Which politicians in the country have the greatest integrity

integritySaints and madmen

People with integrity are not easy to find, but Edward Snowden could be one. After all, he jeopardized his entire civic existence to do what he thought was necessary.

"The public is still fascinated by people who exemplify integrity. Those who stand by their ideals and who can be trusted to do what they say. And who stand up for the consequences that arise from it. Such a one Unity of word and deed is something that attracts attention. "

Because such people seem to be absent in the modern world, notes the philosopher Amber Carpenter of the University of York. At a time when everyone has to bring their labor to the market, everything becomes a commodity and thus interchangeable - including ethical or political attitudes. In politics in particular, many contemporaries miss characters who represent a clear and immovable point of view and who do not weaken it by compromising at the next opportunity.

"That can't work if you take responsibility for the world. They can't stay to themselves, they can't remain in their private purity, but they have to approach others, they have to expose themselves to power and there they are in the midst of conflicting interests. in intrigues too, in difficulties. "

For the political scientist Gesine Schwan, a politician with integrity is not the one who remains immobile on his point of view, but rather the one who feels when he can give in without betraying his voters or himself, and when not. But there is a simple reason why politicians who are willing to compromise can quickly be seen as weak or unreliable: During the election campaign in particular, many of them believed they had to present their plans like announcements.

"If they are reminded of their promises and don't keep them afterwards, they get threshed, if they don't make any promises and don't say where they actually want to go, they get thrashed too, so the logical options are pretty limited."

Steadfastness or stubbornness?

The alternative would be to withdraw to non-negotiable convictions, following the famous motto: Here I stand, I can't help it. What signaled steadfastness in Luther, however, often only expresses stubbornness and numbness in others.

Amber Carpenter: "Integrity can be a means of settling down comfortably in the world. You decide on a perspective, an ideology, a belief and stubbornly follow the rules of this worldview. But that does not mean that you will then be good does for humanity. It just means that you give your own life meaning and that is only good for you. "

Such an attitude can be lonely and allow those who remain loyal to only live the life of a hermit. But it can also make you a star and bring you a following. In both cases, others tend to think he's a little weird or even crazy. Amber Carpenter says they might as well see him as a saint or savior.

"It's not that easy to differentiate between people with integrity and fanatics. Whenever we look for people with integrity, we also come across zealots. Life experience shows that."

Saints and monsters

"There is obviously a great closeness of saints and monsters, maybe everyone has a predisposition for both. And especially those who want to do everything one hundred percent right, who set themselves the claim to be an angel, are particularly at risk to end up becoming a monster. "

For the historian Matthew Maguire of DePaul University in Chicago, human history is full of men who wanted the best and wreaked havoc. But it was precisely these people who were often viewed by their contemporaries as having particularly good integrity. This was true of religious leaders as well as representatives of the Enlightenment.

"Take Maximilien Robespierre, for example. In depictions of his time, he appears as an absolute man of conviction, who was wholeheartedly committed to believing in human reason. His nickname was: Robespierre, the incorruptible. More integrity is hardly possible. But today we know: it was a fatal purity. "

Because in the course of the French Revolution Robespierre put the so-called Great Terror into action, which was supposed to enforce the virtue of reason and to which thousands fell victim. Robespierre could unfold his terror in a spiritual environment that clung to the idea that mankind had to be educated for good, if necessary with violence. It was only against this background that his mercilessness appeared as integrity. When the revolutionary exuberance died down, this assessment changed. Integrity is therefore always shaped historically and socially. This also applies to today's societies and their political leaders, emphasizes Gesine Schwan.

"First of all, it is an individual-ethical question of how I behave, but there are systemic situations and I believe that organized civil society has to help. That has to come in addition, it has to put pressure on the government, as it were. I would say "Some must be forced, others must at least be prepared for the possibility of pursuing policies with integrity. There are also many who want that. The more we as citizens participate in creating such good conditions, the easier it is." Politics and the more one can rightly criticize politics if it doesn't. "

Necessary discussion with those who think differently

Amber Carpenter: "A person who wants to remain upright needs a discussion with those who think differently, a confrontation with doubts. Whether he is really upright or just cranky or maybe crazy, he only finds out through confirmation from people around him who see him critically . "

In this respect, it is still open whether Edward Snowden will ultimately be granted integrity. According to recent polls, 24 percent of Americans support his actions, 34 percent disagree and 40 percent have no opinion. Perhaps only later will historians be able to clarify whether he is a traitor to the fatherland or a freedom hero. Integrity is apparently just as much in the eye of the beholder as it is in the character of personality.