Corruption of the Soul

Another friend from long ago has admitted his guilt. He used his office of trust, his service to the public, as a launching platform for satisfaction of yearnings that live as demons feeding on his soul. He’ll spend some time in prison, contemplating the nature of his actions and evaluating whether it was worth it.

I know his demons — or should I say that my demons know his demons. Like him, I am neither as good as I would like to think I am nor as bad as some people would describe me. Like him I have committed acts of dishonesty and deception devoid of any good purpose other than satisfying my immediate lust for power, money or vindication. That I am not perfect is a fact not an excuse. 

Many stories from many people, shared with me in confidence. So let me stray from the particulars to the the general. My theme is the loss to one’s soul when we need soul. The external pressure to get in the game while the internal pressure tells us to do right. We change what is right in our mind’s eye so we can look at ourselves in the mirror. But we know. And we live in the dread of discovery instead of the light of satisfaction with ourselves. 

I have risen to the challenge and done the right thing at great sacrifice to myself, with great courage, and with a good moral compass. I know how it feels. And I have gone the other way as well. The first is better. Performing mitzvot, good deeds, lives long in your heart as a satisfying warmth that never ends. 

The Bible/Torah is one tool to focus our attention on the meaning of our existence, giving us the benefit of a view of thousands of years of history and putting our human species in perspective. We are the tool of the forces greater than ourselves that help define our meaning and our existence. 

My observation is that people who seek public office are often corrupt. In fact much has been written about the higher incidence of corruption and crime in public office than other walks of life. We read and learn of these acts and what do we do? Sometimes we simply notice it in passing as though it doesn’t matter in that case. But it does matter. Sometimes we rail against the system that permitted acts of treason, corruption, high crimes and misdemeanors. And then we do nothing.

Yet mostly what we do is elect more people who commit more acts of corruption and deceit. Let’s be honest. whatever your political persuasion, the candidate you like is the one you think we’ll win and you are willing to overlook too many things about that person. The more honest the candidate, the less traction they get, because his or her honesty reveals areas of possible disagreement. The less honest they are, the more evasive they become, the better they score in campaigns, debates and polls. 

It isn’t their fault that the system is working that way. It is our fault. We are the boss in the democracy we call our own. Candidates would be honest if we insisted on it. They act dishonestly and evasively because we demand that in our a view of a winning candidate. So we end up with people holding public office about whom we know very little and who will do many things we despise and disagree with. We are disappointed in them because we didn’t realize they act the way they did. 

So in the end we sacrificed our desire for truth, the feeding of each of our souls, and the  votes we cast to a lower principle —- winning. The option is usually there. Some candidate comes out and says exactly what he or she thinks and they are immediately marginalized as not viable. Why? The corruption we get is the corruption we voted for, we approved of, and we encouraged. That’s why. We value winning over morality.

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