In a Corrupt Society, Cheaters Feel Righteous
In a society that is corrupt, cheaters are fueled by a sense of righteousness. Driving on the 401 near Brockville, listening to NPR, this is what I hear Daniel Coyle say, reacting to Lance Armstrong's interview with Oprah.
It's a fantastic insight as to why someone like Lance would not only cheat, but continue to do everything he can to deny that it is cheating.
It also speaks to the larger culture, and the impact that sensational cheaters have, given the attention and spectacle that surrounds their rise and fall.
The righteousness arises from the perception, that not only is everyone else cheating, but that by cheating more, you're beating the cheaters at their own game.
Even further, it is a slippery slope when the cheating and corruption is wide spread. In politics, in business, in sport, it becomes the cultural norm. Either you feel like a sucker for following the rules, or righteous that you're smart enough to break them.
It reminds me of Dr. Ursula Franklin's definition of the word technology. She defines technology as "how we do things around here" speaking both to its normative powers, and the subjective relationship we tend to have with it.
I suspect that is precisely how Lance saw his doping. Merely an issue of employing the latest technology to his advantage.
It begs the question as to whether Lance Armstrong will race again. Will he be forgiven by the American public, by potential sponsors, and by sports officials?
His narcissism is perhaps the most astonishing of all. The divide between his previous public persona and his actual private self that was driven by such raw ambition as to cheat by all means necessary. Some people are questioning how this could be the same person who helped them fight cancer. Yet others cynically react that they knew he was a cheat all along.
However the broader question comes back to corruption. Is our society corrupt? If so, to what extent? At what point does the level of corruption become self-reinforcing, as people believe that it is no longer cheating, but rather the way things are done around here.