The Opportunity of Corruption

The only difference between US and THEM is opportunity.

We love to rail against the one percent – their penchant for greed and the unethical lengths they will go to amass money and power. We can barely identify who they are sans the recognizable multinational conglomerates. We know that the richest one percent own half of the world’s wealth, and we believe that’s despicable, firing off unfair labor practices, lack of living wages and health benefits for workers, the huge export of manufacturing jobs overseas that began during the Reagan administration, and the overall devaluing of the American as both a producer and consumer.

But how much of a gulf is there between us? We talk about values, priorities and ethics, but chances are many of us would love to be in THEIR position. That’s why so may of us play the lottery, the chance that we could win millions and retire, pay off ours and our parents debts, buy a house, a boat, and travel around the world.

Let’s be real. We rarely immediately think about the charity we would do, the infrastructure we would create in our communities – eradicating the food desert, building a recreation center, rehabbing homes for seniors, and upgrading our community school to 21st century status.

We think about those things now because we are in our communities, we are in the trenches battling it out with City Hall, the school board, and commercial developers. We claim that we are fighting to make it better for everyone, but aren’t we really thinking about our self-interest?

Granted, self-preservation is the first law of nature, and it is perfectly natural to think about one’s own survival first. But anyone who has tumbled into some abundance of cash immediately begins thinking about moving out and away from their neighborhood. They will proclaim their affinity and nostalgia for it, and even will visit periodically and do some charity work, but for the most part, they are GONE.

So the difference between the one percent and us boils down to opportunity. That is what drives multi-level marketing, Wall Street, banking, and any industry that is primarily focused on making money. We question the ethics because we are not in those industries, but we dabble in them. We buy a few stock hoping to pad our retirement savings. We are as ensconced in the free market capitalist system as the big guys, yet we cling on our belief that we are somehow way more ethical than THEY are.

However, how often have you betted on someone’s misfortune, as was the case during the build up to the Housing Crisis? That was about money. Yours was about emotions – jealousy, spite, anger. Or, how often have you told little white lies, skimmed, stolen, threw someone under the bus, or whatever unethical/criminal actions you took?

We vehemently deny that we contribute to the society we have. What we do is small in comparison to what THEY do. But it is not about the scale. It is about the mentality, the mindset.

Of course the fleecing of America is proportional, and what those do in power can be astronomical in comparison. But ethically we need to consistently examine ourselves, and not let ourselves off the hook. Moreover, we need to stop pointing the finger at the other, without having fingers pointed back at us.

Ron Kipling Williams