Truth, integrity essential in the pursuit of societal greatnessBy SoRelle Wyckoff | 02/03/2013 11:00pm
As a country, we have an obsession with greatness. Our school has one too, but that’s to be expected considering our athletic department.
Within this obsession of greatness is an obsession with the people who we consider to be great. Specimens of great power, great talent and great experiences receive attention and often, great wealth thanks to popular attention.
But sometimes these heroes deceive us, and this past month has proved how damaging this deception can be to our society. Lance Armstrong admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during his reign as the world’s No. 1 biking power. He was rewarded for power he cheated for.
Beyoncé, an icon of supreme musical talent, admitted to lip-syncing the national anthem at President Obama’s inauguration.
And while Notre Dame and Manti Te’o are maintaining he was the victim of a fake-girlfriend hoax, Te’o continued to push the emotional story even after he knew of its falsification. His great, fake story and relationship garnered him media attention and Heisman sympathy.
That these great specimens of power, talent and story felt pressured enough to falsify their speed, performance and relationship is tragic. It’s tragic for the individual because it translates to insecurity, but it is most tragic for those who admire these individuals.
Fans feel lied to, and this often tarnishes the industry as a whole. About Lance Armstrong, tennis player Serena Williams said, “OK, if somebody [is] that great, what about everyone else in every other sport?’
This deception hurts more than the feelings of fans though.
When greatness is achieved, society takes notice, and that becomes a goal or a symbol of other humans’ potential greatness. When this achievement is reached by false means, it puts our goals at unrealistic heights.
This residue of expectations grows with each generation. Vices, like steroids, the editing powers of technology, and the Internet are increasingly available to those who want to reach expectations despite their improbability. Even being the best in the classroom or office have plenty of unethical ways to the top.
But humans are remarkable specimens without modification. Lance Armstrong may not have won seven Tour de France titles without steroids, but more than likely he still would have raced in them. Beyoncé may not have sounded as clear as her recording did, but she would still have sounded amazing. Girlfriend or not, Manti Te’o would still have been at the Heisman award ceremony.
The pressure caused by unrealistic expectations is toxic, permeating the air at a higher rate every year. To breathe fresh air again, we must be purposeful in our pursuits of perfection.
We must first keep to ourselves be true. Cheating and lying to get ahead perpetuates a cycle of keeping up with the Joneses. Individuals should be aware and pledge to be ethically strong despite surroundings and the easy out of temptations.
Secondly, we must respect those athletes, entertainers and individuals who achieve greatness with hard work, and continue necessary regulation of cheating within their industries. We should broaden our understanding of “greatness.”
The pressure to become something of stature is relevant to every individual. We see this drive in our classrooms and offices, on our sports teams and in our relationships. This desire to “be the best” certainly subsides with age, but each person can point to a point in life when they had a goal of greatness and a role model to follow.
If we hold our heroes to expectations of truth, we need to hold ourselves to similar stipulations.
SoRelle Wyckoff is a senior majoring in history and journalism. Her column runs on Monday.
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