We need new heroes

I should probably get my two cents’ worth in about Lance Armstrong.
Not that he is of any consequence in my life or in your life, but just watching (or rather trying not to watch) the huge carnival and fiasco about his confession, his coming clean about being a cheater and a liar, got me thinking about some other things.
So though I’d rather not give Lance Armstrong any of my time, and don’t want to come off as a holier-than-though individual, I do think the situation warrants comment and helps me work out what goes so horribly wrong in society.
I don’t condemn Mr. Armstrong; none of us have the right to condemn him. We can agree or disagree that his right to compete professionally in any sport be prohibited.
We can say “yea” or “nay” in acceptance of his apology—an apology that seemed contrived to me, somewhat narcissistic—and I don’t require an apology from him any more than I needed an apology from Tiger Woods for his behaviour in his personal life.
We can feel disappointment, feel cheated, that someone we held in high regard turned out to have clay feet while he threw others under the bus for his own gain. But my question is why we raise these sports figures up as role models, as some epitome of superiority.
Has Lance Armstrong’s skill bettered the world? I suppose his athletic prowess, be it ill-gotten, put cycling on the map. Is his surviving cancer any more incredible than my friend who fought valiantly against breast cancer for 20 years before cancer won?
It’s the bigger picture that has me concerned. I think there is a groundless supposition that in order to be at the top, one must adopt a dog-eat-dog approach to get there, crushing opponents in our way.
We frown on this in sport, yet we’ve come to almost expect it.
What about business? How do we react when this same behaviour is part of the status quo in business? What about those clawing their way to the top? How many lies do they tell to get there? How many rules of ethical behaviour do they violate?
How many “little guys” are gobbled up and spit out through the Wall Street mentality of “greed is good.”
Think of Nortel, a once “telecom giant,” whose CEOs awarded themselves huge bonuses while having obliterated their employees’ pensions—the same employees who helped get them to the top.
Do we get public apologies and sanctions against these individuals? Are they dragged out to the town square and held up in shame? Do they appear on Oprah to answer the hard questions?
Some of them see a legal battle and brief appearances inside a courtroom, but most of us turn the other way because, after all, it’s just business.
Nortel top dogs recently were acquitted of improper accounting practices. Even if the letter of the law is grey, we all should know that any business that puts its employees at risk, treating them like a disposable commodity, should be held accountable by us, the public.
The 2008 economic collapse was the result of fraudulent activity of the highest order that resulted in the loss of jobs and pensions obliterated. Can we name one individual held accountable for that?
Lance is an example of our compulsion to admire the best athlete, the richest person, the most beautiful among us, those at the top. But what is our yardstick, our measuring device, to ascertain what the “top” is?
Are we all not more moved by the average person doing some extraordinarily ordinary act of kindness with a sense of responsibility for each other? Should we not have some marker, a category of “business done right”?
Instead of the Fortune 500, we could compile a list of those business names that govern themselves with the rules of fair play. Who would be on that list in our community?
I hope Lance is the wake-up call. I hope we all are nodding in agreement that our praise and admiration is better placed elsewhere.
That it is time to create a statement of living with deliberate choices that has integrity as its base and involves all levels of society, not just sport, and that we measure success not by the bank account but by sustainable caring principles.