- Politics and Social Issues»
- Social Issues
The Permission Leaders Give Themselves and Others. It's Called Corruption
Historic Moments SERIES
We look to the Roman Empire as our example of fall and decay and decline because of its gigantic historical place in western history, but also because of the movies. Drunken couples salivating as gladiators die, grapes being dropped into masters mouths by slaves, wanton sex amidst marble pillars on full moon nights, gold being carted on Roman roads from fallen cities.
What has been a feast for movie goers eyes, ever since movies began, has been a forbidden vision and a cautionary tale; at the same time it "twitterpates" our senses and creates a kind of unspoken lust for the dusty ancient past. So, as we stare in schizophrenic wonder at these mixed message images, we have to take our own pulse and say: "Does the lack of a dying gladiator and a slave being drawn and quartered mean that we are not like Rome?
It is as if the caricature of corruption makes it farther from us. It is as if we subconsciously think: "We are not corrupt like Rome because there are no naked slave girls!"
Corruption - A Very Human Condition
But if we can lift our point of view from the drama of our best historical example and think of societal and legal corruption in a larger way, we can conclude some things: The very first (Mayor, Chief, Shaman, Priest) chosen or elected woke up the next morning in his hut and said: "I can take some real financial advantage here. Maybe have some free sexual encounters and definitely salt away for my 401(k)." This is personal corruption. That's just where it naturally starts. Then there is "Machine Corruption". Scene 1 - The Good Cop gets an envelope full of green cash from one of his seedy veteran buddies. He is told to accept or he won't be one of the guys. Scene 2 - The Good Cop tries to return the money. That gets him in much trouble. After Personal Corruption and Machine Corruption, there is Systemic Corruption. Everyone has figured out ways of "gaming the system" and everyone kind of knows that everyone else knows that this is "accepted" and "OK" and is not going to get you specifically in trouble, because absolutely everybody does it. Endemic Corruption is like the Plague. Corruption is open. The party in power takes theirs while the getting is good. Everyone is on the take and there is no moral compunction about it. That's where the phrase comes from: "Get yours while the getting is good". As you can probably imagine, the worse corruption gets, the more open, accepted and ignored it becomes.
The Best Corruption - You Just Allow. You Don't Have To Do.
The very name "corruption" is never used, of course. That word is only for the newspapers and the indictments. Corruption that "sets you up for life" is the sweetest and best of all. That is the goal. How big your pile is becomes the last measurement of your "success". Like the preacher who gets a sweetheart deal from a local realtor and a powerful business man, the preacher is happy to accept the giant house. And the people who help him do the deal introduce the MECHANISM for corruption to him. He preaches great, and he has been around a long time, so a METHOD is devised to trigger the mechanism. The preacher does not invent the method, or trigger the mechanism. He simply agrees to it. Corruption is almost never a pure "taking", like shop lifting or kleptomania. Corruption comes, most often, like a comfortable device that you simply allow to happen. Like the cop who gets his first envelope a month after he starts, you often don't have to DO anything. You just have to allow it to happen to you. This is the best kind of corruption for those who lust for participation. The less you commit the better. The more you allow to happen, the better. Human Guilt is deep within us. The deep psychological issue is getting corruption to go down easy. The Food we eat and the Drink we drink, should be pleasant as you open your throat. You don't want to be gagging because of some silly misguided sense of guilt or responsibility.
Who Cares About Rome?- A For All Ages Seven Step Recipe For A Corruption Stew
If its 800 BC, the 1600's, or 2008, corruption grows like pretty flowers on a moist spring day in the social soil of the human garden of economic and political activity. It's not only like growing a plant, it's like an easily understood recipe of historical stew, a historical stew that has been vigorously wolfed down at the table of power for millennia.
Just take some sweat and blood and create a broth of other people's money, then add:
1) Arrogant leadership, "I am getting mine". "I deserve it. It's my turn." "I told them what they needed to hear to get me in, now I am not obligated to anyone, now that I am in power." No matter the century, this is always a sign of decay. Corruption and Decay go together.
2) The Loss of a Middle Class - The economic engine and also the tax payers and employers, those who made the country work back when it was new and idealistic, are now dwindling. This tells you times are going to get worse,
3) Lust for power - The spoils system means that all my buddies get their share. Its the way of the world. Let's figure out legal ways to spread the people's wealth to all of our friends and relatives. This creates "rolling corruption" - self perpetuating systems for wealth and privilege acquisition.
4) Greed - This state of mind becomes more universal. Leading to a loss of ethics and more corruption. When every "little man" stops aspiring to traditional values or working hard and having a home and achieving measurable small steps to success, and grabs onto the "lottery ideal" - they call it making a killing. An unfortunate, but meaningful phrase.
5) Excessive Taxation - When taxation gets really onerous, the system has broken down. Small business gets demotivated. The system starts telling you - If you grow this big, you will be taxed so much, it won't be worth it to grow. Being punished for growing is one of the simplest and most direct ways of creating a nanny state. Why get big? The government is competing with you. The "get on the dole" mindset takes hold in the general population, not just the lazy, shiftless and marginally criminal types. Everyone starts seeing the "dole" as a way that one could possible live, and stay respectable.
6) A General Societal and Legal Winking - What would have been condemned becomes accepted as we "wink" - overlook - the corruption and make it unofficially "legal". "Winking" becomes very important to this process. It affects "group consciousness". It is the nonverbal way that we feel. The teacher leaves the room during a test. Everybody starts cheating. When the teacher comes back, everyone has heads down and no one says a thing. The class is winking at the cheating. Simple example, now do it times trillions. A number that you might have heard recently.
7) Then we Refuse To Think, We React - (Do Nothing, Selective Outrage and Lack of Prosecution) about the corruption. When it "depends upon who you know" and only your enemies get punished, and your friends don't, you know you are living in this neighborhood. Like an agreed to compromise of our soul that we gradually succumb to as "Lascivious Lillith" robs us of our legal sensibilities and potency each night. When we all sigh in recognition that we are headed down hill and it is every man, party, neighborhood, company, family for itself, then we have gone into Deep Decay. When the tooth is past saving. When there is nothing left to attach a filling to, you are in Deep Decay. The next steps have to do with convulsive, dramatic, sometimes revolutionary, but always uncomfortable -- change.
Winking and Not Thinking - Down The Hog Fat Slope of Sloppy Sensate Surrender
Because we do have a wonderfully evolved civilization, we have lots of laws ON THE BOOKS. Because we have had noble and even holy efforts on the parts of many in the past, there are legal definitions for all kinds of ethical levels of high conduct. There are so many codified and administratively constructed rules that semi trucks of books could not hold all of the standards we have. Finely drawn rules with points and subpoints and "ifs ands and buts" fill books with thin paper and "Dewey decimaled" categorization into infinity.
Sure we have rules. So how does a society become increasingly corrupt and start skidding down the hog fat slope of sloppy sensate surrender?
We just wink and refuse to think. Acts 17 has that famous reference about God winking at sin, and everyone being commanded to "repent". Repent coming from the Greek phrase "metanoia", which literally means a change of mind. The change of mind (most always coming with an emotional and psychological component) is where the not thinking comes in. To mix the images here, if we wink, then we don't have to have a metanoia. Metanoia requires consciousness. If corruption is below our radar consciously, then a metanoia can be avoided.
Paul was saying that everybody needed to have a change of mind. He was bold. But it's a good recommendation, especially when it comes to public life and politics. Wink is a King James term meaning OVERLOOK. You can see it's origin. If you wink the eye, you close if off from seeing something for a moment. That small bit of blindness causes overlooking.
Legally Drunk on the Wine of Corruption - No "Blood Corruption Content" and no GUI
It is very important to understand that the ACTUAL LEGAL STANDARDS seldom change. The dusty books don't get pocket parts added to them, making corruption legal; the dusty books just get ignored. To use the analogy of imbibing, its just that people don't get stopped for high blood corruption content and they don't get ticketed, arrested or jailed for Governing Under the Influence. That is why corruption is so darned appealing. It is the largest agreed to group silence that we have. If you drive in a third world country and learn that you have to pay off every single government official along the way, then you know that it is understood. Everybody knows you have to pay off everybody along the way. You can't get anything done, if you don't pay off each official along the way.
The More Slick and Sophisticated The Corruption the More Powerful
Let's not decry the poor third world country, they are not trying to be the "best and highest example". The modern western democracies are holding themselves to high standards. Witness their law books. Witness their pretense to ethics. Witness their long-winded speeches about standards of morality. Witness the sanctimonious preachments about corruption. Witness the pronouncements against all of the above steps in the Stew. When society slides down the slope at a certain speed and gets to a certain level, everyone develops an "Oh Well" quality. What might have once been outrage or indignation becomes wistful acceptance of a universal rash. "Oh well, its the way of things. That's what everybody does. Don't fight city hall. We're all in the same boat, let's not get too loud." And the best one of all - "Whatever."
When the Curtain Gets Pulled on the Wizard
Watch the news. When corruption actually becomes a part of the headlines, all kinds of noise blares into the CNN World of saturated air waves. This is where the sophistication comes in. Defenses build up like a cancerous run away tumor. "It's an over reach on the part of the prosecutor." "The evidence is all wrong." "The source of the evidence is questionable." "This is a Witch Hunt." "This is Political muckraking". "I have always been against this kind of corruption!" "After this trial is over, I am going to start a foundation against this kind of corruption." When the Wizard of Oz gets the curtain pulled by the little dog Toto, he doesn't stop his bluster, he just figures out a way of explaining his conduct. Always claim innocence of course. The trial gets swallowed up in the news. The object of the investigation is found innocent. If he is found innocent, the story is about how great our system is that we care about corruption. If he is found guilty, then the system gets to puff itself up and start a new Ethics Campaign.
The Media Machine
Since we are in America, if the media is in love with you, finds you charming, is enchanted with your "savoir faire" and you are on the correct side politically, you will start to appear on talk shows and reality shows, get a book deal so you can talk about how you were wronged. And then the lesson to everyone is: "The bigger the splash the better. If all of the water is out of the tub, then you are not just corrupt, you are talented. And if you are talented, you deserve attention and all the money that goes with that". And that is where we started.
Why Do We Talk About The Fall of Rome?
They finally shut the city down around 537 AD, when the invaders just absolutely destroyed the viaduct system and the water delivery infrastructure. After that, you could not live in any neighborhoods and start your own "post apocalyptic business". Pimps were even out of business, very few customers and no water means no hospitality rooms. Everything became degraded down to its lowest level. Put simply. People moved into the countryside. The Mayans didn't get killed off. They just went into the jungle. The Jews went into the road system and off into the countryside. The Christians fled to Pella. And they say at the Fall of Troy around 1500 BC or so, the remnants got in their boats and sailed for this place where there were Seven Hills - what would become Rome. So we come full circle again.
The reason we talk about Rome so much is for one big reason. It took 1,000 years before things got better. It's not the Fall of Rome alone, its what happens after, and for how long. Toilets and running water are precious precious things when you don't have them, and it takes a great deal of civilization to manage that. Ask all those people who went off into the woods after they witnessed their great falls.
The Barbarian At The Gate or The Dentist At The Drill
Describing states of corruption leads one to realize that all corruption does not lead to utter societal collapse. The cyclical and astrological nature of historical happenings declare that things seem to go on forever with no change, then all of a sudden, there is a new reality we are faced with. The drama of corruption is played out every day around the world, and imminent destruction is not predicted. It's just that corruption and its degree usually indicate the level of societal decay, and societal decay takes remedial action. There's an old saying: "The Barbarian is at the Gate". Guess where that comes from? Well, for those of us who are not alarmist, and this is the majority, I would put it this way. "Maybe the Barbarian is not at the Gate, but the Dentist is certainly at his Drill." So, nobody's worried about the Barbarian, and we can handle the Dentist. And most people will opt for high maintenance dentistry instead of flossing. That's just the way we are. We don't change until we suffer. Christofer French is the Founder of Astrologygetalong.com, that comments on societal change and cycles.