Politics: Corruption of the less than innocent
How many good people have discovered that, in a corrupt place, the only way to conduct business is on terms set by the proprietor?
I arrive here having read Robert McCrum’s nice little piece in the Guardian about Orwell’s last stand and ultimate fall. Shall I express some outrage then at the fresh revelations of capers byour politicians, or merely shrug – a key aphorism expressed through the body language of our times?
For ironies abound; this is the age of minute scrutiny, it’s microscopic focus made possible by technology. It is the age of pervasive irresponsibility in every walk of life. And yet, I cannot remember in the course of my life any time or place when those in the public eye were so unashamedly willing to reveal the guiding principle of modern power: its utter lack of morality.
One one hand we have the captains of industry, looting the holds while navigating the perilous waves. On the other, we may observe the most unedifying sight of those we elect abusing our trust at every turn. Between these venal factions stands the media, whose own corruption is rated in the ABCs of exploitation. Businessmen take their extraordinary payouts without compunction, offering no justification that could possibly be considered acceptable to those less privileged, and certainly not to those who suffer while an industry of Nero-like figures fiddle in terms that are hardly metaphorical. Should we be surprised that the same management practices run like fetid water under every parliamentary seat, through every corridor of power? At every turn, the expedient displaces the proper, courage relegated to the only luxury our great and good cannot afford.
Meanwhile, under the microscope of the media – the digital delivery system where binary states are the extent of nuance both in reporting and the behaviour on which it reports – we watch aghast as it becomes crystal clear that it is no longer deemed necessary to be covert, to conceal self-interest. The Bush neocons and their British counterparts displayed no compunction when they presented information to justify their actions that the most lowly media studies student would have expected to be ruthlessly exposed for fabrications that, for what little guile was used in their presentation and defence, were so blatant and unremitting, not so much unapologetic as indifferent.
We define our times as many ages – the age of anxiety, the age of climate change, the age of terrorism, the digital age, the age of global capitalism. What we do not define is what is missing, the absent component that now seems antiquated and naive. This is the age devoid of morality, where this very notion is consigned to a huge bin bearing the legend “Outmoded concepts no longer required”. Open the lid on this dumping ground for our values, and you will morality languishing with its disgraced companions: honour, dignity, honesty, sacrifice and service. Realpolitik was an expression of abandoned hope, where decisions were predicated on the notion that the only actions worth pursuing were those that benefited the actor, and that no other considerations impinged on decision-making. Change for the better became an atavistic notion, a proposition so unrealistic it was no longer worth the attempt. The only change supported by the new world order is an increase in profit.
There is no such thing as society. In the new world order, only I exist; I have no responsibility for anything or anyone. I will therefore please myself, and do that which best satisfies my desires, irrespective of consequences for myself, for others, for the world and its future. No-one cares for me, and I will respond in kind.
Fukuyama was wrong. History has not ended – it is the future we have destroyed. Our institutions are waging war on hope, and we must fight to reclaim it.