It's difficult keeping track of Canadian politics abroad, given that I mostly rely on www.thestar.com or, occasionally, www.borque.org to keep me up to date, but reading recently about the kick-backs, bribery and all around money-going-where-it's-not-supposed-to scandals back home has reinforced how far I've come in the last few years in understanding a little more clearly how the world works. (Notice I said a little more clearly; I still don't really understand what the world does, and why, and towards what purpose, but I know more than I did five, six years ago, and I guess it would be scary if that weren't the case.)
Scandals at the UN involving huge sums of money. Scandals at home in Canada involving Canadian politicians funnelling money to people and corporations that will support their causes. Scandals and uproar between Japan and China, as each side baits the other with nationalistic rhetoric. Just today in the New York Times there was an interesting article analyzing how the Chinese government was carefully orchestrating the latest round of 'spontaneous' protests against Japan. And all of these crooked shenangians inevitably seem to involve money and power and connections among the elite of the elite.
Maybe it's just because I've been living in Cambodia for almost two years. The pages of the Cambodia Daily routinely depict the kickbacks that take place between those who want to move on up in the world. Hell, I've had to do it myself. Upon losing my passport last year I had to give the nice and friendly policeman a little bit of bribe to make the transactions go smoothly. (Yes, I lost my passport. Not recommended, and especially not recommended when you're living in freakin' Cambodia, because the Canadian embassy here doesn't do new passports; only the embassy in Thailand can make new ones, and so I had to wait a month for a new one, and the thing is, it was a new passport I had lost, my old one having reached its four score and ten, or thereabouts, and the moral of the story is: Scott is a knob. A first-class one.)
This is an entire country that is essentially run by greasing the palms of those who have what you want. And I've gradually realized that I was really, really naive about how the world works, and what it takes to move ahead, and how power corrupts, absolutely.
Part of Canadians current outrage has to do with our essential naivety, I think. The government's not supposed to be doing these things, we say. How dare they think they can get away with it!
Sentiments I agree with one hundred percent. But the reality is, well, to a large extent, the world over, this is what governments do, plain and simple. And it's not only limited to governments; one only has to look at the boys of Enron and Martha Stewart to realize that those on top, those in power, do not play by the same rules as everybody else.
I'm not saying the entire social system and governmental, military-industrial complex everywhere in the world is fundamentally corrupt. What I think I'm saying is that there are channels and avenues of illicit interactions that have always been there, are there now, and will continue. You can't stop them; you can only circumvent them. You can put safeguards in check. You can have, like, laws. (Cambodia is pretty much a lawless society; chaos and anarchy results. On the roads, in my school, in the courts. And in my house. But that's, um, another blog...) As Chris Rock so wisely pontificated, "A man is only as faithful as his options."
When your options multiply, fidelity becomes an endangered, cloistered species.
But where does the culpability end? I'm putting the blame on the Martha Stewarts and Paul Martins of the world, but what about me? I had to pay off the police chief to get my passport back; I'm part of the same system I'm so gleefully indicting. I have no excuse, I say; I do what nees to be done, I say. I believe it and it's bullshit and I can't reconcile the two. Where does it end, and where does the blame, should the blame, stop?