look at the dais:
Do you notice anything?
If you guessed that 3/4 of the panelists are addicts, you are absolutely correct.
Now, is this a problem? I think so.
Why? Bit of a difficult answer.
“I Don’t Trust Bunny, But I Trust Bunny to be Bunny”
At the risk of sounding crude and mean-spirited: Would you trust a junkie? I imagine the answer is probably “no.”
Why? Well for me it’s because its difficult to trust someone with no self-control. If someone is feeding an addiction it becomes difficult to tell when they are being truthful and when they speaking only to preserve their access to their drug of choice.
Fame is one such drug. And it directly affects integrity when people don’t have as much as they want.
With regard to the picture above, Jordan Peterson (second from right) is the most famous of the bunch and so arguably has enough access to the ‘drug’, if he is indeed addicted to it. In the case of the others that is not so certain and they are actually leeching some of his fame by appearing with him. Michael Eric Dyson refers to and admits to this many times throughout the debate and actually tries to goad Peterson into plugging his book. His referring to Peterson as a “mean old white man” is, as well as being incredibly bad form for a debate, a transparent attempt to increase his own profile through controversy. Goldberg and Fry may have attempted to engage in this kind of attention-whoring too at a smaller scale, but I didn’t really notice if they did because Dyson was so egregious and pathetic in trying to get his ‘fix’.
He is a fame-whore, and Fry to his credit, calls Dyson out as a snake-oil selling huckster in his stage presence and manner.
In all honesty, my own distaste for Dyson’s position aside, I truly don’t know where the line draws between his (attempts at) rational arguments and his ideologically-motivated silliness.
But fame is not the only drug that these panelists seem addicted to, so let’s address the elephant in the room: Food.
Goldberg, Dyson and Fry have a problem with food. Food, unlike fame, doesn’t directly affect someone’s integrity unless that person is starving, and I think it’s clear that Goldberg, Fry and Dyson are not starving. Rather, their food addiction is such that it indirectly affects their integrity by betraying some internal conflict within them. After all, health doesn’t just exist in the physical body, isolated from the mental, emotional and spiritual bodies. They are all connected and a disturbance in one has ramifications on the others. I would guess that there is something traumatic that these people are holding onto and not dealing with. Instead they are treating this internal problem with food as their drug of choice and they wear the evidence on their bodies like five-year-olds who got into the cookie-jar wear evidence around their mouths.
This whittles away my trust for them in a way that I won’t be blamed for because they look sick and unhealthy to my perceptions.
Is that unfair? No. Actually it’s in fundamental agreement with what they (Goldberg and Dyson) say throughout the debate: Maybe Dyson has indeed suffered at the hands of whites. Maybe Goldberg has indeed suffered at the hands of the patriarchy. And even though he is ostensibly on the right side of the dais (my side 😉 ), Fry too may have indeed suffered at the hands of homophobes.
But to quote Fry, “So fucking what?!” Does that make them right? I think trauma and suffering CAN give you valuable perspective once they have been incorporated and integrated into your psyche in a healthy way -but ONLY then. For Dyson and Goldberg, if their obesity and general unhealthy appearance attests to real suffering, then it also attests to their inability to thus far deal with said suffering productively and healthily. At best, it is difficult to tell how ideologically possessed they still are by their own pain. At worst, they are the aforementioned five-year-olds who got into the cookie jar and are now trying to see what lies they can get away with telling.
And for the record, I’m all for people working their half-baked, personal-suffering-based ideas out in a performative way –that’s art! But such performances are no more a road-map to a healthy future and a productive life than the The Marshall Mathers LP was back in 2000. Trust me, I tried to lived that album, and my life reflected it 😦
Dyson’s performance was better-suited to a high-brow poetry slam while Goldberg delivered a relatively tasteful Vagina Monologue.
It’s worth clarify my feelings about fat. Fat is not the problem. Sumo wrestlers are fat. The best actors in the world get fat for roles. But these two groups share a common quality: Discipline.
That’s a photo of excess, not discipline. That’s what happens when you live too comfortably without feedback from the natural world. It corrupts your body and your mind because you have no reason to be strong and lack the mental fortitude to keep yourself so.
Now if I’m feeling charitable, maybe Goldberg gets a pass because she is not as obese as Dyson, and of course, males and females are different right down to the hormonal level. But in this case, all that pass would equate to is a marginally greater initial assumption of integrity from me irrespective of what ends up coming out of her mouth.
But Dyson? That jowly, Cochran-esque fuck?
For the life of me I don’t know who could actually put stock in what that man says, except perhaps the most atrophied of spirits and the most gullible of intellects.
I digress though; I could shit on Dyson for another 1,000 words but I’d rather tie this up with the corollary argument, which incidentally also amounts to 1,000 words: