Monday, January 14, 2019

Power and its Corruption

The fact that a significant portion of the federal administration has been shut down for almost a month due to an inability of a divided government to reach a compromise agreement is, of course, extremely unsettling. It suggests that further disturbances will come and that as a society, we may be heading towards an escalating state of chaos and uncertainty.

Underlying this morass, however, there lies a reality that is as old as the existence of human societies and that is the formidable existence of the will to power. The state of order and the intricate system embodied in the rule of law is something that all of us depend upon and that we take for granted. Human civilization relies upon a covenant that specifies a system of rules designed to maintain that order. In the United States this covenant is embodied in its constitution. Within that document is the central concept of a democratic republic formed for the purpose of creating a government of, by and for the people. This was and continues to be a revolutionary concept; for, the tendency over the thousands of years of the existence of human societies has been toward the establishment of a hierarchy based upon wealth and power.

I believe it can be said without exaggeration, that even within contemporary societies and cultures world-wide, the powerful rule. Inordinate power brings with it the tendency towards corruption – the use of that power to usurp and exploit the powerless. The United States is not immune in this regard. Of course, it is the intricate system of laws and custom that helps to curb the breath and degree of that corruption.

Over the few hundred years of the political and social evolution within the United States, there has been significant progress towards realizing the dream of a government of, by and for the people. This has been a slow process during which time slavery was abolished, women were and continue to be freed from their repressed status, and the civil rights of minorities have been asserted and codified in law. The current demographics of the nation suggests a great diversity of people in terms of the color of their skin and their cultural origins. This diversity is now reflected more fully in the current occupants of public office in the House of Representatives. The ascendency of greater numbers of ordinary citizens to positions of influence poses a threat to those who actually hold the reins of power.

Over the span of the past few decades the powerful have orchestrated a concerted effort to regain their hold upon the nation. The apparent success of this goal is embodied in the makeup of the current administration. It should be of no surprise that many of those chosen for top cabinet positions within the government are white men of wealth and power who have deep corporate ties and whose primary focus is to ensure that the economic interests they represent take precedence over the people they are supposed to serve. This is particularly evident in the area of government regulations and especially the dominance of the interests of the fossil fuel industries over any concern about the natural environment as relates to public land use and the undoubted and deleterious changes in the earth’s climate.

History teaches its students that important and critical choices made by any nation or people can have lasting and dramatic consequences for the future. If the acute degree of this corruption that has engulfed the political life of this nation is met with silent acquiescence, then the crisis will only worsen - creating a situation where the general well-being of the many will be entirely subsumed by the capricious and self-serving behavior of the powerful. Such a conclusion would be reminiscent of the dark days of the past when the so-called “robber barons” were unbounded.

There is, however, an entirely different future possible if the collective voice in opposition to this folly is forceful and unequivocal. As a people, we are more than capable of demanding that our leaders act in service to all the people. We are certainly capable of choosing leaders that can exercise good judgment, have the intellectual capacity to comprehend complex issues, demonstrate personal integrity and have an appropriate respect for the truth. We should expect the very best not only from ourselves but from those who seek our vote and have chosen public service. It is in the best interest of everyone to do so.

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