Liam Farrell - Sometimes integrity is the worst kind of enemy

Last October, GP reported that an auction for 'Andrew Lansley's integrity' had sprung up on eBay, asking for an opening bid of one penny.

The auction, now removed, was listed for sale under fantasy/myth/magic on the online auction site.

It was a decent gag, but misses the real point. Integrity is not all it is cracked up to be; it is not a virtue, rather a morally neutral value. When a hyena is ripping out your liver as you lie there screaming, it is displaying integrity; it is doing what hyenas are meant to do. A hyena with integrity is still a hyena. A Conservative politician clandestinely dismantling the NHS is only being true to character.

For some reason, integrity is considered admirable, despite all the trouble it causes. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Chairman Mao; they were all pretty consistent in their outlooks and actions. In the aftermath of the Iraq War, Tony Blair says he did what he thought was right; then everyone seems to nod and begrudgingly concede that while he may have deliberately misled the country, at least he was doing what he believed in. Despite all the misinformation he was peddling about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction, and the countless deaths, destruction and chaos that have resulted, he apparently had acted with 'integrity'.

In fact we'd all be better off not being so sure what was right and what was wrong. As Darwin said: 'Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.'

When I was at medical school, those of us loitering perilously around the pass mark would stroll blithely in and out of examinations as if we hadn't a care in the world. In contrast, the honours students would be in a panic; they'd go in hyperventilating, and come out blubbering, while all we were concerned about was where we were going to start the night's drinking. The difference was that the honours students knew how much they didn't know, whereas the likely lads remained happy, wallowing in our blissful ignorance about the vast swathes of the curriculum which we didn't even know existed.

And after all these years, I haven't changed, I'm still a 50% pass mark type of guy; is that integrity or what?

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