Yes, it is a sad spectacle to see a former Governor, of Illinois, pleading that he did nothing wrong while his colleagues unanimously vote him out of office and also vote that he may never serve in government for Illinois again. And his criminal case is now pending. But, is there something we can learn from this series of "unfortunate events"? Is this just a sideshow with a ridiculous perpetrator providing some cheap entertainment for the rest of us?
Reviewing briefly, Governor Rod Blagojevich (also known as "Blago" for headline- and tongue-saving reasons) was recorded numerous times trying to figure out who would pay him the most in exchange for his choice to fill the empty Senate seat of then President-Elect Barack Obama. His Blago quotes are widely available; I want to avoid profanities here, which limits the selection, but one of the quotes regarding the open Senate seat was: "I want to make money." And one of his schemes was based on the expectation that "the president-elect can ask Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and others for money for the [Blagojevich political] organization" in exchange for giving the president-elect some say in the Senate seat selection.
Ironically, Blagojevich's repudiation by colleagues took place in the same state where he was elected twice to the governorship and three times to Congress. Was he truly such a good actor, was he such an effective Congressman and governor and orator that he could dupe, multiple times, an otherwise alert electorate into voting for a man who turned out to be a foul-mouthed political degenerate?
My claim is that the population nationwide and in most of the world is NOT alert to deceit and stupidity. We are all Blagojevichified (or Blagofied, if you prefer), to one degree or another. That is, we accept as normal the most abnormal and harmful behaviors by various components of our society, from the person on the street right up through our highest leaders of business and government – and even by ourselves (the definition of Blagofication, after all) at times. To be fair, some of that problem is endemic to our current systems, and it is hard for an individual to make changes in those larger, self-preserving systems.
But I ask, how did Barack Obama choose three tax cheats (and there must be more in the hundreds of appointees being chosen for a new administration) for some of his highest appointments? I offer two non-exclusive answers: the vetting team hardly considered honesty as a priority character trait of the nominees ("skills" would have been the leading trait considered) and so did not look particularly closely at indicators of honesty such as tax filings, and secondly, apparently a high percentage of government and business leaders regularly cheat on the taxes paid to the country they serve, so it was as if the vetting team was walking through a mine field and could barely help getting exploded while trying to find those without a taint of tax or other legal evasion, even if they had been more careful.
If the best of our recent leaders are tainted, is it any wonder that we are all morally numb to some degree? In a strange twist on the Stockholm Syndrome, wherein kidnapping victims become sympathetic to their kidnappers, we have all adapted to some degree the moral values of the dominant class that kidnaps the way we are educated (to the test so as not to be "left behind"), the way we work (assembly lines of products or ideas), and vote (limited choices on the ballot). I am not saying that we all cheat on our taxes, spouses, or in other obvious ways, but I am saying that our moral compasses and sensors may need a tune-up.
Is it any wonder that we as a population elect presidents with low moral and intellectual qualities (think "Clinton" and "Bush", if I may fill in the blanks)? And Bill Clinton was one of the more effective presidents in recent memory – my point being that there are many hundreds or thousands of citizens who could have done even better, and without the personal scandals. But the political system, meaning we the voters, don't allow such ordinary, perhaps non-charismatic, individuals to surface and get elected.
It is no news that large corporations have a strong influence on US, western European, and Japanese government. The dynamics in less wealthy nations and in the Middle East are somewhat different, and will not be explored here. But looking at my own United States, we all know that corporations have distorted the process for years. But it continues to be tolerated and is protected in laws. I saw a story today stating that Obama would like to limit executive pay to $500,000 for companies receiving government bailouts, and that would be a significant though not sufficient step in the right direction of truly holding people and companies responsible for their actions.
When subsidies for oil companies are totally eliminated and instead taxes on them are significantly raised, when valuable public lands are no longer sold cheap to logging and mining companies (and no longer sold at all), when tax cheats are promptly removed from the nominee list by a president-elect instead of needing to resign, and when corporate leaders voluntarily resign or take massive pay cuts when they have failed to lead their companies effectively, I will begin to see society changing for the better. These and many other, small and large daily actions locally and in news reports, are the early indicators of societal direction. My sense is that a few new, healthy buds have opened, but the fields are still full of the old kudzu-like weed growth. There is much work ahead for all of us.
I do myself fight the trend of becoming tired and tolerant of wrongdoing. I avoid Exxon Mobil gas stations due to their reprehensible actions in Alaska AFTER the Exxon Valdez spill; I publish the PlanetThoughts.org Web site/blog; I drive an older (but reliable quality) car that gets good gas mileage; and I work for myself not for a corporation where my ideas would have been pressured into being a part of a corporate culture.
Even so, I know that the there is more I can do in order to see clearly and have the most positive impact. This orientation might even be described as "De-Blagofication" in the sense of taking full responsibility for one's actions, although I do see it in a more dignified light than that term would imply. Rather than Rod Blagojevich's constantly repeated claims that he did nothing wrong, we need to become a nation, and a world, of people considering personal integrity and not personal image and profit, as the highest value.
It is a long hill to climb, but we don't need fossil fuels to do it – we just need to put our minds in gear. I know that the view at the top of the hill is worth the climb.