Monday 18th January 2021

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Corruption And Its Consequences

November 7, 2020 Frontpage No Comments


Some 20 years ago, I was seated on a transatlantic flight next to a woman who was heading for Berlin. She was a researcher for Transparency International, a nonprofit devoted to examining the causes of corruption (and the means of ending it) in countries and cultures all over the world.
At the time, I was gathering supporters in the international community for an effort to expand and update the century-old international treaties prohibiting the international trafficking of obscene materials, known in today’s vernacular as “hard-core” pornography.
It was a long flight, and after trading war stories and vignettes, my seatmate and I made a humorous bet: Whose cause would win? Would pornography or corruption be eradicated first?
Since then, thanks to the Internet, pornography has become so ubiquitous that it’s not even called pornography anymore. In the same vein, we might say that corruption also continues to be so common that it is hardly called corruption anymore. It’s just business as usual, or politics as usual, even life as usual.
It’s similar to what we’ve addressed before about hypocrisy. The hypocrite, says la Rochefoucauld, “bows to virtue,” as he indulges in vice. But the advocate of Justice Kennedy’s “Mystery Passage” doesn’t have to acknowledge virtue at all. Soon, “corruption,” “hypocrisy,” even “virtue” will survive only as empty vessels, devoid of content because there is no standard by which to judge them. Folks can fill them with any swill they please, because they feel good using old words to disguise new vices.
And they get away with it. After all, “who am I to judge?” It’s such a common practice that a new term has been introduced to describe it: “virtue-signaling,” the practice of uttering popular platitudes in order to gain applause while slyly demeaning those who disagree with you.
We can’t blame Mr. Justice Kennedy for all this. He merely spelled out in dialectical gibberish the notion that had been eroding our moral sense for a generation and more. “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and the mystery of human life,” he wrote in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992).
Well, with that kind of “liberty,” one can “define one’s own concept” of virtue without limits. Instead of bowing to universal truths, one can simply strut onto the stage and take a bow for being so original, so superior, so liberated from the chains that virtue, in the old days, had imposed on his passions, his appetites, and his ego.
For the autonomous man, hypocrisy and virtue have become indistinguishable. And so too the man for whom corruption has become a way of life. He cannot escape Aristotle’s philosophical anthropology, but he can defy The Philosopher and embrace bestiality (theriotes), like a wild animal, and habituate his callous conscience to celebrate his moral depravity as an ethical success.
In the current post-election tumult, we are witnessing the raw sinews of corruption emerge from the back room to manipulate the body politic for its own ends. Operating for years under the disguise of “mainstream media” and “social media” and similar stalwarts of the culture, corruption now roars like Aristotle’s beast to finish off what is left of our civic community and our common culture, infecting from without as well as within.

On Definition

The Latin root of corruption, “corrumpere,” means “to seduce,” “to bribe,” “to break,” “to destroy.” On reflection, that’s often exactly the way it happens. The tempting opportunity to profit from an evil act is first presented, and then secured with the payoff. This breaks down the wall that virtuous habit has built, and then destroys the character within.
Consider abortion. The temptation is sex without consequences. The bribe is public support, even encouragement, from the “pro-choice” crowd. The natural bond between mother and child is broken (if it ever existed), and the child is destroyed.
Consider adultery. Tempted to illicit sex, bribed with the promise of pleasure, the sacramental bond is broken, and the marriage is destroyed.
Consider language. Confucius emphasizes the importance of restoring the proper meaning of words. A word has no meaning if it is not firmly rooted in reality — a reality that is the same for all of us. Many who rebel against reality could easily make up new words to reflect their own version. But that’s hard work. Why bother, when there are plenty of old words that have accrued a traditional authority that makes them persuasive in themselves?
The payoff is generous at first, but the protection of the true is broken and the truth is then destroyed. Thus Big Brother’s propaganda apparat is called the Ministry of Truth, and his torture chamber is the Ministry of Love. And the NewSpeak Dictionary’s Eleventh Edition will destroy most of language altogether, so that now words will be left to describe “tyranny,” “evil,” or even “corruption.”
Virginia’s own Patrick Henry once observed that “[a] vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom.” But Justice Kennedy literally invites the “corruption of the public conscience,” doesn’t he? He guarantees to each individual the right to define reality for himself. Man becomes autonomous, like Rousseau’s Noble Savage or Karl Marx’s “truly Socialist man.”
The Promethean temptation breaks the bond of civic virtue that glues the individual to society. Justice Kennedy confers on each of us the right — if not the power — to be our own private Leviathan.
“Public virtue cannot exist in a Nation without private Virtue,” wrote John Adams. But Justice Kennedy asks, “Who am I to judge what ‘virtue’ is?” Fortunately, the prevailing public virtue of two centuries ago inoculated our society with salutary civic habits that persist to our own day, but we have no common language with which to discuss them or to defend them. Our common understanding of Confucius’ “proper meaning of words” has been broken into tiny egoistic shards. And with that, our liberties face the danger of being a victim of the final stage of corruption — destruction.

Consequences Temporal — And Eternal

As our Berlin-bound researcher attested, corruption acknowledges no borders. It is an equal-opportunity destroyer. As if we don’t have enough of our own, we’re allowing millions of foreigners to enter our country — some immigrants, some illegal — virtually all of whom come from cultures and countries more corrupt than our own. As Thomas Sowell puts it, “An immigrant brings his [home] culture with him.” Immigrants from a corrupt culture will naturally gravitate to the most corrupt party in our own country.
Moreover, as we’ve learned from the Biden family scandal, there’s a corollary: A foreign country can corrupt you without leaving home. First the seduction, then the bribe, breaking the bond of civic virtue and ultimately destroying the individual, his family, and very possibly his country.
A final thought: We are surrounded by corruption. Yet we know that countless “Corruptos,” domestic and foreign, will escape justice here on Earth. The bitterness abides, and it is justified. For their whole lives they will prosper, while the innocent suffer.


But for how long? For how long? Fifty years? Even a hundred?
No matter. God is Justice personified. Eternity is forever.
We best repent — and pray.

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