The ensuing anthropological depictions of moral corruption, I hope, will be useful for those propagandists who are working on behalf of justice. This brief text is the result of my observations in the spheres of politics and my multifarious readings. Our mind, when we suffer an accident here, a misfortune there, a disgrace today, and the bitter fruits of our improvident facts dropping like a rain of pain upon us, tends to frame a metaphysical scene in which tragedy is the main protagonist. Tragedy is a system too, which sometimes presents a light in order to alleviate the painful life of humanity. This light is called, in accordance with the analyses of Machiavelli, “occasione” (1).
We found this idea, for example, in Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, where Sertorius says (my gentle readers will pardon me for this doggerel): “I am buying an occasion, which is scarce for those who intend enormous things” (2). Among moral, logical and aesthetic uncertainty, human beings need to extract benefits when an occasion is favourable to do it. Only those who have a keen and strong sight are able to discern the signals of fortune. And, if this is so, any moral code will be disdained before a felicitous occasion. This represents, I suppose, one of the principal fonts of moral corruption. Corrupt men justify their never-well-chastised acts by affirming they are facing a vital scramble where only the rascal, the cad, the ruffian, can gain the necessary supplies of life. And the most overwhelming aspect of all this is that these unscrupulous individuals receive the palms of society due to their non-exemplar profits.
The idea of “family” is a fruitful font of false pious folk. By using the names of “son”, “wife”, “grandmother”, “blood”, and so on, many people can justify their corrupt acts. A father, for example, can infer robbery by arguing that the money he took as a Cacus was doomed to earn a medical treatment for his beloved beings. A mother could argue she stole a computer to satisfy the innocent desires of her poor spawn. This archetype, which we name “paterfamilias”, is traced from the classic Greek age to our days, and an illustrious literary testimony is the next period, which we extracted from Don Quixote of La Mancha (II, 36): “the remedy of woes, the succour of necessities, the shield of maids, the consolation of widows, in no sort of persons are better than in knights-errant”.
The main task of this “hidalgo”, or “son of something”, is merely negative, that is, his mission is to use arms in order to defend the defenceless. I am not saying Don Quixote is the model of corruption, but that this personage is a shining masquerade used by rascals to hide their well sketched corrupt works. There are two characters that are useful to deduce unjust follies against our neighbors, namely: the “rogue”, who is, I guess, precisely produced by the letters of Spain, and the “rebel”, who is offered by those of the Anglo-Saxon inspiration. We must recall that the concept of “family” is historically related to the notion of “nation”. Every nation is compounded, above all, by poor people (3), or in a better word, by folk. Then, if I assault the rich, I am not a thief, but a hero in the sight of my family, or rather my little nation. A bunch of mythologies comes from these figures, as E. Hobsbawn has taught (4).
Another treasure of moral corruption is “utilitarianism”, which does not need a complex explanation. I constantly think The Book of Job can be considered as the extolling of riches, since from its beginning we read, to me, vain lists of material things, which are the ground of the aggrandizement of the protagonist. Little by little, gallivanting among its uncanny verses, which are a mine of flinty metaphors, we comprehend that matter is a mere frontier between God, the scaly Job and the ghoul Satan. But the “eyes of flesh” (Job 10: 4), or a reader without true religious, philosophical or scientific interests will understand matter is the principal concernment of mankind. Matter, so, is regarded as a bridge towards ideals.
Usually people say, for example, that money is not the cause of happiness, but a path to it. Then, matter is transformed into a sort of moral commencement, and each corrupt scoundrel will affirm there are no attainable ideals where we have not a concrete pavement. This, of course, is a discourse adorned with words related to the abstract concept of “objectivity”. It is, says our corrupt man, an impartial deed to accumulate matter in order to shun evil and possibilitate our tangible chimeras.
Who can dare to question the sacred authority of a supposed expert? A simple peasant does not have knowledge enough to judge the method and acuteness of a professional man, and due to this he is restrained to blindly believe him. Four are the badges with which the corrupt expert disguises his cursed doings: certifications, rituals, technical jargon and fear. For our epistemologically innocent society every doubt launched against famous brands or companies, which apparently represent social movements, is a blasphemy. These entities can reject any accusation by alleging the claimant did not understand, when he bought the offering, either the method or the concept that was the cause of the concluded business. How could a daysman and a buyer judge the qualities of something with a frontispiece of science and a void interior? The answer is simple: by applying logic to it. But nowadays, an age of simpletons and sentimentalists guided by false moral authorities, not by reason, logic is a sin and the symbol of fascism. This font of corruption we name “auctoritas”.
During my youth I learnt from Lenin that linguistical games, such as theatrical promises (the German word to name this fact is “Spiel”), which are grounded on the idea of possibility, are one of the favourite mental weapons used by the bourgeoisie to deceive its social contrary, the proletarian. I can say the state is a free political existence, and my hearers will believe I am speaking of the “profanum vulgus”, when actually I am doing that in reference to the dominant social class. Precise questions requiring precise answers are considered as the traits of arrogance and insolency in front of the eyes of a burgher. Each corrupt member of our society knows this psychological infirmity and makes use of it to manipulate the interpretation of laws, codes, contracts, etc. Rogues, as Gadamer has shown (5), are friends of literal interpretations in order to fool their contemporaries.
And as there is no set of laws perfectly established to face every social problem, corrupt men transform the sphere of justice into “a Babylon of roguery”, to use the language of a beloved Hispanist of mine (Walter Starkie). This leads us, as I have said, to the concept of “Spiel”, or “game” in plain English. Rogues turn each political aspect into a drama where the picaresque use of words is a medium to impose the thuds of our perspectives. It is easy to take the form of a character of note because the sophist is a personage extant in all ages and admired by the modern industrial and proletarian masses (from Gorgias to our YouTubers, for instance). It is necessary to remember that these masses have a primitive mind, and that such a kind of mind tends to admit words as deeds. The corrupt man, therefore, is like a magician, and corruption is like a darker process by which ruffians can obtain riches from nothing, “ex nihilo”.
Finally, the last chief cause of moral corruption is the dire spatial relativism, whose principle is to believe there are places where we can be honest citizens, and others in which we can be clodhoppers. The torpid tautology, for instance, “businesses are businesses”, is an enchantment for cads, who in hearing it think they have the right to affront every statement of ethics. The catalog of similar slogans, or rather moral abracadabras, is copious, and its most conspicuous linguistic feature is to emphasize a sentence by saying two times the same word. “Money is money”, “family is family”, “the first is the first”, etc., are good examples (6). By reason of these sayings, space is put into the walls of the illusion of atomism. Searle would name them “declarations”, I suppose.-
- Between the literary appurtenances written by Machiavelli, we can find this poem, in which the concept of “occasione” is depicted as an anthropomorphized being with his foot on a wheel (Capitolo dell’Occasione):
-Chi se’ tu che non par donna mortale
di tanta grazia el Ciel t’adorna e dota?
Perché non posi? E perché a’ piedi hai l’ale?
-Io son l’Occasione, a pochi nota,
e la cagion che sempre mi travagli
è perch’io tengo un pie’ sopra una rota.
- See Βίοι Παράλληλοι, worded by Plutarch.
- The eminent American historian Samuel Eliot Morison says: “Each tribe called itself something like ‘We, the People’, and referred to its neighbors by a word that meant ‘the Barbarians’, ‘Sons of Dog’, or something equally insulting” (The Oxford History of the American People, chapter I, “America Under Her Native Sons”).
- Eric J. Hobsbawm offers us an interesting study on this issue in his formidable book Primitive Rebels. Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movement in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
- See the Volume I of Gadamer’s Wahrheit und Methode.
- See Roland Barthes’ Mythologies.