Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Corruption, Collusion and Denial

The news that Lay and Skilling have been found guilty is reassuring, but the government response is appalling: "The administration has been pretty clear there is no tolerance for corporate corruption," said White House spokesman Tony Snow, commenting on the Lay & Skilling convictions.

Okay -- I just can’t let that comment slide; I hadn’t wanted to get into politics so quickly in my blogging career, but my god! Can anyone say, “denial”?? After Halliburton, after the blatant skimming that constituted these first years of “Iraq reconstruction” (that by itself seems quintessential denial), after the oil barons‘ subsidies… what’s pretty clear is that Bush and Cheney chums can get away with anything. But rather than bashing this rank corruption in government (others are doing that so much better than I), I want to ask what social/cultural dynamic allows this to continue, over and over, in our faces every day. What’s going on inside of us that we (many of us) scan the news, shake our heads, and then start planning the errands? Or don’t even read/view the news anymore?

I have been musing about the “Frog in a Pot” syndrome a lot recently (that incredible experiment where a frog will immediately hop out of a pot boiling water but when placed in cold water will allow itself to be slowly cooked)… we rarely make the connections necessary to understand how bad things have gotten. I saw an article about a new technique to help asthma sufferers (by “melting” off cells in their bronchial tubes - ugh!) which noted the substantial increase in cases in the past few years -- but no mention of the thousands upon thousands of new chemicals released, the years of older but untested chemicals building up... in short -- nothing at all about the environment that is almost surely creating this condition that requires such invasive procedures. The “water” which is our environment and our social/economic structure is rapidly “coming to a boil” (in the case of global warming, quite literally)… and we haven’t really noticed. I’ve always loved the bumper sticker “If you’re not angry, you don’t understand the situation”… I’ve become very angry recently… but then what?

Because when we do make the connections, we often feel too small and helpless to respond (and yes, I realize I’m speaking of myself as much as anyone). How can we, as a people, start an uprising if we don’t actually feel like a “people”? I don’t know the neighbors on my block; barely see them around, and I admit at times that it’s tough for me to think of my city/region as “my neighbors” because so often the local annoyances get in the way. How do we put aside the very-present but smaller conflicts in order to address the much larger problems?? Obviously, so far, we haven’t been able to (although I am very encouraged by some of the city resolutions passed recently, opting out of the national spy network or voting to censure Bush for his greedy power grab). I worry that those with lots of power have in fact made it impossible for the rest of us to pull together… the multi-national corporations and power brokers have managed to make our lives so stressful that we simply can’t find time away from the daily struggle to protest.

Yet I do understand that we -- that I -- have choices, even within the shrinking set of resources available to us. I have social groups for various interests, but we don’t act together on social issues because we come from such varied backgrounds that even discussing politics can be considered rude… we opt to “keep the peace” because we choose to pursue “relaxing pastimes” or “broaden our lives”… sometimes I wonder if this self-enhancement is yet another veil over our eyes. But if we knew that the hot water we are in is about to boil? Would we move then??

This is a time of great need for our so-called middle class to speak up, loudly, about the way resources are being siphoned off, leaving us to scramble to stay afloat while still being helpful to those who are already sinking. The information is out there… we just need to piece it together and realize the extent of the problem. There have been government scandals, greed and corruption since America was first formed, and there seem to be cycles of uprising, housecleaning and re-structuring… I fervently hope that we are approaching such a period now. And I hope that I can continue to do whatever I find to do that might help.

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