What does it mean to get ahead in the world?

According to the UM Honor Council, “84 percent of college students believe they need to cheat to get ahead in the world.” This raises a profoundly interesting question: What does it mean to “get ahead in the world?” The manner in which you answer this question may speak volumes about the extent to which society has been reduced to moral penury.
If you’re like Dick Cheney, getting ahead probably means advancing the interests of your immoderately wealthy friends over the interests of an overwhelmed majority of people for whom luck has not been so abundant. Getting ahead might involve running the country like a corporation, overthrowing dictatorships you once supported, and excusing yourself from the jurisdiction of an international court of human rights.
What annoys me about the Bush administration is its fake profession of virtue. The Sept 9 issue of Time reproduced a brilliant April statement by our chief executive officer: “Look, my job isn’t to try to nuance,” said Bush. “I believe moral clarity is important, if you believe in freedom.” The President was responding to a question about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What’s ironic is that aside from uttering scripted platitudes, Mr. Bush has done nothing to prevent beleaguered investors at home from fearing their life savings will be pilfered by his immoderately wealthy friends.
If you’re like the unsung heroes of the world-the schoolteachers and professors, the honest business people, the nurses, the firemen and policemen to name a few-getting ahead probably means saving enough money to send your kids to college so they’ll have an opportunity to end up better off than you. Of course, if your kids pursue careers as unsung heroes, they’ll probably end up inheriting your modesty.
Indeed, what’s particularly disturbing about the plight of unsung heroes is that they’re paid so little for doing work that saves our society
If you want to flex your unconscionable muscle and march around waving the “might is right” banner, then cheating-on your taxes, on your accounts, on your spouse-will probably help you attain your sordid conception of success. You may ruin a million lives along the way, not excepting your own, but chances are you’ll escape unharmed, get ahead and stay ahead.
Conversely, if you’re motivated by contemplation instead of competition, and if you consider cheating out of the question, get used to the phrase “contentment,” and spend a lifetime trashing the torchbearers of moral impropriety. You’ll feel good that you did.
R.S. Jolly is a senior majoring in philosophy.

September 24, 2002


The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami

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