As in my work I never ceases to link power with inequality, I thought, in view of today’s ongoing news, that I would write a brief post about it – though I am not widely circulating it.
We have all heard the phrase “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. This quotation is attributed to John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902). He was an historian and moralist who expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887. The part of the quote often missed, is that he went on to say “Great men (and in our modern society, women) are almost always bad (wo)men”.
If this is indeed true, then what does this say about our society in light of the past three years of revelation?
- 2008 – Banking crisis begins – a relatively few greedy and very powerful people literally changed our entire global financial position, bringing many countries to the knees. The affect being felt by us all in our daily lives.
- 2009 – MPs expenses scandal – a few powerful (even though elected) people chose to allow their greed to affect their judgement about what is right and wrong. This impacted on the trust of ordinary people, creating a disconnect with politicians and political process.
- 2011 – News International (and probably much of the rest of the UK press) have been found out; hacking, blagging, generally behaving an illegal and immoral fashion. How many ordinary people have been suffered by the actions of the media and the hugely powerful tycoons who run it – they seem to have put themselves beyond the law.
How are ordinary people supposed to develop a social conscience and sense of ‘fair and equitable’ when those in position of power continuously abuse it and model such poor practice. Who are the arbiters of society’s moral compass; certainly not our politicians nor journalists? Perhaps it should be our or religious leaders, though they have not always faired well in the recent past, and nevertheless only represent a small proportion of society. Just as a thought, perhaps the answer lies in the words of Lord Acton’s quote; moral leadership should come from those with least power, as they have been least corrupted – that means you and me! It becomes our job to determine what fair and equitable means and to model it in our lives – let politicians and journalists follow our lead for once!