In the wake of the now-emerging debate about the apocalypse theater announcement of Osama Bin Laden's death, I am reminded once again of the well-known and popular aphorism of Lord Acton: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." But with all respect and deference to Lord Acton, I beg to differ.
We who are old enough to remember have watched the decline of our country and indeed of our general culture at the hands of an increasingly unresponsive, unrepresentative professional political and bureaucratic class in the government, at the hands of more hidden parapolitical power structures so well outlined by Dr. Peter Dale Scott in his various writings on the subject of the JFK assassination, and much earlier in the last century by C. Wright Mills (The Power Elite), by power structures of corporate interlock, intelligence agencies, organized crime, and the list goes on and on. We have watched as Dummycrooks and Republithugs enact unpopular, unwanted legislation in closed sessions in the middle of the night, and over the vast public protest and outcry against it. We have watched staged "town hall" debates where political candidates are carefully shielded from the public and the real questions they want to ask, and that need to be addressed.
And this is where my difference with Lord Acton comes in. It is not so much, I think, that power tends to corrupt, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. But rather, that in a culture of corruption - with the well-manicured hands and tailored gray business suits that love to hide immortality behind the cloak of "legality," thus making something immoral acceptable if it is legal - the tendency to accept the ultimate alchemical political androgyne, "totalitarian democracy," becomes evident, and indeed, not only evident, but positively parades itself in a stupefying media-driven mob mentality to accept the very pronouncements of the corrupt without question.
This is the root of the corruption: the switching off of the human mind, the blind faith in systems seeking to justify immorality in the name of their particular truth, the participation in the justification by the willingness to repeat pre-selected answers, filling in our ovals on "standardized tests" with our number two lead pencils, rather than questioning the whole artifice of such tests and such Pavlovian responses, to begin with. America's corruption has now grown into a huge idolatry and a huge industry of edu-babble, infotainment, and news commentators idolizing a succession of sock puppets in public office, an idolatry that repeatedly insists that this is "the greatest country on earth and in human history," usually said in the context implying that this is the greatest government on earth with the wisest and most virtuous leaders.
But when the mind is switched off, when benchmarks and litmus tests are established which to question is to question the patriotic impulses of authority, it is then that corruption can, and does, run amok. And that sort of corruption breeds its own "culture," a kind of "breakaway civilization" no longer concerned with the public good, and no longer concerned to manifest genuine virtue nor to even attempt to concoct stories that make sense; any old story will do.
In this type of situation, it is no longer power that corrupts, but rather, the corrupt who seek power. The higher the office sought, the more corrupt the individual seeking it is likely to be. Am I seriously suggesting that the next time you see any politician running for any office that your initial response to this person should be to think "this is a corrupt person?" Yes I am. They need to know, they need to feel, that as they step into the halls of power, that we regard them as creatures who have sold some essential part of themselves that humanizes the rest of us, that they have stepped out of that broad development of western culture that nourished them in the first place. Some of them, many of them in fact, may not even care, so far gone are they in their lust for power and their absence of a heart. Until we understand that Lord Acton's dictum is in fact false, we will not understand why this apocalypse theater looks increasingly absurd, and increasingly obvious, for when corruption is so far gone, it loses its grip on reality and humanity, and doesn't even realize how ridiculous it looks. And that's a good thing.