Thursday, May 01, 2008

Nice People Shouldn't Finish Last

I consider myself a nice person (mostly). I have my occasional moments, but generally, I feel that I'm a good citizen of the world in terms of sympathizing/empathizing and wanting to help my fellow human beings. Mostly that's localized in that I tend to help people I know rather than strangers on the street, but I've done that too.
This morning, I bumped into this article about how the students who are entering our top colleges are just not that nice. And yet, these are the students who will become (our not so nice) leaders. Mostly, the author points out it's not just that these students aren't nice, but also hypocritical:
sometimes some of these students will denounce world hunger but be unfriendly to the homeless. They will debate environmental policy but never offer to take out the trash. They will believe vehemently in many causes but roll their eyes when reminded to be humble, to be generous and to "do what is right."
I can say that I haven't seen this behavior in students at my institution, but sometimes in the faculty. They denounce class divisions, for example, but treat the housekeeper who cleans their office like a second-class citizen. I'm just saying . . .

I think it sucks that nice people finish last--as the saying goes--because I think the world could use more of them in leadership positions. Being nice doesn't mean that you have to always, always do nice things. Sometimes, you have to fire people, say unpleasant things to people, or do something that might hurt someone. But the idea is that you do so for the greater good and that greater good isn't yourself. It's an ideal or an institution or whatever you've put your faith in. There's integrity in what you do that follows certain principles. I don't see this, as the author points out, in many of our current leaders and politicians. And what message is that sending to the rest of us? That this is how you get ahead--lie, cheat, and steal? Frankly, I don't want to live in that kind of world.