Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Post#127 "Corruption? Of course there's corruption!" (Is corruption always so bad?)

Sooo, Stasi, you askeeng mi about corrarption. Vayry goood! I talk beeg about corrarption - of course, in Australia, we have a high standard of corruption which has a venerable antecedence. The story of corruption in these islands begins with the arrival of...well I'm not sure about that. I was going to say "The First Fleet of 1788" but it occurred to me that the fate of the Batavia was a fine example of rampant corruption. Then again...I'm adopting a Eurocentric posture...there must have been indigenous corruption before foreigners worked their magic on the place.

Aboriginal culture has been invested with an artificial regularity by the distance in time from which we perceive it. The existence of politics, economics and the corruption that accompanies them was as much a part of aboriginal Australian life as it was in any other part of the world. If it wasn't, then the aborigines must have been the only branch of humanity to live just like the plastic diorama figures in museums. Bob the Builder or Thomas the Tank Engine would have spicier lives. I can imagine an ambitious man of the tribe inviting an elder to a private rendezvous and offering him him some delicacies..."I've got some nice kangaroo tails here for you, uncle. Now about that fellow I need cursed...."

Corruption comes in many forms, but most of it falls into these categories:

1. Stealing from the entity that you have an obligation to; tickling the till, rorting allowances, pilfering materials/equipment.

2. Requiring a payment to do your lawful duty; you require a gift from someone to do what you're paid to do for them already.

3. Receiving a payment to do something unlawful; just about anything you can think of.

4. Using influence or authority to prefer your own interest or that of another; "fixing" tenders, giving "mates' rates", "jobs for the boys/girls".

The first and fourth categories are those which politicians prefer. The difficulty is that the disclosure of the corruption and the ensuing rituals of media torture and dismissal are good fooder for journalists but don't necessarily advance the national interest. Joel Fitzgibbon has just been driven from office without anyone actually proving that he wasn't doing a passable job as Minister for Defence. I can believe that he was tageted by vested interests in the defence bureaucracy because he was goring their oxen. He would not be the first; Defence has a well-earned reputation for bastardry. On the larger world stage, Bill Clinton lost moral and international political authority for a sex scandal which had no bearing upon great matters of state. While the scandal raged, Osama bin Laden was taking care of business. Would victory over the despots have been achieved more readily if every grubby detail of the private lives of Allied generals and politicians had been broadcast during World War II? Not likely. Abraham Lincoln denied that he said it but approved the sentiment of an anecdote that quoted him as responding to complaints about U. S. Grant's alleged boozing by saying, "Find out what sort of whisky he drinks and send a case of it to every general."

On the other hand, there is the slippery slope. There is a line in the Judaeo - Christian scriptures which tells us: "Thou shalt not bind the mouths of the kine that tread the grain." Of course, the kine may get the idea that eating the grain should take precedence over grinding it. Instead of just picking up the spillage, they might decide to tackle what's supposed to go under the millstone. The extent to which some people will abuse a privilege when they become disinhibited is a fair warning in this regard.

So there is the dilemma for the citizenry; making a gossip-feast of corrupt behaviour may keep the media wheels turning and provide taxi drivers with topics to pass time conversing about with passengers. It may also be at the price of crippling a leader engaged in competently performing necessary and difficult work. However, blind-eyeing it may also be a step on the path to disaster and it's usually not possible to foresee exactly where the path is leading in any particular situation. So, we are returned to square one. Exasperating as it is, we must suffer the repetitious disclosures because we can't really just let it pass. It's the melodrama that is confected around it that wears me out and which prompted this post on the subject. I just wish it was taken in stride and not offered to us as a wonder of the world. The title of this post is a quote from a former Police Commissioner of Western Australia, Brian Bull. If only the scandal-mongers would take his point and stop boring us to death with their excitement.


Anastasia Fitzgerald said...

Ah, but what is life without scandal? But it should be like Christmas Dinner, or a meal served up on a special occasion just to keep that little extra edge to one's appetite. Alas, here, at the moment, we have Christmas every other day. Would you mind if I send you my pudding. I've had enough! :-)

Retarius said...

The very thing! Scandal is a dish best served...occasionally.