Transparency and Honesty

Transparency and Honesty

A few months ago, a song called ‘Emptiness’ went viral over the internet with lots of downloads, hits and chatter. While the song in itself was likeable, what people talked about more was the story behind it. The story was that the singer was a student at IIT, and had composed the song after being rejected by the girl he loved. He had committed suicide after singing it and sending a copy to the girl. Naturally, when I heard this story I felt sad. Although I feel that the measures taken by the singer were extreme, the story in itself was very touching. Like many others, I felt that he must have been a really good person if he had created a song of such emotion and beauty. Then I went on to think about how ruthlessly his heart would have been broken (to result in him taking his life) and I felt that the girl was stupid in rejecting him or at least should have been gentle while doing so. Also, I felt bad that the world had lost a good artist, singer and composer. I downloaded the song, listened and pondered over the story for a long time. Then something even worse happened. After a few days of listening to the song and the story, I read an article that the whole thing was a publicity stunt. The story was false, there was no such student and the girl that I had blamed so naively did not exist. For a while, I did not know what to think. When given two conflicting pieces of information, the mind either tries to explore the credibility of the sources or starts doubting both pieces. The story may have been false and this may just be a cheap stunt to gain some (temporary) fame over the internet. On the other hand, the story may have become so popular that someone was jealous enough to say that it was false. I am still not sure which version to believe, but I feel cheated. In any case, someone exploited my human emotions to show me that the song meant a lot more than it did. I still like listening to the song, I just don’t think the dishonesty was necessary to propagate it.

This brings me to transparency and honesty. When I think about these two virtues, I think they have a common ground between them. Transparency is showing everyone that you are doing the right thing, and honesty is doing the right thing even if no one is watching. The act of doing the right thing is links the two, that is if you are being truly transparent. In the long term, it is very difficult to be opaque (not transparent) especially if you are a public figure. Mass media will eventually get hold of the real you and display it to the world. The saying, ‘It takes years to build a reputation and minutes to destroy it’ has never been more true. If you are a corrupt politician, an honest newspaper or a brave blogger will make sure that the world sees you for who you are. Websites against plagiarism, make it very difficult for students to copy reports, theses and research papers and pass them off as their own. Film stars and celebrities have their indiscretions paraded all over newspapers, websites, blogs, SMSs and other means of communication. In short, if you are doing something that you should not be doing you will get caught and pay the price. This is what happened to me when I read the article. I did not know who to trust, but I surely lost faith in the singer. I agree that the song would not have become so famous so quickly if it was not for the story that went with it, but I also think that people like me won’t appreciate the cheap, false story for some short term gain. So by being dishonest, the singer took a song that would have become popular eventually (because it was that good) and concentrated on the short term and short lasting fame. This is the same reason why we distrust politicians; they don’t (even try to) keep their promises.

Honesty, they say, does not pay well (and is too idealistic). Why should a politician be honest when he can bribe everyone, fill his pockets with the tax payers money and retire just after his term (of 4 or 5 years)? Being dishonest is simply easier than being honest. Why should a struggling singer not aim for short-term fame and attention, and use people’s human side by lying to them? Again being false earns him a living and much needed attention from people who will hire him for further work. What does being honest and transparent earn him? Nothing? I would argue against this. I think being honest earns him something that will earn him a living anyway. It earns him respect. People know and believe with all their heart that he won’t do anything dishonest. The support and respect of such people will surely result in financial success, but it has more meaning than the one achieved otherwise. Just being the best and going to the top does not matter. It also matters how you get there. Do you step on others’ toes or do people willingly pick you up and help you rise. What rises quickly, also falls at the same pace. So even if the honest way is long and arduous, it is also long lasting and satisfying.

Being honest and transparent is difficult for the people who are inherently dishonest. For those who are honest, it is just a way of life. It also helps one sleep better at night.

– Mayuresh

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