This report from the Independent today shows us just how far we have come. Whilst Tory Euro-sceptics continue to plot final disavowal of that evil anti-British entity that we all know and love as the European Union, we get these choice phrases on the corruption Britain is finally now exhibiting all on its lonesome:
Yet recent British scandals can compete with the best Europe can offer. Besides MPs fiddling their expenses and Jimmy Savile’s history of paedophilia, racing has been hit by Frankie Dettori’s six-month drugs ban, we’ve seen London-based banks Barclays and UBS embarrassed by the Libor rate-fixing scandal, and BAE Systems has been investigated over its arms deals.
And yet it gets worse, as goalposts are continuously moved:
[...] “There is no real accountability of these guys coming in—the cops don’t really investigate them,” says Mark Hollingsworth, co-author of Londongrad, a 2009 book about the Russian invasion. “They see the capital as the most secure, fairest, most honest place to park their cash, and the judges here would never extradite them.”
A prominent barrister specialising in reproductive rights has called for the age of consent to be lowered to 13.
Barbara Hewson told online magazine Spiked that the move was necessary in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal to end the “persecution of old men”.
Now in a short Twitter exchange this morning it was brought to my attention that the problem isn’t immorality. In fact, the problem may not even be corruption as such. Rather, so much of what we do in both large and small corporate organisations is done with a transcendental amorality. We are circumscribed by process and procedure – and we assume the bigger view is not ours to own. We assume that those who set up process and procedure knew what they were doing when they trained us.
Yet this very amorality, this unquestioning behaviour, this inability to think from scratch and try and perceive – on a rolling basis – a broader set of consequences from our acts, leads to outcomes which are anything but amoral. We ourselves are not immoral – most of us are truly not corrupt – but the accumulation of all our individual tasks does seem to lead more and more to utterly unjust outcomes.
Is it then a systemic question as the Independent reports it might be? Or is it a question of people-culture? After all, you can have any number of protective processes and procedures in place but if the people who are supposed to operate them are of a mind to, any and all may quite easily – and eventually – be circumvented.
The battlecry for the anti-Europeans is that Europe is a dirty patchwork of vile and corrupt marshes we need to retreat from. And yet recent attempts to drag us out of such fields only makes me wonder if the true powers-that-be are looking more to defend their own rights to perpetuate a very British corruption from international law and wider socially-inspired movements than to revert what was apparently once an honest public life to a semblance of modest functionality.
Corrupt or “just” amoral? Does it really matter in the final analysis? The evidence of the impact of widespread corruption – that is to say, inefficient and ineffective socioeconomic systems – is all around us. You don’t need to drill down into that individual or the other to know that the inefficiency and ineffectiveness I mention must be inspired by something seriously wrong.
Solutions? Lord, I really don’t know. I really don’t know where to start. But perhaps we should take a lesson from the best corporate organisations: when you struggle to know the true extent of the bigger picture, start with bitesized pieces. And maybe, just maybe, attempt to comprehend that just as those poor workers were trapped and died in the rubble of a Bangladeshi building, so too many people here in the West – whilst not losing their lives – are wasting their existences in systems which also, in a way, serve to entrap them.
Just because you act in an amoral fashion doesn’t make you immoral. Even as, perhaps, the results of your actions are.
There’s a lesson to be drawn there, then, about how we see, consult and work with others.
Maybe it’s time we thought the best of our fellow workers. And acted in consequence.