It can mean many things. Of course, personal integrity is very important for trust, reputation, etc. I have also learned that philosophical integrity is critical for an intellectual like me. Some of the greatest blows to my personal belief system have been caused by a loss of philosophical integrity, an inconsistency of principle, which results in a double-standard hypocrisy.
Though I don’t recommend looking to movies as a source of philosophical enlightenment, I do occasionally see a scene that resonates strongly with my life. One of those scenes is from George Lucas’ Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. For those unfamiliar with the Star Wars series, this episode marks the conversion of Anakin Skywalker, a brilliantly gifted priest-like warrior and judiciary (Jedi), to become the tyrannical dark Sith lord Darth Vader. Up to this point in Anakin’s training, he has demonstrated loyalty, trust, and submission to the Jedi Council of Masters, yet they have consistently shown distrust in him because he is internally conflicted. He has sought their respect and approval all through his many years of training only to be feared and distrusted by them, mostly by one of the Council leaders named Master Mace Windu. At the same time, Anakin is befriended by a political chancellor, Senator Palpatine, who is secretly a Sith lord seeking to convert and train Anakin as a dark Sith. Though Palpatine has his own deceits in store for Anakin, he gives Anakin the acceptance and respect that the Council denied him. Palpatine becomes like Anakin’s father.
The following script is from Windu’s attempt to arrest Palpatine for war crimes, the moment of Anakin’s conversion when he loses faith in the Jedi Council and becomes a Sith:
In the heat of battle, MACE cuts the window behind the Chancellor’s desk, and it crashes away. MACE is forced out onto the ledge, which is twenty stories up. They fight over the precipice. ANAKIN arrives to see PALPATINE and MACE fighting.
They stop as MACE forces PALPATINE to drop his sword. PALPATINE and MACE start yelling at each other.
MACE WINDU: You are under arrest, My Lord.
PALPATINE: Anakin! I told you it would come to this. I was right. The Jedi are taking over.
MACE WlNDU: You old fool. The oppression of the Sith will never return. Your plot to regain control of the Republic is over . . . you have lost . . .
PALPATINE: No! No! You will die!
PALPATINE raises his hands, and lightning bolts shoot out. They are blocked by MACE’s lightsaber. PALPATINE is pushed back against the window sill.
PALPATINE: He is a traitor, Anakin.
MACE WlNDU: He’s the traitor. Stop him!
PALPATINE: Come to your senses, boy. The Jedi are in revolt. They will betray you, just as they betrayed me.
MACE WlNDU: Aarrrrggghhhhh . . .
PALPATINE: You are not one of them, Anakin. Don’t let him kill me.
MACE WlNDU: Aarrrrggghhhhh . . .
PALPATINE: I am your pathway to power. I have the power to save the one you love. You must choose. You must stop him.
MACE WlNDU: Don’t listen to him, Anakin.
PALPATINE: Help me! Don’t let him kill me. I can’t hold on any longer. Ahhhhhhh . . . ahhhhhhh . . . ahhhhhhh . . .
MACE pushes PALPATINE out to the edge of the ledge. As the Jedi moves closer, the bolts from Palpatine’s hands begin to arch back on him. The Chancellor’s face begins to twist and distort. His eyes become yellow as he struggles to intensify his powers.
PALPATINE: I can’t … I give up. Help me. I am weak … I am too weak. Don’t kill me. I give up. I’m dying. I can’t hold on any longer.
MACE WlNDU: You Sith disease. I am going to end this once and for all.
ANAKIN: You can’t kill him, Master. He must stand trial.
MACE WlNDU: He has too much control of the Senate and the Courts. He is too dangerous to be kept alive.
PALPATINE: I’m too weak. Don’t kill me. Please.
ANAKIN: It is not the Jedi way . . .
MACE raises his sword to kill the CHANCELLOR.
ANAKIN: (continuing) He must live . . .
PALPATINE: Please don’t, please don’t . . .
ANAKIN: I need him . . .
PALPATINE: Please don’t . . .
It is not the Jedi way. This scene still affects me when I see it because I’ve been in Anakin’s place so many times. Although there is another aspect of Anakin’s fear of his wife’s impending death, a death that Palpatine has promised to prohibit, I believe the character of Anakin Skywalker had been dealt a much greater blow – he suddenly realized that the men he had so long trusted were hypocrites who were not above changing their principles to suit their agenda. He realized that they were really no different – and no better – than anyone else with a self-centered system of belief. This scene finishes when Anakin draws his sword and severs Windu’s sword arm just before Palpatine revives and blasts Windu off the balcony to his death many stories below. In tears of internal pain and conflict, Anakin bows and pledges himself to the Sith.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a great deal of conflict within myself. I seek integrity in a world full of self-centered deceit. My faith in the Church, in Science, and in Philosophy dies a little more each day it seems…
That’s when I pulled into the parking lot of the college to begin yet another day’s work, and as I approach the building, an old janitor I’ve never seen before or since, walking with a limp, squinting with aged vision, came up to me and said with a radiant smile,
“This is a good day to be alive. God is a good God.”
It has been a long time since I’ve heard such a sincere statement from someone. I was reminded that there is still good in the world. It just isn’t found in the constructs of men. Hypocrites in these areas of life who reject truth and create double standards certainly exist. But the integrity I seek resides in the simplicity of just living each day true to my God. He is above men. He alone deserves my devotion.